Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Canadians are not safe under this minister"

That would be Lawrence Cannon, in the words of Montreal Gazette writer Janet Bagnall.

Indeed. But I would go further: Canadians, at least the darker-hued ones of the Muslim persuasion, are not safe under this government.

I was alarmed when it looked as though the vice-consul in Nairobi, Liliane Khadour, was going to take the fall for consular bungling and ministerial malevolence--and that may still happen after the ministers involved get through carrying out "investigations" of their own shops. So too do I worry that Cannon might fall on his sword for Harper and his Cabinet colleagues. That wouldn't be right.

Yet we can see the alibis already taking their ghostly shape. Stephen Harper somehow wasn't briefed. He found out about the Suaad Hagi Mohamud mess only last week, and is making suitably portentous noises. Khadour has been recalled.

But Cannon knew all about this less than two weeks after Mohamud first ran into trouble at the Nairobi airport. Peter Van Loan, Minister of Public Safety, was aware of it no later than mid-July. (And was the ubiquitous Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, blithely oblivious to all this?) Hence Cabinet demotions may be in the works, even if the "investigations" prove "conclusively" that nobody did anything wrong, and leave the ministers conducting them high and dry.

The universe will unfold as it should, in time for a possible Fall election.

Meanwhile, has anyone noticed the change in media focus, in which the names "Brenda Martin" and "William Sampson" are now uttered in the same breath as "Abousfian Abdelrazik," "Suaad Hagi Mohamud" and "Abdihakim Mohamed?" So that the pattern we are invited to discern is one of indifference and incompetence, perhaps, but certainly not racism?

Sorry, not buying it. There is a sense of desperate spin here. Yes, there was government inaction--under the Liberals--in the matter of William Sampson, who suffered grievously for it. Yes, Brenda Martin sat in a Mexican jail for a couple of years, although Harper eventually flew her home on a chartered jet. But in each case the government could at worst be accused of not doing enough.

In the case of the brown-skinned Canadians in the roster, however, the government and its officials consciously threw obstacle after obstacle in their way.

Public campaigns have been required, media outrage, court orders, an army of lawyers, not only to force the government to do the right thing but to stop them from doing the wrong one. William Sampson was not called an "impostor" after a "conclusive" investigation. Brenda Martin was not denied entry to Canada based upon a bogus exercise of royal prerogative. Neither of them was bundled off to Syria for a few bouts of torture.

What is needed is anything but a couple of internal alibi-spinning "investigations" whose results may never be released. It's not only the misbehaviour of low-level munchkins that needs an airing, but also ministerial and departmental malfeasance. In fact the whole Augean stable of government ineptitude, active malice and systemic discrimination needs to be swept clean from top to bottom and thoroughly disinfected.
Nothing less than a full public inquiry will do that.

But don't hold your breath. The revelations from such an inquiry would likely prove not merely embarrassing, but fatal. Still chasing a majority,
the Harper government is not about to embrace the opportunity to dig its own mass grave. Perhaps Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe and former human rights advocate Michael Ignatieff--wherever he is--might yet be persuaded to wield the shovels.

No comments: