Six men were killed in a shooting at a Quebec City mosque on earlier this week. The tragedy occurred as U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order was implemented to put a 120-day ban on refugees entering the United States and banned people from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the U.S. for three months. The order prompted demonstrations across the U.S., chaos at American airports, and confusion around the world. Our question in light of the Quebec tragedy: is Canada doing enough to keep our citizens safe? Richard Mahoney, John Capobianco and Tom Parkin are in the ONW Salon.
Another tragedy taking place in our beloved country and again in Quebec. Our sincere condolences and prayers to those families who lost loved ones as well as those recovering from this cowardly terrorist act. It is no surprise, but still amazing to see the outpouring of support from across Canada and around the world in a solid message of condemnation of this kind of merciless killing of innocent people while praying in what is supposed to be a place of safety and refuge.
It is unfortunate timing that this came right after U.S. President Donald Trump issued his executive order “banning” immigration – in fact, the executive order indefinitely suspended resettlement of Syrian refugees and suspended all other refugee resettlement for 120 days. Moreover, the order bans entry for 90 days of nationals from seven mostly Muslim countries, including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. It is noteworthy that there was clarification that those with Canadian passports would be allowed to travel to the U.S.
PM Justin Trudeau quickly, after this firestorm took place, sent out a message that Canada would accept those who couldn’t get into the U.S.
It is still way too early to determine why this alleged nut case did what he did – but it doesn’t stop people from being justifiably angry and making the connection.
Canada should be proud of its immigration policy, which has shaped our country for decades and continues to be a model around the world. That policy is always a discussion point when a terrorist act takes place, whether within our borders or in another country. The question becomes: are we doing too much, not enough or are we completely on the wrong path?
This has also put attention on the current Conservative leadership race, given one or more of the candidates have made immigration screening a key policy platform. This will cause this very debate to continue.
In the aftermath of the horrific killings in Quebec, I trust that our Prime Minister, the RCMP and Surete du Quebec will all review both the security protection they have given to mosques and the ability to identify, monitor and arrest far-right extremists.
I know that CSIS has identified white supremacy as a “main ideological source” of terrorist violence. Clearly, we need to ensure our security is adequately focused on white supremacist violence to keep us safe.
As for the specific action to be taken, that is something that is the work of the government and parliamentarians in the weeks and months ahead.
We all need to stay focused on this ideological source amongst others, of course.
But there is another important factor: moral leadership. Right now, in the immediate shadow of this event, I believe it is most important that we do not allow the shock of Trump and the Quebec killings to unravel our social cohesion. I believe many Canadians - and people around the world - are concerned about the Trump presidency, his racist allies, his walls and division. They are wondering where we are going and if things are going to be all right.
I truly commend Quebec Premier Coulliard, the Prime Minister, CPC Interim Leader Rona Ambrose and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair for their acts of unity Monday. There was not one crack of light between them, no one hedging, shading or doing anything other than condemning this terrible act.
If our society is strong and unified in support of every Canadian, we will do well. Without that moral leadership and united political response, I fear the disease of xenophobia and Islamophobia will grow, our values will collapse and what we have built will be broken.
As Premier Coulliard said, we have our challenges. There are many things we need to address and improve. But with our open values we have created special place on this globe. With those values we need to stand strong and united - as our political leaders did yesterday. Very right.
I agree with Tom and John that I trust the federal government is doing what it needs to do to review the safety and security of mosques and other places of worship in our country. The brutal attack still shocks and saddens all of us. The Prime Minister spoke for all members of the House of Commons, and, I think, Canadians, when he said to Canada’s one million Muslims: “We are with you. 36 million hearts are breaking with yours.”
Tom also makes an important point about moral leadership from all of us in rejecting the hatred shown and expressing our love and respect for our neighbours.
When the Prime Minister called it a "terrorist attack", a term that many unfortunately reserve for violence visited by one side of the hate, he underlined that the evil among us is the problem, not one country, nor race, nor religion.
It was jarring that, while all of our leaders, political, community and otherwise, were showing that moral leadership, the President of the United States' press secretary used the attacks as justification for the executive orders President Trump has recently promulgated.
Canada has a different view. Tolerance and compassion in our approach to the world, coupled with sound procedures of refugee determination, are what we do, as a country. Let's make sure we keep it that way.
What we need to be mindful of is that there are and always will be amongst us those who will never accept our way of life and the freedoms we enjoy. No matter what we do or don't do, say or not say to avoid conflict as a nation, we will have haters who will do evil things for their own warped sense of purpose, be it home grown terrorists or from outside - the damage is the same.
What we don't want is to ever paint a broad brush and categorize a religion and those who practice the religion as evil. As many have said in the past and over the last couple of days, these acts are mostly from those who defy their own religion and are conducting these brutal acts for their own self-interest, whatever that might be.
Condemning these acts forcefully and ensuring that we in the political world speak with one voice, as was witnessed with our government leaders, is paramount.
But that alone won't do it.
Neither will hoping and praying it won't happen again.
We do need to ensure we never get complacent, especially in our peaceful country, and think that this won't happen here. In fact, it has been happening here, more than any of us ever imagined. We need to stay vigilant, especially at all places of worship and not just mosques.
But we also have to make sure the terrorists never change our way of life, that those who have picked Canada as a place to live, work, worship and raise families will never regret the decision they made.
The reaction of our leaders over this crisis was amazing, and from those who decided in various cities across Canada to show support, they also send a powerful message that we will not be deterred by these acts of terror.
In the last days it has become clear the killer adhered to a radical violent ideology. People who knew him described him as an “ultra nationalist white supremacist,” “xenophobe,” and “extremely right-wing.” He was “pro-Trump,” and “enthralled with Le Pen.” He trolled community organization websites, calling women “feminazis.” I have not read that he was particularly guided by religion – it seems this is more a question of political ideology.
It is critical that the terms of debate in our country remain supportive of our shared values. Basic decency is for all parties and all people. We must not allow the extremists to shift the debate so that espousing basic human values somehow becomes a partisan act that can then be denounced. But unfortunately, that shift has happened in the U.S.
The coming weeks will be challenging for Canada.
The New Democrats will continue to push the Prime Minister to be honest in his words – but also realize the stakes are high.
For the Liberals, the challenge will be to oppose policies such as the unjustifiable Muslim travel ban – as is being done by German Chancellor Angele Merkel, U.S. CEOs and many progressive U.S. politicians. We are economically and militarily integrated with the United States and therefore there are ways Trump can punish us for trying to be true to our values. But we have to be who we are.
For the Conservatives, there is the curse of the Trumpettes within. In the flux of a leadership campaign, the pro- and anti-Trump factions will likely sharpen. Every Canadian has an interest in a modern tolerant Conservative Party.
For the Bloc - who took down that awful video of a woman in niqab morphing into a pipeline - the challenge is to move away from an ethnic definition of Quebecois, of Quebec nationalism, and toward one in which every person living in Quebec is a Quebecois. We can't forget the ugly campaigning by the BQ and, earlier, Marios.
But, above all else, Trudeau, Ambrose and Mulcair, and others who can be engaged, need to hold our political unity and social cohesion together.
A strong, united Canada isn't just about effective institutions or security forces - it's about united people. The moral leadership of our politicians is critical to building that unity.
Tom revives the spectre of the Trumpian tendencies of some of the extreme right in the Conservative leadership race. I do believe that what Trump is doing right now on this issue is a test to leaders all over the world. Where they stand on this will likely be noted for some time. It will matter.
That is the one risk I see to the social cohesion in our response to this tragedy. Kellie Leitch and Kevin O'Leary and company will have to respond now with the same love in their hearts as our Prime Minister, Premiers, Mayors and other leaders have done. The light will be shone on them now. Hopefully, they will step up.
So, in answer to the ONW Salon question: are we doing enough to keep the country safe? I think the answer is: we can never do enough collectively.
Are our governments and security forces prepared and do they have tools to keep us safe? Largely, yes. But that won’t prevent risks from continuing in an open and free society.
Are our political and community leadership holding their end up in terms of promoting those values? Again, mostly yes, as Tom ably points out above.
Are we doing enough in our daily lives to ensure that we look after one another, and watch out for those that hate? Like our government and political and community leaders, we too can’t really do enough, all the time, to stop hate from growing.
But when you look around the globe at how various countries and societies handle this threat to community, I’d again say, we are doing a pretty good job. I just hope we continue to step up.
Richard Mahoney is a lawyer with deep experience in politics and governance. He is a former senior advisor to the Rt. Hon Paul Martin, a former Campaign Chair and President of the Ontario Liberal Party. John Capobianco is a Senior Partner and National Public Affairs Lead at FleishmanHillard. He has been a Conservative strategist with over 30 years of political activism at all three levels, including as a former federal Conservative candidate. Tom Parkin is a veteran NDP strategist and a frequent commentator on national issues.