Posted on Jun. 18, 2015

    Canada's Public Safety Minister Says His Critics Are Terrorism Supporters

    And hardly anyone noticed.

    This week Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney stood in the House of Commons and said the NDP, Liberals and 200 civic organizations are "siding with terrorist organizations."

    Chris Wattie / Reuters

    Three years ago Blaney's predecessor Vic Toews kicked off a wave of controversy when he said in the House that surveillance legislation critics can stand "with us or with the child pornographers."

    That statement shocked pundits and the public, and the legislation was eventually withdrawn. Three years later this type of speech has become so common that almost no one blinked an eye at Blaney's statement. No major outlet wrote a story about it.

    In this case what prompted the remarks was a question about a new report that accuses the government of stifling dissent.

    Here's the initial question from NDP MP Peter Julian.

    Chris Wattie / Reuters
    Conservatives muzzle and silence anyone who disagrees with them. The shocking new report from a coalition of more than 200 organizations documents abuses of parliamentary rules, intimidation of public servants, and attacks on organizations that criticize the government.Conservatives promised openness and accountability. What happened? Why has the Prime Minister broken all his promises to be open, transparent and democratic?

    Blaney responded by saying the opposition is siding with terrorist organizations, in this case the Canadian wing of the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy.

    Chris Wattie / Reuters
    Mr. Speaker, the group in question is defending IRFAN-Canada, a listed terrorist organization in Canada. We will not take lessons from this organization nor from the opposition. Why are the NDP and the Liberals siding with terrorist organizations and organizations that are supporting them?We will stand up for democracy and for the right of Canadians. We will stand up for them and protect Canadians.

    Except IRFAN-Canada did not author the report and had nothing to do with it.

    IRFAN is not and has never been a member of Voices-Voix, a loose coalition of 200 mostly non-profit civil societies. Its members include Amnesty International, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and major unions like CUPE.

    What Blaney seems to be referring to is a report by Voices-Voix into how IRFAN came to be listed as a terrorist organization.

    Chris Wattie / Reuters

    Last year the government added IRFAN to a list of terrorist organizations, alleging the group transferred almost $15 million in resources to groups affiliated with Hamas. The agency denies this and says it was doing aid work.

    Voices-Voix did not confirm or refute this charge. But they did find that the government process was unfair and there was not due process for IRFAN to defend itself.

    BuzzFeed Canada contacted Blaney's office to see if he stands by the comments. He does.

    "Minister Blaney made it clear that the group in question is defending IRFAN-Canada – a listed terrorist organization in Canada," said spokesman Jeremy Laurin.

    "The Liberals and NDP need to explain why they are aligning with a group that is defending a listed terrorist organization."

    Voices-Voix coordinator Tim McSorley said Blaney's comments ironically support the group's argument that the government cracks down on dissent by vilifying critics.

    "To us, this is another example of the government doing that," said McSorley.

    "It is always a little astounding that it's not even news anymore."

    Paul McLeod is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

    Contact Paul McLeod at

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