8.12.14

Tolerance vs Terrorism

There are a lot of reasons not to endorse Russel Brand's views and presentations, but he does a decent job of exposing the most disturbing aspects of how the  Canadian Prime Minister and the media handled the Ottawa shooting (part of his online series The Trews).



As Brand mentions, there was another serious shooting incident involving a young white man - Justin Bourque, in Moncton, New Brunswick in which three mounties were murdered, the result of a premeditated crime by someone who:

"...reportedly held anti-government and anti-authority views, a fascination with conspiracy theories, and talked about killing other people and himself.[34][35][36] Two days before the shooting, Bourque made rants against all figures of authority to his father, during which he was described as becoming "paranoid".[37] "

"Bourque admitted responsibility to the shootings and claimed that he committed them in an attempt to spark a rebellion against the Canadian government, which he believed was oppressive, corrupt, and serving only the wealthy at the expense of other citizens. He also claimed that he originally planned to harm the oil industry by setting fire to several Moncton gas stations and then shoot random people, but abandoned the plan due to issues with his bicycle."

Not unlike Bourque, the Ottawa shooter, Michael Zihaf-Bibeau had a history with police. Zihaf-Bibeau also had a history of addiction and homelessness prior to acting on any extremist views, he was born in Canada, and didn't convert to Islam until 2004. So far the only person who seems to have taken the most healing perspective towards the shooting is victim Cpl. Nathan Cirillo's girlfriend. She has called for a moratorium on mental illness in Canada, citing out our often dismal mental health support systems that might have helped Zihaf-Bibeau find help before his mind's deterioration led him to kill.

Arguably, Zihaf-Bibeau's life may still have led him to commit a similar act if he had refused treatment. Regardless, it is crucial to focus the debate on differentiating between the motivation of a troubled individual who latched onto extremism and acted alone, and a highly organised attack directly planned by and executed by a recognized group like ISIS. Prime Minister Harper cannot be allowed to cite this incident to justify pursuing further militarisation, profiling and new legislation that contains vast erosions of personal privacy similar to the US Patriot Act. 

Not surprisingly, Harper is currently attempting to do just that.  In the past, the best argument he had to support increases to police surveilance powers was to try to make Canadians feel like they supported child porn or cyber bullying by opposing additional the release of their metadata, and thankfully that failed.  Now Bill-C44 is on the table and being endorsed by the Public Safety Minister (whose title sounds like it holds as much credibility in this discussion as a national hall-monitor, he's certainly not the Minister of Military Intelligence or Terrorism Investigations).


Like any false trigger to escalate the 'War on Terror', the smoking gun here is not ISIS, at best it sounds like they claimed a victory because the incident serendipidously fell in their narrative. Canadians need to be wise to this kind political tactic used by an incumbent party to save their skin heading into the next election via fear-mongering and painting the opposition as too soft on terrorism. This shooting should not impose any additional surveillance or security measures  on the citizenry except at the steps of Parliament Hill. As a high profile, high risk location for attack, there is no fault in tightening security on the premises to protect our public servants.

The Prime Minister has a duty to enforce privacy laws, and promote inclusivity and ongoing mutual respect among all Canadian citizens. Canada has a growing Muslim population who were already insulted when Harper equated their faith with terrorism  in a public interview on a major network. It's not surprising Muslim groups have quickly publicly denounced Zihaf-Bibeau's acts as incompatible with Islam to help prepare for the backlash in the press and in their communities  It's should be a deep shame and an affront to the intelligence of the Canadian population that Canadians of a particular faith have been trained that it is necessary to need make such a statement.



Canadians by and large, embrace multiculturalism, but the regular emphasis on fear and condemnation of a particular faith from the country's highest office is welcome fuel to the minority of bigots among us. It spurs some of the mentally ill and violent among that bigoted group towards even more heinous crimes - even potential terrorist acts. If we look at it from that perspective, if Stephen Harper's ideological propaganda statements provide the endorsement that incites a few individuals towards violent acts on other Canadians, then he becomes little better than any other extremist leader, stoking the flames of a white "re-claiming" of the country from the brown skinned hoards.

For his part, when it was Justin Trudeau's turn to speak, he did a commendable job (despite speaking so painfully slow) of remaining firm in the resolve against terrorist acts, but likewise urging people to reject fear, and focus on the investigation of this specific incident, rather than connecting it to any larger fundamentalist terrorist organizations. It's unclear if Justin is completely ready to lead the country, but he offers a patient, unbiased, but world-wise contrast to Harper's knee-jerk fear and retribution response.




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