Section 83.01 of the Criminal Code defines terrorism as an act committed “in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause” with the intention of intimidating the public “[w]ith regard to its security, including its economic security, or compelling a person, a government or a domestic or an international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act.”
Despite this very clear definition, the Canadian government refuses to define as terrorist one of the worst mass casualty terrorist attacks ever committed on Canadian soil. When Marc Lepine yelled out, “I hate feminists,” and divided women from men as he began his terrorist shooting rampage on December 6, 1989, the ideological intimidation message of the Montreal Massacre was clear: women did not belong in engineering schools, nor in other parts of male-dominated life, and that those with the audacity to want to live equal lives should be mowed down. At the time, as women’s shelters across the country reported an increase in threats and “you’re next” hate messages, much of the media attempted to dampen down any analysis that linked Lepine’s terrorism to the daily acts of terror experienced by millions of women across this country at the hands of men who say they love them.
It was easier to dismiss him as a madman instead of what he represented: someone “radicalized to violence” by the ideology of misogyny, someone acting out the worst patriarchal lessons with which all young men are indoctrinated. While “radicalization to violence” is a term used by Canada’s state security agencies as they desperately try to pin terrorism peace bonds on young Muslims, it does not apply to the single greatest threat to the national security of over half of the country’s population: male violence against women.
The numbers are staggering: every six days a woman is murdered in Canada, while hundreds of women’s shelters are so full that they must turn away those fleeing intimate terrorism violence. As the April 2016 report Shelter Voices noted:
“It’s rare that a woman will show up on the doorstep of a shelter where it’s a first incident or she hasn’t tried different alternatives…. Women seeking shelter from abuse are often doing so out of a very real sense of terror for the lives and safety of their children and themselves.”
Quarter century of femicide
In 2015, the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses released a report, “1990-2015: 25 Years of Femicide,” which found that 689 women lost their lives to “intimate partner violence” or, as others increasingly label it, “intimate terrorism.” The latest estimates on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women are well over 4,200.
In his book The War on Women, the late author Brian Vallée pointed out that between 2001 and 2006, 101 Canadian soldiers and police officers were killed, with major publicity and public events in response to all of them. During that same period, over 500 Canadian women were murdered. It’s not to take way from the tragic losses of the former group, but rather, a reflection of how little women’s lives matter compared to the aforementioned male-dominated professions.
But despite the daily barrage of patriarchal terrorism committed in our own neighbourhoods, the self-styled feminist government of Justin Trudeau acts in a manner inconsistent with the extent of the crisis. He is so busy running about the country, recording videos about ending violence against women, that he hasn’t had the time to create and implement a national action plan to end violence against women, even though the UN called for Canada, among other nations, to have such a plan in place by 2015. And the piddling amount announced in Budget 2016 for women’s shelters — $89.9 million — is less than 25 per cent of the cost of ONE of the Super Hornet bomber planes he hopes to add to the fleet he can whip out when hanging around with his NATO pals.
Meanwhile, instead of acting on what the Canadian Chief Public Health Officer has recognized in his 2016 report on “domestic violence” as a “staggering” ongoing safety crisis, Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale released “The 2016 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada [which] provides a clear picture of the terrorist threats faced by our country and is part of the Government’s commitment to be open and transparent with Canadians.” While the report is typical of the boilerplate propaganda annually cranked out by agencies like the RCMP and CSIS, which continue to treat Muslims as Canada’s biggest problem, it adds that “Canadians expect their government to take all necessary steps to keep them safe.” But those who die every year from intimate terrorism are not mentioned at all, other than in two sections that express fears about Muslim women becoming “extremist travellers.”
Because of “violent extremists who could be inspired to carry out an attack in Canada,” the report informs us, we now have our very own “National Terrorism Threat Level” system. “The threat level has been unchanged since October 2014; it is MEDIUM, meaning a violent act of terrorism could occur in Canada.”
Goodale says all this is necessary because, although he sees Canada as a relatively safe country, an act of terror “could happen.”
Daily acts of terror not addressed
As the numbers quoted above illustrate, such acts of terrorism occur daily in this country. But instead of treating the epidemic of violence against women with the seriousness it deserves, the phantom menace of “Islamic” terrorism is the preferred priority, with untold billions invested into the very institutions that are hotbeds of the misogynistic ideology that radicalizes men to violence against women.
Indeed, look no further than the RCMP, currently the subject of a massive class-action lawsuit that could rise to well over 1,000 women who currently work for or who were forced to leave Canada’s iconic national police force. While the Mounties apologized in October for acts that included “rape, unwanted sexual touching, physical assault, sexist comments, threats, gender discrimination, harassment and bullying,” no one from within the organization has been charged and held accountable for this systemic regime of terror against female employees.
Also falling under the “protecting national security” portfolio is the War Dept., the subject not only of a landmark study by former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps that identified a core culture of misogyny, but also a Statistics Canada survey that found in late November:
“In the past 12 months, just under 1,000 Regular Force members of the Canadian Armed Forces, or 1.7 per cent, were victims of sexual assault (i.e., sexual attacks, unwanted sexual touching, or sexual activity to which the victim is unable to consent, which occurred in the military workplace or involving military members.)”
Given the low reporting in such surveys, the numbers are likely higher (indeed, the report notes that of those who reported, 49 per cent of women “who were victims of sexual assault in the past 12 months identified their supervisor or someone of a higher rank as the perpetrator.” The survey also found that 79 per cent “of the Regular Force saw, heard, or were personally targeted by sexualized behaviour in the military workplace or involving other military members.”
As with the Mounties, there appears to be no serious effort to address this crisis of male violence within the military’s ranks. And so, it has become the task of courageous individuals such as Glynis Rogers to take the War Dept. to court. Rogers has begun a class-action lawsuit, which she hopes will be the spur to other women to come forward. Rogers reported being “subjected to persistent and systemic gender and sexual-orientation-based discrimination, bullying and harassment by male members, particularly during training. She says female members were called names and treated as being weaker and inferior to male members.”
Rogers told CBC’s As it Happens that she had been sexually assaulted while training in Ontario. “At first, it was very difficult for me to come to terms with it,” she said. “I didn’t want to report the incident because I feared of retaliation from the male member, from other male members, and from my superiors. I thought it would negatively impact my career. And it turns out that the court martial proceedings did have a negative impact on my career.” The man who assaulted her was court martialled, but that was overturned on appeal.
At a local level, police, tasked with protecting and serving have historically failed to be an institution that women could trust when they have been subjected to acts of domestic terrorism — especially when the perpetrators have been police themselves. In Val D’Or, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Quebec, a group of Montreal police were called in to investigate the local police who were the subject of three dozen complaints of violence against Indigenous women; no charges were laid, although one prosecutor said, “The fact that no criminal charges are being laid in some cases doesn’t necessarily mean the alleged events didn’t happen.” While a group of Quebec police officers are suing the news outlet that originally reported the story, a “We Believe You” campaign in support of the women of Val D’or includes a sign-on statement as well as a January 3 rally being organized in Val d’Or to show solidarity.
Ironically, one danger of failing to treat intimate terrorism as the national security threat it poses is reflected in the Australian Lindt Café hostage-taking of 2014 where, as the Good Men Project wrote:
“The headline writers and media pundits outdid each other sounding the bells of the apocalypse. Hidden among all the hyperbolic hysterical journalism was this from the BBC. The police describe their assessment of the attacker Mon Haron Monis: ‘…..he was known to the police, but we decided that he was not a threat.’ The police made this statement despite Mons being on bail for conspiring to stab his ex-wife 17 times and burning her body, despite having more than 40 charges of aggravated sexual assault against him. Who was Mons not a threat to exactly? If domestic violence were taken as seriously in Australia as terrorism, the Lindt Cafe tragedy likely would never have happened. Mons should not have been out on bail! He was a very real threat.”
Trudeau perpetuates misogyny
The structural, institutional violence of misogyny is perpetuated in countless ways by the Trudeau government. No matter how many white ribbons he wears or humbling, tear-duct-opening video statements he delivers, he cannot make up for the fact that his actions are creating conditions that will perpetuate, and not end, the epidemic of terrorism directed at women. Indeed, his approval of the massive tar sands megaprojects Kinder Morgan and Line 3, in addition to the Site C dam and Petronas LNG pipelines in B.C., will inevitably result in increased levels of violence against Indigenous women, as documented in Amnesty International’s report “Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Gender, Indigenous rights, and energy development in northeast British Columbia, Canada.”
Trudeau’s insistence on spending $20 billion on war — with an additional $32-billion outlay for warships and new bombers — comes at the expense of a national affordable housing plan that would provide the kinds of safe spaces that women fleeing domestic terror cannot currently access. And while inaccessible or unaffordable child care continues to play a significant role in the war against women, it is noteworthy that 22,000 free, year-round child-care spaces could open up for the cost of just one of Trudeau’s new Super Hornet bombers.
The Liberals also teamed up with the Conservatives this month to reject a bill that would have assisted those disproportionately affected by poverty — women and children — by requiring “the development and implementation of a national strategy to reduce poverty in Canada and the appointment of an independent poverty reduction commissioner.”
And while Trudeau continues to receive applause around the world for his gender parity cabinet, he voted against a gender equity bill that would have forced political parties to nominate more women as candidates.
Trudeau fails abuse survivor
Last month, Trudeau declared in a video statement that “it takes tremendous courage and resilience to break free from abuse. I stand in solidarity with victims, with survivors, and with families and loved ones.” While it is good to see a leader of his stature make such statements, the rhetoric is empty, especially when it comes to cases like that of MM.
MM — her name subject to a publication ban — is a Canadian citizen fighting extradition to the United States, where she faces multiple charges for having rescued her kids from an abusive father. In 2010, MM’s three preteen children escaped from their father — who at the time had a sole custody order that prevented MM having contact with the children — and sought refuge in an abandoned house, sleeping on a concrete garage floor. Fearful of going to jail if she took the kids in, MM originally rejected their pleas for shelter. But recognizing the children’s increasingly desperate circumstances, MM’s adult daughter from a previous marriage packed her and the kids in a car and drove them to Canada.
MM was arrested two days shy of Christmas in a Quebec women’s shelter, where the RCMP had tracked her down by tracing the children’s Internet log-in passwords. At the time of the arrest, a Mountie acknowledged that the children “expressed their fear of the father.”
Since then, MM’s legal journey has travelled the often oblique world of extradition law. After winning in Quebec Superior Court in 2011 — Madame Justice Carol Cohen dismissed the evidence as “so defective and unreliable that it is not worthy of consideration” — the Harper government appealed on jurisdictional grounds. Last December, the Supreme Court, in a bitterly divided 4-3 decision, upheld the extradition, with the dissenting justices calling the majority’s reasoning “Kafkaesque.”
Writing for the minority, Justice Rosalie Abella pointed out that “the defence of rescuing children to protect them from imminent harm does not exist in Georgia [and] the mother will not be able to raise the defence she would have been able to raise had she been prosecuted in Canada.” This contradiction violates a cornerstone of extradition law, the “double criminality” requirement that the Supreme Court acknowledges is a process that ensures Canada is “not embarrassed by an obligation to extradite a person who would not, according to its own standards, be guilty of acts deserving punishment.”
A public campaign to convince the newly elected Liberals to reconsider the case included MM’s two-week jailhouse hunger strike, which ended on December 23 when freshly minted Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould agreed to examine new information not available to her predecessor.
But even with the extensive new submissions put before her, including personal appeals from MM’s kids as well as expert U.S. opinion on MM’s inability under Georgia law to mount a proper legal defence, Wilson-Raybould said no. MM received the bad news on the same day that the Minister of Justice announced an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
While MM’s lawyers head to the Quebec Court of Appeal in 2017 to judicially review the decision, MM and her youngest children continue to live in the limbo of fear and uncertainty all too familiar to survivors of male violence, one that certainly tests the courage and resilience of which Trudeau speaks.
They continue hoping that Wilson-Raybould will look at the case once more, and refuse MM’s surrender under Section 44 of the Extradition Act, which allows the Minister to reject any request that is “unjust or oppressive having regard to all the relevant circumstances.”
Such circumstances were certainly clear enough to Justice Abella and her two Supreme Court colleagues, who concluded:
“At the end of the day, there is little demonstrable harm to the integrity of our extradition process in finding it to be unjust or oppressive to extradite the mother of young children she rescued, at their request, from their abusive father. The harm, on the other hand, of depriving the children of their mother in these circumstances is profound and, with respect, demonstrably unfair.”
A petition calling on Trudeau to stop the extradition has garnered almost 1,700 names, with comments that reflect the extent of the real domestic terrorism experienced by women across the land. MM’s supporters are calling for holiday-themed emails to be sent to Trudeau and Raybould-Wilson urging them to show the spirit of the season and drop the extradition.
Now THAT would be the act of a feminist government.
Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. ‘national security’ profiling for many years.
Photo: Megara Tegal/flickr
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