Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Justice Committee cleanses the record – not of hate, but of awkward ideas.
Canada’s House of Commons has a Justice Committee that has recently heard testimony from a list of people who think censorship is grand.
For example, a representative of a Muslim organization called for “immediate government-legislated change” via five draconian mechanisms that would constitute “just the initial steps” of curbing online hate.
In the midst of that discussion about mass murder, US President Donald Trump and “conservative commentators” were mentioned by this spokesperson. A Conservative Member of Parliament, Michael Cooper, objected. Understandably so. Why?
Because murderers come from all points on the political spectrum.
Because anti-semitism is a problem on the left, as well as on the right.
When it was his turn to speak, Cooper told the spokesperson:
I take great umbrage with your defamatory comments to try to link conservatism with violent extremist attacks. They have no foundation, they’re defamatory, and they diminish your credibility as a witness.
He further said:
I certainly wouldn’t attempt to link Bernie Sanders to the individual who shot up Republican members of Congress and nearly fatally killed congressman [Stephen] Scalise. So you should be ashamed.
In between the remarks I’ve just quoted, Cooper did something else. He uttered the name of Brenton Tarrant, the extremist accused of murdering 51 people in Christchurch, New Zealand this past March. He then cited less than three dozen words from Tarrant’s lengthy manifesto. Those words are bolded below:
Let me, Mr. Chair, read into the record the statement of Brenton Tarrant, who is responsible for the Christchurch massacre. He left a 74-page manifesto in which he stated “conservatism is corporatism in disguise. I want no part of it,” and, “The nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China.” [source]
A brouhaha ensued. The committee ‘erupted.’ Tracey Ramsey, a left-wing, New Democratic Party (NDP) Member of Parliament protested that the spokesperson had been put “in a position of vulnerability to have to respond to these attacks.”
Guests were asked to leave the room. Committee members convened amongst themselves, after which Cooper offered a partial retraction. “I will withdraw saying that he should be ashamed,” he said. “I understand that it made some of the members of the committee uncomfortable. So in the spirit of moving forward I withdraw those specific comments.”
Initially, therefore, the issue was that Cooper had gone too far regarding the ‘ashamed’ remark. But two weeks later, in an act worthy of a totalitarian dictatorship, the Justice Committee struck some of Cooper’s remarks from the official written transcript. And from the audio recording.
But here’s the thing: the ‘ashamed’ comment remains. The accused killer’s name, on the other hand, is gone.
Over the past week alone, the BBC, Reuters, CBS, NPR, and Agence France-Presse have all published Tarrant’s name in news stories. Yet an elected member of Canada’s Parliament, sitting as a member of the Justice Committee, is not permitted to utter it. His peers are so opposed to that occurring, they’re prepared to expunge it from the historical record. How ridiculous.
Also removed are the 29 words in which Tarrant rejects conservatism and embraces Communist China.
There’s nothing remotely hateful about those words. They do not incite violence. They merely provide information, insight into how this troubled human being views himself.
Nevertheless, left-wing Ramsey insists those words “should never have been read into the record. It was completely inappropriate.”
Likewise, Liberal Member of Parliament Iqra Khalid bizarrely declares that “Striking this from the record will ensure that the safety of this space has been restored.”
One would think that, before elected officials even contemplated taking such an extraordinary step, there would be a strong, obvious, and compelling reason. But there isn’t.
One would think any excised words would be truly beyond the pale. But they’re not. Which is perhaps the most frightening thing of all.
Here in Canada, elected members of Parliament aren’t supposed to have frank, intelligent discussions. Everyone is supposed to quietly agree mass murderers are right-wing nut jobs, and that there’s nothing more to be learned. Sophisticated analysis loses. Caricature wins.
How strange that the same people who insist a person’s gender self-identification is sacred have taken extraordinary steps to delete Tarrant’s political self-identification.
When I was a child my maternal grandparents received letters written by relatives in the Old Country, the Ukraine. Those letters had been read by government censors who sometimes removed certain portions with razor blades before allowing them to enter the postal system.
When elected members of Canada’s Parliament start behaving like Stalin’s censors, we’ve got one hell of a problem.
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