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Is This Hate Speech?

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Is calling the Prime Minister a “white supremacist terrorist” hate speech or justified?

Black Lives Matter – Toronto spokesperson Yusra Khogali’s description of Justin Trudeau as a “white supremacist terrorist” at a recent rally against Islamophobia has sparked significant backlash. Right wing media have cited it to attack a group that’s put the police on the back foot while liberal commentators have called on Khogali to “resign” from BLM. A number of individuals labeled Khogali’s comments “hate speech”.

Fortunately, Chuck D of Public Enemy took to Twitter to push back against calls for Khogali to resign while a Toronto Now piece by Shantal Otchere defended the “white supremacist” part of her statement. The case for labeling our handsome PM a “terrorist” may be less solid, but it’s worth exploring.

Here’s the Canadian Criminal Code definition of terrorist activity:

“an act or omission, in or outside Canada, that is committed (a) in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause, and (b) in whole or in part with the intention of intimidating the public, or a segment of the public, with regard to its security, including its economic security, or compelling a person, a government or a domestic or an international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act … and that intentionally causes a) death or serious bodily harm to a person by the use of violence, b) endangers a person’s life, c) causes a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or any segment of the public, causes substantial property damage, whether to public or private property, if causing such damage is likely to result in the conduct or harm referred to in any of clauses (a) to (c)” … But, “does not include an act or omission that is committed during an armed conflict and that, at the time and in the place of its commission, is in accordance with customary international law or conventional international law applicable to the conflict, or the activities undertaken by military forces of a state in the exercise of their official duties, to the extent that those activities are governed by other rules of international law.”

In the only effort to justify the “terrorist” tag on Trudeau I’ve seen, on Facebook Daniel Tseghay pointed to the PM’s arming of Saudi Arabia’s monarchy, which is clearly intentionally causing death and serious bodily harm by use of violence in Yemen, not to mention sections of its own population. Not only has the Canadian Commercial Corporation signed a $15 billion Light Armoured Vehicle contract with the reactionary regime, Canadians are also training the Saudis to use the vehicles, sold Riyadh other arms and has backed them diplomatically. The Trudeau government has all but ignored Saudi violence in Yemen, which has left over 10,000 civilians dead and millions hungry.

In another part of the Middle East a Canadian fighter jet reportedly killed 10 and injured 20 Iraqi civilians on November 19, 2015. While the Trudeau government later withdrew Canadian bombers, two Canadian reconnaissance aircraft and an in-air refuelling tanker are still part of the Iraq/Syria mission, which is bombing without Damascus’ permission. The Trudeau government also tripled the number of Canadian special forces on the ground. Two hundred highly skilled soldiers have provided training, weaponry and combat support to Kurdish forces accused of ethnically cleansing areas of Iraq they’ve captured.

Another 200 Canadian troops are in the Ukraine backing up a force responsible for hundreds of deaths in the east of that country. While it was the previous government that dispatched these troops to the Ukraine, the

Trudeau government is ramping up Canada’s military presence in the region. Four hundred and fifty troops will soon be part of a Canadian-led battle group in Latvia and up to a half dozen CF-18 fighter jets are on their way to the region, which is partly designed to embolden far right militarists in the Ukraine.

Do any of these activities constitute terrorism? There are certainly decent arguments to be made.

And, while it’s unclear whether Trudeau merits the “terrorist” label 16 months into his term, history suggests it may well fit before he leaves office. Trudeau’s Liberal predecessor Paul Martin is an excellent candidate for the “T” tag because of his role in overthrowing Haitian democracy and supporting a coup regime responsible forthousands of deaths and rapes. For two years a Canadian financed, trained and overseen Haitian police forceterrorized Port-au-Prince’s slums with Canadian diplomatic and (for half a year) military backing.

By delivering Washington’s bombing threats to the North Vietnamese leadership another Liberal Prime Minister also arguably warranted the “T” label. In addition, Lester Pearson had Canadian International Control Commission officials spy on the North for the US, okayed chemical weapon (Agent Orange, Purple and Blue) testing in Canada and provided various other forms of support to Washington’s terror campaign in Indochina.

One could also make the case that Louis St. Laurent deserved the “T” tag for dispatching 27,000 troops to a war in Korea that left up to four million dead. At one point the US-led forces stopped bombing the North when they determined no building over one story was still standing.

While the “terrorist” label may be jarring, strong language by activists directed at the PM is at worst jarring. Sanctimonious commentators who constantly rush to defend power, on the other hand, allow prime ministers to get away with activities that arguably meet the Criminal Code definition of terrorism.

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Yves Engler’s latest book is ‪Canada in Africa: 300 years of Aid and Exploitation.

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