On root causes - Macleans.ca

On root causes

Justin Trudeau, Stephen Harper, the NDP and the terrorism debate


Chris Selley wonders how the NDP went from Alexa McDonough’s response to 9/11 to Randall Garrison’s response to Justin Trudeau’s response to the Boston Marathon bombing.

John Geddes explains where Mr. Trudeau went wrong.

So how does Harper’s two-pronged critique apply, as he clearly intended, to Trudeau’s answer in the CBC interview? It’s a long and rather meandering reply. However, I don’t hear Trudeau rationalizing or excusing terror. He does clearly call for an exploration of root causes.

And that part of Trudeau’s answer strikes me as unsettling only because he introduces his interest in causes without first offering the three essential elements that the Prime Minister persuasively tells us must be there in a leader’s response—condemn, pursue, prosecute.

There is a certain meandering to Mr. Trudeau’s answer. Maybe more than was necessary or wise when basically nothing was known about the motives or individuals responsible for the attack. (Here again is a fuller compendium of Mr. Trudeau has said in regards to the Boston Marathon bombing.)

The Internet notes that Peter MacKay used the phrase “root causes” in relation to the Oslo attack by Anders Breivik (though I’m not sure “Peter MacKay said it” is the sort of precedent Mr. Trudeau would want to use as justification).

The basic debate goes back at least as far as September 2001. Here is every use of the phrase “root causes of terrorism” in the House since then. Here is Jason Kenney objecting to “root causes” on September 17, 2001 and here he is again the next day on the same subject.

Somewhat relatedly: In 2002, Jean Chretien seemed to link 9/11 to wealth disparity and Western arrogance. Nine years later, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Stephen Harper was asked about those comments and offered this assessment, in which he dismissed Mr. Chretien’s wealth versus poverty theory and focused on failed states.

Update 10:50pm. Post-script. It seems generally less controversial to invoke the “root causes of crime.” (Maybe because we’ve all decided we know what those are?) But in the case of terrorism the discussion becomes more fraught and complicated, all the more so in the immediate time period after an attack.


On root causes

  1. Perhaps Mr Harper would like to explain Mr McKay then?

    • But if he had said that with a $16 glass of tp funded OJ in his hand he would have been for it…or…mebe not.

  2. I assume a smart guy like Selley has his tongue firmly lodged in his cheek when he describes the Garrison comments as representing the realignment of those pesky lefties on the er, left of the Liberals. It’s so clearly a case of an opportunistic pile on.
    Nice to know the NDP are as high minded as ever. I’d hate to think they might get down in the bear pit and play the politics of opportunism – same’s everyone else.

    • It’s too much work for Selley to track down more than one NDP opinion on the subject. His bloviating is generally not based on balanced studies or responses, so why start now?

      • Nah, Selley isn’t that bad, i think he was just having a little fun.

  3. I’ve been to Boston. It has a lot of connections with the Least Coast.
    But nobody that I ever met there gives a damn about what anybody
    up here thinks about anything. Which is exactly how I feel about what
    anybody in the political game thinks about Boston.
    Can we have a picture of Harper with a chinchilla to make all this
    go away ? Please ?

    • I think I shall write a book and call it: Harper’s Chinchilla.

      • The Longer I’m Chinchillaster, the longer I’m Chinchillister

  4. http://www.macleans.ca/article.jsp?content=n7579464 Pete MacKay CPC Min Defense in Macleans 2011 article re terrorism attack Oslo MacKay; “we need to work together to find the root cause of terrorism” so how bad is Harpers judgement…an internationally broadcast attack against Justine Trudeau for saying the same words? OMG!

  5. “Prime Minister persuasively tells us must be there in a leader’s response—condemn, pursue, prosecute.”

    Was this even Mr. Harper’s first response? Did he heed his own advice? And I think it’s callous to take JT’s answer from the CBC interview and try to equate it to the way a leader would handle the moment if it was for real. Harper has taken Geddes and others for a ride and they don’t even see it.

    And it should read: John Geddes explains where HE THOUGHT Mr. Trudeau went wrong. Because Mr. Trudeau was not wrong and that accusation needs to be put down.

    And Kenney’s gibberish on ‘root causes’ is double speak. He stating that those who would look at the root causes would do so in the middle of an attack.

    “For those who would have us address the root causes, would they have stood in this place in the fall of 1939 when Poland was being attacked and invited us to contemplate the root causes of German aggression and Nazi anti-semitism, the humiliation of Germany in the Versailles treaty or the economic crisis in Weimar Germany, and to address the social and economic inequities as the root cause of Nazi terror?”

    Yeah, Jason, people are going sit in their chair, light their pipe and debate about the causes of the atrocities that are happening to them at that moment.

    • That’s been my response to this nonsense. It’s not an either/or situation. We do have the ability to wonder about the why while we are pursuing and prosecuting the who.

    • Well said. Everything is a zero sum game with Kenney. He really is a revoltingly partisan political animal.

  6. Paul Wells has said that we tend to underestimate people’s ability to see through ads and posturing by parties we do not like.

    May this be true in the case of these attacks on Mr. Trudeau.

  7. . It seems generally less controversial to invoke the “root causes of crime.” (Maybe because we’ve all decided we know what those are?)


    If we know the root causes of crime but not terrorism, should we not spend MORE time worrying about the root causes of the later?

  8. Now that we know the origin of the bombers, Chechnya, we can start looking at “root causes”.

    What a stupid idea. Sorry.

  9. I wonder if all of these “ignore the root causes” people feel the same way about West? I personally want to know what caused that explosion so it won’t be repeated in other large fertilizer facilities (although it’s possible that West is a repeat of a similar explosion that happened in France not long ago).

  10. Excellent analysis and indeed it get’s to the heart of the problem with the young dauphin! Look Harper haters we Tories know that you are frustrated and being driven to the point of lunacy while the PM changes the country slowly but surely past the point of your recognition! We feel for you we really do however when a pretender for the throne of power in a kingdom attempts to use a terrible tragedy for his own political gain as young Turdeau did .. well … gloves come off – there is only and I repeat this folks ONLY one response required immediately after a public display of evil !!!!! Sympathy and compassion for the family, friends and loved ones of the victims and pledge to help and or catch the perpetrator(s)!!!!! – FULL STOP !!!! – that’s it – you do not add, elaborate, explain, rationalize or in any way try to run out the clock so that you get more attention from the media hoping to improve your political fortunes! You just don’t and when you do it starts the process of realizing that though the suit is clean and well pressed it starts to appear empty and this is how it starts – young Turdeau will be good for anothr 6 months to a year and around then the buildup in the media will have finished and then the knives will come out – you see folks main stream media needs the narrative the buildup and then the inevitable fall and of course act 3 the come back (just as his father went through) – I predict now and here that the fall will result in a situation much like this – where all the smarmy self righteous overly melodramatic responses by the young Duaphin will catch up to him big time – this seems to be a common pattern with him!

    • What’s the difference, morally, between a “Harper hater” and a “Trudeau hater”. Just wondering what cognitive dissonance device you use to make this work in your own head.

      • I don’t hate Trudeau at all in fact I signed up and am a supporter :) and I dilgently thumb up everything mentioning liking him and have supported him on several phone polls – thing is no way would I vote for him! I love political fights between real players and am looking forwad to the next election and by the way I am not the only one – several friends have joined me and voted online :)

        • And yet you cavalierly throw around the label “Harper haters” to describe those who are critical of his government. How do you know their attitude toward him is different from yours vis-à-vis Trudeau?

        • Wayne is a paid Conservative operative and admitted as much in May 2011 right after the election on these very boards.

          He is a mindless partisan (is there any other type?)

        • Oh and for the record, I’ve missed you.


          Clearly this Trudeau thing has stirred something up in the Conservative ranks.

  11. We know the root causes of the bombers: radical Islam. Same as the root causes of the London bombings and the Madrid bombings.

    We don’t know the root causes of this blog.