The Two Sides Of The Anti-Terror Coin

By Jared Milne

The wave of attacks that have occurred this summer have made the debate over how to respond to terrorism more heated than ever, with calls for Canada and its allies to step up the fight against ISIS and other organizations. Other voices decry what they see as the tarring of all Muslims and people of Arab and Middle Eastern background as potential terrorists, arguing that it amounts to racism and judging people guilty until proven innocent.

Many of the people calling for Canada to step up the fight against terror organizations are often conservatives. However, I haven’t seen nearly as much commentary from progressives on how to actually respond to the ghoulish actions of ISIS, or related groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria. It’s one thing for Canada and its allies to take in and support refugees who have lost everything, but how should Canada and its allies actually counter what the terrorist organizations are doing in the Middle East and Africa? Their actions and beliefs are an active threat to everything from feminism to the rights of gay, transgender and queer people, and they would brutally repress any demonstration or protest that people made in support of minority rights.

If Canada and its allies don’t fight back, then what is the alternative?

On the other hand, many of the people expressing concerns about the backlash stepping up the fight against terrorist organizations has provoked against Muslims already living in Canada are often progressives. However, I haven’t seen nearly as much commentary from conservatives on how to address incidents such as the vandalism of mosques in places like Cold Lake, Peterborough or Quebec City. We should fight the terrorist organizations, but how do we do that and also counter the mentality that leads to mosque vandalism, or increased hate crimes against Canadian Muslims? How do we avoid, or at least reduce the risk, of entrapping innocent citizens like Maher Arar and potentially ruining their lives in the process? The Charter of Rights guarantees freedom of religion, including the right to practice Islam. The Charter also lays out other legal protections that apply to everyone, including Canadians of Middle Eastern descent.

If Canada and its allies don’t respect the rights and freedoms of all their citizens, regardless of their ethnicity or religion, then what does that say about us?

Canadians have always been ready to fight when we need to. We need to do it again, this time against the evils of ISIS and other terrorist organizations. However, in the World Wars we violated the rights of Canadians of Ukrainian, Japanese, and other origins. Today, we need to consider how our battle impacts the rights of our fellow Canadians of Middle Eastern descent and/or of the Muslim faith. Those rights and freedoms are part of what is supposed to define Canada, and what we’re supposed to stand for. Vandalism, hate crimes and racial profiling undermine those things, undermine who we are as Canadians as much as does not responding to the terrorists.

This article was originally published in the St. Albert Gazette on August 6, 2016 and is available online at

[Photo Credit: Kat Northern Lights Man/Flickr]