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The Commons: ‘Unacceptable, extreme, odious’


 

But enough about the government, what shall we do with Roméo Dallaire?

The Scene. Making use of her allotted time before Question Period, Marlene Jennings chose to publicly enunciate all the ways in which Roméo Dallaire and Jason Kenney are quite unlike each other.

“Mr. Speaker, Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire holds the Order of Canada, the Order of Military Merit, Ordre national du Québec, the Meritorious Service Cross and the Canadian Forces’ decorations,” she began. “The Secretary of State for Multiculturalism does not.”

“General Dallaire graduated with a bachelor of science from Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean and was commissioned into the Canadian armed forces. The Secretary of State did not earn a degree and did not serve in the Canadian armed forces.

“General Dallaire has a school named after him in Winnipeg and a street named after him in Calgary. The Secretary of State does not.

“General Dallaire holds the Pearson Peace Medal. The Secretary of State does not.

“General Dallaire is an officer in the highest American military decoration for foreigners, the Legion of Merit of the United States. The Secretary of State is not.”

And so on.

“You’re defending him!? You’re defending that?!” cried John Baird as Jennings spoke. “You’re defending those comments?!”

When the Liberal was through, her friends in caucus rose and applauded. The Environment Minister offered a wagging thumb down. “That’s disgraceful!” he concluded.

The Speaker then called on young Tory Pierre Poilievre to stand. Canada’s highest-ranking student politician has in recent weeks fashioned himself an expert on Canadian electoral law. And apparently in his free time, he was becoming similarly schooled in the fraught ethics of international conflict and terrorism. Quite a mind, that one.

“Mr. Speaker, Omar Khadr is a believed terrorist and Taliban fighter. He is charged with throwing a grenade and killing a medic. Fighting along with the same Taliban terrorists that are killing our troops is an attack against us all,” he began. “Yesterday a Liberal senator compared the Canadian government to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The secretary of state did not.

“He also suggested that Canada’s refusal to bring Khadr to this country is just as bad as strapping explosives onto a handicapped girl and sending her to blow up civilians. This is the kind of scorching rhetoric that one would expect from the Khadr family. To see it adopted by a Liberal senator is truly shocking.”

“Hear! Hear!” Baird yelped when Poilievre finished. “Way to go, Skippy!”

The topic for today, in case you missed it in all this, was to what degree this government has embarrassed Canada on the international stage.

The Liberals are quite adamant that the Prime Minister has made a right mess of things—the opposition pointing to the general existence of Maxime Bernier as evidence. The Conservatives counter that their haplessness has done relatively little harm. And, hey, what about that Dallaire fellow?

The old general, a witness to the sort of evil few others could even begin to think about imagining, was trying the other day to make a point about the rule of law. Kenney countered with the most juvenile (and mythical) of analogies. And Dallaire made the mistake of trying to take the Secretary of State seriously.

Next thing anyone knew, one of the most decorated soldiers in Canadian history was being likened, by a senior member of this government no less, to a “wacky protestor.” Classy place, this.

But silly enough could not be left alone, of course. So after some questions about Burma and the United Nations and the economy and gas prices and the Finance Minister’s speechwriters, the Conservatives sent obedient backbencher Mike Wallace to his feet with a carefully scripted question.

“Mr. Speaker, yesterday at the House of Commons subcommittee on international human rights, a Liberal senator said the Canadian government was morally equivalent to al-Qaeda and the Taliban for not seeking the immediate release of Omar Khadr. Offered several opportunities to retract his remarks, the Liberal senator doubled down and repeated them,” Wallace read ably. “Does the Secretary of State for Canadian Identity think the senator’s comments will affect Canada’s reputation on the world stage?”

Odd, that “doubled down” reference matches exactly something Mr. Kenney said yesterday. Coincidence surely.

Anyway, up came Kenney, flipping the switch on his moral indignation.

“Mr. Speaker, I am afraid it might,” he said, surely fighting back tears. “I find and am sure that all Canadians find these remarks unacceptable, extreme, odious and demanding of an immediate apology from that senator and from his leader.”

Looking terribly serious, he returned to his seat and signaled for one of the Parliamentary pages to refill his water glass. Then Gordon O’Connor, the much-manhandled former defence minister, turned around to speak with him. After a moment, the two shared a good laugh.

The Stats. United Nations, seven questions. The economy and the Foreign Affairs Minister, four questions each. Burma, gas prices, the Finance Minister, election financing, ethics, labour, municipalities, Quebec and the military, two questions each. Omar Khadr, Nova Scotia and the North, one question each.

Stephen Harper and Lawrence Cannon, six answers each. Maxime Bernier, five answers. Jean-Pierre Blackburn, four answers. Peter Van Loan, three answers. John Baird, James Moore, David Emerson and Laurie Hawn, two answers each. Pierre Poilievre, Jason Kenney, Loyola Hearn and Gary Lunn, one answer each.


 

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