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Bruce Dowbiggin
Bruce Dowbiggin’s career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience, with successful stints in television, radio, and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster

Our sick and twisted ivory tower

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. So goes the timeworn expression. But the cynical wisdom of that phrase endures.

The best example of the law of unexpected consequences— tender sensibilities division— resides with Canada’s Charter of Rights. When proposed in the late 1970s by Liberal PM Pierre Trudeau— and celebrated by many politicians and media— the Charter was heralded as a protection for Canadians against the vagaries of foreign powers, unlawful search-and-seizure, prejudice of every kind.

Put simply, it was sold as a code that Canadians could count on to protect them and their rights. In the gauzy days of 1982— when civil libertarians rejoiced that the Charter was enshrined in Canadian law— who could have foreseen a Canadian terrorist, captured by American soldiers after killing one of their own, being awarded $10.5 million by a Canadian prime minister?

And the PM of the day saying the Charter left him no choice?

No one, of course, could have anticipated the Charter as being anything but a force for good. Guided by the wise hand of the Supreme Court, what could go wrong?

Yet, the Omar Khadr debacle has instead demonstrated the vagaries of a Charter that protects rights but defines no obligations on citizens. Americans, who are nothing if not believers in individual rights, are plainly baffled by the spectacle of Canada’s prime minister saying, “No mas” in the face of a terrorist who killed one of their own soldiers and blinded another.

Yes, Canada’s activist Supreme Court’s definition of torture is far more liberal than the American definition. Yes, there is some debate whether Khadr threw the grenade that killed medic Christopher Speer (he’s never denied taking part in the fight). Yes, he was 15 years old, brainwashed by his jihadi father.

But how does all that add up to Canada owing Khadr $10.5 million while Speer’s widow was effectively blocked from garnisheeing any of Khadr’s award to support the judgment she won against Khadr in U.S. courts? Layne Morris, the American serviceman blinded in one eye during the Khadr firefight, summed up U.S. sentiment in this interview.

“What Sick and Twisted Ivory Tower Do You Live In?” Morris asked of Canadians in his interview with Tucker Carlson. Speer’s widow Tabitha told FOX News, “Everyone wants to say he’s the child, he’s the victim. I don’t see that. My children are the victims.”

Khadr, of course, has been portrayed as a victim in Canada. In our “twisted ivory tower”, he’s a helpless pawn incapable of being responsible for his actions. What no one in Canada seems to be asking are Khadr’s obligations as a citizen to guarantee that he be given support and financial security?

No one in Trudeau’s Diversity Inc. seems interested in that. Canada’s activist Supreme Court seemed more intent on scoring points against the U.S. policy of enhanced interrogation to ask whether there should be any quid-pro-quo in the Khadr’s behaviour.

Similarly, no one in government wants to use Khadr to spark any discussion of just how extreme a person’s behaviour before he/she loses the right to public support?

It’s a similar “who saw that coming?” Canada has experienced dealing with hate-speech laws. Originally written to discourage Holocaust deniers like Ernst Zundel, these laws were greeted with pride and excitement by liberals who believed that we needed to protect free speech by censoring it.

These noble sentiments have evolved into a cudgel used on those who question the cultural status quo on immigration and diversity. While there have been a few like writer Mark Steyn and Maclean’s magazine brave enough to insist that free speech is free speech even when it offends for the most part hate-speech liberality has been used to hound stand up comedians, bakers and others not au courant with the progressive narrative.

The standard response from pallid politicians like Trudeau is that he and his elite pals know better. Mind your place. We’re making this a better hotel.

But the 70 percent disapproval rate against the Khadr decision in polls is a reminder that, while the political/media bubble would have you believe that they’ve got their finger on the pulse of Canadians, it’s the elite talking shops of Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto who are out of touch with their citizens.

It reminds us that the roiling populist discontent at work in most of the western world is a thing in Canada too. It only needs a few more pushes and the enervated Trudeau playbook will wind up in ashes after an election.

If that happens we might finally have something for which we can thank Khadr. His bonanza at taxpayers expense might prove a downpayment on ending the permanent assumption that our elites are the only ones who can determine what is fair and what is foolish.


Bruce Dowbiggin the host of the podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on He’s also a regular contributor three-times-a-week to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. His website is Not The Public Broadcaster.