Thursday, July 23, 2009

What Has Happened to Us?

Watching Abousfian Abdelrazik's press conference was at once startling and heartbreaking. His story is almost beyond belief, except sadly we now have far too many stories that make it completely believable.

What struck me first was what the man has endured and that was quickly mixed with how Canada, CSIS specifically, treated this man. It's the part of this story that I cannot understand and there is not enough information yet to really get it, but it's beyond disturbing.

What comes to me is that since 9/11, all bets have been off. Whatever we thought we stood for, whatever we believed our government agencies represented, whatever we understood our values to be...seem to have been thrown out the window in the name of national security.

We've seen rights ignored and rolled back, we've seen inane rules implemented at airports etc, we've even seen the language of our national conversation change and become toxic. (MP's calling other MP's terrorist supporters, etc.)

Elements in our society that have presumably always held views that either are racist or xenophobic, suddenly feel the freedom to give voice to those views. Government officials are using terms that belong in a 50's western, and the head of our armed forces uses the catchy phrase 'scum bags' in public. RCMP members are tasering people w/out legitimate cause and covering up their actions. There is more, but all of that to say, a climate seems to have been created that has enabled rogue elements of our society to ignore what were established principles in this country.

Sadly, these rogue elements are no longer a tiny little slice of our society that are easy to write off. They are showing up with alarming frequency and sadly, they seem to have a chorus of supporters cheering them on.

Witness the manner in which this person refers to Omar Khadr.

Now it's easy to keep calling these people wingnuts or whatever your preferred term is, but they get coverage. Their language is found on television, radio and in print, conveniently shouting 'free speech' as their umbrella under which to do so. (Somehow they only seem interested in the freedoms and rights that affect them though.)

I think we've been far too cavalier about all of this and that has contributed to the state we now find ourselves in.

Did we learn nothing from the Maher Arar case and subsequent report? It seems that those at CSIS, Foreign Affairs and diplomats have learned nothing.

This particular case did indeed start under the Liberal government of the day, but with all the knowledge we now have, it seems inconceivable that the current government would not only perpetuate the situation, but actually appear to compound it by joining in.

By that I mean that Abdelrazik revealed today that he was visited by MP Deepak Obhrai. He showed him his scars from the torture he'd endured. Obhrai apparently wasn't there to be compassionate, but rather to interrogate him.

Since when do MP's do that? Abdelrazik was asked his views on Bin Laden, Israel, terrorism and told that unless he answered, he'd receive no help. (Obhrai was apparently accompanied by an official from Bernier's dept, who held the position of Min of Foreign Affairs at the time.)

If you don't find that disturbing, you didn't grow up in the Canada that I know, or at least the country I thought I knew.

I'm not sure what has happened to us, but I can only hope that these awful revelations force us to right our course.

To hear Abdelrazik's presser, go here.

Final thought picked up on Twitter:

Fear is a disease that eats away at logic and makes man inhuman. Marian Anderson (1902-1993)

Update - More with Ignatieff comments.


Jay said...

Not sure what happened but it doesn't feel like Canada anymore. Every one is at each others throats. Minority groups are being used as props while others are held up as examples, though they actually did no wrong..

Very disheartening. I find myself reminiscing more and more about my younger years and the the way we were.

We need a new P.E.T.

Karen said...

I know Jay. I don't want to idealise the past because there have always been problems, but things have definitely shifted.

I'm convinced that 9/11 gave license to some of this. Not the act...the reaction and the voice of the US.

Cari said...

This is definitely not a Compassionate government. If a person is of a different skin colour,forget them, The lady in Kenya is one. They treat her like dirt.I have never seen the likes of this, in my day.
Everything is a mess, including the immigration system.
They are also selling our Country down the drain. I know how Jay feels.

Karen said...

Cari, I know how both of you feel...thus my post.

My hope is that the sometimes ugly light of day shines brightly this time.

The story has some coverage and the woman you refer too is still in flipping limbo so to speak, but it's one quick story in the morning then on to the inanity.

I think this story will see more certainly will generate some investigation.

Obhrai. That man has been one of the slimiest evaders of truth that I've yet to see. He has rivals in the party, but the way he treats all of these cases is embarassing...shameful.

I've been around a long time too and don't recognise so much.

I want my country back.

Anonymous said...

By that I mean that Abdelrazik revealed today that he was visited by MP Deepak Obhrai. He showed him his scars from the torture he'd endured. Obhrai apparently wasn't there to be compassionate, but rather to interrogate him.
Fucking little fascist. He was likely sent by Harper because of his ethnicity..

What can you expect when CSIS and the RCMP are run by morons and Connies come to power...

Karen said...

I'm not one to cower c_wtf and won't here, but I have to say that I shuddered when I heard that.

Anonymous said...

KNB, somehow, I don't think that any of our inept news media will pick up on that and ask why an MP was there...
These journalists have gotten so lazy that they complain when they have to change the headline on the press releases that they copy/paste...

I wonder if any of the Canadian right will question that?
Likely the little shits will ignore it but will get all uppity when Ezra is asked about his racist comments...

Karen said...

c_wtf, I kinda got the sense that some of the media were shocked too. I think some of them are connecting the dots.

I hope questions, tough ones are asked and for that matter, I want to understand the Liberals at the beginning too.

My sense is, all were caught up in the fervor of 9/11, but we do have some human rights heavy weights in the party. Maybe they were in unknown territory and left it to the 'experts', ie CSIS?


Lot's of answers to be had.

Oh on the Canadian right? Na. I expect they'll defend Obhrai, defend Harper then blame it all on the Lib's.

Some things in life are predictable.

Anonymous said...

That is another thing I noticed, the media is terrible when it needs to tell the public a few things.
Another is the Immigration
Board, where they let some go and don't hire anymore. I remember them talking how terrible the backlog was, there are more waiting to get into this country than there were when the Tories decided ti fix it up.The media are slow on this.

Karen said...

Anon, there is a complacency there now, I think brought on and defended through cynicism.

All opinion pieces seem to say, ya, it was X, but it's not so bad...yawn

That attitude, imo, is doing damage to the national conversation.

Karen said...

I added a final thought, quote, to the post, that I think sums things up.

Anonymous said...

Amen, how correct that statement is, KNB.