OTTAWA—If you are a member of a marginalized community in Canada, the Conservatives have trolled you over the last couple of weeks with the Justice Committee’s devolution into Trumpian Theatre under the guise of tackling online hate speech.
On Tuesday, May 28, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights held one hearing of many on online hate. During the testimony of witness, Faisal Khan Suri, president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, shared what is a well-known fact: “In January 2017, the Québec City mosque killer, Alexandre Bissonnette, gunned down six Muslim men in execution style when he came into the mosque with two guns and fired more than 800 rounds. The evidence from Bissonnette’s computer showed he repetitively sought content about anti-immigrant, alt-right and conservative commentators; mass murderers; U.S. President Donald Trump; and the arrival of Muslim immigrants in Quebec.”
This is not controversial, it’s a fact. However, in Trumpian Theatre, facts are fake and conservatism is being attacked by lefties with an agenda to destroy 1950s civilization as we know it. Performative victimization is the motif, and the show requires a Conservative MP to star in this performance like Keanu Reeves playing Hamlet—like his career depended on it.
Enter Michael Cooper, stage right. “First of all, Mr. Suri, I take great umbrage with your defamatory comments to try to link conservatism with violent and extremist attacks. They have no foundation. They’re defamatory and they diminish your credibility as a witness.” (You know someone’s stroking their plumage when they use the word “umbrage.”) He then proceeded to read into the record a part of the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto to a Muslim man.
Let this sink in: a white, Conservative MP introduced online hate from someone who murdered 50 people in the worse hate crime in New Zealand’s history, into the record to berate a Muslim man’s testimony about online hate. This is what white supremacy looks like. The Justice Committee (with Conservative members abstaining) has since voted to remove Cooper’s words from the day’s record. Though he initially stood by his statements that Suri’s testimony was “deeply offensive,” Cooper later apologized.
Not to be outdone by that episode, the Conservatives decided to continue this shitshow by inviting Lindsay Shepherd, Mark Steyn, and John Robson as witnesses in the persecution parade under the guise of defending free speech—only the three people they invited are not exactly paragons of online virtue and respect.
Lindsay Shepherd gained notoriety after being hauled on the carpet by her superviser at Wilfrid Laurier University following complaints from students after she showed clips of controversial psychologist Jordan Peterson in class.
While she was cleared of wrongdoing by the school, Shepherd has been capitalizing on her newly acquired free-speech warrior bona fides, most recently appearing on the YouTube channel of far-right personality Jean-François Gariépy, in a discussion touching on white genocide and population replacement theories, where she muses, “Are whites becoming a minority in Canada?” Yes.”
Mark Steyn frequently bloviates about the Islamification of the West, writing “if you can’t outbreed the enemy, cull ’em.”
The public audience and media were fixated. Despite 59 witnesses appearing before the Justice Committee to testify on issues on online hate-—including testimony of real physical and psychological harm—only these three, whose controversial conduct often spurs online hate, were given oxygen in the wider media accounts of the study.
All three of these witnesses, despite being white supremacy adjacent, have written for mainstream Canadian media publications: Shepherd and Steyn for Maclean’s, Robson for the National Post. So much for persecution.
We don’t condone racism in this country, we just perpetuate it with the dexterity of a Japanese chef wielding his Ginsu knife. And it cuts just as deep.
To top it off, these theatrics played out in the shadow of the release of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report, which sparked a wildly racist backlash online and across mainstream media, targeting Indigenous people who dared to label the atrocities they experience daily—case in point.
Andrew Scheer has gone through great pains to tell Canadians that his party abhors racism, intolerance, and extremism, and to let us know he means business, he removed Michael Cooper from the Justice Committee. However, Cooper remains deputy justice critic. And come October, Scheer will be asking Canadians, not only for their vote, but for their trust that he can keep Indigenous people, Canadians of colour, LGBTQ2S Canadians, and religious minorities safe from members of his own party.
Perhaps he’s just not ready.
Erica Ifill and Amy Kishek are co-hosts of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.
The Hill Times