While the Alberta conservatives are promoting decorum in the provincial legislature, federal St. Albert-Edmonton MP Michael Cooper appears to have taken the opposite approach.
On Tuesday, our firecracker MP read into parliamentary record part of a mass murderer's manifesto while accusing a committee witness of "defaming" conservatism during a discussion about how to fight online hate.
The purpose of Cooper's action was to discredit Faisal Khan Suri, the president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, during a Justice Committee session on online hate where Suri described the internet history of Quebec mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette. Suri referenced the activity of "right-wing extremist groups" on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as the alt-right sympathies of Bissonnette and suspected Pittsburgh synagogue shooter Robert Bowers. Cooper took exception to the inference.
"You should be ashamed," Cooper told Suri, shortly before the committee erupted in an uproar over his comments.
Just before that comment, Cooper quoted from a 74-page document written by Christchurch mass shooting suspect Brenton Tarrant – in which Tarrant described conservatism as "corporatism in disguise" and said his views aligned closest with the People's Republic of China – ostensibly in an effort to prove hate crimes are committed by non-conservative extremists as well. The irony of reading part of a hateful document in order to defend conservative values appeared to be lost on Cooper. The question of why Cooper had parts of that document so close at hand for Suri's presentation remains unanswered, as Cooper's response to the Gazette's request for comment was simply that his statement speaks for itself.
For an MP who has stood strongly on other issues, including the SNC-Lavalin scandal and securing mental health supports for jurors, Cooper's derailing of this committee discussion was unfortunate, as was his decision to engage in whataboutism instead of discussing Suri's actual suggestions for how we should regulate social media to combat online groups that foment extremism.
Hate and extremism are nonpartisan in that they afflict all political sides, and they must be fought wherever they are found. If we are to have an honest discussion about online hate in Canada, we cannot ignore the motives of mass murderers like Alexandre Bissonnette, who killed six people in a Quebec City mosque because he was angry about Canada taking more refugees.
The presenter who followed Suri, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies president Avi Benlolo, said it best: sixty per cent of Canadians have reported seeing hate speech on social media. That means online hate speech is so prevalent, millions of Canadians have witnessed it. That is the issue that needs to be addressed, not which side of the political spectrum hate comes from.
If we really want to crack down on online hate, we cannot cherry-pick what hate to fight or which mass murderer's views to denounce. We must denounce them all.