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Brad Wall's call to block refugees from Syria is just more of the same old conservative wedge politics

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Brad Wall

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In light of the inevitably angry and emotional response to the Paris terror attacks on Friday the 13th, for which the so-called Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq has taken credit, concern among some citizens about the Trudeau Government's plan to bring Syrian refugees to Canada is easy to understand.

But cynical exploitation of this issue for partisan ends by conservative politicians like Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who certainly knows better, is something else entirely -- deeply mischievous in the darkest sense of that word.

There's hardly a group of immigrants or refugees on earth less likely to bring sympathy for IS to Canada than families who have been the victims of the depredations wreaked by the vicious terrorists on their home country

As Calgary Catholic Immigration Society CEO Fairborz Birjandian pointed out in an interview with the CBC, if potential terrorists enter Canada from other countries -- and there are bound to be some, for that is the price we pay for living in an interconnected world -- they are far more likely to arrive with visas as students, tourists or people doing business. Moreover, some potential religious terrorists here in Canada are certain to be home grown, and not all of those will be members of the same religion.

As noted, Wall and other conservative politicians who wish to exploit the tragedy in Paris for partisan reasons are well enough informed to understand the truth of this perfectly well.

Wall, it is said here, is practicing the same kind of politics of division as did former prime minister Stephen Harper in the lead up to the October 19 federal election, and as the gaggle of Republican governors south of the Medicine Line who say their states will refuse to take refugees from the violence in Syria, as is the generous tradition in both the United States and Canada.

"We are working on measures to ensure... that Texans will be kept safe from those refugees," Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott said Monday, although his time would be better spent working on measures to keep the refugees safe from heavily armed Texan civilians through sensible gun-control measures. But, whatever, that's a problem for another country.

Back here in Canada, though, it can hardly be denied that conservative politicians like Wall and Harper draw their inspiration and wedge strategies from the Republicans south of the border, so none of this should surprise us.

With the legal requirement for a Saskatchewan provincial election actually overdue under the province's fixed-election-date law, but delayed because of the timing of the federal election that saw Justin Trudeau elected prime minister, as well as with unrealistic federal ambitions presumably burning in Wall's breast after the fall of Harper, the mid-Prairie premier obviously sees a need to dip into the deep pool of divisiveness and resentment that nowadays drives the Canadian conservative movement.

What a contrast are Wall's wedge politics compared to the generous positions taken on the same issue by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, a centrist New Democrat, and B.C. premier Christy Clark, a centre-right Liberal.

Canada needs to do its part and to do it safely, and Alberta is ready to make a positive contribution to that national effort, Notley said on Monday.

Syrian refugees "have been fleeing this kind of terror for months and months and months and I think we need to move forward on the basis of humanity, not on the basis of fear," Alberta's premier told reporters.

"When I saw what happened in Paris, what happened in Beirut, I thought about the families, I thought about the victims," Notley said. "I thought about their kids and as I've said, the world is a small place and we need to be able to reach out to each other where we can."

"We're looking forward to welcoming those refugees," said Clark, who like Notley agreed the safety of Canadians must be paramount in the process of approving refugees.

Meanwhile, online agitators with conservative connections have continued since Friday to do their best to stir up anti-refugee sentiments.

Unfortunately, these efforts appear to have had some success, with attacks and abuse in Canadian cities aimed at Muslim women identifiable because they were wearing headscarves, as well as a break-in and an arson attack at mosques in Calgary and Peterborough, Ontario. The Calgary break-in took place while Calgary Muslims gathered at a vigil in the city's downtown to condemn the attacks in France and pay their respects to the victims.

Presumably Wall, who is alleged to be the Mr. Congeniality of Canadian politics, will keep this kind of thing up until the Saskatchewan election, which has been re-scheduled under the province's fixed-election-date law to take place on April 4, 2016.

It's probably too much to hope that the inexplicably popular Wall will be defeated as a result, but you never know -- stranger things have happened in Canada, and as recently as October 19 and May 5!

+ + +

What's the real deal with U.S. reluctance to smash IS?

A New York Times report yesterday strongly suggests the United States won't give up its dream of using the Islamic State to force regime change in Syria.

French President François Hollande "took steps to shore up global support for what he has called a war to annihilate the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL," the Times reported. "He met with Secretary of State John Kerry, who expressed sympathy but reiterated the Obama Administration's view that the group will not be destroyed until Syria's embattled president, Bashar al-Assad, leaves power." (Emphasis added.)

The Times said Hollande will visit Washington next week in an effort to change the mind of the U.S. Administration.

Perhaps this lukewarm American reaction explains how a jihadi group with no air support and very little state infrastructure could manage to seize and hold vast areas of land in the Middle East, not to mention launch sophisticated operations in Western Europe that normally would require the support of a state security apparatus.

Washington's reluctance to abandon the use of jihadi radicals to topple the Assad Regime may also explain why the year-long Western bombing campaign has borne so little fruit -- an excellent reason for the Royal Canadian Air Force to have nothing more to do with it as long as the U.S. is running the show.

Now that the Paris attacks have spurred the French to get serious about rolling up IS, as the Russians already were, one wonders if the United States stand by and let France and Russia deal with the terror group, or if it will take covert measures to ensure it survives to menace the Assad Government.

On Monday at the G20 meeting in Turkey, Russian President Vladimir Putin said intelligence data from his country shows IS has received financing from individuals in 40 countries, including members of the G20 largest economies, which he didn't publicly identify.

One would think this claim would be a major news story, but so far not a single mainstream media outlet in the entire West appears to have reported it!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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