Quebec City–Canadians have grown accustomed to hearing inaccurate comments about their country in the American media. Many just shrug it off or laugh, resigned to the idea that honest attempts to correct the record will be futile.
But the comments
made about Canada last Thursday by Rep. John Hostettler, the chairman of the U.S. House subcommittee on immigration, are beyond the pale.
Canada “hosts an abundance of terrorists and as many as 50 terrorist organizations,” Rep. Hostettler said. He went on to single out as particularly hospitable to terrorists something called “South Toronto,” an area of the city apparently known to no one else but him.
Rep. Hostettler continued: “We in the United States have a much more clear focus on the problem of terrorism, and have moved beyond denial that our own citizens are capable of terrorism. That doesn’t seem to be the case north of the border.”
These comments are not only erroneous, they are irresponsible.
And Rep. Hostettler isn’t the only offender. In his syndicated column last week, NRO’s Jonah Goldberg called Canada “arguably the most deluded industrialized nation in the world.” Rep. Peter King declared that Canada’s immigration policies resulted in “a large al Qaeda presence” being in the country. There are plenty more examples.
The fuss was brought on, of course, by the recent disclosure a little over a week ago by Canadian law enforcement that they had busted a 17-man terrorist cell. The accused terrorists allegedly had plans to strike at Canada’s parliament buildings, the Toronto Stock Exchange, and other public buildings.
All the Canada-bashing has neglected to focus on the most important aspect of this story: that the would-be terrorists were stopped. Canadian law enforcement showed they are doing their job. Indeed, they revealed they had been watching this particular terror cell for two years before the raid.
I have seen no evidence to show that Canada has an “abundance of terrorists” or a “large al Qaeda presence.” In fact, I have seen no evidence to demonstrate that Canada has more would-be terrorists inside its borders than does America. Islamism is a worldwide phenomenon whose adherents have no regard for national boundaries. They have shown they will recruit, organize, and plot anywhere they like.
Is Canada perfect? No. Of course we could be doing better. Canada must take an especially hard look at its immigration and refugee policies. I have criticized our country for its not being vigilant enough and its lack of sense of urgency. And yes, the belief is (or at least was) held by some Canadians that Canada would not be targeted because we sat out the Iraq war. But that doesn’t mean Canada isn’t pulling its weight. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has praised Canada’s efforts in fighting terrorism, as did Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Secretary Chertoff also noted that 99 percent of illegal traffic into America comes through the border with Mexico.
Rep. Hostettler’s hot air doesn’t improve the situation for anyone. His and the other uninformed comments only reinforce misinformation and build up stereotypes. They also make Canadians angry. One could even say they give to those who would do us harm a small victory because of the friction they cause between the two countries.
Everyone concerned would be better off by focusing on being productive. Americans need to know that Canada is making immense progress under its new Conservative government.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is showing real leadership in the war on terror. He’s only been in power for six months and the difference in tone and in action is palpable. Canada became the first country in the world to sever ties with and cut funding to the Hamas government. The Conservatives classified the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist organization, something the previous Liberal administration refused to do. Harper has traveled to Afghanistan to show support for the 2,300 Canadian soldiers there fighting the Taliban. And the gratuitous America-bashing that we heard so often from the Liberals during their 13-year stint in power is nowhere to be seen.
I understand it’s an election year and that slapping Canada around is an easy way to score political points. That said, if Canada’s elected officials can keep a lid on unwarranted criticism of its neighbor and ally, America’s can and should do the same.
— Adam Daifallah, a former Washington correspondent of the New York Sun, is co-author of Rescuing Canada’s Right: Blueprint for a Conservative Revolution.