Fear and loathing, my friends.
These two are the foundation of the Conservative campaign. Fill the electorate full to the brim with fear and loathing. Get them all fired up about threats both imagined and grossly exaggerated. That is the path that the governing party has to reelection – a campaign of terror and hatred, directed predominately against Muslims, to appeal to all the old racist white people who are most likely to turn out and vote.
But the truly terrifying thing is that it seems to be working.
I wrote earlier this week about the manufactured controversy surrounding the niqab which is being cynically pushed both by the HarperCons and by the Bloc Quebecois. The Prime Minister has elevated a complete and total non-issue – a few Muslim women’s choice of wardrobe for their citizenship ceremonies – into an existential threat to Canadian “values” and “heritage” and a bunch of other dog-whistle crypto-racist terms.
The niqab debate has been simmering away for quite some time now, and it was to be expected that the subject would come up in the first French-language debate of the campaign. But yesterday, the Conservatives injected another nasty bit of xenophobia into the election in a way that was clearly premeditated and which they obviously hope will play to their advantage.
Canadian citizen Zakaria Amara, convicted of terrorist offences in relation to the “Toronto 18” plot, was stripped of his citizenship by the federal government under the controversial new law, Bill C-24. This law allows the government to remove Canadian citizenship from people with dual citizenship who are convicted of treason, terrorism, or espionage. Four other men were given notice by the government that their citizenship may be revoked; they have sixty days to challenge the revocation. Opposition leaders Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau both oppose the bill, arguing that it creates two tiers of citizenship.
The odious Minister of Defence Jason Kenney, on the other hand, was in full-on attack-dog mode following yesterday’s announcement. On Twitter, he averred that Amara “forfeited his own citizenship”, a line he doubled down on in a press conference:
He planned on murdering hundreds of Canadians. He expressed violent disloyalty for his country – hatred for Canada. And in so doing – through that conviction – he effectively renounced his own Canadian citizenship.
The obvious hole in this (overhyped) line of argumentation, though, is that several members of the Toronto 18 plot were Canadian-born non-dual-citizens. By virtue of his place of birth, Amara faces a far stiffer sentence for the same crimes – which violates fundamental principles of jurisprudence.
Which doesn’t have the same intuitive bite to it as Kenney’s rhetoric.
Here’s a petition the dishonourable Minister is circulating:
Stripping Canadian Citizenship from Convicted Terrorists
On September 25, terror cell ringleader Zakaria Amara, who plotted terror attacks in downtown Toronto was stripped of his Canadian citizenship, thanks to a law passed by the Conservative government.
I agree that convicted terrorists should be stripped of their Canadian citizenship. Anyone who commits terrorist acts in Canada or abroad has clearly renounced their Canadian citizenship by rejecting Canadian values and the loyalty to our country that citizenship requires.
I call on Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau to stop defending the rights of convicted terrorists and to instead support the rights of law abiding Canadians.
That hits below the belt, eh?
Mulcair and Trudeau – and lord knows I don’t often stand up for these guys – are hardly “defending the rights of convicted terrorists”. Rather, they’re defending the age-old principle of equal application of the law. They’re defending the notion that all Canadian citizens are equal before the law.
(And yes, the whole notion of citizenship is inherently colonial and oppressive in and of itself – but sadly, that level of discourse is approximately a million miles above the hateful vitriol which passes for campaign rhetoric that we’re seeing in Election 2015.)
In other clearly politically motivated “terrorism” news, the RCMP’s INSET team (on which I’ve written extensively) announced that it is pressing terrorist-related charges (under Bill C-51!) against Farah Mohamed Shirdon, a Calgarian who went overseas to fight with the Islamic State.
Shirdon, according to the charges, “‘served in a combat role and performed other functions for ISIS such as recruiting, fundraising, encouraging others to commit violence, and spreading propaganda — all designed to enhance the activities of the ISIS,’ assistant commissioner Marlin DeGrand, the officer in charge of RCMP criminal operations in Alberta, said in a release.”
Which paints a scary picture, doesn’t it? But then you dig into the story and you discover that (a) literally everything in these charges was known to both the RCMP and the public since early 2014, making the timing of these charges suspiciously political, and (b) Shirdon was widely reported to be dead as recently as six weeks ago.
There’s no obvious reason why the RCMP is choosing to move forward with this case now, of all times, but yet again, Jason Kenney was on the scene to tell us that it’s all about Keeping Canada Safe:
Today the RCMP laid charges against Farad Mohammad Shirdon, who left Canada to join a genocidal terrorist organization – the so-called Islamic State – that has declared war on Canada and called for attacks on Canadians…
These charge would not have been possible if it were not for our Conservative government’s Combating Terrorism Act which made it a criminal offence to leave or attempt to leave Canada for the purposes of participating in or facilitating terrorist activity.
Canada is not immune to the threat posed by ISIS. We are facing increased threats from jihadi terrorists who have carried out terrorist attacks in Canada and threatened Canadians by name. The presence of foreign fighters training and fighting in Syria and Iraq poses a security risk to Canada, as they aspire to recruit others and conduct attacks on our country.
The video of this individual burning and shooting his Canadian passport to express his violent hatred for Canada shocked many Canadians – and demonstrates how those who engage in terrorism betray the bond of loyalty and allegiance with Canada. [my bold]
Look at the slimy rhetoric I bolded – flag-waving patriotism wrapped in xenophobic Othering wrapped in Canadian peameal bacon. Given the type of fear-mongering campaign the CPC has been running, charges like these are a real gift, an opportunity to trot out their best coded Islamophobia.
Last month, I detailed the RCMP’s history of helping the Conservative Party win elections with a variety of well-timed politically-motivated interventions. Here, we see the INSET team, which was initiated by Harper and has grown to take up a startling portion of the RCMP’s funding, throw the CPC a terror bone in the midst of a highly charged election campaign.
Much was made about Australian election guru and arch-racist Lynton Crosby’s parachuting entry into the Conservative campaign in early September, at a time when the party was riding low in the polls in the aftermath of their abysmal handling of the refugee crisis. It seems that predictions he would bring his trademark xenophobia to the election have proved to be accurate.
And what’s worse, they seem to have been effective, at least if you can trust the polls. If Eric Grenier is to be believed, the Conservatives are the current favourites to win the election, with a narrow majority; one Ekos poll earlier this week, admittedly an outlier, showed them closing in on majority territory. Apparently, this kind of Muslim-bashing plays well with the base.
The common thread here, from the niqab flap to the Zakaria Amara story to the absurdity of the RCMP laying charges against a dead Calgarian for old-news crimes committed abroad, is the question of who gets to be considered a Canadian, and the heavy implication from the HarperCons is that citizenship for Muslims is heavily contingent. It depends upon them demonstrating an impossible level of loyalty, fealty to ill-defined “Canadian values”, and a loud and total rejection of the “barbarity” and “savagery” of groups like the Islamic State. Their membership in the club is only grudgingly granted by “old stock” types, and can be taken back, whether officially or in the court of public opinion, at a moment’s notice.
That this is a disgusting position to have underlying a political party’s campaign should go without saying. But here we are.
Far more than all the overhyped “terrorist” threats that Harper and Kenney keep trotting out, I’m truly terrified of the Conservative Party.