Sunday, July 09, 2017

Anti-Omar Khadr Rally Planned For July 16 on Parliament Hill: An Examination of One of the Organizers

The story that has dominated much of the media cycle during the early days of this month has been the settlement made to Omar Khadr who at 15, was accused of killing American special forces soldier Sgt. Christopher Speer. Khadr was held at Guantanamo for a decade before he was returned to serve the rest of his sentence in Canada. During this time the Supreme Court ruled that the Canadian government's interrogation of Khadr, "offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects." The settlement and apology were as a result of a civil suit Khadr brought against the Canadian government claiming the government had worked with the American government to abuse his rights. He also suggested that his plea agreement was based on his belief that it was the only chance he would have to be transferred back to Canada from Guantanamo and that he had no memory of the firefight that resulted in the death of Sgt. Speer. To be sure, there has been a debate not only about the treatment of someone who would be considered a child soldier, but also whether or not he actually threw the grenade in the first place.

Obviously this story has polarized Canadians. While I agree with the settlement and with Prime Minister Trudeau's justification that the Charter needs to be protect all Canadians, including Khadr whom the Supreme Court ruled had his rights violated, there are a number of people who I normally agree with and whom I respect a great deal who disagree with the settlement. I have had some very good discussions with these individuals about their concerns and while I don't agree, I understand where they are coming from. However there also those who are attempting to use this issue as a cudgel to win political points. Personally, I don't believe Ezra Levant, Andrew Scheer, or the people this blog covers who are apoplectic about the settlement actually give a damn about Sgt. Speer's widow and simply view this as a means of attacking the government. In fact, the rhetoric involved clearly indicates an antipathy towards not only Omar Khadr, but Muslims in general and the virulent Islamophobia that has been a feature of conservative politics since Stephen Harper first began talking about "old stock Canadians" and Kellie Leitch tried to emulate Donald Trump's xenophobia in her failed bid in the Conservative leadership race.

And so it isn't at all surprising to see two extremely partisan Conservative operatives and activists organizing a rally on Parliament Hill for July 16:

I'll get to Georgeanne Burke and Debbie Jodoin in a moment, but some of the initial comments left on the page are as follows:

Considering Khadr was born in Canada, deportation would be difficult, then again....

.... Ms. Burke seems to agree with you.

Both Georganne Burke and Debbie Jodoin are long time, and particularity partisan, Conservative activists and operatives which in and of itself wouldn't warrant discussion on this blog. Jodin was actually a member of Free Dominion, a now defunct conservative webform and occasional nemesis of your's truly, who has been active for at least a little over a decade. In 2005, she organized a protest to demand that Governor-General-designate Michaëlle Jean's appointment be rescinded. In 2010 she organized another protest focusing her attention on then Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty who she planned to run against in the next election. Later she went after Ontario Progressive Conservative President Richard Ciano whom she believed was undermining then party leader Tim Hudak. Jodoin  has since served as a campaign adviser to current PC leader Patrick Brown, a ballot scrutineer for the Maxime Bernier campaign, and was involved with Andre Marin by election effort in which she was featured in a soon deleted tweet in support of then American presidential candidate Donald Trump:

Georganne Burke has a similar background, though she seems to be far more involved in the Conservative Party machine as evidenced by her Facebook profile in which she displays a pretty impressive CV:

Burke, vice-president of the public relations firm the Pathway Group, has played what could be regarded as a prominent role behind the scenes in conservative (and Conservative) politics in Canada for at least a decade. For example she was in the news late last year as supporting Andrew Scheer's ultimately successful leadership aspirations after having previously supporting Maxime Bernier:

She has also been mentioned in the book, The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, as a liaison between the Stephen Harper Conservatives and Jewish groups in Harper's effort to woo the Canadian Jewish community:

To that end, Ms. Burke seemed to be somewhat of a practitioner of the "dark arts" when it came to her role:

As a former Director of Indigenous Outreach and Director of the Conservative Aboriginal Caucus (though perhaps no longer serving in that capacity at the time), she left the following comment on an APTN News story regarding demands by First Nations leaders across the country that the Harper government meet with Chief Theresa Spence who was on a hunger strike demanding a treaty meeting:

A dual citizen, Burke (claimed to be a "reformed" leftist) gave an interview for "The Daily Caller" which is a very conservative site that often delves into the realm of conspiracy and "fake news" (they were the first to report 5,000 people attended the Million Canadian March on Parliament Hill when the numbers may not have even reached 200) in which she treated the Obama presidency in almost apocalyptic terms and predicted he would be the cause of a major international catastrophe:
On President Obama’s governance, she says she doesn’t scare easily, but feels “we are approaching the horrors of World War II.” She says the beheading of two American citizens used to be an considered an act of war — and there’s no reason it still shouldn’t be. 
Burke’s 26 minute, exclusive video interview covers her perspective on America under President Obama, her honest assessment of the authoritarian leaders on the left she observed and tips to conservatives for uniting the country, rather than allowing the left to further divide us. 
Burke used to think President Obama was “only weak.” Today, she is worrying whether he might be carrying out a “contrived agenda” — a far more frightening prospect, in her opinion.
Suffice it to say Ms. Burke is on the one hand no fan of Mr. Obama:

She is, on the other hand, a big fan of Donald Trump:

Prior to the American election, Ms. Burke was interviewed by CBC regarding her support for candidate Trump. When the Liberal Part caucus met to discuss how they would deal with the now President Trump, Ms. Burke offered some unsolicited advice:
Trump is no fan of this. He's threatened to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement. Canada worked alongside Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, to get the deal done in late 2015. Georganne Burke, an American-born Trump supporter who is a vice-president of a Toronto public relations firm, says Trudeau needs to tone down the rhetoric on climate change because most U.S. conservatives were angered when Obama labelled it the greatest threat to the world.
Given how isolated Mr. Trump is in the world community regarding the issue of climate change one might question Ms. Burke's advice. Also, this particular post has not aged well considering President Trump's current problems:

Now I'll stop here to state that none of this in and of itself would warrant inclusion on the ARC blog at all. Partisan politics isn't something that I normally get my underwear all in a bunch about. However it is Ms. Burke's social media presence that raises some red flags and something that MJ Murphy of BigCityLib Strikes Back noted as far back as 2008:
Kinsella has been harvesting information on the Grinchess that almost stole Chanukah . One of the facts to emerge is that Ms. Burke sits on (or sat on) the BOD of the Canadian Coalition for Democracies. These guys were founded by Conservative MP Peter Kent back in 2003. In addition to engaging in some hard-core Muslim bashing, the CCD, whose mandate says nothing about Canada's abortion laws (or lack thereof), recently appeared on a list of organizations supporting the Canada Family Action Coalition complaint to the Judicial Council... re Henry Morgentaler's receiving the Order of Canada.
If her social media activities are any indication, Ms. Burke has maintained some connection to anti-Muslim groups in Canada:

The World Wide Coalition Against Islam was founded by Joey DeLuca of Calgary. The Canadian chapter, which he also leads, has organized two anti-Muslim protests in the city. The content of the WCAI Canada Facebook page is filled with anti-Muslim hatred and conspiracy theories. The larger, and "secret" WCAI (Worldwide Coalition Against Islam) contains more of the same including missives that urge the genocide of Muslims throughout the world.

As a secret site, Ms. Burke would have to have been added by a member, which indicates that at least someone thought that she would support content found within the group. Having looked through the posts I can't see any indication that she has ever posted or responded to anything found within the the group so one might potentially claim this is simply a one off. However Ms. Burke is a member of a number of groups wherein Islamophobia is a key feature of the content:

I'll begin first with C.A.P. 

C.A.P. is the Cultural Action Party of Canada, a fringe anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim registerd political party founded by Brad Salzberg in 2016. His most recent public event was speaking at the failed June 24 June 25 MEGA Patriot Rally organized in Calgary by Joey DeLuca and Ryan Dean of the WCAI and Canadian Combat Coalition respectively:

He is also a Facebook friend of Georganne Burke:

Ms. Burke is a member of the Alberta chapter of the C.A.P., however. The "president" of the Alberta chapter is Devon Mannix who uses the term "old stock Canadian" as specifically referring to European Canadians and is even more virulently anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim than Salzberg is, at least in public, with the added bonus that he's an anti-Semite as well:

Unlike the WCAI secret Facebook group, Ms. Burke has participated in discussions on the C.A.P. Alberta group:

She has also been active in other groups that, while ostensibly anti-Liberal, have become vehicles for virulent anti-Muslim rhetoric.

The press release in question is related to M103, the non-binding motion condemning, "Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination." The text of the proposed press release is as follows:
Canadian Citizens for Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a group of Canadians who have come together to address Member of Parliament Iqra Khalid’s Motion M-103, a motion that stands to adversely impact the ability of Canadians to express themselves freely. 
Members of the group come from many religious and ethnic communities and many have long histories as human rights advocates. The group supports the rule of law in accordance with Canadian traditions and strives to ensure freedom of expression and the equality rights of women and the LGBT community. 
Motion M-103 flows from the House of Commons “E-411 (Islam)” petition and both documents call up the term, "Islamophobia". Motion M-103 goes further than the petition in that it levels the charge that everyday Canadians and their institutions are riddled with "systemic racism and religious discrimination". 
Canadian Citizens for Charter of Rights and Freedoms finds the use of the term “Islamophobia” confusing and alarming. Confusing in that it wrongly equates Islamophobia with anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish, or anti LGBT hate speech. Alarming in that it is part of a well-funded Muslim Brotherhood public relations campaign to deflect legitimately founded criticism of Islamic extremists who seek to replace Canadian Law with sharia law, strike fear into the majority of Muslim leaders and clergy in Canada, and put a chill on legitimate criticism of political Islam. 
In the case of M-103, we are very concerned about the Liberal Party’s unwillingness to compromise on the use of the term “Islamophobia”. Canadian Citizens for Charter of Rights and Freedoms had hoped that the member would have accepted recommendations from various faith communities, free speech advocates, former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, the Conservative Party, the Muslim-Jewish Dialogue, and other groups to exclude the term and speak to the rights of all religious communities. 
MP Khalid’s assertion that “Islamophobia” is an “irrational fear of Muslims” stands in contrast to definitions offered up by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). These entities detail “Islamophobia” as the “unfounded fear…of Muslims and Islam.” These differences cry out to be discussed and clarified before an informed vote can be taken. 
The assertion that the motion is “non-binding”, “not a bill” and will not compromise freedom of speech is problematic given the fact that it calls for a 240-day study period that will conclude with recommendations that the “government may use to better reflect the enshrined rights and freedoms in the…Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” For more information and analysis on this issue of critical importance to the preservation of free speech in Canada, please consult the attached “Press and Information Kit”.
I would mention here that Iqra Khalid received, and continues to receive, death threats for her private members motion.

This group also lamented the decision of Canadian border security to prevented "Wild" Bill Finlay from attending the WCAI/CCC organized anti-Muslim rally in Calgary on June 25:

Ms. Burke has also participated on the Alberta Citizens Coalition page. Jeff Sharpe, despite his criticism of the WCAI, has made a point of mentioning his anti-Muslim bona fides with some frequency. Here we see Ms. Burke embracing the "George Soros is the source of everything we don't like" conspiracy:

Now whether Georganne Burke believes the same vitriolic anti-Muslim hatred expressed on the sites she is a member of isn't certain. What does seem perhaps more clear is that she is well aware of the undercurrent of ugly Islamophobia that does exist in some conservative circles and that she appears to be willing to exploit that hatred for partisan political advantage:

Credit where credit is due. Ms. Burke seems very good at exploiting fear and anger.

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