Politicians need boundaries when dealing with social media harassment

An excerpt from my latest Loonie Politics column. Read the full piece here. If you aren’t a subscriber yet, use promo code ‘Lawton’ for a discount!

Those who go into politics may surrender some of private life’s comforts, but that doesn’t mean public service should be a free-for-all.

Especially when it comes to elected officials’ families.

It’s hard to find civility on social media, however, where a St. Catherines man attempted to spark a Christmas Day flash mob at Progressive Conservative MPP Sam Oosterhoff’s parents’ house.

“This Christmas, let’s protest @samoosterhoff and his bigot, misogynistic and homophobic personality & upbringing,” wrote Rob Gill on Twitter.  “Let’s protest at his parents (sic) home at (redacted).  Or give them a call at (redacted).”

Included in the original tweet, which has since been deleted, were the Oosterhoff family’s home address and phone number.

The second-term MPP called police upon seeing the tweet, citing concern for his family’s safety.  The OPP says it was unsuccessful at reaching Gill by phone, so instead stopped in on him to “caution (him) regarding sharing personal information on social media which could be perceived as harassing.”

Gill himself tweeted about the episode, lauding the officer as “professional and friendly” while labeling Oosterhoff’s call to the police “pathetic” and meant to intimidate.

From a PR perspective, there’s no right answer for Oosterhoff to deal with someone being so demonstrably irrational.  Were he to call Gill himself, he’d be similarly accused of trying to intimidate.  His way put it to the OPP to decide what the prudent course of action would be.

It sounds as though that’s exactly what happened.  The police investigated, had a courteous and professional conversation with the party involved, and moved on without laying any charges.  I’m unclear on how this could have unfolded in any better way, except for if Gill had never taken aim at the Oosterhoffs in the first place.

Don’t fear the Islamic Party of Ontario

A curious entry on Elections Ontario’s list of reserved political party names has galvanized Ontarians concerned about creeping Sharia.

As first noted by Toronto Sun columnist Tarek Fatah, the provincial elections agency has granted a hold on the name Islamic Party of Ontario, generally the first step towards formally registering a party to field candidates in the province’s elections.

As a preamble to its policies and principles, a page on the would-be party’s website touts the opening line of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms avowing “Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law” to justify its desire to make all laws in “obedience and according to the will of God.”

After several bullet points about Islamic history and apologetics, the Islamic Party of Ontario unequivocally says its stances on all issues are rooted in the Qur’an and Sunnah.

This means an Islamic government would abandon capitalism in favour of “interest-free capital and worker partnership economy,” enshrine the right to food and shelter, and guarantee equality of opportunity for immigrants and native-born Canadians alike.

Utopic as this may sound to some, the party would also ban gay marriage, abortion, alcohol and gambling, as well as any sexual relations outside of marriage. The party also says “obscenity, vulgarity, nudity and perversion must be checked,” though it doesn’t specify an all-out ban. (Yay?)

While the Islamic party says it upholds freedom of speech, it also commits to a “strict law to ban blasphemy.” I don’t envy the judges who have to balance those rights.

Canadians may find areas of agreement with the Islamic party platform. Several of the social positions would be supported by evangelical Christians, while the economics are on par with those you’d expect from many left-wing parties.

Of course, some interpretations of the Qur’an prescribe the death penalty for apostasy. I couldn’t even manage to get elected while championing tax cuts, which strikes me as an easier sell than this.

Most Canadians will find the Islamic Party of Ontario’s values to be unpalatable even for private belief let alone state enforcement. The party is no more relevant than the Communist Party of Ontario or Go Vegan, which both ran candidates in last year’s Ontario election.

Setting aside the religious fervor most vegans have, the Islamic Party of Ontario would, if registered, be Ontario’s only faith-based party.

In response to backlash from conservatives, I’ve seen some on the left try to compare the Islamic party to the federal Christian Heritage Party. Unlike the IPO, which wants a full-throated Muslim theocracy, the CHP seeks only to make Judeo-Christian values the basis of law. Even so, both parties have about as much a chance at winning a seat, which is to say zero.

Some Muslim voters may support the party based on name alone. It may even find a bit of support in Don Valley West, the riding encompassing the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood nicknamed “Halal heaven.”

Either way, it will remain a fringe party with no power or credibility in Canada, not worth the fear or scorn so many are affording it.

People should be concerned about the Islamist influences targeting mainstream, electable political parties.

There are suit-wearing apologists for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood wandering the corridors of power in Canada who believe the same things as the Islamic Party of Ontario but are far less brazen about expressing them.

It’s quite common to see a couple of notable organizations touted as mainstream and moderate voices for Islam and Muslims, when their values and funding tell a different story.

The anti-Islamophobia motion passed by the Liberals is the by-product of a push from one such group.

The real danger to Canadian institutions and values comes in the subtle and subversive way this influence has come about.

The Islamic Party of Ontario is about as subtle as Madonna twerking in downtown Riyadh.

We must actually watch those who try to overhaul Canadian democracy through legitimate—or seemingly legitimate—organizations. These groups have found audiences with pandering politicians of all stripes because of the political class’s eagerness to shore up support from specific ethnic and religious communities.

These groups also have a war chest that’s allowed them to successfully sue numerous Canadian media companies into silence, meaning they’re rarely, if ever, exposed.

These battles are taking place in the shadows of Canada. We should be grateful the Islamic Party of Ontario is at least being honest about its goals.

Putting a year of curveballs to bed

I got fired, made national headlines and lost an election in the same year.

I’m not typically one for New Year’s observances, but if there was a year worthy of reflection it’s 2018.

Perhaps last year I tempted fate with my column eviscerating the pomp and pretence of New Year’s Eve.

This year is a bit different.

I started 2018 as a radio broadcaster covering an unexpected PC leadership race and ended it without a radio show and having been a PC candidate in an election. I didn’t see any of that coming.

While this year’s zigs and zags were unforeseen, they weren’t unforeseeable.

I’d been contemplating running in Ontario’s provincial election as far back as the summer of 2017, but opted against it. By the time this past March came around, things had changed.

I was happy with Doug Ford’s election as the new PC leader, and my preferred riding, London West, still didn’t have a PC candidate.

On March 26, Ford was in London for a victory rally. As was the custom with conservative politicians coming to town, Ford did an in-studio interview on my show. I attended the rally that evening, encouraged by the energy in the room.

On the drive home, I once again questioned whether to bite the bullet and run for office. The challenge was whether something so uncertain could justify walking away from a secure job.

The next morning, I was fired. I smiled all the way home.

Within a few hours I had lined up meetings in Toronto and Montreal with players in the media industry as I plotted my next move. In parallel, I started exploring a political run.

(Spoiler alert: the political run didn’t end up precluding me from doing other things).

My wife and I were a true team through this. In true foodie fashion, we made the final decision over a five-course tasting menu at a restaurant’s closing night. (Because what newly unemployed person doesn’t patronize such boîtes?)

My eight weeks as a politician formed one of the most difficult chapters of my life. Anyone who opened a computer in May knows why. Beyond the political implications of my candidacy, there was a personal toll to being in the media’s crosshairs that I wrote about not long after the election.

It’s taken me some time to truly grasp what I took away from this time, however.

A number of people I thought were friends seemed to have only a relationship with my status when I hosted a daily radio show and had a national column. When it became trendy to hate me, a few of these fair-weather “friends” jumped on the bandwagon.

Some did it openly. Others were more duplicitous.

But these people are dwarfed in number (and in character) by those in the opposite camp – people whose friendship I didn’t fully appreciate or understand who were there for me in ways for which I will be forever grateful.

Friends from across the political spectrum chose to see my heart instead of headlines. That was the spirit that got me through this time.

My family supported me every step of the way. My church community shrouded me in prayer.

My wife gave me the ability to understand what it means to say someone is your rock. She was. From a handwritten letter on my nightstand every day of the campaign to tending to my blistered feet (you try knocking on 20,000 doors in six weeks!), she was there in ways I never knew possible. As she was every day before and every day since.

Tumultuous as the experience was, it strengthened our bond. That’s true of my relationships with most of those closest to me.

My father was out from the wee hours of morning until late at night installing and repairing signs.

My mother put in countless hours staffing my campaign office.

My in-laws were just as dedicated.

Friends old and new donated, volunteered, and most importantly let me know they supported me, even if they weren’t going to vote for me.

Though a special thank you to the 17,133 people who did vote for me.

By the time I lost on June 7, I had a legion of people around me to ask “What’s next?” on June 8.

The last six months have been among the most fruitful and joyous in my career as I’ve been able to pursue opportunities I wouldn’t have been able to had the year shaped up differently.

From my fellowship at the True North Initiative to columns at The Interim and Loonie Politics to producing events for Mark Steyn, 2018 has ended on a high note.

I look forward to whatever 2019 brings. The stats of abandoned New Year’s resolutions alone suggest making one is a fool’s errand. Though I endeavor to continue what I’ve tried to do throughout the latter half of 2018 – appreciate those who have been there for me, and be there for others in the same way.

Even so, perhaps 2019 can be a tad less eventful.

No guns allowed for Minto tenants

One of Canada’s largest property management companies bars tenants from having guns in their units, even if they’re legally owned.

This was a dealbreaker for an Ottawa gun enthusiast, who withdrew his application for a rental unit from Minto Properties upon seeing the firearms ban listed in the tenancy agreement under a section titled “Firearms and other Weapons.

“For the protection of all Residents, firecrackers, knives designed to be used as weapons, firearms, pellet or paintball guns, lethal weapons, or any objects considered dangerous to the health and/or well-being of fellow Residents are not allowed on our property,” the lease said.

The wording is so broad as to even bar licensed gun owners from keeping legally-owned firearms, stored in accordance with the government’s strict regulations, at home.

“I could not sign that knowing I will not be compliant,” said the prospective tenant, who wished not to be named. “Violation of their agreement can lead to eviction.”

A Minto spokesperson confirmed the policy doesn’t differentiate between legal and unlawful guns.

“With resident safety our top priority, this policy is specific to the presence and storage of weapons or firearms at all Minto Apartments properties,” said George Van Noten, the senior vice president of policy operations for Minto Properties. “In no way does it restrict licensed gun owners from tenancy.”

Though Van Noten says gun owners are allowed to be tenants, their firearms can’t join them.

According to a draft tenancy agreement, violating this or any other clause in the Resident Code of Conduct can result in “possible termination of the tenancy.”

A Minto representative didn’t respond to a query about whether the policy has ever been tested at the Landlord and Tenant Board.

A Toronto-based landlord and tenant lawyer the policy’s legality falls into a “grey area.”

“The Residential Tenancies Act only allows a landlord to terminate the lease if the tenant has substantially interfered with the quiet enjoyment or another lawful right, interest or privilege of the landlord or another tenant,” said Kevin Wiener of Wiener Law.

Even if tenants and landlords agree to certain provisions, they may not be enforceable, Wiener said. Bans on pet ownership are an example of this; even if a tenant has agreed to a a no-pets policy in a lease, a landlord couldn’t evict if a tenant violated the ban.

With regards to firearms, it’s less clear cut.

“The short answer is it may or may not be enforceable,” Wiener said. “(Landlords) could argue that the policy allows them to assure tenants that they are moving into a building with no weapons or other dangerous objects, and that assurance is important to other tenants.”

Though he wasn’t aware of any cases where this has been tested, Wiener said if one went to the Landlord and Tenant Board, the board could order an eviction, order a remedy requiring offsite gun storage, or do nothing at all.

While Minto says its policy is about safety, it’s actually less safe overall. Forcing gun owners who have gone through rigorous screening and testing to keep guns somewhere other than at home reduces the oversight most license-holders impose on their collections.

For non-restricted firearms—including most rifles and shotguns—gun owners can store them virtually anywhere, like at someone else’s house or in the trunk of a car.

Restricted guns, such as handguns, pose specific challenges. Offsite storage can be done for a hefty fee at a gun range or gun store, or at another property. However, the government may need to authorize the storage, and it makes transporting the guns more difficult.

Target shooters require an authorization to transport their gun to the range. Typically, these are issued solely for a direct route from home to the range and back.

While most conscientious gun owners follow storage and transport restrictions to the letter of the law, restrictions like Minto’s could cause people to cut corners.

With the risk of vehicle break-ins, not to mention temperature issues, keeping guns in your trunk is a less viable and less safe method of storage than a locked, in-apartment gun cabinet.

Minto’s policy seems to follow the lead of the federal government by presenting the illusion to safety, regardless of the consequences.

The deception of “non-binding” resolutions

Canada’s parliament launched a “whole of government approach” to fighting Islamophobia. Justin Trudeau is imposing a national carbon tax to fulfill obligations under the Paris climate change accord. The United Nations Security Council declared Israel to be in “flagrant violation” of international law.

These situations all share something in common: they came about through “non-binding” resolutions. That didn’t stop them from having real consequences.

A more significant one is looming: the United Nations’ Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is set to be signed by representatives of dozens of countries—including Canada—next week in Morocco.

Like any General Assembly resolution, the pact itself isn’t legally binding, though no one should be duped into thinking it carries no weight.

Just listen to the way the compact’s champions describe it.

The United Nations says it is a “critical” step to tackling international migration.

In a Maclean’s op-ed, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said “member states and partners will thus hold each other more accountable on their promises to deliver results for refugees and their hosts.”

Not only will Canada be expected to adhere to the agreement, but countries like Greece and Sudan will be the ones enforcing it should they sign on.

Trudeau has mocked those who say the document threatens sovereignty. How does it not, when nation-states will be responsible for policing each other’s immigration policies?

Louise Arbour, the UN’s special representative for international migration, said in an interview it was “puzzling” that countries were rejecting the compact.

“There is not a single country that is obligated to do anything that it doesn’t want to,” she said.

Perhaps that’s why so many countries are refusing to sign—because they already know they don’t want what it prescribes. Like most supporters of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, Arbour and Hussen want us to believe this is somehow of “critical” importance, yet also toothless.

The only reason these sorts of initiatives are couched in such equivocal terms is to shroud their Orwellian nature. That’s the only way to describe an agreement compelling signatories to govern the tone of media coverage of immigration.

This is one of the clauses:

“Promote independent, objective and quality reporting of media outlets, including internet-based information, including by sensitizing and educating media professionals on migration-related issues and terminology, investing in ethical reporting standards and advertising, and stopping allocation of public funding or material support to media outlets that systematically promote intolerance, xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination towards migrants, in full respect for the freedom of the media.”

This clause is part of the pact’s core objective to “shape perceptions of migration.”

The UN’s position—and as of next week, Canada’s—is that anyone who believes in anything other than open borders and mass, unrestricted immigration is wrong and in need of “sensitizing and educating.”

That’s perhaps why Trudeau’s team is already taking aim at the compact’s critics with the usual litany of accusations of racism and xenophobia, and sowing “conspiracy theories.”

Canada will be signing this agreement to withhold public funds from media outlets that criticize immigration just three weeks after announcing a government panel will be responsible for determining which media companies get to access a $595 million slush fund.

The compact doesn’t distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants, so it’s conceivable that columnists like myself who challenge illegal immigrants or asylum-seekers who cross the border illegally will be running afoul of Canada’s commitment to a sensitized and re-educated press.

I don’t know how Canada plans to enforce that specific provision, but the Trudeau government wouldn’t be signing onto the agreement if it didn’t support it. Even if the UN can’t demand compliance, Trudeau clearly supports making it Canadian law.

Just as Trudeau uses the Paris climate accord as his basis for domestic environmental policy, he’ll use this compact as justification for flawed immigration policy. We can expect him to ram through legislation under the guise of it being “necessary” to meet international “obligations.”

In recent years, there seems to be a non-binding resolution for every occasion. Such a declaration on the books invariably sets the stage for a binding law down the road.

Remember, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration itself is the by-product of the UN’s New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which was supposedly non-binding.

This was a point I stressed during Canada’s debate about the anti-Islamophobia motion M-103. It was touted as merely symbolic, yet triggered extensive hearings in which MPs entertained numerous statist proposals, including a thankfully rejected one to revoke the broadcast licenses from media outlets that criticize Islam.

The UN migration pact is unfolding in a very similar way, albeit on a global scale. The Angela Merkels and Emmanuel Macrons of the world appear to be idle virtue signallers, but are actually demonstrating a willingness to trade in their own nations’ immigration systems for a globalist fantasy.

Whenever Trudeau is forced to defend his government’s record on immigration, he touts the rigorous and robust nature of Canada’s immigration system. If our system is as effective as he thinks, why would we want to link it to the less adequate ones of other countries?

While this pact doesn’t eliminate borders, I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes the basis for a push from the UN’s more radical members for a larger-scale European Union-style experiment of free movement across once-sovereign nations.

This is how the non-binding becomes the binding. Canadians must see through the lie.