The disgrace of Svend Robinson

National Post
Monday, October 06, 2003

There are no doubt many Canadians who think that Sen. Jerry Grafstein's wish to have Canada dub Sept. 11 "America Day" may be a bit too slavish -- even given our historically close ties with the United States and the monumental scale of the terrorist attacks that occurred on that day in 2001. Still, the sentiment is noble and should be pursued, even if under another name such as "Allies Day."

But while reasonable people will disagree on whether and how Canadians should commemorate 9/11, one politician has already distinguished himself in the worst possible way over the subject. No surprise on his identity: Svend Robinson, NDP MP for Burnaby-Douglas, B.C.

According to Mr. Robinson, 9/11 might instead be named "Chile Day" -- a sneering reference to the fact that Chilean president Salvador Allende died on the same day in a 1973 U.S.-backed military coup that resulted in shameful bloodshed.

The ouster of Mr. Allende's Marxist regime became an obsession among communists and other Cold War-era enemies of the United States, and is still dredged up now and again by modern-day critics. But only a tactless anti-American bigot would suggest the memory of a coup in a country with which Canada has relatively scant connections should supplant the commemoration of a savage terrorist attack -- the greatest the world has known, and one in which 25 Canadians died -- against Canada's best ally and friend.

This is hardly the first time Mr. Robinson has disgraced himself. Since being elected to the House of Commons just one year after he was called to the B.C. bar -- in 1979, at age 27 -- Mr. Robinson has made a career of apologizing for terrorists and rogue states. One of his favourite causes has been the brutal communist regime of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Just as he did with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Robinson blames the drownings of raft-borne Cuban refugees on U.S. foreign policy.

Mr. Robinson has sponsored and spoken at several pro-Castro rallies across Canada, and has aided organizations attempting to export goods to Cuba in contravention of U.S. law. He even accused the Americans of "kidnapping" six-year-old refugee Elian Gonzalez. And last week, Mr. Robinson called on Washington to release Cuban spies, who, he said, were merely fighting back against U.S.-based "terrorism."

In April, 2002, while on a junket to the Middle East, Mr. Robinson provoked outrage even in his own NDP caucus when he enthusiastically sided with Yasser Arafat, condemning Israel as a "terrorist state," guilty of murder and torture: "I went to voice my solidarity with the Palestinian people at this time, given the brutal and illegal violence they were subjected to in the occupied territories." His outburst was so contemptible that it forced then-NDP leader Alexa McDonough to forbid him to speak for the party on Mideast issues.

Mr. Robinson was an apologist for Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq for many years, and even claimed the country was a veritable Eden with "an extensive health care system, clean and abundant drinking water, sewage-treatment plants ... free education at all levels, and a comprehensive network of social services." Such propaganda, we now know, masked the hideous truth that Saddam's Iraq was a hell-hole in which secret police murdered and tortured citizens at will. Homosexuals, a group whose rights he stridently champions in Canada, got the death penalty.

When it comes to his right to protest trade meetings or a visiting U.S. President, Mr. Robinson is Canada's greatest free-speech booster. But he has little patience when his opponents try to indulge the same freedoms. In January, 2000, Mr. Robinson attempted to tear down placards displayed on Parliament Hill by a priest who believes homosexuality is "deviant" behaviour.

This long list of Mr. Robinson's assaults on logic and abuses of reason -- and especially his most recent attempt to demean the memory of 9/11 victims --prompts us to ask one question: Just why do the electors of Burnaby keep sending this man to Ottawa?