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Canadians: Quick to Judge?

16-Jul-08 11:35 pm EST Leave a comment Go to comments

I have flashes of bigotry toward Americans; or, more precisely, American culture.  Of course, these momentary feelings change when I remind myself that generalizations are flawed and illogical, but sometimes I see or hear something that makes me think Americans are too quick to judge those who stand accused of crimes.  And I reserved this observation toward Americans because I didn’t see this same phenomenon evident in Canadian news reports about others here accused of crimes unless the evidence seemed relatively overwhelming.

Of course, my "observations" are probably anecdotal and misleading.  But what’ not is the fact that recent reports about Canadians accused of crimes are generating a rough review in the court of public opinion.  Last night, I write about Canadian Omar Kahdr who stands accused (but not charged) of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan and is consequently being held at Guantanamo Bay.  Today, we can add the name of Barenaked Ladies lead singer, Stephen Page to the list of those "wrongfully convicted in the court of public opinion".

Those so-convicted, it must be understood, could be so characterized even if they are eventually found guilty of the crime they’re accused of.  The problem I have with the visceral reaction of people either to Kahdr or Page is that virtually all of these people are basing their reactions on the accusation itself.  Kahdr may even be guilty – but the evidence isn’t overwhelming, although one can still fall back on the question "what was he doing in Afghanistan anyway?"  (A question with a ready and obvious answer that doesn’t necessitate Kahdr being guilty of anything.)  In Page’s case – the guy is actually pleading ‘not guilty’.  Not that it matters to a whole lot of his countrymen who seem to think that it’s suddenly inappropriate he be caught singing to children just because American police (who’re known for having a certain zeal with respect to laying drug charges) claim he was found in a house with two women doing cocaine.  But the facts seem to point to the police not having a particularly strong case.

I spoke of disappointment and exhibited frustration with people leaping to conclusions in cases like these.  I’ve listened to many a radio programme with every ignorant buffoon alive phoning in claiming to have the answer with respect to what to do with Omar Kahdr – and that answer usually involved him being detained pretty much forever in GitMo; in some cases involving the crazy argument this involved due process (which not even either U.S. presidential candidates claims anymore), but mostly such people scarcely cared whether Kahdr’s fundamental rights were observed or not.  One woman (sounded like in her 30’s or 40’s) calling into CFRA radio’s Lowell Green show this morning even tried to suggest that Canadians needed to suffer a large-scale terrorist attack so we would harden our view to cases like that of Omar Kahdr because, in her view, too much of the news coverage had been sympathetic to his case and the pleas of his mother.  (As an aside I should quickly add Kahdr’s mother, unlike her son, doesn’t elicit much of my sympathy since she’s largely responsible for her son being where is today – something for which she shows little sign of being ashamed. In my view if there ever was a case for someone being deported for her political views, she is it!)

What the hell is the matter with people?

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Categories: News and politics
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Terry Glavin

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