After gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, shot and killed a Canadian honour guard at our National War Memorial, and went on a rampage into the Parliament Building, Prime Minister Harper addressed the nation in a most predictable way.
In his speech he carefully framed the events of the day as an act of war. He reminded us that “attacks on our security personnel and on our institutions of governance are by their very nature attacks on our country…”. He made sure to use the word “terrorist” (four times) and he managed to include “ISIL-inspired” in his oratory –this despite the fact that no organized group had claimed any responsibility for the “attack” (a word he used seven times) at the time of his reading of the speech.
Clearly, Harper wants to define this issue as a justification for his combat policy in going after ISIL.
Most telling was the following paragraph from the very short speech:
“In fact, this will lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts and those of our national security agencies to take all necessary steps to identify and counter threats and keep Canada safe here at home, just as it will lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts to work with our allies around the world and fight against the terrorist organizations who brutalize those in other countries with the hope of bringing their savagery to our shores. They will have no safe haven.”
Harper would like us to see this event as part of a broader world conspiracy of “terrorist organizations who brutalize those in other countries with the hope of bringing their savagery to our shores” against “free and democratic people who embrace human dignity for all”. In case you missed it, we Canadians are the latter group. Apparently those savages whom Harper alleges to be our enemies don’t embrace human dignity.
Surely the gunman at the parliament building today was a radical, much as Marc Lépine (the École Polytechnique shooter) was a radical. Surely Canada should protect its citizens from violent offences and radicalism, but Harper would like us to perceive ourselves to be at war. He would like Canadians to sanction a combat role in a war against an idea –a war that can’t be won, but a war in which people will die from the “savagery” of Canadian F-18 sorties nonetheless.
As the leader of a nation, his attitude, which plunges us into a world of “us” and “them” thinking, should also be thought of as radicalism, misguided and dangerous.