The Roots of Rage: Terror and Repression in Canada
July 16, 2006
In June 2006, Canada was thrust into the spotlight of the "War on
Terror" when over 400 state security officials and military officers
staged a pre-dawn raid on the outskirts of Toronto. Seventeen Canadian
Muslim men were arrested in this high-profile operation and are
currently being held in a maximum-security prison in Ontario.
Major accusations toward the suspects have been publicly pronounced by
Canadian officials, who have charged the accused under Canada's
"Anti-Terrorism Act," a highly controversial piece of legislation
drafted and institutionalized after the events of 9/11.
International media outlets like the BBC have reported Canadian
authorities claim that those arrested in the operation were "inspired
by al-Qaeda" and planned to target Canada's Parliament Buildings and
the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service [CSIS], among other
According to Canadian officials, the recent Toronto events were the
"largest anti-terror operation in recent history."
The follow-up response of the Canadian state has been unprecedented.
Armed officers patrolled the streets and perched on the rooftop of an
Ontario courthouse during a recent court hearing for the accused.
Imprisoned in windowless isolation cells lit 24 hours a day, the
Canadian Muslims arrested have been denied the right to meet their
lawyers in private.
When vandals smashed more than 30 windows of a major Toronto mosque in
the days after the Toronto raids, Canadian officials voiced little
condemnation against the apparent hate crime.
Racist backlash in response to the Toronto raids commenced in the
hours preceding the arrests, an illustration of the ugly realities of
bigotry faced by Arabs and Muslims today in Canada.
As the Toronto terrorism plot continues to unfold in Canada's largest
city, critical questions regarding the roots of growing discontent
toward Canada's domestic and foreign policy relating to the "War on
Terrorism" are not being posed.
Canadian Terror & Afghanistan
Addressing the direct correlation between the recent Toronto events
and Canada's major role in supporting the U.S.-led "War on Terror" is
Canada currently maintains over 2,300 military troops in Afghanistan
under the umbrella of N.A.T.O [the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization], who are today entangled in a war against an armed
indigenous opposition throughout the country.
During recent N.A.T.O.-led military operations, hundreds of Afghanis
have lost their lives. The Associated Press reported that recent
military violence in Afghanistan claimed the lives of more than 500
people in June, the majority having been Afghani fighters and
civilians who perished in military battles with N.A.T.O. armed forces
led by U.S. and Canadian military forces.
Canada's current Conservative government led by Steven Harper has
fuelled a major military and political boost to the highly contentious
N.A.T.O military operations. In February 2006, Canada established a
major military base in Kandahar, cementing a long-term military role
in the country.
Canada's thousands of military troops in the country have been
continuously cited by Muslim voices in Canada and internationally as a
central reason for growing hostility toward the Canadian government at
home and abroad. Recent surveys in Canada indicate that upwards of
60-70 per cent of people across the country do not support Canada's
current military role in Afghanistan.
Ehab Lotayef, a respected community activist, recently wrote in the
Montreal Gazette that, "Internationally, Canada's policies have been
shifting and continue to shift away from peace, justice, UN
resolutions and international law, particularly in causes dear and
close to Muslims."
Lotayef continued: "Whether we speak of Palestine, Iraq or Afghanistan
this is clear, and despite the Muslim community's lobbying efforts,
political meetings and protests, the response is comforting words, at
War creates political enemies and Canada's major combat role in
Afghanistan must be understood as a central reason for the growing
international hostility toward the maple leaf.
Major Media & Muslims in Canada - Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Response to the June 2006 Toronto terror raids by all mainstream
political parties and major media has revolved around a repetition of
common themes: the thundering approval for the Canadian state security
forces and the criminalization of the accused.
To date, none of the vast allegations against the 17 suspects have
been proven in a Canadian court of law. Despite this fact, Canada's
Muslim community -- today numbering in the hundredsof thousands --
has once again been placed at the centre of a national political
debate and put on trial by the major media. While the word "alleged"
continues to appear, a presumption of guilt has underscored most media
coverage both of the accused and also of Arab and Muslim communities
across the country. Major publications in Canada have been saturated
with articles expounding on the domestic threat of terror in Canada
whereas media coverage attempting to contextualize the recent Toronto
events is obscenely absent.
The Economist magazine published a feature article with the headline,
"The plan to behead the prime minister", the National Post featured a
front page article entitled, "PM says terror suspects represent only
hatred," while the Toronto Star ran an editorial titled, "Time to
challenge Muslim extremists."
Maclean's published a feature article entitled "Homegrown terror: It's
not over." The article details how Canadian security forces were
"vigilant" and how recent events in Toronto should be viewed as "a
wake-up call for trusting citizens, a reminder of just how vulnerable
we are to attack."
The Maclean's article attempts to sanctify the actions of Canadian
authorities, concluding with an indictment of the Muslim and Arab
community across the country. "In the uproar following the Toronto
raids," the article concludes, "it's been difficult at times to tell a
moderate from a radical, a jihadi from a hormonally challenged
In Ontario, The London Free Press published an opinion column linking
the supposed threat of domestic terrorism to the migration of
immigrants and refugees to Canada. "Tens of thousands of immigrants
and refugee applicants from terrorist-exporting countries" enter
Canada each year, the Free Press article said, "without proper
screening." The author went on to underline the fact that "20,000
immigrants have entered Canada from the terrorist-beset
Afghanistan-Pakistan region alone since 2001."
It is a fact that thousands of refugees have claimed asylum in Canada
from Afghanistan in recent years. However, the obvious connection to
the U.S.-led and Canadian-supported military invasion was not drawn.
War creates refugees and in the case of the 2001 invasion of
Afghanistan, Canada's military has been directly involved in the
reality of forced migration at the hands of military warfare.
Major media within the country has failed to pose hard questions to
Canadian authorities regarding the country's growing role in the "War
on Terror," which is increasingly unpopular among the majority of
people living in Canada.
It is the current Conservative government of Canada who should be
forced to answer for the creation of the social and political climate
in which the very discussion and potential reality of "domestic
terrorism" has become a reality.
Terrorism, Law & Democracy
Arabs, Muslims and racialized communities in Canada have experienced a
legislated and legalized form of state repression since 9/11 and
before. Racism in Canada is an institutionalized reality.
Canada has charged five Muslim Arabs under "security certificates," a
provision of national legislation that allows for indefinite detention
of non-citizens without any presentation of evidence or a public trial.
Security certificates in Canada have become a central issue of debate
relating to the "War on Terror" and its domestic face.
In recent years, broad sections of Canadian society have publicly
demanded the dismantling of this legislation, which many say has
become a legalized tool of repression directed toward the countries
Arab and Muslim community. Security certificates have been widely
condemned and have been questioned by legal associations in Canada,
notably the Canadian Bar Association [CBA].
Recently the constitutionality of security certificates was brought to
the Supreme Court of Canada and the Canadian Bar Association attained
intervening status during the legal proceeding, adding legal weight to
growing grassroots demands to halt the Canadian government's use of
The CBA called the legitimacy of the legislation into question,
focusing on the fact that security certificates don't allow "effective
representation," because hearings take place "in secret, without
participation of the detainees or their lawyer."
Also, the CBA outlined that the use of security certificates
"interferes with a person's right to liberty, because the detained
person cannot effectively challenge the lawfulness of the detention if
he or she is prohibited from participating in the process."
In recent years the security certificate has been used solely against
Arabs and Muslims in Canada, producing a strong sense of resentment,
distrust and opposition toward the Canadian government among sectors
of the Arab and Muslim community throughout the country.
The use of law to institutionalize repression in Canada has become a
growing reality since 9/11. The legislation used to charge the
suspects in the recent "anti-terror" raids in Toronto was the
"Anti-Terrorism Act," introduced after September 11.
Since its creation, this post-9/11 "anti-terror" legislation has been
criticized by social activists and civil liberties organizations
within Canada as an assault on basic civil liberties and a legal tool
to counter domestic political dissent.
Under this legislation, the Canadian government defines terrorism as:
"actions that are taken for political, religious or ideological
purposes that threaten public or national security," going further in
defining terrorism as an act that "disrupts an essential service,
facility of system." In this context, the concept of "terrorism" can
be widely applied, encompassing acts of political dissent or public
According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), "the
legislation gives police sweeping new powers, including the power to
arrest people and hold them without charge for up to 72 hours if
they're suspected of planning a terrorist act. It also made it easier
for police to use electronic surveillance in their investigation of
This legalized lexicon of fear, persecution and repression is also
essential to understanding the reality of growing discontent and rage
within Arab and Muslim communities in Canada.
Social Solidarity Against Repression
Canada today is infused with a climate of fear, fuelled by the
corporate media and top officials. Given the dominant political
discourse revolving around the "War on Terror," marginalized political
voices stressing social solidarity in opposition to the current
Canadian government's foreign and domestic policy must be stressed.
Amina Sherazee, an immigration lawyer based in Toronto, addressed the
arrests in an interview on CKUT Radio in Montreal, outlining that the
arrests "serve the political interests of the Canadian government as
they renew the threat of terrorism fuelling fear that Canada is some
how at risk and therefore justify repressive laws."
A mutually reinforcing relationship of domestic social repression and
international military conquest between the current Canadian
government and current U.S. Administration must be opposed. In the
face of growing domestic repression against Arabs and Muslims in
Canada, voices articulating social solidarity must be highlighted by
The present Conservative government has used the recent Toronto events
as justification for the country's growing role in the "War on Terror."
"This country is as much a [terrorist target] as the United States,"
Harper said in a radio interview in June. "That's why not only is the
government acting nationally against terror threats, but we're working
globally in Afghanistan and all over the world to deal with this problem."
Threats of terrorism in Toronto have been used to justify a domestic
assault on the rights of Arabs and Muslims and an increased military
role in an international war, which to date has undermined the
security and self-determination of people in Afghanistan, Iraq and
In response, those who stand for a just society and against oppression
at home and abroad must be vigilant and unequivocal.
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