Take a deep breath and relax, Canada. Old traditions are alive and well. Much like Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Canada’s Conservative government is working hard to protect the status quo. This week, it overruled the RCMP’s decision to swap some of its fur hats for a synthetic alternative. Fur may be murder, but, in this government’s opinion, it’s more excusable than killing the national police force’s fashion sense.
This summer, the RCMP responded to activists’ and employees’ desires by deciding to replace the traditional fur hat with a synthetic tuque for officers working in “normal winter conditions.” In other words, Mounties might wear the tuque during one of the hideous blizzards, the mild January thaws, or the delightfully soaking snow-rain slurry storms that are all parts of a normal Canadian winter. Mounties unfortunate enough to confront “extreme cold” would still have access to the old muskrat hat. This sounded pretty reasonable to almost everyone.
Almost everyone does not include Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of
Sensationalism Environment. On Tuesday, Aglukkaq announced, “despite the efforts of radical animal-rights activists,” the muskrat hats “will not be discontinued.” “Our government will always stand up for Canada’s hunters and trappers,” she said. Alright, but will it stand with Canada’s police officers?
There are two problems with Aglukkaq’s announcement. First, the RCMP decided to limit its use of fur hats, not discontinue them entirely. Aglukkaq’s exaggeration betrays her ignorance, whether willful or not. Second, unlike Ms. Aglukkaq, who admittedly made her decision to protect a fringe group, the RCMP didn’t make this decision because an animal rights lobby group twisted its arm into submission. No—the police force balanced the activists’ claims with an assessment of officers’ needs and desires. This was the most appropriate course of action. After all, is anyone more equipped than police officers to tell police officers what sort of clothing they need during the winter months? Anyone other than the fur hat experts on Parliament Hill?
The fur hat debacle is by no means the most important issue in the country today. Realistically, it’s safe to say it wouldn’t crack the top 1000. However, it is an interesting case study because it illustrates a larger trend. The Conservatives reportedly advocate for smaller government, yet they can’t stand seeing the police force make its own decisions about what hat to wear in the winter. How much autonomy should a police force enjoy? Which industries are so vital that they require government protection? Don’t ask Lisa Raitt—she’d probably order striking muskrat trappers back to work before notice of their strike even hit the press…nothing more important than pelts in the 21st century. It’s time to set the record straight on where it’s appropriate for a government to intervene. If Aglukkaq and the Tories are fur real about small government, then it’s hard to muskrationalize their involvement in such a trivial matter.