Has Racism Invaded Canada?

This has been a good week to be in Canada–or an awful week, depending on your point of view–to understand just how irretrievably biased and potentially racist the Canadian press has become. For, after the arrest of 17 Canadian Muslims on “terrorism” charges, the Toronto Globe and Mail and, to a slightly lesser extent, the National Post, have indulged in an orgy of finger-pointing that must reduce the chances of any fair trial and, at the same time, sow fear in the hearts of the country’s more than 700,000 Muslims. In fact, if I were a Canadian Muslim right now, I’d already be checking the airline timetables for a flight out of town. Or is that the purpose of this press campaign?

First, the charges. Even a lawyer for one of the accused has talked of a plot to storm the Parliament in Ottawa, hold MPs hostage and chop off the head of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Without challenging the “facts” or casting any doubt on their sources–primarily the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or Canada’s leak-dripping Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) — reporters have told their readers that the 17 were variously planning to blow up Parliament, CSIS’s headquarters, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and sundry other targets. Every veiled and chadored Muslim woman relative of the accused has been photographed and their pictures printed, often on front pages. “Home-grown terrorists” has become theme of the month–even though the “terrorists” have yet to stand trial.

They were in receipt of “fertilizers”, we were told, which could be turned into explosives. When it emerged that Canadian police officers had already switched the “fertilizers” for a less harmful substance, nobody followed up the implications of this apparent “sting”. A Buffalo radio station down in the US even announced that the accused had actually received “explosives”. Bingo: Guilty before trial.

Of course, the Muslim-bashers have laced this nonsense with the usual pious concern for the rights of the accused. “Before I go on, one disclaimer,” purred the Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente. “Nothing has been proved and nobody should rush to judgment.” Which, needless to say, Wente then went on to do in the same paragraph. “The exposure of our very own home-grown terrorists, if that’s what the men aspired to be, was both predictably shocking and shockingly predictable.” And just in case we missed the point of this hypocrisy, Wente ended her column by announcing that “Canada is not exempt from home-grown terrorism”. Angry young men are the tinderbox and Islamism is the match.

The country will probably have better luck than most at “putting out the fire”, she adds. But who, I wonder, is really lighting the match? For a very unpleasant–albeit initially innocuous–phrase has now found its way into the papers. The accused 17–and, indeed their families and sometimes the country’s entire Muslim community–are now referred to as “Canadian-born”. Well, yes, they are Canadian-born. But there’s a subtle difference between this and being described as a “Canadian”–as other citizens of this vast country are in every other context. And the implications are obvious; there are now two types of Canadian citizen: The Canadian-born variety (Muslims) and Canadians (the rest).

If this seems finicky, try the following sentence from the Globe and Mail’s front page on Tuesday, supposedly an eyewitness account of the police arrest operation: “Parked directly outside his … office was a large, gray, cube-shaped truck and, on the ground nearby, he recognized one of the two brown-skinned young men who had taken possession of the next door rented unit…” Come again? Brown-skinned? What in God’s name is this outrageous piece of racism doing on the front page of a major Canadian daily? What is “brown-skinned” supposed to mean–if it is not just a revolting attempt to isolate Muslims as the “other” in Canada’s highly multicultural society? I notice, for example, that when the paper obsequiously refers to Toronto’s police chief and his reportedly brilliant cops, he is not referred to as “white-skinned” (which he most assuredly is). Amid this swamp, Canada’s journalists are managing to soften the realities of their country’s new military involvement in Afghanistan.

More than 2,000 troops are deployed around Kandahar in active military operations against Taleban insurgents. They are taking the place of US troops, who will be transferred to fight even more Muslims insurgents in Iraq.

Canada is thus now involved in the Afghan war–those who doubt this should note the country has already shelled out $1.8bn in “defense spending” in Afghanistan and only $500m in “additional expenditures”, including humanitarian assistance and democratic renewal (sic)–and, by extension, in Iraq. In other words, Canada has gone to war in the Middle East.

None of this, according to the Canadian foreign minister, could be the cause of Muslim anger at home, although Jack Hooper–the CSIS chief who has a lot to learn about the Middle East but talks far too much–said a few days ago that “we had a high threat profile (in Canada) before Afghanistan. In any event, the presence of Canadians and Canadian forces there has elevated that threat somewhat.” I read all this on a flight from Calgary to Ottawa this week, sitting just a row behind Tim Goddard, his wife Sally and daughter Victoria, who were chatting gently and smiling bravely to the crew and fellow passengers. In the cargo hold of our aircraft lay the coffin of Goddard’s other daughter, Nichola, the first Canadian woman soldier to be killed in action in Afghanistan.

The next day, he scattered sand on Nichola’s coffin at Canada’s national military cemetery. A heartrending photograph of him appeared in the Post–but buried away on Page 6. And on the front page? A picture of British policemen standing outside the Bradford home of a Muslim “who may have links to Canada”.

Allegedly, of course.

ROBERT FISK is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s collection, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. Fisk’s new book is The Conquest of the Middle East.



More articles by:

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is The EPA Hazardous
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Do We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Ali Mohsin
A Disheartening Week for American Death Penalty Opponents
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring