In a powerful speech before a very supportive crowd of Canadian Muslims, Persians, Asians, South Asians and Russians, in the multicultural Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper threw down the gauntlet against homegrown jihadi terrorism.
In his speech, Harper pulled no punches: “Over the last few years a great evil has been descending over our world…Jihadi terrorism is one of the most dangerous enemies our world has ever faced…. Jihadist terrorism is not a future possibility, it is a present reality…Violent jihadism is not just a danger somewhere else, it seeks to harm us here in Canada, in our cities and in our neighbourhoods.”
On this occasion as in other previous occasions, Harper has cited several examples of very real and disturbing jihadist terrorist actions that have occurred in Canada;
- The Toronto 18, a Muslim terrorist cell in which its members planned blowing up Toronto landmarks ( the CN Tower), the Parliamentary buildings in Ottawa and capturing Prime Minister Harper and publicly beheading him. This group was infiltrated and stopped. Some of its members have been successfully charged and convicted with terrorist offences;
- The proposed blowing up of Via Rail trains by two Canadian Islamic militants;
- The tragic murder of a Quebec soldier in Quebec, run down by a car driven by a local Muslim terrorist; and
- The equally tragic shooting of a unarmed Canadian soldier on Parliament Hill in Ottawa by another home-grown radical Muslim terrorist.
Specifically, this proposed legislation is in direct response to the above third incident, whereby the Canadian authorities had sought a court action to monitor or restrict the actions of the alleged Muslim terrorist and murderer, but was denied because of the then legal barriers in place under the current anti-terrorist legislation.
The rationale is that if this proposed legislation had been in place, that murder may have been prevented.
Certain measures in the proposed anti-terrorist legislation are as follows:
- Giving courts the power to order the removal of “terrorist propaganda” from websites using Canadian Internet service providers.
- Making it easier for authorities to restrict the movements of suspected jihadis, meaning they can apply to a court if they only believe terrorist activity “may be carried out.” The previous threshold called on law-enforcement authorities to state they believed an act “will be carried out.”
- Extending the length of time authorities can detain suspected terrorists for up to seven days from three.
- Relaxing the threshold needed to prevent suspected jihadis from boarding a plane, allowing Ottawa to bar those whom the government believes are heading abroad to take part in terrorist activities.
- Granting government departments explicit authority to share private information, including passport applications, or confidential commercial data, with law-enforcement agencies.
To Harper, his Conservative government and a majority of Canadians, jihadi terrorism is a very real threat to Canadians’ security, Canadian values, and to Canadian freedoms. And the fundamental role of government is to protect Canadians, their values and their freedoms.
To Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberals, his party and to many Canadians on the left, their position is markedly different .
Fundamentally, Trudeau and his Liberals believe that these young men are not Islamic terrorists, but mentally ill young men. Alternatively, if they are not mentally ill, they are at least misunderstood men who have been alienated from society. Or these men are angry at Canada due to Canada’s foreign policies in Muslim countries. ( Recall Trudeau’s comments about the “root causes” of terrorism after the horrific Boston Marathon bombing.)
In other words, the blame lays with western societies ( or more particularly Canadian society) and Canada’s militaristic foreign policies.
Note the recent comments of Judy Sgro, long time Liberal MP, who blamed the threat of ISIS coming to terrorize Canada, primarily upon PM Harper, for his support of Canadian forces in Iraq, assisting the American-led coalition in fighting the brutal ISIS group.
In a very real sense, Trudeau, his Liberal party and many Canadians on the left who support Trudeau, are somewhat sensitive and sympathetic to these jihadi terrorists because they blame Harper, the Conservatives, and their anti-ISIS foreign policies on the existence of these terrorists on Canadian lands.
Trudeau’s prescription is to stop all Canadian foreign adventures in Arab and Muslim countries. And that any criticism of radical Muslim terrorists, both locally or foreign or their activities is racist and Islamaphobic, because Islam is a peaceful religion.
Also any additional efforts to combat home-grown terrorism, both legally and militarily should be constrained out of political correctness and an undue concern for violating Charter rights and freedoms.
So herein lies the fundamental divide between these two federal leaders and their parties.
Harper and his party believe it is the fundamental duty of the federal government to fight home-grown jihadis, protect Canadians’ security and their freedoms and values.
Trudeau and his party believe that there is no jihadi problem in Canada. And if there is such a problem, the best way to protect Canadians is through isolationism, non-militaristic peace-keeping and being more sensitive and sympathetic to the radical Muslims in our midst and in our neighborhoods.
I believe that this is a defining moment in our country’s history. The next federal election will be fought on these two conflicting visions and belief systems.