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.

Just Posted

New admissions have been suspended for Engineering Technology diplomas (Instrumentation, Electrical and Mechanical) and the Transitional Vocational Program at Red Deer College. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Developmentally disabled impacted: Red Deer College suspends program

Transitional Vocational Program comes to an end

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is asking Albertans to do their part by observing gathering limits, staying home if unwell, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three new Central zone COVID-19 deaths, Alberta adds 1,433 cases

Red Deer down to 802 active cases of COVID-19

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman holds up freedom of information requests that turned up no records. The Opposition requested back-to-school re-entry plan correspondence between Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and school boards, teachers and the media. Photo via Facebook live
NDP renews calls for Alberta gov’t to scrap K-6 draft curriculum

The NDP is once again calling on the Alberta Government to get… Continue reading

Earlier this week Alberta Health Services warned that Rocky Mountain House Health Centre emergency department would be temporarily without physician coverage from May 12, at 6 p.m., to May 13, at 7 a.m. (Photo contributed by the Town of Rocky Mountain House)
Doctors needed in Rocky Mountain House

Emergency department temporarily closed due to doctor shortage

The owner of Mae’s Kitchen in Mirror, says hamlet residents were ‘disheartened’ by a recent anti-restriction protest. The restaurant is following all the health restrictions in place. (Photo courtesy Mae’s Kitchen Facebook)
‘We don’t need that’: Mirror restaurant against recent anti-restriction protest

A week after a large anti-restriction protest at The Whistle Stop Cafe… Continue reading

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) deflects a shot against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, May 8, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
NHL postseason: Who’s hot as the playoffs arrive?

NHL postseason: Who’s hot as the playoffs arrive?

Ottawa Senators' Connor Brown, right, celebrates a goal with teammates during third period NHL action against the Montreal Canadiens, in Ottawa, Wednesday, March 5, 2021. Brown will lead a young Canadian squad into the world hockey championship in Riga, Latvia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ottawa forward Connor Brown leads Canada’s roster at world championship

Ottawa forward Connor Brown leads Canada’s roster at world championship

FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2018, file photo, Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Jayna Hefford shakes hands with people associated with the hall before a hockey game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils in Toronto. The Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association is forging ahead in its bid to establish an economically sustainable professional league in North America with or — for now — without the NHL’s full financial backing. In response to Sportsnet.ca reporting the NHL was not in a position to operate a women’s league for the foreseeable future, PWHPA executive Jayna Hefford wrote in an email to The Associated Press late Thursday that her group has begun developing what she called “a parallel path for a future that doesn’t rely on NHL support.” (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
PWHPA forging ahead without NHL backing of women’s hockey

PWHPA forging ahead without NHL backing of women’s hockey

‘No secrets’ and no certainty in one-of-a-kind NHL playoffs

‘No secrets’ and no certainty in one-of-a-kind NHL playoffs

Supporters dance during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alta., on Saturday, May 8, 2021. RCMP say they have ticketed four people after the rally that was attended by hundreds.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta leadership responsible for protests against public health orders: expert

Alberta leadership responsible for protests against public health orders: expert

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney answers questions at a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Kenney is distancing himself from a decision to expel two members from his United Conservative caucus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Kenney distances himself from caucus vote to turf dissidents with ‘personal agendas’

Kenney distances himself from caucus vote to turf dissidents with ‘personal agendas’

Alberta's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday, July 6, 2020. A judge is expected to rule this morning on a challenge of the United Conservative government's inquiry into whether foreign groups have conspired against Alberta's oil industry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Judge dismisses attempt to quash ‘anti-Alberta’ activities inquiry

Judge dismisses attempt to quash ‘anti-Alberta’ activities inquiry

Albertans receive vaccines at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Alberta Health Services says it has obtained a restraining order against a Calgary mayoral candidate who the agency says has threatened health workers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta health agency obtains restraining order against Calgary mayoral candidate

Alberta health agency obtains restraining order against Calgary mayoral candidate

Most Read