An Edmonton MP is defending the Conservative Party’s use of a jihadi video threat to West Edmonton Mall to build support for its anti-terror bill.
“The international jihadi movement absolutely has declared war on Canada,” said Edmonton-Sherwood Park MP Tim Uppal. "What we are doing is trying to keep Canadians safe."
The federal Conservatives drew fire for a Facebook post made earlier this week referring to a video released by al-Shabaab, a Somali-based group that is linked to al-Qaeda. In the video, a masked man calls for attacks on West Edmonton Mall, as well as other shopping centres in the U.S. and Europe.
The Conservatives’ post includes a still from the video, with the quote threatening West Edmonton Mall superimposed. Underneath is a link to a petition supporting Bill C-51, the government’s proposed anti-terror law that is currently before Parliament.
One of the post’s most vocal critics was Thomas Lukaszuk, an Edmonton MLA with Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party.
Lukaszuk said the use of the video is troubling, and that the federal party risks stirring up unnecessary fear to build support for the bill.
“When you actually lend your own credence as a government, as a political party, to those videos, you are reaffirming in Canadians minds that there is a group of people out there who are out there to get us,” he said.
The day the video was released, Edmonton police and Alberta RCMP said there was “no imminent threat” of an attack in the city, and that they were treating it as a general, not specific, threat.
West Edmonton Mall has increased security since the video threat.
Another federal Conservative, Laurie Hawn, said if it were up to him, he "wouldn't have made that post."
The Edmonton-Centre MP told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM that he agrees with the sentiment behind the Facebook post, but worries the presentation might overwhelm the message that the party was trying to send.
“I think we need to be careful about people running around with their hair on fire, but people need to wake up. There is a threat,” he said.
“If we have to be careful … we need to make sure the message is the message, not the medium."
Lukaszuk also worries that lending credibility to the video might cause problems for Edmonton’s large Somali community.
“It's politics that leads to division among ethno-cultural groups,” he said.
“Our Somali society and community here, particularly many of them happen to live in my riding, are phenomenal Canadian citizens, and they are as much opposed to terrorism as you and I and any other Canadian is.”
Uppal, who is also Canada's minister of state for multiculturalism, said the post was passing along important information to Canadians, and that the changes his party is proposing are required to fend off potential attacks.
“We need to respond and to make sure that our security forces, our intelligence agencies, have the tools that they need, the powers that they need, to keep Canadians safe,” he said.
Uppal said he is still encouraging people to visit the mall.