Unity, Security, and Moving Forward

A call for continued responsible discourse in Canada

ISIS Islamic StateCredit: Day Donaldson

The decade has entered into its second half with a fierce mien, confronting citizens worldwide with a dangerous concoction of radicalization, Euroscepticism, and populism. In Europe, attacks in France and Germany have inspired divergent discourses on the redefinition of security and immigration policies. While this certainly has led to constructive dialogue on de-radicalization in Germany, it has also caused a strengthening of the countries far-right, anti-immigrant populism. In the US, tension is rising between law enforcement, activists, and a mass populous increasingly saturated with concerns about civil liberties and ethnic integration. Add to this the provocative rhetoric of presidential candidate Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton’s email scandal, and the recent deaths of police officers in Baton Rouge, LA, and one is faced with an increasingly divided and angry US population. Indeed, whether it be in Europe or close to the south of the Canadian border, recent international developments have caused frustration and exasperation at both perceived and real government inaction. 

Within this bleak context it is Canada's chance, even the duty of Canadian citizens, to put a check on apathy, and to take a leadership role in guiding international dialogue onto the right path.

It is in this climate that newly appointed Premier Justin Trudeau and his government will be put to the test. Canada has proven itself an example for migrant integration worldwide, and this is particularly noteworthy given the anti-muslim sentiments felt in the Brexit, and Donald Trump’s campaign. Cas Mudde, a professor at the University of Georgia, credits Trudeau for committing to the acceptance of 25,000 Syrian refugees despite the initial backlash from the Canadian population. 

Justin TrudeauCredit: Presidencia de la República Mexicana

Pushing tolerance has quite literally become public policy in Canada. This builds on what Irene Bloemraad, a sociologist at UC Berkeley calls “decades [of] attempting to foster tolerance and acceptance as core national values.” Polls suggest that Canadian opinion on Syrian refugees changed once they arrived, despite initial uncertainty. It would be wise for this integration and welcoming attitude to persist. As the country’s 150th anniversary approaches, Canadian citizens can celebrate their history of immigration together by rallying around this positive approach.

Mr. Trudeau, like any respectable and responsible leader, must be wary not to deviate from the true essence of democracy. Mark MacKinnon, writing for the Globe and Mail commented that future historians are “likely to judge today’s leaders on whether they seek to calm—or simply take advantage of—the choppy waters that we’re in.” 

The best examples of these polar reactions seem to originate in Europe in the wake of recent terrorist attacks, where reactions from German politicians were much more subdued then among the virulent French political class. It is no exaggeration to claim that the last few months in France and Germany have been tumultuous. Terrorist attacks in half a dozen locations have left people worldwide perplexed about the motives of attackers and the eventual response of European citizens and politicians. Unfortunately, with the 2017 elections in mind, French politicians have largely chosen to “take advantage of the “choppy waters,” preferring to stir fear and hatred in the hearts of their constituents. This has notably culminated in Henri Guaino, of the parti Républicains, to claim that police officers in Nice should have been armed with rocket launchers to “defuse” the recent terror attack. Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is likely to run for the 2017 elections, jumps at every opportunity to blame the new government for failing to provide security to the French people. The “war on terrorism” which France has declared, and the preference for French politicians to blame outside governments for attack on its homeland belies the important integration and ethnic issues at work in the nation. Though the attacks in France are certainly caused by conflicts outside its border, seeking to place terrorism as a purely external entity omits the national problems which French terrorist attacks rely on.  

Syrian RefugeesFirst Syrian refugee family to land in Toronto, Canada, escaping the war back home. Credit: Domnic SantiagoIn notable contrast, many German politicians have kept a rather cooler head in this trying time, and most citizens have (contrary to initial expectations) rallied around Merkel’s leadership and traditional sangfroid (no doubt influenced by the Brexit and its consequences). Merkel, whose response to the Munich mall attacks was to toughen Germany’s asylum regulations, and tighten border control was an intelligent one. This calculated approach has been further vindicated by later police investigations, which found “no indications whatsoever that there is a connection to [the] Islamic State” in the shooting. As the Stratfor group reported, however, the Wuerzburg attacker, though registered as an Afghan refugee, was from Pakistan. This poses important questions about migrant monitoring, questions which should be addressed promptly. The attacks in France’s Rouen also highlight the lax attitudes authorities have shown to the people known as Fichées S, young individuals who have attempted to travel to Syria to fight for the IS. These issues must be addressed in constructive, not exclusive political dialogues.  

As the US election and far-right circles in France and Germany demonstrate, it is far too easy for a politician to fall into inflammatory rhetoric due to the immediate dividends of encouraging hatred. There are, after all, a lot of reasons to be angered by the modern national and international political climates. This does not mean that populations should give in to the simple and the diminutive arguments of those who would ill represent them. After all, the foreseeable outcomes of these divisive politics are exactly the kind that would benefit terror organizations. We know this all too well and yet, repeat it again and again. The separation of our citizens into “clans” of thought and faith, and the antagonism which spawns from this mindset only help to counterbalance the decades spent forming international political alliances and bonds of transnational kinship. Commenting in recent attacks in Germany, German politician Anton Hofreiter rightly stated that “panic and swift conclusions do not help, and [giving in to hate] certainly doesn’t make [Germany] more secure.” 

Premier Justin Trudeau must continue to make headway into integrative political discourse, seeking to answer worldwide chaos and anger with cool, calculated responses. A storm comes, brought on by the pleasure many will undoubtedly feel releasing much of their confusion about modern political realities, into a racism more visceral than ever. Canada must stand strong as a beacon for critical research into de-radicalization and the strengthening of civic engagement and integration if it is to weather such a tempest.

Cédrick Mulcair is involved in his community's Federal Executive Council as former Vice-President Youth, now part-time assistant. His experiences range from close to a decade of work, including as an assistant to Community Outreach for Member of Parliament Djaouida Sellah. He is completing a double Major in Political Science and History McGill University and hopes to transition into the faculty of law and pursue studies in international law and the promotion of human rights through doctrines such as the responsibility to protect (R2P).