Harper’s Conservatives have continually shouted about violence, terrorism, oppression of religious minorities and the threat of “ISIS/ISIL” over recent months, jockeying to position themselves as the solution to all of these problems. Are they ideologically different from the foes they describe? It’s hard to tell sometimes, as they have arguably proactively helped all of these things thrive in their pursuit of power.
Terrorism has different definitions legally and language-wise, but it’s usually loosely described as the use of violence and intimidation in advancement of political goals.
Harper’s camp has repeatedly used video, images and phrases from the so-called “Islamic State” – not only echoing their propaganda for all to see, but to much criticism, co-opting it for their own purposes, threatening Canadians and scaring up support.
It seemed to me that they did a better job of marketing the terrorists’ messages of fear to Canadians than the terrorists did. These groups don’t produce videos in hopes that nobody will see them, they want as much attention as they can garner from the things they produce. Naming them repeatedly and re-broadcasting their messages with a Conservative Party of Canada logo isn’t fighting terrorism and its aims, it is aiding and abetting it. It might also contravene the Geneva Convention.
What about all the beheadings, the “barbaric acts” that Harper kept talking about?
When it’s not baked into a press release or exploited for the party’s propaganda and tough-guy Facebook memes, it turns out that it is less about bad people doing bad things, and more about convenience.
Saudi Arabia has quite a reputation for silencing and punishing dissidents, subjugation of women, cracking down on religious minorities and as it turns out, beheadings. Justification for capital punishments in modern Saudi Arabia includes things like blasphemy, homosexuality and “being a witch”. More recently, the spotlight has been on the story of a man slated to be beheaded and crucified for his involvement in protests when he was a teenager.
Canada has maintained a cozy relationship with Saudi Arabia under Harper. On the King’s passing, Harper called Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz a “strong proponent of peace”, adding to a chorus of praise that set aside his ugly human rights record. Harper defended a $15-billion arms deal brokered with Saudi Arabia, partly in secret. Much like his past defence of profitable exporting of asbestos to countries with burgeoning asbestos-related health crises, he implied that the modest number of jobs and profit created from the deal were of greater concern to his government than whatever the implications or outcome of selling the arms to this government may have been. This is the largest Canadian arms export contract in history, and despite Ottawa’s best promises, seems to contravene Canadian policies and could possibly contribute to human rights abuses with Canadian-made arms.
If you squint ever so slightly, it might be hard to see the difference between how Harper governs and the ideology of some of the enemies he spends so much time describing. With “barbaric cultural practices” tip lines being setup so you can inform on your neighbours early-80s East Germany style, limiting travel of law-abiding Canadians, the attempts at demonizing and banning a statistically insignificant number of women from wearing cultural clothing of their choosing at a citizenship ceremony, the ordering of public employees to manufacture terrorism-related scare ware for the media each week, the enlistment of Kory Teneycke (VP of the now defunct Sun News Network), and the hiring of Lynton Crosby, a man whose career largely revolved around using xenophobia and wedge politics to further political campaigns, it all becomes a bit surreal, even at a glimpse.
The Harper Conservatives also abused parliamentary process to push a number of significant legislative items forward that sought to limit civil liberties, squashing debate and ignoring input from a wide variety of legal, human rights and civil liberties groups who highlighted serious problems with the proposals and how they might not only be misused, but also backfire and worsen the problems they were alleged to mitigate. We’ve spent billions of dollars to enact legislation that may do nothing to combat “terrorism” or “crime” and may actually make things worse. (To be fair, this didn’t seem to matter to the Liberals or Conservatives much in the last decade.) Truth doesn’t matter when you’re fighting bad guys though, just that you say you’re fighting them, and that you name your bills well so people know about how great you are at fighting them. It doesn’t matter what horrors were carried out in Canada’s own genocide, or if we’re still hurting from it. It doesn’t matter if our liberties and rights are dying a death of a thousand cuts, the victims are portrayed as the enemy and we’re slowly becoming more like the caricatured version of those “over there” places Harper and friends continuously warn us about.
Since the tragic events in September of 2001, I’ve listened to Canadians disparage the “stupid” citizens of the USA for falling for the lies of the politics of fear and division, succumbing to racism, demonization of invented scapegoats and embracing hate and violence as a go-to response to their monumental array of problems, and at a grave cost to themselves and the world. Yet, many among us are happily falling for all the same things here in Canada. Conservative campaign stunts are shaping the election and gaining support for regressive legislation, and probably fuelling hate-based assaults.
What high horses we have. Are we going to ride them back into Harperville? If we have any integrity, we’ll refuse to be manipulated like this and we’ll bring our friends and family to the polls in the next couple weeks to cast a vote against Harper. We’ll refuse to allow dog whistle politics to shape our country and hold all leaders to an expectation that governance and policy making will come from evidence and compassion, not fear and hate.