Stephen Harper’s current term in office is coming to a close but the Canadian Prime Minister refuses to back down, especially in the face of terrorism – even when the true issue at hand may be a far target from where he thinks he is aiming.
Recent attacks in Quebec and Ottawa have left two Canadians dead and three injured, while both suspects are now deceased, but Canada is in an international state of unrest and Canadians may not rest so easily knowing that their country is not as safe as it once appeared to be. It’s possible however, that the real danger lurks inside the government and not in the outbreak of violent activity. In Quebec one attacker ran down two officers, killing one, and in Ottawa, another shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the War Memorial and then proceeded to rush into the Parliament building. Police put downtown Ottawa on lockdown until the situation cleared and the suspect is now also deceased. The RCMP handled the entire situation with ease across Canada and even in Saskatoon two officers stood guard outside city hall to give civilians a sense of security.
However, this raises the question, why is it necessary to post guard almost 3000km away from the site of last Wednesday’s violence? While Canada’s media covered the Ottawa shooting with grace – avoiding jumping to conclusions and spreading unnecessary panic – online activity on Twitter may have told a different story. A flurry of protests and finger-pointing began before the crisis was even widely known to most citizens. Yet worldwide news outlets are praising Canada for its rational and calm response to violent activity and citizens have banded together to show support for both the families of the victims and any Muslims across the globe fearing the backlash of ignorance in regards to the war on terror.
Given the mixed response, what then can we make of Prime Minister Harper’s address to the nation? Harper spoke out on a live broadcast Wednesday afternoon saying, “this will lead us to strengthen and redouble our efforts… to take all necessary steps to identify and counter threats and keep Canada safe here at home – just as it will lead us to strengthen our resolve… and fight against the terrorist organizations who brutalize those in other countries.” However patriotic Harper’s comments may seem, they are way out of context given the circumstances. The shooter, identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, although a convert to Islam, appears to have no ties to a larger organization that would suggest any threat of terrorist activity. One isolated incident should not be enough to spark a massive influx of funding into military forces. Justin Trudeau, leader of the opposition had something different to say in response, remarking, “criminals do not dictate how we act as a nation, how we govern or the way we treat each other.” Indeed, yet Harper is adamant on pushing Canada into the war, promising to give more power to the military and police to combat the war Canada has for the most part not taken a part in. While America is putting heavy pressure on countries like Syria and bombing potential sites of extremist activity, Canada has only just begun to fire its own shots. In September, The Association for Canadian Studies did a survey indicating that 49 per cent of Canadians agree that military strength is the best way to deal with terrorism, with 39 per cent rejecting that idea and 12 per cent unsure.
Yet these recent activities affect far more than political policies. Tim Halstead, the Director of Facilities and Fleet Management in Saskatoon said, “we are constantly working with our internal partners, such as the Fire Department, the Saskatoon Police Service and the Emergency Measures Organization to refine our security plans,” although he did not disclose the details of said plans. If even the city of Saskatoon feels the need to take precautionary action, is there a reason for Canadians to be concerned that Canada is not doing enough to protect its citizens from international threats or is the whole issue merely the remnants of a blowhard era that could be exterminated by simply a shift in the political landscape? Harper presses on adamantly, seeming reluctant to hand over the power he has, now choosing to fight international fire with fire. Parliament for the most part stands united with the Prime Minister but the opposition leaders have cautioned not to let the actions of radicals affect Canada’s decisions on how to proceed, a warning unheeded by Harper whose foreign policies have been questionable at best and now are veering on the edge of irrationality.
Fundamentalism may have had its time centuries ago in the establishment of nations, but today’s modern world has no place for barbaric practices, so why is Harper adhering to this form of political activism that borders on the same principles used by the organizations he thinks he is defeating? Canadians deserve their praise for remaining calm in light of tragedy and Canada has fast become a beacon of inspiration to the rest of the globe, but with only half the country in support of his decisions, Harper’s term may not end on the good note he seems to think it will.
Regardless of politics, all of our support goes out to the families of the dearly departed, and Canada will not be divided by the irrational actions of the few.