The events of last week certainly would be shocking if you believed everything that a lurid media and power-lusting prime minister told you. From listening to the chatter of our revered sportscaster Don Cherry, on whom we can always rely for an accurate and unbiased portrayal of current events, one would get the impression that the attacks of October 20th and 22nd were carried out like this: Two Islamic inspired attackers killed two Canadian soldiers only two days apart whilst simultaneously desecrating our most sacred monuments in a deliberate attempt to strike fear into the hearts of this great nation. Were this true, I would absolutely give the words of Mr. Cherry my endorsement and wholeheartedly “support the military more” as well as expand security mandates and inflate the armed forces’ budget. The problem is that when it comes to any overhyped, supposedly terrifying and factually shady event, it is very difficult to sift speculation from reality. The facts are simple and unfortunately for any politicians wanting mass hysteria to sweep them into unearned offices, hardly terrifying. We know that two people were murdered, and their killers were almost immediately dispatched as well. We know that the targets were servicemen, but because each assassin only had time to murder one person each, it’s impossible to objectively establish whether all military personnel are in any more danger than their occupation already implies. We know that both assailants had a history of mental illness and were known to be unstable. We know that these alleged attackers were denied travel visas, regardless of the fact that mobility rights are guaranteed by the constitution and this could have easily provoked them. We know that each attacker was a convert to Islam, but not whether this was a factor or a coincidence. We know that the Ottawa shooter, Mr. Bibeau was not one of the ninety suspected radicalized Canadians being monitored by CSIS and the RCMP. Finally, we do not know whether the attacks were coordinated, or in any relation to Canada’s renewed combat role in the Middle East. What is certain, however, is that our prime minister will do everything in his power to sensationalize this tragedy until the very fragile state of liberty in this country is completely suppressed in favour of security. Remember, Stephen Harper is a leader who spent astronomical amounts of money and political capital with his Tough on Crime legislation in response to the lowest crime rate in modern, Canadian history. This isn’t a government that interested in solving the actual crises of the day, only the perceived ones, and as long as Canadians fear the very utterance of the word “terrorism”, be assured Big Brother will be watching.
Although it’s incredibly tragic that Canada has lost two more soldiers in the past week, we as a nation suffer hundreds of murders a year, most of which never make national news. I’m finding it exceedingly difficult to discover the differences in these killings. Even during our mission in Afghanistan, the loss of another soldier became little more than a footnote on the evening broadcast, not a breaking news bulletin that whipped the country into a frenzied state of panic. The difference, I suspect, comes in the fact that the killings were perpetrated by Muslims and happened to occur in secession and immediately after Canada entered another unjustifiable war in Iraq. The xenophobia that has arisen over these attacks is something I find much more disturbing than the attacks themselves. The cries of “let’s just ship all of them overseas”, or “if they hate this country so much, why do we let them come here”, or even in more extreme cases “if we just rounded them all up, we’d be over with this in a weekend” are not just slogans one hears from a group of disillusioned truckers sharing a cheap pot of communal coffee, but are now the hallmarks of “rational debate” taking place in school classrooms, online forums and radio phone-in shows. The fact that both of these attackers were natives of Canada, and Caucasian to boot, clearly doesn’t inform the sickeningly popular opinion that such attacks are caused by the generosity of the Canadian people in allowing non-whites and non-Christians to violate the sanctity of our nation. Naturally, the people who promote these opinions conveniently forget that if the indigenous persons of Canada adhered to similar principles, we’d all still be starving on peasantry manors in Europe. The men who perpetrated these deplorable acts were much more insane than they were Islamic militants. In fact, the mother of the Ottawa shooter said that he had joined Islam as a way to feel more connected with some sort of community, and he had come to the nation’s capital to get a passport to travel to Saudi Arabia, make his pilgrimage and learn more about his chosen religion. Of course, the media reported this as expressing his desire to become a jihadi in Syria, but being that studying the Koran in Mecca and fighting with ISIS in Syria are basically equitable to most Western audiences, this regrettable oversight can certainly be forgiven.
Even if the events of the past week were attacks on Canada, they are not entirely unwarranted. Consider the fact that Canada was been in a state of war overseas for the past seventeen years, and we recently adopted a new bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria, one which by its very design will murder many more innocents than ISIS could ever hope to slaughter on our soil. In fact, the night of October 22nd saw US airstrikes kill hundreds of people while our nation was reeling over the loss of one. Considering the fact that we are also outspoken allies of the United States, whose drones could conceivably kill anyone in the Middle East at any time with the click of a button thousands of miles away and have been known to do so, and Israel, which had no trouble taking the deaths of seventy soldiers out on 1,900 Palestinian civilians in the latest incursion into the Gaza Strip, attacks of any sort on Canada are far from surprising. We should count ourselves lucky that much worse has not befallen us. If Canada had made better friends and attempted to solve the world’s problems with foreign aid and environmental justice instead of missiles and bombing raids, then we could be outraged by these attacks. However, since we’ve decided to make an ass of ourselves at the UN, drastically reduce our aid to the world’s poorest nations and follow the US and Israel to the very gates of hell in order to destroy whatever vaguely defined and likely innocent enemy they’ve targeted this week, any attacks against us shouldn’t come as a surprise. One reporter called the Ottawa shooting “the day Canada lost its innocence”. Perhaps it’s time we did because the naiveté of believing we can do whatever we please with the world and that we’ll still be able to sleep in our half million dollar houses on feathered pillows, peaceful and safe, is an illusion that serves the greater good of no one.
So, here are the facts we’ve been able to establish so far. First, both of the attackers were mentally instable and perhaps brought over the edge by the government denying them travel. Second, the attacks could have been utter coincidences and were personal vendettas not meant to raise fear or disorder. Third, even if these were coordinated, terrorist attacks, they happened as a response to Canada’s disgusting foreign policy which can be easily rectified thus almost inevitably preventing all future assaults. This is the situation that is facing our prime minister. Most leaders would be able to look at these events and come to the conclusion that the appropriate response is to a) increase mental health awareness and funding, b) stop denying people their mobility rights and c) increase foreign aid and stop supporting costly and illegitimate military action overseas. Stephen Harper is doing none of these things. Instead, he is choosing to take a page out of the George W. Bush playbook and apply it to Canadian politics. In the first months of Bush’s term, his office was ridiculed and he spent most of his time in vacation. If not for 9/11 and the wars which it sparked, Bush would have been a lame duck President. Much the same could be said of Harper, whose first majority has also been plagued by scandal and whose party has trailed the Liberals in the polls for the better part of a year. The September 11th attacks caused emergency powers to be invoked in the United States and massive military operations to be undertaken in Afghanistan and Iraq, operations which conveniently made Bush’s friends billions of dollars and kept the Republicans in power for another four years. Harper already has a war and plenty of greedy friends; he just needs a few more powers concentrated in his already near-totalitarian office and he’ll be set for life. His speech in the House of Commons concerning the attacks in which he referenced increasing the police’s power of surveillance and arrest is already a clear indication of what it is to come. In history, it is often the tiny, nearly insignificant events that make the greatest changes and if we as a nation don’t collectively take a breath before deciding what kind of country we want to live in, we may find ourselves wrapped in an almost unrecognizable state of affairs. As my Humanities instructor jokingly told his pupils before we left class on Thursday, “enjoy your freedoms while you can!”
Photo Courtesy of: Global News