Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Getting to the bottom of 'root causes'

Tories mock Trudeau for idea they promoted

  • Print

OTTAWA -- It's not entirely clear how one might go about committing sociology, but the prime minister of Canada apparently thinks doing so is a bad thing, at least when it comes to trying to figure out what motivates terrorists to kill.

"I think, though, this is not a time to commit sociology," Stephen Harper said Thursday in the wake of the Boston bombings and the arrests of two men in Canada accused of plotting to blow up a Via Rail train.

However, until Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau suggested looking at the "root causes" behind those who committed the Boston bombings, the Harper government was all for doing just that.

It started April 22, when, less than two hours after the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Trudeau was asked by CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge what he would do if he were prime minister when such an attack occurred.

"First thing, you offer support and sympathy, condolences and send down EMTs as we contributed after 9/11," Trudeau said. "Is there any material, immediate support we can offer? At the same time, over the coming days, we have to look at the root causes. Now, we don't know now if it was terrorism or a single crazy or a domestic issue or a foreign issue. But there is no question that this happened because there is someone who feels completely excluded, completely at war with innocents, at war with a society. And our approach has to be, where do those tensions come from?"

The remark had Conservatives practically drooling with excitement. It played perfectly into the portrait Conservatives want to paint of him: that Trudeau is in over his head. "When you see this type of violent act, you do not sit around trying to rationalize it or make excuses for it or figure out its root causes," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in response.

"You condemn it categorically, and to the extent you can deal with the perpetrators, you deal with them as harshly as possible."

Last Monday, terror came to Canada when the RCMP announced they had arrested two men in Toronto and Montreal in connection with a foiled plot to blow up a Via Rail train.

It kept the idea of root causes versus enforcement on top of the agenda.

On Thursday, Harper made his comment about committing sociology, saying the only view he wants to convey is "utter condemnation of this kind of violence, contemplation of this violence and our utter determination through our laws and through our activities to do everything we can to prevent and counter it."

It's the latter part of that statement where the Conservative logic against root causes fails. Because until Trudeau rather awkwardly tried to talk about root causes, the government was actually quite happy to talk about that very thing.

In June 2011, it launched a $10-million, five-year program, the Kanishka Project, mainly to fund research into the root causes of terrorism.

"Today, I encourage scholars from all disciplines to consider how we can better understand the phenomenon of terrorism, so that ultimately we can more effectively prevent it," Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said when announcing the first grants.

"Preventing future acts of terrorism is the most fitting memorial to its victims."

In July 2011, the day Anders Behring Breivik went on a rampage in Norway, killing 77 people and injuring more than 300, Defence Minister Peter MacKay even used the same term Trudeau used, saying, "We have to demonstrate and persevere and work together to try to find the root causes but also try to pre-empt and interrupt these types of attacks."

Trudeau's biggest mistake probably was commenting at all on a situation that was still unfolding and before he had time to reflect on what he wanted to say.

He hasn't yet mastered the art of the talking point and handed his political foes material that will be used against him many times before the next election.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

The Whiteboard - Jets' 5-on-3 penalty kill

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A group of Horese pose for the camera in the early evening light at Southcreek Stables in Stl Norbert Wednessday. Sept  14, 2011 (RUTH BONNEVILLE) / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local- A large osprey lands in it's nest in a hydro pole on Hyw 59  near the Hillside Beach turnoff turn off. Osprey a large narrow winged hawk which can have a wingspan of over 54 inches are making a incredible recovery since pesticide use of the 1950's and  1960's- For the last two decades these fish hawks have been reappearing in the Lake Winnipeg area- Aug 03, 2005

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Now that former cabinet minister Theresa Oswald has entered the NDP leadership race, do you believe the "gang of five" rebel ministers were right to publicly criticize Premier Greg Selinger's leadership?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google