Canada’s Parliament wants to fight Islamophobia by killing free speech

First published in the Washington Post on March 7, 2017.

Islamist terrorism may threaten the Western world, but Canada’s Parliament is more concerned with Islamophobia.

Last month, Canadian lawmakers debated a motion put forward by a Liberal member of Parliament — part of the governing party — to condemn Islamophobia and study its effect on society. Though a number of Conservative MPs have pledged to vote against it later this year, the motion, M-103, is guaranteed to pass.

The motion’s sponsor, MP Iqra Khalid, said we “need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear.” Khalid has called for a “whole of government approach” on the matter, which includes analyzing data surrounding hate crimes, singling out those against Muslims.

This comes just weeks after six Muslim men were killed by a shooter at a Quebec City mosque, a tragedy that the National Council of Canadian Muslims (formerly CAIR-CAN, the Canadian chapter of the American organization) exploited to lobby for mandatory anti-Islamophobia education in Canadian public schools. The motion itself is non-binding, calling on parliamentarians to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” Supporters have said it isn’t a Muslim-specific motion, though Islamophobia is the only phenomenon identified by name. The “and all forms” that follows is merely an afterthought.

A similar motion was passed unanimously in Ontario’s provincial legislature last month. Though a number of legislators were conspicuously absent, no one stood up to vote against the pledge to “recognize the significant contributions Muslims have made” and “rebuke the notable growing tide of anti-Muslim rhetoric and sentiments.” No list of Muslim accomplishments was provided, nor evidence that anti-Muslim bigotry is running rampant. Even the Conservatives in the chamber were urged by their leader to support the motion, lest they all look like bigots.

In fact, the Ontario motion didn’t even pretend to be about all forms of bigotry, referring solely to “hate-attacks, threats of violence and hate crimes against people of the Muslim faith.” And, of course, the apparently ubiquitous “Islamophobia.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is putting Muslim feelings above free speech. Without defining Islamophobia — a term often applied to legitimate criticisms of radical Islam — these motions tell Canadians that their government deems some types of speech off-limits. Americans may shrug off this legislative virtue signaling, assured of First Amendment free-speech protections. Canadians aren’t so lucky, however. Our 35-year old Charter of Rights and Freedoms — part of our Constitution — does afford us “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression” — but only with a catch. The very first section of that charter sets out “reasonable limits” against which all of our supposed freedoms are measured. This caveat has given other arms of government carte blanche to curb allegedly offensive speech in the past decade.

Federal and provincial human rights tribunals have gone after authors, bloggers and radio hosts — the most notable of which is Mark Steyn — for “hate speech,” even when comments fall short of the criminal threshold, which requires incitement to violence and public disorder. Steyn and his then-publisher, Maclean’s magazine, faced a slew of complaints over publication of an excerpt of Steyn’s bestseller, “America Alone,” which Muslim groups said was Islamophobic (despite how prescient Steyn’s message was.) Ezra Levant similarly found himself in front of a human rights tribunal to defend his right to publish the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons in 2006. Both Steyn and Levant emerged victorious, but the process itself was the punishment. Both cases came about because the government had been empowered to enforce incredibly loose definitions of hatred.

Toronto Sun columnist Tarek Fatah said the anti-Islamophobia motions will target moderate Muslims like himself; he fears his criticisms of sharia law, radicalization and the Muslim Brotherhood’s widespread influence in Canadian Muslim organizations are effectively being stifled.

Where are the motions to condemn anti-Semitism in Canada?

The parliamentary debate on M-103 happened the same week that a McGill University student leader was allowed to remain in office after tweeting “punch a Zionist today.” Also making news that week was publication of a 2014 sermon by a Montreal imam calling on Allah to “destroy the accursed Jews” and “make their children orphans and their women widows.” And just last week, chalk drawings of swastikas were found in a York University classroom in Toronto, triggering a police investigation.

When a Peterborough, Ontario, mosque was vandalized in 2015, Trudeau flew to the mosque to speak about the dangers of “fear, hatred and division.” No such call has been issued in support of the Jewish community. When a Muslim terrorist shot a Canadian soldier on Parliament Hill in 2014, Trudeau, who was not yet the prime minister, assured the Muslim community that Canadians “know acts such as these committed in the name of Islam are an aberration of your faith.”

Regardless of whether Muslims are victims or perpetrators of reprehensible acts, liberal lawmakers rush to smooth things over with the Muslim community. The goal may be to bring about more tolerance in society, but the outcome is simply less freedom.

Omar Khadr’s victim mentality

First published in the National Post on October 31, 2014.

Omar Khadr is gearing up for his forthcoming return to free society. His red carpet to cultural exoneration already has been laid by the NDP, the Toronto Star editorial board and Amnesty International. And now Khadr — whether by his own quill or that of a savvy legal and PR team — is trying to whitewash his history and present himself as an activist, rather than a convicted killer eager to apologize for his crimes and reintegrate into Canadian society.

In the wake of two terror-inspired attacks that claimed the lives of two Canadian soldiers last week, Khadr has taken to the op-ed page of the Ottawa Citizen to call out Canada’s allegedly “misguided” security laws, by which he claims to have been victimized.

In his op-ed, published Wednesday, Khadr had little — nothing, in fact — to say about his own actions in a Taliban-controlled Afghan village that led to his arrest, detainment at Guantanamo Bay, interrogations, and eventually his transfer to Canadian custody, where he is serving the remainder of his eight-year sentence at Alberta’s Bowden Institution, the product of a 2010 plea deal with U.S. officials before his military court trial.

The 2002 firefight in which Khadr (by his own admission) killed U.S. army medic Sgt. Christopher Speer with a hand grenade took place less than a year and a half after the wedding of Osama bin Laden’s son, which was attended by Khadr and his family. That was only 10 months the 9/11 terror attacks, for which Khadr’s father, Ahmed, a high-ranking al Qaeda member until his death in 2003, was a primary suspect.

“I was mired in a nightmare of injustice, insidiously linked to national security,” Khadr writes. “I have not yet escaped from that nightmare.”

Khadr sees himself as the victim. Not once does he acknowledge the gravity of the 9/11 attacks — preferring only to comment on “Canada’s post-Sept. 11 security practices” — nor does he ever mention Sgt. Speer. Also conspicuously absent is an apology, or any veiled sense of remorse whatsoever. Falling in line with the reputation created by so-called social justice activists, Khadr sees himself as the wronged party.

“I was apprehended by U.S. forces during a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002. I was only 15 years old at the time, propelled into the middle of armed conflict I did not understand or want,” he says.

Even to a 15-year-old, the destructive power of a grenade is rather clear
If this conflict was so unwanted, they why has he not condemned it? Why has his leading champion, his sister Zaynab, not deleted her rather concerning Facebook homage to Osama bin Laden, whom she calls “the great martyr”?

More importantly, why has Omar Khadr not distanced himself ideologically from the actions that he took, which his apologists see as excusable on account of his youth at the time. At 28, has he still not learned the difference between right and wrong?

I’ve made many mistakes in my own life. But even to a 15-year-old, the destructive power of a grenade is rather clear.

Khadr has claimed that he should be treated as child soldiers around the world are, and afforded the appropriate protections. Take responsibility for your own actions first, Omar.

If Trudeau is schmoozing with terrorists, why aren’t we arresting any?

First published in the National Post on August 7, 2014.

When the news broke that Justin Trudeau had made a 2011 campaign stop at a Quebec mosque where, as United States military documents put it, “known al-Qaeda members were recruited, facilitated or trained,” I was shocked. Not by Trudeau’s political indiscretion in visiting a place of worship with allegations of terror links, but because of the Canadian government’s misguided anger.

Indeed, the Conservative government seemed far more concerned with Trudeau’s visitation of the mosque than it did by any terror-related activities that took place there.

I’m not defending Justin Trudeau. This is, after all, the man who absurdly pontificated on the need “to look at the root causes” of the Boston bombing while refusing to acknowledge it as an act of terrorism. It is also the same Trudeau who addressed the radical Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference in 2012.

But I’m most disappointed in Stephen Harper, the tough-on-crime and tough-on-“Islamicism” Prime Minister whose office, on Wednesday, offered up Roxanne James, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, as a guest on my radio show on London, Ont.’s AM980 to specifically discuss Trudeau’s visit to the mosque.

When the PMO arranged my interview with James, I was looking forward to hearing what the government had done or was doing to address the radicalization alleged at the Al Sunnah Al Nabawiah mosque. Shockingly, what I presumed was the most relevant question to the discussion, appeared to dumbfound James, who skirted it no fewer than three times, offering up only scripted condemnations of Justin Trudeau.

“I think it was completely outrageous. I think it’s completely unacceptable that the leader of the Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau, would associate with a group that allegedly radicalizes Canadians to join al-Qaeda and has even been listed by the Pentagon as a location known to them,” James told me during the live interview.

I asked, “Why is this a politics question and not a question of Canadian public safety and intelligence?”

I was expecting anything but the answer she gave.

“I thank you for that question, but as you know, I probably —I cannot comment on operational matters of national security, Andrew,” she said. “But I think the real question is here — Justin Trudeau knew about this. He knew about this and instead he went into this mosque, did a whole lot of handshaking and trying to win votes. He will stoop at nothing to try to win over terrorist organizations. I can’t believe this.”

Different approaches to the issue produced the same result.

Politics should never trump national security, if genuine public safety concerns exist within this discussion.

As has come to light since the original story broke, the terror connection of Al Sunnah Al Nabawiah came from several captured terrorists associated with the mosque — including its former Imam — in the late 1990s.

Does the mosque preach radicalism or hold any connections to terrorism now, or when Trudeau visited in 2011? I have no idea.

But if the only anti-Canadian event at the mosque that troubles Conservative government is an invitation to Justin Trudeau, the partisan attacks are far more “inexcusable” than Trudeau accepting it.

From Aurora to Newtown, there is no antidote for evil

First published at Huffington Post on December 17, 2012.

It was a matter of hours on Friday before mainstream media outlets used their coverage of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut to steer the issue into a debate on gun control. This phenomenon isn’t new. It was only a few short weeks ago that football commentator Bob Costas used airtime during a game to make a statement about the need to increase legislation on firearms in America. We’ve seen the same debates take place after the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, Virginia Tech, and every time, pundits miss the point.

Simply put, there is no antidote for evil.

My intent is not to sound overtly poetic, but it’s a fundamental truth of the universe that evil exists. Virtually all mainstream religions have a version of the Devil-ranging from internal conflicts to a personified antagonist-but it doesn’t take theology to realize that evil takes form in many ways.

There is no other explanation for the events in Newtown, Connecticut last week. Guns were the tool, not the cause. Even to blame “mental illness” — as many have in the past three days — would be too simplistic.

By its inherent definition, a criminal is one with disregard for laws, or one for whom the consequences of breaking a law outweigh the gain that individual plans to achieve from breaking a law. That means that no matter how many gun laws or “Gun-Free Zone” signs America has, criminals will still attain firearms, and they will still use them to commit heinous acts.

The reality of gun control is that it only disarms law-abiding citizens — the very people who could use a firearm to protect themselves, their families, or, dare I say it, their students.There are countless examples of people using guns to thwart the efforts of criminals — particularly in robberies and home invasions. But these stories are not nearly as widely reported as stories of shootings are.

A sane man does not look at a gun and become a murder. But a murderer looks at a gun and sees a weapon, just as he would were he to see a knife, an automobile or a lead pipe.

If individuals want to engage in a discussion about accessibility to firearms and regulations for firearm owners, that’s reasonable. But why does every one of those discussions need to take place in the days following a shooting? Such tragedies force people to beg for answers. For events like the shooting at Sandy Hook, where nothing can ever come close to answering the question of “Why?” people will look for absolutely anything they can cling to. That is what we are programmed to do.

The notion that simply changing the laws will take away the pain and suffering of this tragedy or even prevent future ones from occurring is simply not true. And it’s a dangerous myth being purported by the mainstream media.

There are laws that exist that imprison individuals motivated by evil, but it is impossible to rid the world of that motivator itself. The true source of it is a philosophical question that, to me, is not nearly as important as recognizing its presence. The fact is, evil cannot be fixed, and even if it could, the government is not the body to do that.

I won my battle with suicide, but I was one of the lucky ones

First published at Huffington Post on September 10, 2012.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. If you weren’t aware, worry not. If you have a pulse, you’re doing your part to celebrate. There was a time not too long ago where I wasn’t planning on being around for the occasion.

I am a suicide survivor.

I’d love to say that this honorific comes from an unfortunately spontaneous moment in my adolescence following an F in biology, but the incident in question happened nearly two years ago. Despite a happy family life and a rapidly growing career in media, I wanted out.

On December 9, 2010, I went to a public washroom, downed a container of pills and counted down what I thought were my final hours. Tomorrow was never supposed to come.

Though I didn’t become one of the 4,000 deaths by suicide in Canada that year, I came close. My overdose put me in critical care for several weeks, comatose, and I needed to be repeatedly resuscitated after four cardiac arrests. I was dead for 90 minutes.

This wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. It was planned — for a couple of weeks, in fact. In the time leading up to my attempt, I knew when and how I was going to do it. Regardless, I spent time with family, friends and co-workers, not to mention making national television and radio appearances. No one knew anything was wrong. No one was supposed to.

Surviving an attempt has its own difficulties. In addition to dealing with the emotional issues that led to the decision, I was forced to deceive those I cared about as to the reason for my hospitalization.

My decision to reveal this was rooted in my frustration at society’s stigma towards those with mental illness and the lack of understanding about suicide. Sure, there are risk factors for suicide attempts, but the urge to die and the willpower to act on it can fall upon anyone. Rich or poor, black or white, male or female, university educated or high school drop-out.

For me, a white, middle-class male with a university education, a loving family and a good job, most would assume suicide was the last thing on my mind. Had I decided to reveal my deathly desire to a loved one, I would have been hit with any number of clichés: “You have so much going for you,” “You have people who love you,” “The world is your oyster,” etc.

All of them would be true. The fact is, none of that mattered.

To explain my reasons for trying to commit suicide in a single blog would be impossible, but the easiest way to sum it up is to say that I felt a lack of direction in my life. Several projects I had been working on had come to an end there was a perceived void in my life as a result.

My suicide attempt was not logical, but it was calculated. I knew what I was doing and I knew what I wanted. My refusal to seek help was simply because I didn’t want help. Having now had a glimpse of our country’s mental health system from the inside, I know it needs work. It also needs money. But our country’s biggest hurdle toward mental wellness is not a lack of funding, it’s a lack of understanding.

The first step to eliminating suicide is in understanding its indiscriminate nature. Despite the success of the “It Gets Better” campaign, suicide affects a broader group than gay teenagers. The media inundates us with cases of gay teenagers who commit suicide, but ignores the painful reality that adolescence can be just as difficult for straight kids.

The second step is recognizing that mental illness is, as its name suggests, a form of illness. Of all who have opened up to me about their struggles with depression and other afflictions, none seem to have chosen it. “Just smile” is hardly a prescription for the suicidal, but it seems to be the best advice many are able to offer.

To those with family members or friends struggling, reach out and let them know you care. Let them know it’s okay to seek help. To those in distress, you’re not alone. Asking for help is a show of strength, not weakness.

I won my battle with suicide, but the war wages on. Let’s end it.