The Conservative party under Stephen Harper tried to frame the ballot in the October 19 election around three main issues: the economy, leadership and national security. By the end of the long campaign, the economy was almost irrelevant, Harper’s leadership was a liability, and national security had morphed into a debate about compassion for refugees and Conservative intolerance towards Canada’s Muslim minority.
Harper’s leadership became a lightning rod largely because of his insistence on expanding the security state through Bill C-51, revoking the citizenship of dual nationals convicted of terrorism, continuing the bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, limiting and carefully screening refugees, and pressuring Muslim Canadians to adopt Canadian cultural values (such as showing your face at citizenship ceremonies). The barbaric cultural practices snitch line was the last straw for many voters, including some conservatives. So the choice between the fearmongering Harper and the fun-loving Justin Trudeau was really no contest, the Conservative clouds parted, and the land was bathed in “sunny ways”.
Darkness returned with a vengeance on November 13 as the perverted sword of Islam butchered 129 innocents in Paris. The slaughter has prompted a massive reconsideration of western refugee and security policies. Borders are tightening and the war against ISIS is escalating. And amid evidence that the perpetrators were either home-grown Islamists or part of the great refugee tsunami, inevitably there are questions about how many barbarians are inside the gates.
Under the circumstances, it’s hard not to wonder if the Canadian election would have turned out differently if the Paris attacks had occurred in the days before the vote. Obviously the answer is unknowable, but it’s reasonable to assume that if Canadians had walked into their polling booths with the carnage from the Bataclan concert hall fresh in their minds, at least some might have voted for the tough devil they knew instead of untested angel of hope and change.
Pointless speculation? Maybe. But as the new Trudeau government grimly clings to its election promises to stop bombing ISIS and meet its impossible target of 25,000 Syrian refugees by Christmas, one gets the feeling that this political honeymoon is going to be shorter than most. While our allies are ratcheting up the war and security rhetoric at the string of fall international summits, our pacifist young PM is heading the other direction and looks decidedly unready for battle.
Maybe he’ll get through it somehow. It is amazing how quickly terrorist events disappear down the memory hole. The Conservative election plan rested on the notion that Canadians were still traumatized by the crazy Islamist rampage on Parliament Hill a year earlier, were at least vaguely aware of numerous domestic terrorist plots that had been thwarted in recent years, were spooked by regular videos of ISIS beheadings and other atrocities, and had some recollection of major international Islamo-terrorist actions like the Nairobi shopping mall massacre and the Charlie Hebdo bloodbath. Silly boys and girls in short pants: they should have known that Canadians are widely afflicted with short-term memory deficits, even before Trudeau legalizes marijuana.
Still, at some point you have to think the sheer frequency and scale of Islamist attacks will achieve critical mass in the frontal lobes of its targets. This phenomenon is already well advanced in Europe, where dangerously xenophobic political parties are on the rise. In Canada it is most advanced in Quebec, where the province has banned wearing the niqab in the delivery or receipt of public services.
But the Trudeau government seems determined to swim against the tide. The new Justice minister phoned the celebrated victim of Harper’s niqab-citizenship ban the other day to tell her Ottawa was abandoning the policy. The Liberals are also committed to repealing the Conservative law that stripped Canadian citizenship from dual nationals convicted of terrorism.
If you really believe the best way to defeat Islamo fascism is to stop inciting it with bombs and military occupations and by accommodating fundamentalist Muslim cultural practices within the multicultural mainstream, then you probably still would have voted Liberal on October 19, even if the Paris attacks had occurred on the 18th.
Lots of people do believe this, even in Paris today. This week the CBC aired an interview with a father and his roughly four year old son at a shrine to the victims in the 10th arrondissement. Asked if he was scared, the boy said he feared they would have to leave their home. His father said that it would not be necessary but the boy still expressed worry about the “bad people”. There are bad people everywhere, his father replied. Then he pointed to the shrine. “The flowers will keep us safe,” he said. The boy appeared confused and skeptical but asked, “And the candles too?” Yes, insisted his father.
The boy looked to be about the same age as the Syrian child who washed up on the beach in Turkey and turned the Conservative election strategy inside out. The latter will never know if flowers, candles and pacifism will placate Islamist totalitarianism. The former may live long enough to find out. Canadians, meanwhile, have apparently elected a four year experiment with that strategy.
Paul Bunner is the editor of C2C Journal.