It Seems We Are Far Too Canadian; Yet Not Canadian Enough

Oh, Canada. You have been too nice.  Too kind.  Too silent. For too long. And now a noisy minority is undermining our country’s values, laws and institutions. Protestors have taken […]
Published on July 5, 2024

Oh, Canada. You have been too nice.  Too kind.  Too silent. For too long.

And now a noisy minority is undermining our country’s values, laws and institutions.

Protestors have taken over many university campuses and they are fomenting hatred toward Jews and Israel. Few Canadians are speaking out. We seem incapable of responding to bigotry and hatred – even when it is occurring right in front of us.

Our silence has allowed (what at one point were) 15 pro-Palestinian encampments (tent cities) to be established in universities across Canada. It’s as if students no longer have to study or find a summer job to pay for tuition.

Instead of doing something productive, they are protesting against Israel’s war against Hamas (the Palestinian government that is also a designated terrorist group). But, in doing so, they have pushed aside the academic tenets that call for a free exchange of ideas and respectful debate on issues.

They are outright demanding that the universities divest any funding that has ties to/or support for Israel.  Some groups are even demanding that they sever ties with Israeli academics and their institutions.

Negotiating divestments? Asking for a change to financial policies hardly seems like it could lead to hate-filled invective.

It is always a challenge to know where to draw the line between free speech and hate speech. But nasty words can lead to even worse actions and, in this case, it wasn’t long before the protests took a long jump across that line.

Tensions quickly escalated at McGill University when senior administrators were followed and harassed by masked protestors at their homes and offices. Others hung an effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a striped outfit resembling the uniforms that Jews were forced to wear in concentration camps – you know, where Nazis deliberately killed six million Jews. Yet the police would only act when protesters stormed the admin building. Fifteen were arrested.

Other blatant displays of anti-Semitism popped up on campuses – chants of “Go back to Europe” and “Zionists are terrorists.” Some Jewish students received threats of “We will find you” on their social media accounts.

Can you imagine the response of Canadians if such slogans targeted aboriginals or homosexuals? What if they were chanting “All Muslims are terrorists”?

The outcry would be immediate and in no time at all the protest camp would be shut down. That can be said with certainty because our twisted and biased sense of morality has already reared its ugly head.

At the University of Toronto, a small group of pro-Israel students tried to establish a camp to counter the anti-Jewish vigil. But they were immediately whisked away by police — because of the huge security risk they posed.

Back at McGill, the tent city is now hosting a “revolutionary youth summer program” and even advertised it with an image of terrorists wearing keffiyehs (black and white scarves), covering their faces and clutching machine guns. It was a picture from decades ago but that doesn’t negate its power to incite fear and violence.

Jewish students told a House of Commons committee that they no longer feel safe and are forced to hide their identities. The University of Waterloo had to tell students making complaints of anti-Semitism that they could no longer do anything about it because there were too many complaints to investigate!

McGill University’s president says, “none of this is peaceful protesting. It is designed to threaten, coerce and scare people.” The president at U of T told MPs that “anti -Semitism has been a growing presence recently in our university.”

As tensions have escalated, very little action has been taken. The police don’t seem to want to act, and administrators are too busy wringing their hands. The primary criticism against taking action is that it would be seen as too ‘authoritarian’ to shut down free speech. After all, this is Canada.

Of course, having to hide your ethnicity and Semitic identity in public doesn’t exactly smack of Canadian values either.

Canadians have been silent as we witness the fragmentation of our civil society. It brings to mind a famous poem entitled “First They Came.” It was written by a German who was initially a Nazi supporter but changed his views when he was imprisoned for speaking out against Nazi control of the churches.

“First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist;

Then they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist;’

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

 This week, as we celebrate Canada and Canadian values, take some time to think about the things we are willing to stand for and the things which we must stand against.

 

Susan Martinuk is a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and author of the book, Patients at Risk: Exposing Canada’s Health-care Crisis.

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