PM finds his voice in fight against terror

Sometimes you’ve got to be pissed off. Justin Trudeau got there this week as his response to terrorism continues its remarkable evolution.

Sometimes you’ve got to be pissed off.

Justin Trudeau got there this week as his response to terrorism continues its remarkable evolution.

The prime minister sounded legitimately angry over the horrible death of Canadian John Ridsdel at the hands of terrorists, and resolute in his statement that this country will not pay terrorist ransoms — directly or indirectly.

This will not bring Ridsdel back and it will not safeguard the fate of another Canadian being held in the Philippines.

Trudeau did not bow to the knee jerk reaction that some of his opponents urge, he did not send in the JTF2 or pledge to carpet bomb terrorist strongholds, but sometimes a country needs a leader to channel anger and surely there was anger — along with sympathy for Ridsdel’s family and friends — over the brutal and senseless killing of an innocent Canadian.

Trudeau called it what it was, “cold-blooded murder,” a substantive change in tone from a man who, since becoming Liberal leader, has often appeared to be overshooting in his quest to provide perspective and undershooting on the question of outrage.

This is, in fact, a major testing of a prime minister barely six months into his job. The fate of a second Canadian being held, 50-year-old Robert Hall, hangs in the balance.

The no-ransom policy is noble and correct. And risky.

Trudeau has downplayed the fear spread by terror attacks, but since becoming Liberal leader in 2013, he has taken on the role of amateur psychologist, appeared shaken, and seemed devoid of genuine outrage.

Indeed, his response to a Burkina Faso terror attack that killed six Quebec humanitarian workers in January was deemed so bland, the husband of one of the victims hung up on the prime minister when Trudeau called to offer condolences.

But there has been an unmistakable evolution.

In his first substantive interview after winning the Liberal leadership three years ago, bombs had just killed three and maimed more than 200 at the finish line of the Boston massacre, and Trudeau spoke of “root causes” of terror with the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge.

“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, OK, where do those tensions come from?” Trudeau said, leading Harper to accuse him of “rationalizing” terror attacks.

Last November, the newly installed prime minister seemed shaken by the attacks in Paris. “These terrorist attacks are deeply worrying and obviously unsettling to people around the world,” he said, without specifically condemning them.

A few months later, following the attacks in Brussels, he found his outrage. “This cannot and will not be tolerated. Canada strongly condemns these cowardly acts … those responsible for carrying out these senseless attacks must be brought to justice and we will do all we can to help make that happen.”

Upon news of the senseless killing of Ridsdel, Trudeau said: “This was an act of cold-blooded murder and the responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group who took him hostage.”

He said Canada would work with the Philippines and international partners to bring the killers to justice.

In many ways, Trudeau’s default position has been to rise above the fray, a mien much like that of his new-found friend, Barack Obama, who, as New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote after the Brussels attacks, remains “too cool for school.”

Obama’s resistance to cheap emotion, Dowd wrote, “has led him, time after time, to respond belatedly or bloodlessly in moments when Americans are alarmed, wanting solace and solutions.”

Obama reacted to the Brussels killings while watching a baseball game in Havana, but Dowd concluded he has kept his focus on the fight against terrorism.

All leaders have been accused of being tone deaf in their response to terror attacks.

George W. Bush channelled American defiance with his bullhorn moment in the wreckage of the World Trade Center after 9/11, but his Wild West hunt for Osama bin Laden and his bid to form a coalition for the wrong war became both caricature and foreign policy folly.

In January 2015, Stephen Harper chose to attend 200th birthday celebrations in Kingston, Ont., for Sir John A. Macdonald rather than march in Paris with other world leaders condemning the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Trudeau is no longer above the fray and he has been forced to react with resolve he lacked in 2013. But the fate of Hall largely rests with him and there can be no tougher test of a prime minister’s resolve than that.

Tim Harper is a national affairs writer syndicated by Torstar.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Hundreds turn up at Coldest Night of Year walk in Red Deer

It wasn’t the coldest night of the year, which probably helped the… Continue reading

Police in Saskatoon shoot two dogs that attacked man, then advanced on officers

SASKATOON — Police in Saskatoon say officers had to open fire at… Continue reading

13-year-old Maskwacis teen missing

Maskwacis RCMP are asking for public assistance to locate 13-year-old Rebecca Soosay.… Continue reading

Red Deer area residents who were quarantined on cruise ship near Japan back in Canada

Central Alberta residents are safe and test negative for coronavirus

Alberta doctors getting ready for court fight against new pay, benefits deal

EDMONTON — The head of the Alberta Medical Association says it’s preparing… Continue reading

Fashion Fridays: The 8 best quality online stores! Shop the ultimate sales

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Your community calendar

Feb. 19 A Liberation of Holland event is being held at the… Continue reading

TSN, Curling Canada agree to eight-year extension on broadcast rights contract

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Curling Canada and TSN have extended their broadcast… Continue reading

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs meet with Mohawks in Kahnawake, Que.

KAHNAWAKE, Que. — Traditional chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation maintained Saturday… Continue reading

Saskatoon protest springs up, even after Trudeau orders blockades torn down

More protests in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs sprung up on Saturday,… Continue reading

Saskatchewan’s chief coroner warns public after fatal drug overdoses in Regina

REGINA — Two deaths and dozens of drug overdoses in Regina have… Continue reading

A champion, again: Humphries wins 3rd women’s bobsled title

Kaillie Humphries of the U.S. is a bobsled champion again, winning her… Continue reading

Canada’s Kingsbury finishes first in moguls for 62nd World Cup victory

TAZAWAKO, Japan — Canada’s Mikael Kingsbury earned his 62nd World Cup victory… Continue reading

Cruise-ship evacuees arrive for quarantine in Canada as first Wuhan evacuees let go

OTTAWA — A plane carrying 129 Canadians and their families who have… Continue reading

Most Read