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An Orgy of Hate: The Disgrace of Prejudice

An Open Letter to the Ministers of Justice and Immigration of Canada
Institute Bulletin No.27 10. September 2002

Yesterday, the streets of Montreal were awash with a devastation as deadly to the spirit as any natural disaster is to the body. An element as foreign as any physical threat pervaded our land. A specter as deadening to our senses of decency and democracy raised its ugly head and raged at the light of liberty. It was a spectre that sought to replace expression with intimidation and co-operation with confrontation. It represented a culture alien to our body politic. A culture that legitimizes denunciation over debate and destruction over discussion. It is a virus that we have been aware of and that is now in full bloom. It is incumbent upon you gentlemen to act.

We live in a good and gentle land. Our country gives succor to refugees, educates its young without imposing financial hardships, has a medical system that is free and still the envy of most of the world and nourishes a political culture that does not pander to popular prejudices. When we had a free vote on capital punishment even the Tories did not surrender to the bloodlust of certain of our citizens and voted against it. Through all this we have been told by decades of Liberal government that a system as generous as ours has a certain fragility and requires certain protections from the economic impact of larger powers. It is time to recognize that a democracy such as ours also needs protection from the political impact of totalitarian powers that export their philosophies of hate and intolerance to our shores. A system as generous and giving as ours can only be protected by the courage of character of its champions.

We urge you to act for the dignity of our citizenry and for the destiny of our society. The brutal assaults by demonstraters on Canadians peacefully assembled to hear a speech cannot be tolerated in our land. There can be no cause for self-satisfaction that we allow free speech for the violent while the peaceful are terrorized. The challenge to Mr.Netanyahu’s right to free expression goes to the heart of Canada itself, for the protestors accused him of nothing more than what our late Prime Minister Trudeau did in the FLQ crisis to protect our democracy and keep our citizens safe from violence. The events of yesterday are a direct challenge to our values and purposes as a nation from a philosophy as foreign as the darkness of night.

We ask you Ministers to act boldly and daringly. Many of those engaged in thuggery and assault and destruction and incitement are in this country on sufferance. They are here as students or visitors and in some cases as illegals. The Montreal police have already begun their investigations on Criminal Code violations of the first three offenses. We would urge the Federal Minister of Justice to use the resources and powers of the RCMP and CSIS to begin an immediate investigation of the breadth and depth of the fourth, and most dangerous, offence. Incitement to hatred. Section 319 of the Criminal Code gives wide latitude for such an effort. In addition, we would ask that in the course of the investigations certain information, such as filmed footage, be shared with the Jewish community on a national basis so that our law enforcement agencies could benefit from that community’s intimate knowledge of the message and metaphor of the imagery and icons of the protestors hate propaganda. Many of the names of the foreign instigators of yesterday’s violence are already known to the highest-ranking law enforcement officials in the land.

Furthermore, should any of these non-status foreigners be found guilty of offences under the Criminal Code, either as to assault on persons or as to destruction of property or as to incitement of hatred, we would urge the Minister of Immigration to exercise his sweeping powers of ministerial discretion under Section 115 of the Immigration Act of Canada and begin immediate proceedings for summary deportation and removal under Section 27 of the said Act. These are daring and drastic measures but in these treacherous times where we face, in the words of Prof.Daniel Pipes, “…the only vital totalitarian movement in the world in militant Islam…” we need the actions of the bold and the brave. We must send a signal to the world that we will not allow the importation of a philosophy of hate into this land just as Prime Minister Trudeau refused to allow the blooming of domestic hatred and fratricide. He made a case for courage then. We need to make it now.

That case for courage is steeped in our own history. Canada has often been called a peace loving nation. This is only a half truth. Canada is above all a freedom loving nation. We have sacrificed more sons and daughters for the survival and success of liberty in the past century than even the United States as a proportion of population. We never shirked from this responsibility. We never calculated how many more soldiers there were in the Kaiser’s army. We never worried about the number of tanks in Hitler’s Panzer Divisions. We were never awed by Stalin’s might in Korea. And we never hesitated at home when terrorists threatened to make Montreal a charnel house. We supported the values of western civilization because we wanted to live as free men and women even when we had little more to give than Churchill’s “blood,sweat and tears”. We understood, viscerally, that man’s millennia long struggle to break out of the forests of barbarism was a precious quest. We lionized and celebrated those who stood with us in vigilant opposition to any assault on our values of democracy and freedom. We would “rage against the dying of the light” whenever the black night of terror threatened.

That black night threatens us now. We have a responsibility to act in the name of those Canadians who died in the past century, and do so today, to assure the survival and success of our democracy. The outcome of our response against terror, be it the smallest outbreak, holds immediate consequences for all Canadians. The policy and passion of your political futures will be ennobled by your courageous actions now.

As government leaders you have a pledge to every citizen that they shall share in the dignity of Canada.Your response must be more than the polite platitudes of political discourse. You must demonstrate that our government comprehends and recognizes that a citizen’s dignity rests in the promise of full partnership and protection in the freedom of our land. The Jewish citizens of this country have a particular call on that pledge. Canada is a nation that for all its courage, came to understand the futility of appeasement and the shame of neglect in its “none is to many” immigration policies. Yet this land has benefited more from the character, contributions and commitment of its Jewish citizens than from any other save the two founding communities.

And there is reason for this ---the heritage of the universal Jewish liberal message of humanism that compels Jews to a heightened sense of responsibility to, and engagement with, all members of our Canadian mosaic, a responsibility and engagement which benefits all from the penniless pauper to the powerful politician. The values of the Jewish community of Canada, in contradistinction to those of others, such as many of yesterday’s protestors, are foundationally favourable to Canada’s and have often been the framework for expression for the best in Canadian aspirations. Yet, too often, others will use every device of which human ingenuity is capable to distort and deny the best of what we are.

We all bear an important and cherished title in this land. That title is citizen. As citizens we want our Canadian government to send a message to the world that our heritage is not forgotten and that our place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who in times of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. We are better than that. Let us amplify our nation’s pride and advocate with vigor our country’s standards. For at the core of what we seek is one simple idea---decency. And decency is not something we learned in universities or the political arena. We learned it at our mother’s knee. Your courageous actions will be a clarion call to the civil society we all seek to build,for all civilized men comprehend decency---good from evil and right from wrong---viscerally and instinctively. Let us build on,and trust in, that civility.

The progress of our land will be enriched by your defense of dignity, freedom and courage. We must make bold new departures for if we fail we will lay at harbour facing the relentless tides of even greater challenges to our stability and we will be able to respond only with weary caution and resignation. We must always stand guard that Canada’s ordeal of civility is not flooded by, in the words of Jean-Paul Sartre,”… the teachings of contempt…”.

Beryl Wajsman

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