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STEPHEN HARPER RUNNING SCARED IN THE PLAYGROUND OF DRAGONS

I love my country too much to be a nationalist. – Albert Camus

All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers…. Each one owes infinitely more to the human race than to the particular country in which he was born. – Francois Fenelon

Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling? – Bertrand Russell

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face – forever…. And remember that it is forever. – George Orwell

Frank A. Pelaschuk

THE PREY

As tragic as the deaths of the two soldiers were following Harper’s declaration of joining allies in the war against ISIL in Iraq, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent mowed down in a Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec parking lot and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo gunned down while guarding the National War Memorial on Parliament Hill, the events proved fortuitous for Harper and his gang. That is not to suggest Harper or any member of his party would have wished the deaths, I have no doubt they were as appalled and heartbroken as all Canadians by what happened. But they are also seasoned pros; opportunities are not to be ignored. As much as all of us would have it otherwise, nothing can be done to spare the soldiers or their families. With celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the First World War and Remembrance Day just a few weeks away, if any benefit could be gleaned from what happened, Harper and his gang would certainly prove themselves up to the task in running with it; they are not shy or tactful folks.

A few days after Harper had announced Canada’s entry into the war against ISIL in Iraq, he and his crew began to warn Canada had come under the sights of ISIL extremists. Their language was alarmist and demeanour somewhat smug as if to suggest the threats somehow validated them as members who had joined the big leagues even though our contribution, including Harper’s warmongering bluster, is modest and conditional. When in fact Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo were murdered, opponents to Harper might have been forgiven for wondering if he had been sitting on God’s lap; on the surface, his alarming claims of a possible terrorist offensive appeared to have been borne out. Or so Harper wanted us to immediately conclude, prepping those watching question period in the House October 20th. That morning, Canadians learned a hit-and-run driver had struck two soldiers, one of whom had died; there was a chase and, as the day wore on, we learned the driver had been shot and killed. In the House, Harper was asked by a Conservative backbencher if he had been aware of a possible terrorist attack. At the time, no one was fully apprised of what had happened. That did not deter Harper and the Conservatives who were eager to raise the spectre of terrorism and the possibility of a terrorist act on Canadian soil; they wanted to ensure Canadians had little doubt that what had happened had been a terrorist act though there was as of yet no evidence of terrorism. All that was known was a soldier had been killed and another injured. That was enough for the Conservatives. The police were guarded most of the day neither confirming nor denying the suggestion. But the seed had already been firmly planted. While Harper and his crew had been premature and irresponsible, the murder nevertheless provided Harper an opportunity that must have seemed heaven-sent and which he could exploit; he had no compunction in doing so. The second murder, that of Nathan Cirillo two days later, appeared to seal the deal: another soldier dead, shot twice. What more proof did Canadians need that terrorists had not only struck but struck at the very heart of our government! But had they? Were these acts really the product of terrorism and a terrorist movement or simply the criminal acts of two very troubled men operating on their own? Apparently, both had become bewitched by ISIL and its brutal, bloody atrocities committed in the name of Islam. That does not make them part of a terrorist group. The sad fact is the killers were misfits, loners, ill and unstable men who along the way began to believe society had failed and rejected them. Apparently they found in the ISIL blogs and videos something that appeared to answer their needs and feed their anger and justify their desire to retaliate. Whatever it was, the two killers, independently, responded violently and irrationally in retribution against society by targeting innocent Canadians who happened to be soldiers. They did not murder because of ideology or religious fervour but rather because they were deeply disturbed and deeply angry, perhaps seeing in the uniforms or in the Parliament buildings, the symbols of a society that had turned its back on them. Who can now really know? That doesn’t excuse them, but it may help explain and understand why they did what they did. Canadians should know this and understand it. But it is not this aspect with which Harper and his gang trouble themselves. As Harper once proudly admitted, Conservatives “…don’t practice sociology”. They prefer to concentrate on the fact that these two men had read from the Muslim scripture, were fascinated by ISIL, and had murdered two soldiers who had done them and no one harm. To extrapolate from this that they were terrorists and acting on behalf of an ideology is lazy thinking and allows for excusing this government’s failures and neglect of a large segment of society. For the Harper gang, examination of root causes of discontent, preventative action and rehabilitation are beside the point; it’s the punitive aspect of law and order they most care about (unless it’s one of their own). Moreover, this plays better for Harper with the public than acknowledgement that there might be a systemic failure in our society and governance that makes inevitable such terrible events. Who wishes to admit to apathy, to willful indifference, to active neglect, and to the misery of others, what right do they have to be so angry when, as the Conservatives are quick to tell us, we live in the greatest country in the world. We do, in one of the greatest countries at any rate, but how much greater without the Conservative boots on the necks of those less fortunate as they widen the gap between those who have and those who don’t. It’s easy to judge but what do we know of their stories? Shouldn’t we care enough to at least attempt to find out more before we condemn? I’ve heard it said that most of us are one pay cheque away from the street. With that in mind, hold back on your judgement of those less fortunate than you. You could as easily be among them.

THE TRAP

It is not surprising that Harper pounced with news of the murders: hadn’t he warned us?

That the murders and murderers were not linked, that there was no evidence of a concerted conspiracy was of any concern to Harper and those quick to accept what they had been prepped to accept. Two of our bravest had been murdered. But, once thrown out there as a possibility, it is impossible to put the genie back in the bottle; if you were Harper, why would you wish to? The enemy was no longer over there but here, on Canadian soil murdering young, brave Canadians. How well it all played before the public; it was just the thing needed for a troubled, scandal plagued Conservative party lagging in the polls threatened by that upstart youngster, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. Here, at last, was something Canadians could understand and rally around: Canada at war in Iraq, terrorists targeting Canada, terrorists killing two fine Canadian soldiers. That it happened days after Canada’s entry into the war in Iraq and with the centenary of the First World War and Remembrance Day just around the corner made it even better. So play up the threat, warn citizens of further possible attacks and while fanning the flames of fear, why not, while Canadians were in an angry, pliant mood, push for and rush through legislation expanding the powers of CSIS to eavesdrop, detain, and arrest without any clear defining of the terms of reference for doing so. And, just to make it more palatable, to make it that much easier for good, honest, decent citizens to step forward and report “suspicious” behaviour, perhaps the neighbour you don’t like for his anti-Harper comments, accusers, or informants if you prefer, will be protected, the accused unable to confront his accuser and the accuser granted immunity. This is not the first time Harper and his gang attempted to expand the powers of our spy agencies; previous attempts were in secrecy, legislation slipped into omnibus bills dealing with the budget without consultation of the public and its representatives in the opposition. Fortunately, a vigilant press and a vocal and scrupulous segment of society thwarted the government loudly exposing its dirty tricks and forcing it to retreat somewhat. But today it is evident the murders of soldiers and the Harper gang crying “terrorist” has made the public more amenable to the passing of new “anti-terrorist” laws even if it means more intrusive spying on Canadians and greater restriction in movement. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire may be how the thinking goes.

Canadians should reconsider this and do so very carefully. Such new, even more repressive measure should alarm all Canadians. It is too late to save Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent and it is too late to help their killers. But what of the future, the others like them out there? How do we protect our future victims? Do we continue to do as we always do, elect governments that simply ignore the ill and alienated? Do we turn a blind eye to the inequities of our society; do we just sweep them under a rug; do we continue to turn our backs on our own failings as members of a society to provide the understanding and care the marginalized need? Where will it end? What will be the determinants of who poses a threat? Do public expressions of dislike for police or loathing for political figures ignoring environmental ravages committed by corporations make one suspect? Do peaceful marchers decrying corporate greed and homelessness really signify would-be terrorists? What about the person who opposes Canada’s entry into the Iraqi fray? What is acceptable and what not in a nation that declares itself democratic and yet whose government rigs election laws that benefit a particular party and disenfranchises a particular segment of society? Must we embrace a government that asks its citizens to report any and all suspicious behaviour? Spying on neighbours and friends and family. What next? That has happened in the past, children denouncing teachers and parents, parents denouncing in-laws, churchgoers, atheists, and businessmen rivals. Humphrey Bogart once remarked of the witch-hunting House of Un-American Activities Committee, “They’ll nail anyone who ever scratched his ass during the National Anthem”. Is that the road we want to take? What is suspicious behaviour? Is it the person who is solitary, prefers his own company to yours? Perhaps it’s that homeless individual on your street haranguing passersby about the evils of society or claiming the CSIS is loaded with Martians? Or is it the student questioning the government’s indifference to poverty or the high cost of tuition? Perhaps it’s the environmentalist slamming Big Oil. What about the woman asking the government why it’s taken no action regarding the disappearances of aboriginal women? Experts claim the laws are already in place to combat terrorism. I believe that is true. They also claim what is needed is not more laws but a government spending more on resources to implement them. We have a government that spends freely on self-promotion but begrudges veterans the benefits to which they are entitled and considers those tossed on the wayside to be of little worth. Do we really believe Harper has set the right priority for Canadians?

The Harper gang is made up of a vicious, narrow, vindictive group of ideologues. It does not look for anything into the future except the next win. It is not Canada that concerns them but the free enterprise agenda: maximizing profits and keeping costs down. That they do not look beyond their self-interest and the interests of their cronies, that they refuse to consider a future without themselves at the helm, will ultimately lead to their destruction. Perhaps it’s just as well. If they did look into the future, would they like what they see? I think not. You can ignore people and their suffering for only so long. You can line the pockets of your friends and yourself and leave behind a wave of misery and broken humanity and believe yourself free, above it all. But you will not be free nor above it all. Too many people are being ignored, are being left behind, and tossed aside. Eventually, those ignored, spat upon, ridiculed and slapped down and neglected will have had enough of hunger and misery. John Steinbeck once asked, “Must the hunger become anger and the anger fury before anything will be done?” The Harper gang should think of that. Even the timid eventually fight back.

Terrorism may be a real threat in Canada. If not today, tomorrow. It need not be. Poverty in Canada is a greater threat than those like the two soldier killers. It has arrived long ago. It is real and entrenched. An astounding 21% of our children live in poverty. That is the real threat and that will be the real cause for fear tomorrow. Poverty can, and will, lead to anger and anger to fury.

We’ve all heard the Conservative mantra: Business creates wealth. Or the variant, which makes most people feel better because of the hope offered: Business creates jobs. Conservatives take it further. Corporate tax cuts attract even more business, which in turn creates more jobs, which, ergo, creates more wealth. That is the free-enterprising assertion, the Big Hook. But it’s an assertion not based on evidence. If tax cuts and deregulation really created jobs, Ireland would not have gone bankrupt a few years ago and no Canadian or American would be out of work. Tax cuts and tax grants. Conservatives ignore, wanting us to do the same, that tax concessions are almost always made under duress with threats of moving business elsewhere. Certainly the Conservatives are partially right: wealth is created; the profit margins of corporations always seem to grow. Unfortunately the jobs never materialize as promised and working stiffs today are only able to purchase as much as they did thirty or forty years ago. It’s the trickle theory working both ways: wealth flows up, piss rains down. Of course, the Conservatives might dispute that and continue to sing their lying song: Tax breaks equal jobs equal wealth. It’s their myth and we, idiots or hopeful fools that we are, buy it time and again without even a thought of examination. In previous posts, I’ve asked this: Are we that stupid? That crazy?

Even when they make a profit, free enterprising pigs squeal if the profit margin does not match or is less than last year’s. Immediately, this “loss” calls for “restructuring”. That is, throwing thousands of workers to the wolves. That’s what happened November 4th when Scotiabank announced it was restructuring to the tune of shedding itself of 1500 workers because of a bad investment; it still made record profits, just not enough.

So, who’s your friend? Big Business knows. Do you?

Even when things don’t quite work as promised and governments begin to take a hit from doubters, there’s always a bogeyman to call upon to distract the voting public. In the past, it was Communism. Today it’s terrorism. Harper and his gang are counting on us not swapping horses midstream during a time of crisis, real or of their making. But, just to make sure, just to be on the safe side, it might be wise to throw a few shiny baubles our way. So they do.

Between attending the funerals of Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent while continuing to stoke the fires of alarm and fan the spirit of hyper-nationalism (an extreme and unpleasant form of patriotism to which Canadians, thankfully, aren’t all that easily drawn) Harper and the gang made a “good news” announcement on October 30th. And it was all about the thing they really, really, really love: money.

THE BAIT

No doubt you have seen the images: Harper tieless, checked shirt open at the collar (indicative of openness, of being one of the “folks”), striding to and fro across the stage (thereby demonstrating a “take charge”, “can do” attitude) with a swagger (nothing wrong in showing a little braggadocio) before a crowd of Conservatives wearing pasted smiles and gazing in wide-eyed wonderment (all eager to applaud at cued moments thus confirming they were living, breathing dolls) while, to one side, a female “reporter” (representing the taxpayer funded faux “news” channel 24 Seven, which follows Harper everywhere and offers those who visit the government website, an endless supply of propaganda, fake “exclusives” and highly polished, if questionable, drivel), waits to ask softball questions. The news is momentous. Can an election be far behind? Well, yes, if Harper keeps to his own fixed election date of October 19, 2015. Harper had long ago embraced American-style politics with vile, mud-slinging ads; now he has gone the further step of starting the campaign a year early guaranteeing this to be one of the longest election campaigns in Canadian history.

But, if you were watching him that day and if you were paying attention, you would have immediately understood two things: not only was this an election stump speech but also, if you were a single parent earning a modest income, if you were single, young, elderly, homeless, a student, ill, disabled, a veteran, there was absolutely nothing for you. It was all about Conservative values I guess, marriage, children, family values (that the NDP and Liberals don’t fully appreciate or condone), and healthy doses of hypocrisy. In fact, you would have immediately understood yourself to be one of the 85% of Canadian households (according to the C.D. Howe Institute) who would not benefit from the income splitting scheme Harper was proudly unveiling. True, the income splitting plan has been watered down because of loud opposition (including from the deceased Jim Flaherty, Harper’s finance minister) to its patent unfairness. But Flaherty’s gone and the plan, albeit not as Harper and gang envisioned, will go ahead. Immediately, those families with two incomes will get a $2000 tax credit. That leaves out all the rest and hits hardest the single parent. But not to worry. Lest you feel left out as a single parent, Harper also included news of a raise to child benefits.

Even with the increase in child benefits, Harper could not resist playing games. There is a catch. It is in how the Harper gang plans to implement the new benefits that most clearly reveal his contempt for voters, particularly those in the low-income bracket. In January of 2015, the child benefits will go up from $100 to $160 a month. However, and this might clue you into understanding what Harper and gang really think of you: households will not see the benefits until July, just three months before the next election. Then, every household with children will receive a cheque of $420 per child aged six to seventeen with a retroactive payment including the first six months (it makes a total of $720 taxable by year’s end). So, while you as a single parent with one child will receive a total of $720 a year, a two-income family will receive $2835. For 2015-216, the cost for the income splitting and child benefits will be $4.5 billion. Canadian families earning more than $140,000 will get the lion’s share of the benefits estimated at 43%. As a single parent, that must really make you feel good. Does that seem fair to you? Really? Now you know if you didn’t already, what Harper thinks of you. He and his gang believes your vote can be bought for $60 a month per child; just to be sure, he believes a one-time only lump sum, just before election of a gargantuan $420 per child will be enough for you to remember who to vote for when at the polls. Not only does he believe you can be easily bought, he also believes you to be stupid. Come next election, take the money then prove him wrong. It might help if, just before you cast your vote, you recall this Yiddish proverb: “God loves the poor but he helps the rich.” Conservatives do not even love the poor.

If you are a voter from a two-income family and stand to gain while 85% of Canadians do not, it might be time to think about what you value when you vote. Instead of looking to have your pockets lined with money you really will not miss when others are neglected, could you not take a little time to reflect about what your role in society? Is it, as Harper would have us all believe: everything is reducible to dollars, that those who have deserve more, that the poor deserve to be poor. We certainly do not need the spectre of terrorism raised because of the acts of two disturbed, angry individuals. Nor do we need more laws to quell dissent, to silence critics, to arouse suspicion and fear. Laws are already in place. We do not need a leader like Harper who boasts about his “accomplishments” when they are, in fact, inconsequential outweighed by the damage he has inflicted on the largest portion of society. When he first became prime minister, the country had a surplus of $13 billion. In a few years he squandered it, much of it in tax cuts and tax funded self-promotion touting his Economic Action Plan and non-existent job creation through non-existent programs. He has cut 35,000 public service jobs, over three thousand from the Canada Revenue Agency. If there is any surplus, it was on the backs of those civil servants and low-income earners. As a consequence, billion dollar corporations and millionaire pikers are allowed to avoid paying taxes by funneling money to off-shore accounts while Harper has the now politicized CRA hound left-wing charities. Harper has cut services to veterans and closed down offices serving veterans while commemorating historic military achievements and loudly declaring his respect for our men and women who have served this nation. He has ignored the environment, lectured others on fiscal restraint and has almost bankrupted his own nation with tax cuts and giveaways to corporations. He has conspired with Big Business to suppress low-income wages and offer Canadian jobs to temporary foreign workers. He talks loudly of Canada’s contributions on the world stage and yet had for years ignored and condemned the United Nations. He has been bombastic and belligerent in his triumphalism and boastful of his support of our military personnel and yet parsimonious where it counts. Too many military families are forced into bankruptcy or on the brink because they must sell homes at a loss when suddenly relocated to another post; but military brass are often granted huge moving allowances when just moving a few blocks in the same town. We have an air force that has been neglected, the C-18s old, tired, due for retirement in 2015. Many of our ships are also old, out-dated, and ill-equipped, in desperate need of repairs and replacement. He ramps up the fear when he talks of terrorism but our military and police are wanting, their budgets slashed. Recently, the leaked pentagon document reviewed that Canada may purchase four F-35 jets. When Harper ran for the last election, he talked about buying 65 such jets. Originally he said the cost would be $9 billion. He lied on that. When challenged on that figure by Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Harper regime waged a smear campaign against him. Harper was re-elected with Canadians never learning the true costs of what those purchases would be. Figures have varied from $45 billion to $125 billion. Apparently, without fanfare, Harper set aside any plans to purchase the 65 jets with the exception of the four leaked by the Pentagon.

And because Harper has begun his campaign so far ahead of the projected date, voters might do well to remember and think of the following. It was Harper who appointed disgraced Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, and Pamela Wallin to the senate; they are the high-flyers who padded living and travel expenses. Duffy apparently was confused which of his homes was his principal residence. He also secretly accepted a $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright, Harper’s Chief of Staff, to repay the fraudulent claims. Conservative members of the Internal Economy Committee in the Senate altered the Deloitte audit to give Duffy a free pass for the transgressions. In April of 2015, he will be facing the courts. Perhaps, to forestall any bad news emerging from the trial, the Conservatives may call the election early. If that does occur, voters should ask why.

Voters should also remember another Conservative who also believed she was entitled and who was twice forced to repay expense claims fraudulently made. Bev Oda was finally forced to resign because of public outrage over a $16 glass of orange juice. Nor should voters forget Peter Penashue who Harper called the “best MP Labrador ever had”, who also was forced to resign for accepting illegal corporate campaign contributions. Too, voters should be reminded the Conservative Party pleaded guilty of breaking election laws; they paid a fine of $52,000 thus saving themselves the embarrassment (if capable of such) of high level members facing prosecution. We have Shelly Glover and James Bezan who fought Elections Canada regarding overspending during the 2011 campaign. Glover finally submitted a full campaign expense report. She was promoted to a ministry. Early this year, Glover made the news again when attending a fundraising event in her riding where the guests were those who stood to gain from decisions made by her department. She later refunded the money, again no consequences for the minister who appears to have a penchant for ethical lapses. Voters should also be mindful of Michael Sono, the young Conservative staffer thrown to the wolves and facing jail time for his role in the robocalls scandal. And of course, no one should forget Dean del Mastro, who along with another nasty partisan, Pierre Poilievre, smeared Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand and Elections Canada for having the effrontery to investigate allegations of Conservative involvement in the robocalls scandal. Allegations later confirmed. Del Mastro was found guilty of three counts of voter fraud and overspending. He maintains his innocence but just hours before he was to be expelled as a member of parliament, he resigned his seat thereby saving his pension. And, of course, we have the aforementioned Pierre Poilievre, the minster and architect of the so-called Fair Elections Act, which allows the Conservatives to hold an advantage come next election by promising to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters and restrict the powers of Elections Canada to investigate voter fraud.

This is a party rife with bad people and bad behaviour.

When will you have had enough?

It is time Canadians refuse to accept Harper’s version of voters as easily led and bought, as too dumb and too self-interested and greedy. Let him know that you cannot be easily bought, that you do care about honesty, integrity and good governance. Do not let him convince you that the world out there is all menace and only he can save you from the bogeyman. It’s no truer than the myth that giving tax breaks to the wealthy creates jobs. The bogeyman does exist. It is Stephen Harper and the Conservative party.

The deaths of Vincent and Cirillo were tragic enough. But it does no honour to their memory to exploit their deaths by fomenting and xenophobia. Because a murderous, barbaric group of zealots in the Middle East running under the banner of ISIL have hijacked and perverted the teachings of the Qur’an, because some young Canadians have succumbed to ISIL’s vile lure, it is irresponsible, immoral, and dangerous to encourage public suspicion, fear and misunderstanding of Muslims. We must not succumb to panic and fear.

Instead, Canadians should concentrate on the rot in our own society and reject a government that refuses to excise it. Yes, there are enemies out there. But the greatest threat comes from what we refuse to acknowledge. Fomenting fear and mistrust to justify increased surveillance of its own citizens is hardly the work of a responsible, thoughtful, regime that respects democracy and nurtures its citizens.

For this regime, democracy and sensibility to the needs of the disadvantaged and troubled are ancillary considerations, distractions best left for another time and for another regime. Nothing must interfere with the agenda of boosting the economy – of the wealthy at least – and getting re-elected.

One day, almost certainly not in my lifetime, Canadians will have had enough of the kind of governance to which we have been subjected since Canada became a nation. We cannot tolerate the same game of cutting taxes, ignoring our infrastructure, of scapegoating unions and public servants and abandoning veterans and their families. We are a better people than Harper would have us be. It’s time Canadians really think about riding itself of this rotten crew. Going back to the Liberals is not the answer. For our whole history we have opted only for the two, Conservatives and Liberals. The game of simply batting the ball to and fro between two cheaters is boring. Canada needs something new and fresh. It needs a change. Set aside your fears, prejudices and doubts. It’s not a question of what can we lose, but rather, what we may gain.

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But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine.

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They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty not safety. Benjamin Franklin

STEPHEN HARPER: TERRORISM, THE MEDIA AND THE PUBLIC

 

Where do murderers go, man! Who’s to doom when the judge himself is dragged to the bar? – Herman Melville

 Frank A. Pelaschuk

 The Events

On October 20th, a lone male drove his vehicle into two Canadian Forces members in a St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec parking lot. One, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, later died. The driver was pursued, shot, and he too died later. That was all any knew initially and yet even before police had commented more fully on the episode, the Conservatives had stage-crafted a plan for maximum impact by having a backbencher, reading from a sheet of paper in the House, ask Harper if he was aware of a possible terrorist threat. It was theatrics and it was cheap, clearly meant to disconcert and surprise the opposition and inspire fear not only by raising the specter of terrorism by also by reminding the public of what the Harper gang have been saying since Canada had joined the war against ISIL: Canada was under threat by terrorists. Harper responded to the staged question by saying he found the episode “extremely troubling”. The next day he went further saying the attack had been “against our values as a civilized democracy”. Steven Blaney, public safety minister said the event showed the driver “clearly linked to terrorist ideology”. Perhaps so, but was this really an act of a terrorist or a deeply troubled man?

Then, two days later, on October 22, a gunman armed with a rifle, attacked Parliament Hill. Reservist Corporal Nathan Cirillo, 24, from Hamilton, Ontario, standing honour guard at the National War Memorial with another soldier, was murdered. The police response was swift, efficient. Bystanders stepped forward, an unidentified woman attempting to breath life into the soldier while others performed CPR. A few contemptible others, souvenir hunters and callous creeps, used their cameras to take pictures of the soldier’s dying moments while the doers, the men and women of action, strove heroically to save Nathan Cirillo. The killer himself was shot dead within the parliament building with parliament’s sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers playing a major role. American media disclosed the name of the killer before Canadian media. MP Jason Kenney demonstrated incredible insensitivity by being the first to publicly announce the death of Nathan Cirillo. In a time like this, some are always there to grab the headlines. No one knew what was happening, the police response was outstanding, and the media was there in full force the Globe and Mail capturing a shaky video of police racing through the lobby of the parliament building guns drawn. Shouts are heard and then an echoing volley of shots, too numerous to count recording the final sounds the gunman would ever hear. For the day, Ottawa was under siege. Parliament, public offices, Canadian Forces bases, schools, were put in lockdown mode for the day. The world was watching. And the media? The media was in frenzy acting as it always does in such terrible events, having a field day spreading alarm, speculation, fuelling rumours and offering little meaningful information.

I agree with Harper, these events are extremely troubling. But I am also troubled about what the fallout will be. For Harper, the Conservatives and many others, the immediate judgement was that these were terrorist acts. As a viewer watching the events unfold, particularly on October 22nd, I wasn’t so sure. As the day unfolded, I found myself increasingly doubtful that this was an act of terrorism and that, as the media first reported, there was more than one assailant involved. Rather, I began to believe this to be an act of criminality by an extremely disturbed, probably suicidal, individual.

THE STAGED RESPONSE

It was the first event of October 20th that gave me a clear sense of what Canadians could expect from the Harper gang. And it’s not good. On that day, while clearly prepped about what had happened in Quebec before the House began its session, a Conservative backbencher rose and asked Harper if he was aware of a possible terrorist attack. As far as anyone knew at that time, a vehicle had mowed down two soldiers and the driver shot and captured. Yet Harper and the Conservatives chose Parliament to exploit the event, perhaps because two soldiers were the victims. Immediately, the alarm bells rang with this first raising of the specter of terrorism, which conjures images of extremists plotting and acting against Canadian targets. It should not have happened that way. It should have been left to the authorities to inform the public, not Harper, certainly not the way he did, and certainly not when not apprised of all the facts. It was only later, with the passage of time and with more information gathered, it was revealed the driver was known to police, that he had become “radicalized” drawing the attention of security who had taken away his passport and interviewed him just days before that terrible event. But the speculation raised by the backbencher and fuelled by Harper was irresponsible because, though uninformed, had the clear goal of fomenting public alarm and of reminding the public that Harper’s claims over the few weeks of terrorist threats had, in fact, been borne out. That wasn’t true, but the public was to infer that. Too, the question and answer was also meant to inform the public that Harper was on top of it (at that time “it” being unknown but certainly declared). Terrorists had struck.

THE MEDIA RESPONSE

What happened on Parliament Hill was even more troubling. This time, Harper was more circumspect. There was no speculation of terrorist attack by him but, really, did anyone need him to say anything. The public could see for themselves the terrible image of the unknown woman attempting to breath life into the mortally wounded Nathan Cirillo, the massive police presence and the Globe and Mail video of police running through the hallway of the parliament building followed by echoing sounds of shouted voices and shots too numerous to count recording the last sounds the killer ever heard. But it was the media this time that exacerbated the situation, inflaming the fears with endless replays of the video and wild speculation that more than one shooter was involved and that there had been a shooting in the Rideau Mall. Terrorists had struck at the heart of Canadian democracy! Canada was under siege! This, too, was alarmist and irresponsible. No one knew what was happening but, while the police and security forces were doing a commendable job under great duress and without knowing what was happening, the media was fuelling the alarm with wild stories. Most irritating was watching CBC’s Evan Solomon breathlessly replay time-and-again that disquieting Globe and Mail video. This was sensational stuff and the media was sensationalizing it even more none more so than Solomon who, on the 23rd, on Power and Politics, still breathless, announced that he had a photo of a bullet hole in the carpet and would tweet it for the public. This is not responsible journalism but kid stuff. Terrorism had again reared its ugly head along with irresponsible reporting.

For the remainder of the day, there was nothing heard from Harper. But there was, for public consumption a photo of a sombre Harper attentively listening to the RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson as he was briefed. It’s a picture I imagine Canadians will be seeing a lot. There’s an election on the way.

The two events were terrible and terrifying; soldiers Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo who had done no harm to their killers, fell victim to their blind violent rage and hatred. But, as of this writing, the brutal acts appear to be independent of each other. The fact that both had lost their passports, the second shooter likely for his criminal activities and the first, the killer of Patrice Vincent, for his radicalization, does not mean this was an organized plot by terrorists seeking martyrdom for a holy war. Until we know more, the wiser course would be to consider these as separate criminal acts by loners and losers seeking retribution against a society they blame for real and imagined losses, failures and failings. If it was the latter, and I don’t know if it was, but if it was, then these are not acts of ideologues, believers, self-imagined warriors, but of miserable little men who have become lost somehow and sought easy answers and comfort by turning to others feeling just as they did, hating the world, wanting to strike back, feeding them the same lies and excuses they feed themselves: it’s not their fault, it’s them, those out there, society. Malcontent, unhappy with their lives and themselves, lonely, isolated, seeking attention and, as some do, finding it in the only way they can because they are misfits and losers: blaming others and hurting others. If some turn to ISIL, it’s likely because something in ISIL struck a chord: all westerners are evil, responsible for all their ills and pain; it’s the same blame game, but openly declared and open for membership. If some then read from the Qur’an, act as these two have done, that doesn’t mean the Muslim faith is responsible any more than someone quoting from the Bible. These are delusional people fed what they want to hear, picking and choosing from scripture the things that feed their rage and then act out their own delusional nightmares. There are many like them in society. With people such as these, one act often leads to another, copycat losers and each craving attention, their five minutes of “fame”, the notoriety they believe is owed them by a society that has denied them everything. These are disgruntled, alienated, possibly mentally ill individuals. Feeding into the “terrorist” frenzy is foolhardy and dangerous. Giving the killers this much attention is only likely to cause others, equally disaffected, to attempt something similar if not more outrageous down the road. Be vigilant, yes, but let’s not succumb to irrationality. If these were, in fact, isolated incidents, terrorism by the alienated rather than the “true believer”, Canadians may have even greater cause for alarm. The danger may be from its own government.

Not long ago, Harper spoke of changing rules to give CSIS and the RCMP greater powers to spy, detain and arrest Canadians. In parliament, he stated his position to expedite the changes. This is reactive and reflexive legislation; it’s not good legislation. It is based on fear rather than on logic and facts. It does, however, feed nicely into the Conservative narrative and will no doubt assuage the fear of those easily fearful. As a consequence, one of the changes we will see is the right of informants to remain anonymous and free from prosecution. The accused will not be granted the right to face his accuser. Anyone with a grudge could lay a charge against anyone. This is not what one would expect from a democracy. Even today the Harper gang and the police are encouraging the public to take on the role of informers if they see anything suspicious. Do we really need leaders creating an atmosphere of paranoia? Do we really want a nation of informers?

Knowing how the public tends to overreact on the least of information, especially when fuelled by fear mongering and scattershot rumours, it’s easy to anticipate many anonymous calls.

OUR RESPONSE

In my first post as a blogger, March 28, 2013, I wrote the following: “I dislike Stephen Harper. I dislike his gang. I consider them thugs and a threat to Canadian Democracy.” Nothing has caused me to change my opinion. In fact, my view has become even more entrenched.

Since the terrible events, the Harper gang has made many references to democracy, which, in the past, they appeared to find a hindrance based on some of their actions. It’s a word they evoke whenever it suits their purposes. With these murderous events, they will refer to democracy many times; the Conservatives and their supporters may even believe they have invented it by the time next election comes.

But this is a closed, secretive government. It ignores the opposition, closes debates and attempts to slip in legislation among vast omnibus bills.

Any government that is as closed, secretive, that changes the Elections Act to possibly disenfranchise hundreds of thousands, cannot be trusted to do what is best for the interests of Canada and Canadians.

This is a government that views all critics as the enemy. This is the government that believes Canadians should remain uninformed about the true cost of spending on fighter jets and security. This is the government that ignores evidence regarding crime rates. Instead, they build more jails, institute mandatory sentencing, and cut rehabilitative programs instead of preparing convicts for a life outside of prison. This is the government that believes those collecting welfare are all potential fraudsters and that Canadian workers are less worthy of a job than foreign workers. This is the government that works with Big Business to supress wages. Little wonder that the poor and helpless are disenchanted and unhappy. This is the government that will change copyright laws so that they can use, distort, cut and paste media clips of their opponents without permission and without regard of how that material is used and abused. This is the government that dislikes the media (except Sun Media for whom Harper can do no wrong). With this move, he will have taken a huge step towards discrediting them by distorting their works. Instead of seeking solutions, the Harper gang carries on as if none of this matters. That Harper would increase spying on Canadians is not new. He prefers to be punitive than to seek solutions; perhaps he is simply responding to the wishes of his constituents. This is the government whose members have illegally accepted campaign funds from corporations, the same government whose members broke election rules, illegally attended fundraising events whose guests were the very people who stood to gain from the decisions their ministries made (think Shelly Glover, Leona Aglukkaq). This is the same government that has moved the investigative arm of Elections Canada, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, to the Department of Public Prosecutions in the Justice Department, which is answerable to government whereby Elections Canada is answerable to parliament. This will lead to the real possibility of political interference should a member of the government gain attention for election irregularities. And this is the government when, failing to stack the Supreme Court with their man, smeared Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin. When our own government and its members smear citizens simply for opposing them, when our government and its members skirt the laws and break election rules, when out government and its members demonstrate a strong aversion for democracy, is it little wonder that those who feel left out, who are marginalized and ill, become disaffected and angry?

I am fearful that the deaths of those two fine men and the actions of their killers will be used to justify putting in place measures more suited to a dictatorship all in the name of security. A climate of fear and nationalism appears to have been sparked by these awful events. Neither is good for the nation. They lead to excesses and it’s often the innocent who suffer. Do we really want a return to the good ol’ bad days when folks, many Canadian born, good, loyal citizens were interned in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, simply for being members of unions or the communist party, for having Ukrainian names and, during the wars years, simply for being Japanese? It could happen again if the Harper gang is allowed to exploit these two tragedies fomenting fear and granting more powers to the police and intelligence agencies. Informants granted immunity, warrantless online searches forcing Internet providers to surrender personal information, detention and arrest for expressing beliefs we may find offensive. These are real possibilities if Harper continues as he wishes. We were a fairly open society but it is becoming more and more closed, secretive and frightened; we can thank Harper for that. We mustn’t overreact because two troubled individuals acted as they did. It may well turn out there is, indeed, a vast conspiracy. But, until we know more, I will continue to believe these were simply two sad losers who struck at innocent folks for no reason other than they were troubled misfits. The world is full of them. It does no good to brand them all as terrorists. It detracts from the real threat: a government all too willing to chip away at our democracy in the name of safety. If people are angry now, it could get worse.

Harper once said of the Conservatives, “…we don’t practice sociology.”

Perhaps it’s time we did.

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But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine.

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They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty not safety. Benjamin Franklin

 

 

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