This week Canadians were shocked and saddened to learn of the brutal and senseless killing of twelve French citizens in a terrorist attack. Of the twelve victims, ten were journalists and two were police officers. Freedom of the press and as well as law and order are two cherished aspects of any just and democratic society. It has been suggested that these murders were planned well in advance and in retaliation to satirical cartoons involving Islam. In turn a debate has ensued from the decision by some media organizations, including the CBC, to refuse to show some of these cartoons to Canadians, out of concern they may be offensive to some.
Since this incident occurred I have heard a large outpour of various comments and concerns from citizens in Okanagan-Coquihalla and elsewhere including some suggested courses of action for Government. I would like to respond to some of the most commonly raised areas of concern.
The subject of the cartoons in question potentially being censored is also a concern I share. Canada, including the CBC, has long had a tradition of satire. Well known CBC shows such as the Rick Mercer Report, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the Royal Canadian Air Farce and others have long used satire to poke comedic fun at many aspects of Canadian life, culture and our identity. It is in my view concerning if our national broadcaster arbitrarily decides that some faiths can be subject to comedic interpretation, whereas others are exempt or otherwise deemed to be “off limits". It can, in effect create division and runs contrary to many of the values we hold dear, which leads to the second and larger point.
We must never forget our successes as a country, that we have built a united and inclusive Canada. Immigration and integration has long been the foundation that has helped to build Canada and while we respect and share great diversity and many different cultures we also have our own unique identity as Canadians. Those who seek to do us harm threaten our unity. Division and exclusion are the weapons of those radicalized in extremist movements, who seek to separate civilized and democratic societies from the values they cherish to instead instil fear and create controls that limit freedom. Freedom, equality and democracy are the greatest threats to extremists and radicalized movements who fear these principles to such an extent they will brutally execute un-armed reporters, aid workers and those who are most vulnerable including women and children. Canada has always stood against tyranny and to protect the rights and freedoms of those who are most vulnerable. I believe these principles are part of what it means to be Canadian. Throughout our history and to this very day we do not turn our back and expect others to make these sacrifices.
There will be those who will disagree with my comments this week as should be expected in any open, free democratic society. This week more than any other, we should embrace our right to disagree and to debate without fear of reprisal or repercussion. However let us also never forget that what makes us stronger as a country is our ability to stand together united as Canadians. The darkest moments of our past have always been when segments of our society have been isolated and excluded from others. A situation that still exists in some countries to this day and can lead to further conflict. We are a nation united and as Canadians we will stand together in our shared freedoms and democracy while we continue to build a stronger Canada. I welcome your comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.