Canada is a country that boasts a freedom of speech for all citizens, but for some reason that doesn’t seem to apply to public figures. Canadians already have a reputation for apologizing aplenty (often for justifiable reasons), yet the public forces politicians to apologize unnecessarily time and time again.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and chief spokesman Jason MacDonald are under scrutiny as the National Council of Canadian Muslims (hereon referred to as the NCCM) demand an apology for the alleged attack and disrespect towards Canadian Muslims. The NCCM hold a baseless claim that they were victims of so-called racial prejudice from the PM’s office. The PM’s office is a symbol of Canadian tolerance, truth and strength. They embody the spirit of the True North. Once again, the public is confusing the harsh truth with a prejudiced comment.
Shortly before leaving for Israel last February, the NCCM objected to the inclusion of a certain individual in the PM’s entourage. This individual is known to appreciate anti-Muslim comments, and affiliates with powerful members of the anti-Islam industry in the States. Unless I woke up in a dictatorship this morning, this is the man’s right. The NCCM wishes to make the PMO rather cliquey by including only people they deem appropriate. I’d like to remind them that this isn’t the Mean Girls remake. In response to the NCCM, Jason MacDonald (the PMO’s Communications Director) said that he would not take criticism from any organization with “documented affiliation with Hamas.”
Hamas is both a terrorist and a political organization based in Palestine, with its main target being Israel. Is it so farfetched to conceive that the NCCM is affiliated with such a group? Well, maybe, except that their parent organization, CAIR (the Centre for American-Islamic Relations), was called a “front group” for Hamas by…the FBI. So, if it’s not totally far-fetched, is it a crime? There is a demonstrable tie between the NCCM and Hamas, and, even if not formalized, alleging that they keep company is certainly not ridiculous. It’s interesting to note how defensive they became of this comment. This defence didn’t come from being insulted. In fact, this defence hit far too close to home and they therefore decided to divert attention away from their organization by attacking PM’s office’s honour.
As for Jason MacDonald, being a public figure should never take away the right to express a personal viewpoint. In fact, this is deemed the viewpoint of the PMO, and therefore should certainly be public. Canada is all for respecting faith, but when a specific organization is outspoken about its prejudice against Israel, why is it a crime to criticize it? In what world is publicly disagreeing with someone’s stances and the company they keep libellous? Let us not forget, the NCCM’s initial complaint was that the rabbi who came with them to Israel has ties to alleged anti-Muslim advocates, which matches the claim made by Jason MacDonald. If accusing a group of affiliating with another group, with ties to less savoury individuals, is libel, then the NCCM are just as guilty as MacDonald.
The NCCM has filed a notice of libel to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, accusing Mr. MacDonald of acting “maliciously” when he made the comment. This libel notice acts as a threat to freedom of speech in Canada. If we start apologizing for every small comment, we’d never stop apologizing. We’d never be able to make any statement ever. The NCCM might as well grow some thick skin because what Jason MacDonald said is completely justified. Not only are his allegations relevant enough to warrant the comment, what he said was the harsh truth. We’d be reporting hate crimes every day if that was true. A hate crime, by definition, is not a little comment that upsets another person, and this suit does a disservice to actual prejudice faced today by Muslims in Canada.
This suit is undermining the rights of individuals in Canada. By unjustly claiming libel or slander, they make Canadians feel as if they are not equal within the community, and they lose the respect of their communities. Such behaviour cannot be tolerated. Being a public figure is all the more reason to show Canadians that they should express themselves as they feel comfortable. The rest of Canada should follow in Jason MacDonald’s example: express your opinion; you have the right to do so, no matter who it offends—Canadians get to decide whether comments were warranted through elections or through advocacy.
Hopefully, this libel notice is not taken seriously, because if the PM’s Office actually apologizes, it will be a sad day in Canadian history.