More Ottawa Shooting Commentary

Further to yesterday’s round-up of the recent shootings, more of the better commentary or more interesting commentary that has crossed my eye.

Wesley Wark: Reducing the risk of terrorism provides a sober assessment of the ongoing risks and the need neither to over or under act, but learn the lessons from any failures and gaps in security.

In the theme of let’s not get carried away, André Pratte in La réponse and Stephen Maher Time to reflect on the courage of our ancestors remind us to have balance and perspective. Doug Saunders notes how the public space around parliaments the world over has been whittled down by successive security threats in Don’t let the seat of government become a fortress.

On the other side, Journal de Montréal’s Richard Martineau is characteristically alarmist in Terrorisme: appelons les choses par leur nom.

More on the common elements to the two most recent cases of radicalization, Martin Couture-Rouleau  and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau:

Martin Couture-Rouleau et Michael Zehaf-Bibeau partagent plusieurs points en commun : ils étaient jeunes (25 ans et 32 ans), ils s’étaient récemment convertis à l’islam radical, la GRC avait confisqué leur passeport par crainte qu’ils rejoignent le groupe État islamique, et ils auraient agi tels des « loups solitaires ».

Pour les autorités policières, c’est le cauchemar. Les deux jeunes ont agi de leur propre chef, sans même avoir été initiés au combat par des groupes extrémistes à l’étranger. Ils sont difficiles à repérer et à neutraliser.

Un loup solitaire aux motivations inconnues

And further details about the troubled life of the shooter, Zehaf-Bibeau in the Globe in Drugs and religion key themes in Ottawa shooter’s troubled life and in the Post in Details of Zehaf-Bibeau’s life paint picture of a man derailed by homelessness, crime and addiction, detailing his drug addiction, quarrelsome personality and his failed efforts to use his faith to control both.

Canadian Muslims are quick to respond and express outrage in Canadian Muslims denounce recent attacks, fear backlash.

Matt Gurney challenges the military’s decision in Canadian soldiers don’t hide in their own damn country — rescind the order to not wear uniforms in public.

Barbara Kay covers a different angle in The unique anguish of a terrorist’s mother:

If it is inevitable, why feel guilty about these “bad seeds”? And yet, inevitably, parents do. Our sympathetic embrace for the real victims should therefore be wide enough to include their murderers’ collateral damage.

A great deal of favourable commentary on Parliament yesterday, how each leader struck the right tone, the hugs of support, and the deserved standing ovation for Sergeant-at-Arms Vickers starting with Jeffrey Simpson in Tribute, solidarity and back to politics (with some barbs at the difference between Government rhetoric and funding).

Jonathan Kay noted the contrast between this time and 30 years ago, when the then Sergeant-at-Arms was able to talk armed Denis Lortie into surrendering in Two Sergeants-at-Arms, two kinds of heroism.

Rick Salutin, similarly praises Kevin Vickers, but provocatively, and accurately, rubbishes the idea of Canadian innocence in We didn’t lose our innocence. We never had it.

Andrew Coyne, perceptively noted the nuances in the various positions and how that hopefully portended more serious political dialogue and debate in Politics weren’t put aside during the Ottawa hug-out, they were just made over for the occasion:

For Mr. Harper, it was “to identify and counter threats and keep Canada safe here at home,” as well as “to work with our allies” in the fight against “the terrorist organizations” abroad who hope “to bring their savagery to our shores.” For Mr. Mulcair, it was “our commitment to each other and to a peaceful world.” For Mr. Trudeau, it was “staying true to our values” of “fairness, justice and the rule of law.”

“We will not be intimidated,” Mr. Harper vowed. “That is not going to happen,” Mr. Mulcair seconded. “We will not be intimidated into changing that,” Mr. Trudeau agreed. But they meant very different things.

And the still and video images of the citizens of Ottawa paying their tribute to fallen soldier Nathan Cirillo (as well as the accounts of those who tried to save him in ‘You’re breathing — keep breathing’), as well as to democratic values, were moving.


Les fous de Dieu sont-ils des “fous” ?

Some interesting articles on the psychology of radicalization, starting with French psychologist Jean-Michel Hirt:

Leur idéal mortifère a pris toute la place dans leur personnalité. Comme tous les passages à lacte, les crimes que les jihadistes commettent se font dans une sorte daveuglement, de sidération de la conscience. La plupart des individus qui se retrouvent en prison pour avoir tué ont du mal à reconnaître ce quils ont fait.

Mais on sait, parce que la guerre nest pas une affaire nouvelle, combien les traumatismes peuvent se révéler considérables, quand les individus en reviennent. Certains ne peuvent plus continuer à vivre normalement et tombent malades. Tuer, ce nest jamais quelque chose qui se fait comme on avale un verre deau. Aucun criminel nest à laise dans sa culture et bien dans sa peau. Ce sont des individus qui souffrent de profonds troubles psychiques quils narrivent pas à résoudre et qu’ils projettent violemment sur autrui.

Les fous de Dieu sont-ils des “fous” ?.

An interesting take on the motivation for radicalization and suggested strategy to combat it by Arie W. Kruglansk:

The appeal to one’s trampled identity, combined with the depiction of one’s group’s degradation, can have a profound visceral effect, incensing and redirecting individuals who are otherwise well-adjusted and on their way to a seemingly bright personal future.

According to reports, Nasser Muthana, a 20-year-old volunteer in Islamic State, had acceptance offers from four medical schools. Muhammad Hamidur Rahman, who died in August while fighting in Syria, was employed at a Primark store in the coastal city of Portsmouth, United Kingdom, and had a father who owned a restaurant. His personal future thus appeared assured and yet it could not undo the pain and humiliation he saw his Muslim community facing.

Extremist ideology is effective in such circumstances because it offers a quick-fix remedy to a perceived loss of significance and an assured way to regain it. It accomplishes this by exploiting humans’ primordial instincts for aggression and sex.

Consider the latter. Sex is the most primitive assertion of one’s significance; it’s a means to perpetuate one’s name — and genes — into the future. Islamic State strategically uses it as a reward for aggression.

The militant group has set up marriage centers where women register to be wed to its fighters. Captured Iraqi women and girls are forced into sex slavery, living in brothels run by female jihadists. Rape of non-believers is considered legitimate, while fatwas proclaiming a “sexual jihad” encourage brutality against females. Lastly, martyrdom is associated with sexual bliss in paradise.

Understanding the magnetic appeal of Islamic State’s extremism is a prerequisite to developing a suitable, psychologically sensitive counter narrative. For example, an appeal to moderation and a life of patient struggle seems ill-suited to win over the hearts and minds of jihadists. Instead, the glamour of jihad must be countered by an alternative glamour; the charisma of martyrdom pitted against a different kind of charisma, the appeal to primitive drives redirected, jiu jitsu style, against the brutality of the enemy, turning the psychological tables on Islamic State as it were.

For example, young men vulnerable to the appeal of extremist ideology might be persuaded to fight the desecration of their religion and promised a place in history by defeating the satanic evil that soils their faith. Social media may need to be turned abuzz with the glory of standing up to evil, encouraging the bravery needed to undertake personal risks for “breaking bad.” This message should not be presented in faint pastels but in bright, bold colors.

Measured arguments against Islamic State wouldn’t do the job. Countering it requires fiery, impassioned appeals.

Joining Islamic State is about ‘sex and aggression,’ not religion



Hambrick, Ferreira and Henderson: Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect

Much more nuanced and sophisticated analysis than the pop “triple advantage” theory of Amy Chua’s Tiger Mom’s claim that cultures blessed with ‘triple package’ get ahead in America sparks uproar:

It is therefore crucial to differentiate between the influence of genes on differences in abilities across individuals and the influence of genes on differences across groups. The former has been established beyond any reasonable doubt by decades of research in a number of fields, including psychology, biology and behavioural genetics. There is now an overwhelming scientific consensus that genes contribute to individual differences in abilities. The latter has never been established, and any claim to the contrary is simply false.

Another reason the idea of genetic inequality might make you uncomfortable is because it raises the specter of an anti-meritocratic society in which benefits such as good educations and high-paying jobs go to people who happen to be born with “good” genes. As the technology of genotyping progresses, it is not far-fetched to think that we will all one day have information about our genetic makeup, and that others may have access to this information and use it to make decisions that profoundly affect our lives. However, this concern conflates scientific evidence with how that evidence might be used — which is to say that information about genetic diversity can just as easily be used for good as for ill.

This information could just as easily be used to identify children with the least genetic potential for academic success and channel them into the best schools

Take the example of intelligence, as measured by IQ. We know from many decades of research in behavioural genetics that about half of the variation across people in IQ is due to genes. Among many other outcomes, IQ predicts success in school, and so once we have identified specific genes that account for individual differences in IQ, this information could be used to identify, at birth, children with the greatest genetic potential for academic success and channel them into the best schools. But this information could just as easily be used to identify children with the least genetic potential for academic success and channel them into the best schools. This would allow us to identifying those who are likely to face learning challenges and provide them with the support they might need. Science and policy are two different things, and when we dismiss the former because we assume it will influence the latter in a particular and pernicious way, we limit the good that can be done.

Wouldn’t it be better to just act as if we are equal, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding? That way, no people will be discouraged from chasing their dreams — competing in the Olympics or performing at Carnegie Hall or winning a Nobel Prize.

The answer is no, for two reasons. The first is that failure is costly, both to society and to individuals. Pretending that all people are equal in their abilities will not change the fact that a person with an average IQ is unlikely to become a theoretical physicist, or the fact that a person with a low level of music ability is unlikely to become a concert pianist.

It makes more sense to pay attention to people’s abilities and their likelihood of achieving certain goals, so people can make good decisions about the goals they want to spend their time, money and energy pursuing. Moreover, genes influence not only our abilities, but the environments we create for ourselves and the activities we prefer — a phenomenon known as gene-environment correlation. For example, yet another recent twin study found that there was a genetic influence on practicing music. Pushing someone into a career for which he or she is genetically unsuited will likely not work.

The second reason we should not pretend we are endowed with the same abilities is that doing so perpetuates the myth that is at the root of much inaction in society — the myth that people can help themselves to the same degree if they just try hard enough. You’re not a heart surgeon? That’s your fault for not working hard enough in school! You didn’t make it as a concert pianist? You must not have wanted it that badly. Societal inequality is thus justified on the grounds that anyone who is willing to put in the requisite time and effort can succeed and should be rewarded with a good life, whereas those who struggle to make ends meet are to blame for their situations and should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

If we acknowledge that people differ in what they have to contribute, then we have an argument for a society in which all human beings are entitled to a life that includes access to decent housing, health care and education, simply because they are human. Our abilities might not be identical, and our needs surely differ, but our basic human rights are universal.

Hambrick, Ferreira & Henderson: Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect

We Need to Reform Multiculturalism | The Prince Arthur Herald

Group versus individual identity:

Growing up in a partially government-funded ethnic school, I experienced first hand the disadvantages of our current multicultural policies. Being put in an ethnic school by my parents not only kept me isolated from mainstream society but also limited my opportunities, hindered my self-expression and restricted my freedom of conscious. Looking back, I believe I, just like any other child in this country, had the right to grow and prosper in a diverse educational setting, free of cultural and religious biases. I am convinced that it was the glamorization of our ‘cultural mosaic’ which led my parents, just like many other immigrant parents, to put their child in an ethnic school – because a country which promotes itself as a ‘cultural mosaic’ necessitates the retainment of the ancestral cultures of its people.

I truly believe that if we want to build a country that has equal opportunity and is real in diversity, we need to reform multiculturalism, drop our obsession with this so called ‘cultural mosaic’ and start welcoming newcomers as individuals first, and not as clusters of cultures. We have to take a balanced approach where we neither assimilate newcomers nor encourage them to keep their ancestral culture. Let’s opt for multi-individualism instead of multi-culturalism. If we truly believe diversity to be a strength, then we must believe that the diversity of individuals is stronger than the diversity of cultures, for individuals outnumber cultures. Clinging to the ‘cultural mosaic’ as a social model is outdated and will only result in pseudo-diversity and oppression because in reality, Canada has thirty-five million ‘cultures’, not two-hundred.

Agree with him on the need for common institutions like public education and more emphasis on bringing people together (one of Kenney’s changes and emphasis on integration and interaction, while respecting the individual and group heritage).

Much of this is happening anyway in our larger centres, with slow but steady growth in mixed unions being one manifestation.

We Need to Reform Multiculturalism | The Prince Arthur Herald.

Hong Kong press scorn Canada’s backdoor wealthy immigrant scheme

More on the abuse of the immigrant investor program. Nothing new (see Martin Collacott: The citizenship fire sale – National PostUnder new rules, rich Chinese should learn French if they want to move to Canada | South China Morning Post) but confirmation of bad and naive program design, led more by the political level of previous governments rather than evidence-based from the bureaucracy:

Most of the 30,000 rich Chinese who have recently moved to British Columbia told authorities they would settle elsewhere in Canada, with the deception costing the province access to billions of dollars in loans.

An investigation by the South China Morning Post revealed the widespread illicit practice, which is demonstrated in a huge discrepancy between approval and arrival numbers of Chinese in BC under the Immigrant Investor Programme IIP. The Post’s revelations come as Ottawa prepares to unveil a wealth migration scheme to replace the federal IIP, which was axed in June.

The huge influx of rich Chinese is already a hotly debated issue in Vancouver, which has seen property prices soar.From 2005 to 2012, a total of 29,764 rich Chinese, mostly from the mainland but also from Taiwan and Hong Kong, are known to have moved to BC under the program, which required applicants to loan Canada C$800,000 HK$5.54 million per family and have minimum assets of C$1.6 million.

Yet in the same period, only 13,872 certificates of permanent residency were issued to applicants from greater China who nominated BC as their intended destination.

Ian Young found that 53 per cent of the 29,764 investor immigrants from the mainland, Hong Kong or Taiwan who activated their permanent residency in British Columbia from 2005 to 2012 did so after telling authorities they would live in a different province.

This suggests at least 53 per cent of all Chinese known to have settled in BC under the IIP said they planned to live elsewhere.

Hong Kong press scorn Canada’s backdoor wealthy immigrant scheme | Vancouver Sun.

Radicalization, the Loss of Canadian Innocence and the Need for Perspective

With the two killings this week of Canadian soldiers, one by Martin Couture-Rouleau’s running over soldiers in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, the other by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and his the attack on the War Memorial and Parliament Hill.

Surreal morning for me as I was downtown for meetings, about 8 blocks away from the Hill, learning about the shootings from TV monitors, along with others glued to TV monitors following developments. Felt very much, albeit on a much smaller scale, when I was in LA during the 911 attacks.

Some common points in recent commentary.

A note of caution on over-reacting and the need to maintain balance between freedom, access, and security. John Ivison: In response to Quebec terror attack we must remember a healthy balance between security and freedom, a point echoed by Andrew Coyne in Andrew Coyne: We can’t stop every little terror attack, so let’s brace ourselves and adapt where he recommends, not “a panicky search for false assurances, nor even defiance, but a collective insouciance.” Martin Regg Cohn praises the Ontario political leaders for keeping to the normal Parliamentary schedule in The democratic show must go on: Cohn.

While there was universal praise, and deservedly so, for Parliament’s Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, both for his quick and efficient handling of the attack as well as his philosophy of keeping Parliament a public space, Michael Den Tandt savages the overall handling of the attack in Michael Den Tandt: Ottawa shooting shows Canadian capital’s utter lack of readiness, and how information was not communicated. Haroon Siddiqui makes similar, but less well argued points, in Killings of two soldiers raise troubling questions: Siddiqui.

Margaret Wente takes the opposite tack, in an almost boosterish tone, contrary to much of the reporting, argues that Canadians will not change and that the attack was handled calmly and without hysteria in  Terrorists don’t have a chance in this country. Joe Warmington of The Toronto Sun takes the opposite tack in Canada will never be the same, as does Ian MacLeod in The Ottawa Citizen, in Analysis: Effects on Ottawa will be lasting and far-reaching (with video).

Also in the Post, which generally has some of the strongest reporting in this area, Tom Blackwell, their health reporter, reports on the “lone wolf” phenomenon and some of the factors that may result in some being open to radicalization in ‘Rhetoric and bluster’: Was attack on soldiers really terrorism, or just the violent act of a disturbed man? The Globe has a good profile on Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the War Memorial and Parliament Hill in Suspected killer in Ottawa shootings had a disturbing side, that reinforces some of these points.

From La Presse, a report on the local mosque in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and what appears to be a very conservative Imam in terms of social teachings but no indication that he preached violence, or whether Couture-Rouleau went to the mosque regularly (seems he was most active on social media) in Un imam controversé à Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.

Listening to the RCMP outline what they did and what they could do, particularly in the case of Couture-Rouleau (as of writing not as fulsome an account for Zehaf-Bibeau) hard to see that any of the Government’s recent or planned initiatives would have made a difference. The RCMP monitored him, spoke to friends and families who shared their well-founded worries, confiscated his passport but as the RCMP officer at the press conference said, “We couldn’t arrest someone for having radical thoughts, it’s not a crime in Canada.”

Couture-Rouleau, like Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, were both born in Canada. Couture-Rouleau was not a dual-national and would not be subject, had he lived, for citizenship revocation. It is unclear whether Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, given his father was Libyan in origin, would be entitled to Libyan citizenship and thus theoretically subject to revocation.

And while tragedies for the families and friends of the soldiers killed, and (another) reminder that we have extremists among us, both reassuring and worrying that both of these appear to be “lone wolf” attacks rather than groups and more “sophisticated” plans and conspiracies that could result in significantly more casualities.

I tend to be between Wente and Warmington: no, not everything has changed but neither has everything remained the same. Our political leaders, of all stripes, as well as the media and others, will play a role in ensuring, or not, that we retain perspective and balance.


ICYMI: CSIS has tabs on radicalized Canadians who have fought abroad

Good analysis of the challenges in knowing the numbers and the nature of radicalized Canadians:

“When we’re talking about 80 returnees, we’re not talking about 80 people who have fought in Iraq and Syria, and we’re not necessarily talking about people who were directly involved in planning terrorist activities,” Coulombe told the committee. “We have Canadians in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Yemen, in Lebanon, in the Sahel, in the Maghreb, who are involved in terrorist-related activities. But it could be fundraising, could be propaganda, so I don’t want people to believe that we have 80 returnees who are hard fighters in Iraq and Syria, because that is not the picture we have at the moment.”

CSIS has tabs on radicalized Canadians who have fought abroad.

Sparks fly between neighbours over Diwali fireworks

Not surprising to see such tensions emerge:

While the 2006 amendment was a symbolic tip of the hat to a group of the city’s religious minorities, the new permit rule makes it nearly impossible for residents to use fireworks legally.

At one of the pop-up locations of Phatboy Fireworks in South Brampton – a children’s clothing store with several temporary shelves of Roman candles and multi-shot firework “cakes” at the front – supervisor Surjit Chokar is required to give customers flyers produced by the city that specify that fireworks can be discharged only on lots that are at least 18 metres wide. The city received 675 applications for Diwali fireworks permits this year, only 88 of which were approved. Most applications were rejected because residents’ lots didn’t meet the width requirement, a city spokesperson said.

“I didn’t agree to that part of the bylaw at all,” Mr. Sprovieri said, referring to the 18-metre rule. “I thought that was a ridiculous number and it didn’t give all the people an equal opportunity to enjoy all festivities.”

Revellers looking to celebrate in bigger spaces are also out of luck: fireworks are banned on streets, sidewalks, school yards and parks. But at Mr. Chokar’s store, learning the fine print of the bylaw hasn’t deterred residents from carrying on with their purchases.

“They’re not scared, either,” he said. “Most of the time people call, the police come. But they just give you a warning, they don’t give you a ticket. Because they know everyone’s doing it.”

Before it became legal to sell Diwali fireworks, residents simply bought them from those who were selling them illegally in ethnic supermarkets, video stores and off the backs of trucks.

Despite the massive volume of complaints the city receives, only four people were charged last Diwali for fireworks bylaw infractions. And while the city spent eight times as much money on fireworks patrols on Diwali in 2013 as it did on Victoria Day, total expenditure still only amounted to $16,116.

The perceived lack of teeth on the bylaw frustrates Vee Papadimos, who campaigned in 2011 for an all-out ban on personal fireworks. That year on Diwali, Mr. Papadimos’s front door was hit by a neighbour’s firework. Beyond personal safety, the use of fireworks – particularly on Diwali – also brings late-night cacophony to residential neighbourhoods and leaves behind a trail of garbage in the morning, Mr. Papadimos said.

“Why does it happen on Diwali and why does it not happen on Canada Day?” he asked. “It seems that – and again, not being biased and prejudiced – it’s basically, ‘It’s my culture, it’s my scene, it’s my time to celebrate. I will do whatever the hell I want and it’s too bad and you have to deal with it.’”

Seems like some opportunities for more realistic regulations and messaging on the need for responsible use (i.e., clean up the waste).

Sparks fly between neighbours over Diwali fireworks – The Globe and Mail.

Barbara Kay: Chinese signs, native ‘medicine,’ niqabbed women — a busy week on the multicultural front

Barbara Kay on the niqab issue and citizenship:

Finally, there is our old friend, the niqab, back in the news, with Pakistani-Canadian Mississauga, Ont. resident Zunera Ishaq suing the federal government because the Conservatives’ ban on veiled oath-taking in citizenship ceremonies allegedly violates her Charter right to religious accommodation. (She withdrew from such a ceremony on that account.)

Yawn. Can we please once and for all jettison the false belief that Muslim women are required by Islamic doctrine to wear the niqab? It is a cultural custom observed only in the most tribal and misogynistic of Islamic societies. The question has been put to, and answered, by a plethora of Islamic scholars. And if some niqab-wearers remain ignorant of their own religion’s demands, that’s their problem, not ours. The general timidity amongst pundits to “go there” is irksome.

What a pleasure it therefore was to read in a recent Maclean’s interview the bracingly commonsensical words on this subject from Quebec premier Philippe Couillard. While dismissing the PQ’s contentious Charter of Values, whose sweeping proscriptions of religious symbols helped to bring that party down last April, Couillard explained that the niqab is a case apart from mere crosses, kippahs and hijabs: “Certain principles have to be clarified. One is the question of the face. I think this is a line in the sand for many Quebecers and Canadians: That if you’re going to give services or receive services, your face should be uncovered. That’s about all we’re going to do, and frankly all that needs to be done.” Hear, hear.

While I agree with her praise of Premier Couillard, the issue is not whether or not the niqab is required or not by Islam or whether the belief that it is sincere or not.

Rather, is it acceptable for a niqabi to give or receive government services, take the citizenship oath, obtain a driver’s licence or passport etc, in the context of Canadian society and integration?

Barbara Kay: Chinese signs, native ‘medicine,’ niqabbed women — a busy week on the multicultural front

The Trouble With Religion – Reza Aslan

Reza Aslan on scripture and interpretation is shaped by values:

This is the thing — it’s not that you can interpret away problematic parts of a scripture. It’s that the scriptures are inundated with conflicting sentiments about almost every subject. In other words, the same Torah that tells Jews to love their neighbor also tells them to kill every single man, woman, and child who doesn’t worship Yahweh. The same Jesus who told his disciples to give away their cloaks to the needy also told them to sell their cloaks and buy swords. The same Quran that tells believers if you kill a single individual, it’s as though you’ve killed all of humanity, also tells them to slay every idolater wherever you find them.

So, how do you, as an individual, confront that text? It’s so basic, a child can understand: The way that you would give credence or emphasis to one verse as opposed to the other has everything to do with who you are. That’s why they have to sort of constantly go back to this notion of an almost comical lack of sophistication in the conversations that we are having about religion. And to me, there’s a shocking inability to understand what, as I say, a child would understand, which is that religions are neither peaceful nor violent, neither pluralistic nor misogynistic — people are peaceful, violent, pluralistic, or misogynistic, and you bring to your religion what you yourself already believe.

The Trouble With Religion « The Dish.


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