This has been a good week to be in Canada - or an awful week, depending on your point of view -to understand just how irretrievably biased and potentially racist the Canadian press has become. For, after the arrest of 17 Canadian Muslims on "terrorism" charges, the Toronto Globe and Mail and, to a slightly lesser extent, the National Post, have indulged in an orgy of finger pointing that must reduce the chances of any fair trial and, at the same time, sow fear in the hearts of the country's more than 700,000 Muslims. In fact, if I were a Canadian Muslim right now, I'd already be checking the airline timetables for a flight out of town. Or is that the purpose of this press campaign?
First, the charges. Even a lawyer for one of the accused has talked of a plot to storm the parliament in Ottawa, hold MPs hostage and chop off the head of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Without challenging the "facts" or casting any doubt on their sources - primarily the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or Canada's leak- dripping Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) - reporters have told their readers that the 17 were variously planning to blow up parliament, CSIS's headquarters, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and sundry other targets. Every veiled and chadored Muslim woman relative of the accused has been photographed and their pictures printed, often on front pages. "Home-grown terrorists" has become theme of the month - even though the "terrorists" have yet to stand trial.
They were in receipt of "fertilisers", we were told, which could be turned into explosives. When it emerged that Canadian police officers had already switched the "fertilisers" for a less harmful substance, nobody followed up the implications of this apparent "sting". A Buffalo radio station down in the US even announced that the accused had actually received "explosives". Bingo: guilty before trial.
Of course, the Muslim-bashers have laced this nonsense with the usual pious concern for the rights of the accused. "Before I go on, one disclaimer," purred the Globe and Mail's Margaret Wente. "Nothing has been proved and nobody should rush to judgement." Which, needless to say, Wente then went on to do in the same paragraph. "The exposure of our very own homegrown terrorists, if that's what the men aspired to be, was both predictably shocking and shockingly predictable."
And just in case we missed the point of this hypocrisy, Wente ended her column by announcing that "Canada is not exempt from home- grown terrorism". Angry young men are the tinderbox and Islamism is the match. The country will probably have better luck than most at "putting out the fire", she adds. But who, I wonder, is really lighting the match?
For a very unpleasant - albeit initially innocuous - phrase has now found its way into the papers. The accused 17 - and, indeed their families and sometimes the country's entire Muslim community - are now referred to as "Canadian-born". Well, yes, they are Canadian- born. But there's a subtle difference between this and being described as a "Canadian" - as other citizens of this vast country are in every other context. And the implications are obvious' there are now two types of Canadian citizen: the Canadian-born variety (Muslims) and Canadians (the rest).
If this seems finicky, try the following sentence from the Globe and Mail's front page on Tuesday, supposedly an eyewitness account of the police arrest operation: "Parked directly outside his . …