Please note this article is cross-posted on The Rabbit Hole.
Stephen Harper. Photo from the Huffington Post.
While doing research on hockey and Canadian masculinity I read an article by Jay Scherer and Lisa McDermott, from the University of Alberta, titled “Playing promotional politics: Mythologizing hockey and manufacturing “ordinary” Canadians.” In the article the authors argue that Canada’s conservative government has used our beloved sport of hockey to redefine Canadian citizenship and identity in order to achieve a particular brand of Canadianness. They outline how the Conservative Party (CP) conjured up a strategy that
has endeavoured to soften Harper’s image as an uncharasmatic, right-win ideologue, making the [Prime Minister] more palatable to middle- and working-class Canadian voters. While Harper has actively pursued an association with a range of popular sporting practices (e.g. curling, the Canadian Football League, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, etc.), hockey remains the key element in a promotional arsenal that has habitually marketed him as a passionate hockey fan, an avid and dedicated hockey historian, and an “ordinary” Canadian hockey dad, thereby obscuring his ideological leanings and the effects of the CP’s neoliberal agenda of Canadians. (p.111)
The notion of using sport to bolster nationalism is anything but new. However, what I do take exception with is how the CP chose to substitute the legacy of Canada’s progressive gay rights movement with trivial hockey facts.
Perhaps the CP’s most conspicuous (and long-lasting) attempt to pin down and promote what it means to be an “ordinary” Canadian has transpired through its placement of the Liberal’s Citizenship and Immigration study guide used by immigrants in their preparations for taking their citizenship exams….”The land, the environment and healthcare, mainstays of Canada’s self-image through the past two decades, are largely ignored” (A1). In assessing the new guide and the re-envisioned “Canadian” projected through it, the Canadian historian Margaret Conrad remarked “[i]t’s kind of a throwback to the 1950′s. It’s a tough, manly country with military and sport heroes that are all men….Conrad’s observations point to not only the CP’s masculinized representation of Canada, but also to its continued strategic deployment of hockey as an apparatus through which to promote the party’s brand, its leader, and its policies, as well as a medium through which it attempts to forge dominant understandings of “ordinary” Canadian identity.
Such efforts clearly continue to be played out on the cultural terrain of values. For example, in contrast to the new citizenship guide’s numerous references to hockey (13 in total), Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism ordered the removal of all references to gay rights in Canada from an earlier iteration of it, including its decriminalization in 1969, the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2005. (p.123)
I’m not sure how many Canadians were aware of this 2010 development, but probably not too many considering the CP government seems to prefer a clandestine form of governance. Upon a cursory Google search of “Kenney removes LGBT from Canada immigration guide” a whopping two articles appear, one from the CBC and one from the Globe and Mail. When challenged on his, or the CP’s, decision to remove Canada’s LGBT history from the immigration guide Kenney responded by saying that it had been overlooked and that “We can’t mention every legal decision, every policy of the government of Canada.” Canadian gay-rights group Egale Canada met with Kenney to discuss the issue and were told that it would be updated in the next edition. It’s now the end of 2012 and there are only 2 brief mentions of the word gay, but there is hockey to be learned! Read more of this post