Dispatch from the Front Lines: Incompetence abounds in our grumpy dominion
POEC. The top Mountie gets nailed dead to rights. Canadians sure do hate each other. Truss flames out. And a plea for extremely basic security precautions, before someone gets killed.
Hello, Line readers. What a week. The news was like a fire hose aimed at our faces. You know, in a bad way.
Before we begin, we want to just open with a brief plea. We are hitting the knees in prayer here, folks. Since last year’s federal election campaign, we have been begging the federal government to start taking security for key officials seriously. During that campaign, we were alarmed to see how close Justin Trudeau was getting to protesters. This was obviously a choice the Liberals had made because they thought the optics of the PM standing tough in the face of whackjobs made him look good. It did! It also put him, his campaign staff and all kinds of curious bystanders in danger.
The Liberals did, thank God, eventually get the message, and the campaign stopped putting the PM in such direct proximity to potential threats. But the overall utter apathy among the federal government to possible threats was again on full display this week. During a talk at Toronto’s Metropolitan University (Ryerson, until recently), National Defence Minister Anita Anand was interrupted by protesters.
We aren’t angry about the protesters. They seem like pretty bog-standard anti-war student types, and God bless them. But what’s remarkable is that there was no security for Anand at this public event. The only thing between Anand and the students, who had a gigantic sign, was event moderator Regg Cohn, a columnist at the Toronto Star. Campus security eventually arrived but Anand left the stage of her own accord and exited the room. After a roughly 10-minute delay, the event was able to resume.
(The entire incident was live-tweeted by a student journalist who happened to be at the event. Sometimes journalism is literally just being there with a phone handy, so good work, Prapti.)
How the hell does this happen? How the hell does anyone get within 10 feet of the defence minister of a G7 nation during a period of heightened international tension … or, really, at any time?
If Anand had been approached by a fanatic with a gun or knife instead of students with a banner, Canada would be searching for a new defence minister, a family would be mourning the loss of a wife and mother, and the rest of us would be having an existential meltdown, demanding to know How Could This Have Happened Here.
It would have happened because Canadians, including, weirdly, our top federal officials, still delusionally believe that this country is some kind of magical kingdom where bad things never happen, and therefore need not be thought about, prepared for or mitigated in any way. And anyone who dares suggest otherwise is dismissed as just some kind of paranoid weirdo.
For the love of God, let’s at least start with the basics here. All cabinet ministers should have a security team when at public events. This isn’t partisan — we want this rule to apply to all cabinet ministers, forever, from whichever party. That’s it. That’s the new policy.
Can we please, please at least get this much right, or are we now just outsourcing this to whichever columnist happens to be nearest at hand?
Please enjoy this week’s dispatch meeting video. Former journalist, current academic and all-around cool dude Andrew Potter sits in for Jen Gerson, who is travelling this week for research on her upcoming book.
The lead story for our dispatch has to be the ongoing Public Order Emergency Commission hearings in Ottawa. The Line covered the convoy crises last February extensively, and we've been hearing from many people, noting when some of our coverage is confirmed by the testimony, and also when it is contradicted. To our friends and critics alike, we have the same message: we are watching the coverage as closely as possible, and we will continue to provide regular updates in our weekly dispatches. We'll run addition articles and columns as news developments warrant. We will eventually review our coverage from last February. But we won't do so instantly or in a rush, because we are one week — one! — into the expected six weeks of testimony. (This is technically the second week that testimony was given, but the first hearings last week were largely procedural — the real heavy hitting testimony started this week.)
We understand that public interest is high. Our interest is high, as well. But your Line editors are already deeply dismayed at the speed at which people are racing to their utterly predictable positions clinging to a single line of testimony given at the hearings, or a single sentence plucked from a redacted document, all to "prove" that their opinion was right all along. This reminds us very much of the early phase of the pandemic, when those most alarmed, and least alarmed, by the new virus spent too much of their lives poring over every new pre-print medical journal article to grab factoids and quotes to rage-tweet at their opponents.
Everyone? Calm down. We have five more weeks of testimony to come, plus thousands, literally thousands, of pages of documentary evidence that's been released thus far. We have barely begun this process. It's going to take weeks just go properly comb through the documents that have been published. Anyone telling you that their pre-existing positions have been somehow vindicated is bullshitting you, and we won't do that here. You may not agree with us at The Line, and hell, we may get stuff wrong sometimes, but we will never lie to you.
With that out of the way, let's get into the meat of what we've learned with this — and we stress that this is conditional, and may change. But we have to start somewhere, right?