NationalOpinion

Kenney’s call for extremist database screening avoids real issue

People should be questioning why extremists feel at home in his party

Is it not surprising that another white supremacist found a home in the United Conservative Party?

An investigation by Ricochet Media found that Adam Strashok, Jason Kenney’s former call centre manager, is linked to Fireforce Ventures, an online store that sells a variety of white-nationalist clothing and memorabilia. Among them is the Canadian Red Ensign flag and Rhodesian gear, both of which have become symbols of white supremacist groups. The Ensign Flag is 50 years out of date and is currently being used by Canadian groups in similar ways to the confederate flag, while Rhodesia is the colonial name of what is now Zimbabwe. Strashok also had multiple social media accounts under different names posting anti-semitic content, which have since been deleted.

Earlier in October, members of the UCP were photographed in Edmonton with the Soldiers of Odin (SOO), an anti-immigration group. While these members later denounced the SOO’s views, it still caused some Albertans to question the UCP’s views and platform.

In response to Strashok, UCP leader Jason Kenney dryly stated both that he had no knowledge of Strashok’s views and that he doesn’t have a personal relationship with him. This comment caused people on Twitter to call him out for not taking ownership of UCP’s hiring process.

Kenney, unenthusiastically, called for an immediate solution. He stated, “what we can maybe do is look into the dark corners of the internet to some of these hate sites, come up with names of people who are associated with some of these extremist organizations.”

Kenney’s response came off just like many of his others have regarding alt-right views — unemotional and dry. This particular statement was weakened with its copious maybes and the obvious difficulty of accessing these so-called “dark corners of the internet.” Should it even be possible with privacy laws and accessibility, it most likely wouldn’t be ready to be put into place until after the 2019 Alberta elections. Really, the statement comes off as a way to satisfy and avert the media’s attention with a non-solution.

This isn’t the first time Kenney has brought up a screening process either. In 2017, he stated that there needs to be a rigorous screening process to join the UCP after the Wildrose Party faced several incidents of members with racist views. Did that screening process ever take shape? Apparently not, as the current UCP membership application form only asks for personal information.

The true question here isn’t simply about preventing white supremacists from joining the UCP; it’s about why they feel comfortable joining in the first place.

While the UCP doesn’t outright display views of anti-immigration or racism, its policy still entertains views that restrict the rights of certain groups. Particularly, this is seen in their support for pro-life causes and resistance to schools not disclosing if a student joins a gay-straight alliance to their parents. It’s not surprising then that a white supremacist or another intolerant individual would find solace in the UCP. Even if these views aren’t identical, their messages are still the same: that it’s okay to restrict and police minority groups in society.

On top of parallel political views, Kenney’s lack of unemotive responses to extremism allows extremists to remain comfortable within the party, especially since he keeps these statements in writing and refuses to conduct interviews or denounce racist party members on camera. Albertans of all stripes should focus less on the ‘solutions’ Kenney throws at them and instead look beyond political alliances and anger over economic issues to question the ethics and ideologies of Kenney and the UCP.

As citizens, we should hold our government and political leaders accountable and advocate for what we won’t stand for.

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