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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

December 18, 2002

Canada's confusion

Ed Morgan who is a law professor at the University of Toronto and Chairman of Canadian Jewish Congress (Ontario) presents a thoughful analysis of Canada's confusion in matters political and ethical. Some extracts to follow;
Testifying at the deportation hearing of an immigrant found to be a member of the Egyptian al-Jihad movement, an officer in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service disclosed last year that "there are more international terrorist groups here [in Canada] than in any other country in the world."

The government's instinctive tendency to follow France rather than the United States on issues of security and terrorism highlights the distance between it and the country's 300,000 Jews on this issue.

The country's solicitor-general has defended the weak anti-terrorism policy in a way that romanticizes multiculturalism and political pluralism. Some violent groups, he has explained, offer an independent political and social-welfare network for their people, and are therefore different than strictly religious zealots like al-Qaida. It is as if the government perceived Hizbullah, the Tamil Tigers, the Basque ETA and other similar organizations as alternative voices that need to be heard in the multicultural symphony that Canadians have composed.

During the past 20 years, Canadian governments have fostered a policy of official multiculturalism as an effort to counter the insularity of prior eras. The policy has largely succeeded in transforming Anglo parochialism and French xenophobia into an outward-looking society that embraces refugee absorption, free trade, globalization, and the preservation of immigrant cultures as an inherent right.

For a country that has always been dispassionate about patriotism and cultural identity, the ethic of multiculturalism has caught on and grown into a surprising national passion.

The cultural core, in other words, has been hollowed out in favor of the ethnic periphery.

Anti-terrorism policy is where the problem has become the most obvious. Canadian immigration law bars entry to any person who is a "terrorist" or a member of a "terrorist organization," but the government has been loath to define those crucial terms in a coherent way. While most would agree that terrorism entails some form of politicized violence generally aimed at civilians, the prevailing ethic of multiculturalism has prevented some obvious candidates from being included in the list.

Terrorist violence has come to be seen as essentially a matter of political and cultural relativity, with alternative perspectives given room for expression. In the words of the Canadian Supreme Court, the idea is to define terrorism in a way that is not been "open to politicized manipulation, conjecture, and polemical interpretation." The result, however, has been that Canadian authorities have stumbled and bumbled their way through the question of whether some violent people can be let in while others must be kept out.

The problem is that terrorism is seen not so much as a question of defense and security, but of weighing the concerns of multicultural politics. Thus, the government and judiciary allow themselves to imagine that international political violence can under some circumstances be an expression of tolerance rather than its opposite.
All I know is, I don't like it and still don't understand it. The key here is that Canada is identifying with France rather than the US. Since France wants to advance the Palestinian cause at the expense of Israel and has little regard for the victims of terrorism, we must conclude that Canada does likewise. Morgan is too soft on Canada. Canada should be condemned just as France is.