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Andrew Scheer, in his decision to remove MP Michael Cooper from the Justice Committee in Parliament, appears to have favoured feelings over facts.
“Reading the name and quoting the words of the Christchurch shooter, especially when directed at a Muslim witness during a parliamentary hearing, is insensitive and unacceptable,” the Conservative Party leader announced on Twitter Saturday.
“Mr. Cooper has apologized. I accept his apology and I consider the matter closed.”
At last Tuesday’s Justice committee hearings about tackling ‘online hate’, Cooper challenged a witness who noted that the murderer who shot six people at a Québec mosque in January 2017 had an interest in “conservative commentators”.
“I take great umbrage with your defamatory comments to try to link conservatism with violent and extremist attacks,” said Cooper. “They have no foundation, they’re defamatory and they diminish your credibility as a witness.”
During his opening statement, Faisal Khan Suri, Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council president, cited Alexandre Bissonnette’s search-engine preferences that were reported to include conservative U.S. pundit Ben Shapiro and English Youtuber Paul Joseph Watson, among others.
And like all the witnesses who presented at this session, Suri wants the government to resurrect Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which targeted material “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt” until it was repealed in 2013.
In 2006, Section 13 was used to drag publisher and conservative gadfly Ezra Levant before a kangaroo tribunal to explain why his now defunct Western Standard magazine re-published the controversial Danish cartoons of Muhammad.
Maclean’s magazine and conservative author Mark Steyn faced similar Section 13 woes when the magazine published an excerpt from Steyn’s book America Alone. Nevertheless, Suri believes it could prevent future mass shootings and violence similarly targeted at minority communities.
“The evidence from Bissonnette’s computer showed he repetitively sought content about anti- immigrant, alt-right and conservative commentators, mass murderers, U.S. President Donald Trump, and about the arrival of Muslim immigrants in Quebec,” Suri told the Justice committee.
The AMPAC president also noted the October 2018 Tree Of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, as well as the March 2019 killings at two mosques in New Zealand, were all horrific products of “alt-right online networks”.
“In March 2019, a lone gunman armed with semi-automatic weapons burst into the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand,” Suri continued. “This white nationalist, in what was a gruesome terrorist attack, was broadcasted live on Facebook and Twitter while 51 worshippers were killed.”
When it came time for Cooper to question Suri and other witnesses, the MP read into the committee record a portion of Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant’s 74-page manifesto.
“He stated, ‘conservatism is corporatism in disguise, I want no part of it’; ‘The nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China,’” said Cooper. “I certainly wouldn’t attempt to link Bernie Sanders to the individual who shot up Republican members of Congress and nearly fatally killed Congressman Scalise, so you should be ashamed.”
In addition to revisiting Section 13, the Justice committee hearings have elicited another common theme – that hateful online content is a driving factor of associated real-world events, rather than just one of many extenuating factors. Given such a claims, not a single behavioural scientist has been invited to corroborate, refute, or temper the claims.
Asked about this lack of expertise, Justice Committee chair Anthony Housefather told The Post Millennial that the selection of witnesses were up to committee members and “chosen proportionately” based on party representation.
“Each party determined that its witnesses were qualified to speak to the subject,” writes Housefather in an email. “We will have close to 50 witnesses and some are certainly academics.”
Scheer did not respond to TPM queries on who would replace Cooper and why the Conservative leader bowed to pressure by special interest groups who demanded his removal from the committee.
These same groups are now demanding that Scheer boot Cooper from the Conservative caucus.