On October 10, the British Columbia Human Rights Commission handed down a decision dismissing charges brought by the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) against Maclean’s magazine. The Congress complained to the Commission that an article in the magazine by Mark Steyn entitled “The Future Belongs to Islam” was anti-Muslim hate propaganda, but the Commission took the position that, while the article was riddled with inaccuracies about any potential danger from Muslims in the West, it did not promote hatred.
CIC lawyer Faisal Joseph
To begin, Steyn’s article was excerpted from his book “America Alone.” The CIC’s complaints against the article give the book publicity that money could not buy. It reminds me of the days when novels that were considered naughty in some quarters delighted in being able to advertise that they were “banned in Boston.” A book that might well have sunk below the surface following some book reviews listing its factual errors or been relegated to the ranks of works recognized as illegitimate nonsense along with the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” has been given a tremendous shot in the arm by the CIC. As well, the charges themselves give support to the Steyn thesis that Islam is a threat to Western values, freedom of expression in this instance.
The charges also give strength to those who oppose the human rights commissions in general. There has now been an upsurge in right-wing demands that the commissions should be abolished, that they are a threat to freedom. These commissions are an important institution in protecting minority rights. Actions such as those taken by the CIC put wind in the sails of the right-wingers and the bigots in their desire to eliminate or hamstring the commissions. As well, the CIC has put itself in opposition to civil libertarians, who, like the commissions, are important as allies of minority groups such as Muslims.
Muslims are for the most part a recent immigrant group in North America, and so the reaction of the CIC can be understood at least in part as a holdover of how such matters would have been seen back home. Blasphemy, for example, could get a person in very big trouble in Muslim countries, while in the West trials for blasphemy are a matter of past history.
The outrage created by the Steyn article and by the Danish Mohammed cartoons can be contrasted to reaction to artistic assaults on Christianity—a crucifix in a bottle of urine, Jesus as homosexual, Canadian artist Terence Koh’s depiction of Jesus with an erection, Chris Ofili’s Madonna decorated with elephant dung. While there have been negative reactions to all of these, creators have not been hauled before tribunals by their adversaries.
Faisal Joseph’s pondering of an appeal reminds one of the caution about throwing good money after bad. Besides, hasn’t the Canadian Islamic Congress already sold enough books for Steyn? Let’s go with Thomas Jefferson on this one: “Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”
Cost of Afghan war revealed
Americans are quite familiar with the costs of the war in Afghanistan. Official government figures are clear: $172 billion from fiscal year 2001 through FY 2008, $35 in FY 2007 and $33 billion in FY 2008. Canadians are much more in the dark.
Kevin Page, Canada’s parliamentary budget officer, released his best estimate of costs to Canadians on October 9. Total cost through 2011, when Canadian troops are scheduled to be gone, between $13.9 and $18.1 billion, as per his best estimate. He warns that these figures may be quite low, for two reasons.
In the first place, the government accounts are a mess. Some accounts are kept on a cash basis and others on an accrual basis, making accurate reporting virtually impossible. Commentators have praised American government accounting procedures by way of contrast.
Secondly, Page found some departments less than cooperative in providing information. The Department of Defense and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), among others, could not or would not give him needed information.
Page’s costing is more or less double previous Canadian government estimates. The cost of this adventure, revealed in the midst of an election campaign, has of course become an election issue.
Stéphane Dion, Liberal leader, charged that the current Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper had “failed to be transparent and accountable to Canadians,” and socialist New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton focused on how billions could have been better spent in other ways.
Of course, money is not the only expenditure. Since the beginning of hostilities in Afghanistan, almost a hundred Canadian lives have been lost and perhaps five times or more have been injured. The American deaths are more than 500 and rising. Well over 30,000 have been wounded.
The Harkats finally move
Mohamed Harkat and his wife Sophie have at last been permitted to move to their new Ottawa home. Harkat, who is accused of being a “sleeper” terrorist, was incarcerated while the government proceeded with efforts to deport him to Algeria, but since 2006 he has been living in the community under harsh bail conditions. The bail conditions include his wearing a tracking device and residing at an agreed-upon location. The Harkats have a basement apartment in a house belonging to her mother and her mother’s boyfriend.
Mohamed Harkat and wife Sophie have been permitted to move to their new Ottawa home.
The old location came equipped with surveillance cameras outside the front and back doors to allow the Canada Border Services Agency to monitor the comings and goings of everyone, but the condo corporation refused to have such cameras installed. Now the lawyers for the government and the Harkats have worked out a deal. The cameras will be installed inside the condo, aimed at front and back doors. So the Harkats have moved.
Yet, a concern remains. Has Border Services really taken all the necessary measures to make Canadians secure? Clearly not. What about all the people coming and going through the windows?
Iraqi Christians flee
Mosul Chaldean Archbishop Paul Faraj Rahho was kidnapped and murdered in March.
As a result of an upsurge in violence against Christians, some thousand families have recently fled their homes in Mosul, many taking shelter in churches and schools. Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako has called upon the American forces and on the Iraqi government to protect Christians and other minorities. According to Sako, the number of Christians in Iraq at the time of the invasion was 800,000, but by now a third have fled. Some Christian towns are now establishing their own protection forces.
The U.S. military sees the section of Mosul where the houses were destroyed as one of the remaining urban al-Qaeda hotbeds. Of course, before the invasion, al-Qaeda was absent from the country, as there was bitter animosity between al-Qaeda with its extreme Islamism and Saddam Hussein and his secular régime.
Ontario seeks trade with UAE, Saudis
Sandra Pupatello, Ontario’s Minister of International Trade and Investment, is currently completing a trade mission to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. She is accompanied by representatives from 20 Ontario companies.