Once again Conservative ideology has trumped what's right.
Prominent Toronto filmmaker/professor John Greyson and London, Ont., physician/professor Tarek Loubani have been locked up in an Egyptian jail for nearly 40 days. After a prosecutor recently extended their detention by 15 days, these two courageous individuals launched a hunger strike demanding their release or to at least be allowed two hours a day in the fenced-in prison yard.
Some 140,000 people, including filmmakers Ben Affleck, Danny Glover and Atom Egoyan, have called on Egypt's military rulers to release the two men. Despite this outpouring of support, the Conservatives have done as little to win their release as a Canadian government could possibly do in the circumstances. While Canadian officials have summoned Egypt's chargé d'affaires in Ottawa and called it "a case of two people being in the wrong place at the wrong time", they've failed to demand their immediate release, criticize the arbitrary process or condemn the dictatorial regime responsible.
Under the emergency legal system currently in place in Egypt, Greyson and Loubani can be kept in jail for up to two years without charge or trial. But Ottawa has refused to even comment on these highly arbitrary rules.
Canadian officials have also ignored the rise of anti-Palestinian sentiment that partly explains Greyson and Loubani's incarceration. Greyson and Loubani flew to Cairo en route to do humanitarian and political work in Gaza, which would displease Egypt's military rulers who associate the Hamas government in Gaza with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Since taking power on July 3, the military regime has deepened the brutal blockade of Gaza. Before the coup some 1,200 people a day crossed through the Rafah terminal in Egypt, Gaza's main window to the world (Israel is blocking most other access points). Now about 250 make it through every day and the Egyptian authorities have shut the Rafah crossing entirely in recent days.
Ottawa has long supported efforts to punish Palestinians in Gaza. After Hamas won legislative elections in January 2006 Harper's Conservatives made Canada the first country (after Israel) to cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority and Ottawa has cheered on Israel's blockade and repeated bombings of Gaza.
More significantly from Greyson and Loubani's standpoint, the Conservatives support the Egyptian military's overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi and its brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests. Foreign Minister John Baird called the military's overthrow of Morsi a "coup" but he's explicitly rejected calls for the elected President to be restored. On Aug. 22 Baird said "We're certainly not calling for them [Egypt's elected government] to be restored to power." This is in contrast to the U.S., France and U.K., which have at least nominally called for Morsi's restoration to power.
Ottawa has also justified the military's brutal repression of largely peaceful demonstrations. "We think the interim government is dealing with some terrorist elements in the country," Baird told reporters a month ago. "A lot of this is being led by senior officials in the Muslim Brotherhood."
Baird is simply parroting the military regime, which has killed over 1,000 democracy protesters and incarcerated at least 3,000 more since overthrowing Morsi. They've also imposed martial law, a curfew and banned the Muslim Brotherhood.
In a bid to control the flow of information the military regime has shuttered a number of TV stations, including Al Jazeera, and stripped tens of thousands of imams -- Muslim clerics -- of their preaching licenses. The goal is to better control the political messages emanating from mosques.
Greyson and Loubani have had the misfortune of being caught up in this repressive climate. They are two, among many, victims of an out of control military regime desperately trying to reverse the democratic space opened up two and a half years ago with the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
While Greyson and Loubani's incarceration is an irritant for the Conservatives, they are decidedly antagonistic to democracy struggles in Egypt. On Jan. 25, 2011, Egyptians began 18 days of protest, including widespread labour actions, which would topple the 30-year presidency of Hosni Mubarak. The Conservatives stuck with Mubarak until literally the last possible minute. On Feb. 10, 2011, Foreign Affairs called for "restraint from all parties to settle the crisis" and about three hours before Mubarak's resignation was announced on Feb. 11, Harper told a Newfoundland audience: "Our strong recommendations to those in power would be to lead change. To be part of it and to make a bright future happen for the people of Egypt." The Prime Minister failed to call for Mubarak's immediate departure.
Most of Canada's traditional allies abandoned Mubarak before the Conservatives. The day after he stepped down Alec Castonguay explained in Le Devoir: "Canada was the only Western country to not call for an 'immediate transition' in Egypt. While Washington, London, Paris, Madrid and Rome openly called for an end to Mubarak's rule and the transfer of power to a provisional government, Ottawa sided with Israel in refusing to condemn the old dictator."
The Conservatives lackluster support for Loubani and Greyson reflects their support for Egypt's military rulers, which is tied to an extreme pro-Israel outlook. If these two courageous individuals are further harmed, blame the pro-Israel/anti-Egyptian democracy forces in this country.
Egyptians stage nationwide demonstrations against nearly 30 years of President Hosni Mubarak's rule. Hundreds of protesters are killed as Mubarak and his allies try to crush the uprising. <em>Anti-government protestors continue to defy the curfew in Tahrir Square on February 1, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)</em>
Mubarak steps down and the military takes over. The army dissolves parliament and suspends the constitution, meeting two key demands of protesters. <em>In this Friday, Feb. 11, 2011 file photo taken from Egyptian television, Egypt's vice president Omar Suleiman makes the announcement that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has stepped down from office, in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Egypt TV, File)</em>
Egypt holds multistage parliamentary elections. In the lawmaking lower house, the Muslim Brotherhood wins nearly half the seats, and ultraconservative Salafis take another quarter. The remainder goes to liberal, independent and secular politicians. In the largely powerless upper house, Islamists take nearly 90 percent of the seats. <em>A woman places her vote in the ballot box at a polling station in the Shubra district on the second day of voting on November 29, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)</em>
The first round of voting in presidential elections has a field of 13 candidates. The Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under Mubarak, emerge as the top two finishers, to face each other in a runoff. <em>Polling center officials sort ballots for counting following the second day of Egypt's presidential election on May 24, 2012 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)</em>
The Supreme Constitutional Court orders the dissolving of the lower house of parliament. <em>A security officer stands outside the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo, on February 3, 2013 as Egypt's top court postponed until March 3, a ruling on the legality of the Islamist-dominated commission that drafted a contested new constitution, state media reported. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)</em>
Egyptians vote in the presidential runoff between Morsi and Shafiq. Morsi wins with 51.7 percent of the vote. <em>Egyptian women check for their names on an electoral list at a polling station on June 17, 2012 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak /Getty Images)</em>
Morsi takes his oath of office. <em>In this image released by the Egyptian Presidency, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, center, stands with judges Farouk Sultan, left, and Maher el-Beheiri, right, as he is sworn in at the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, June 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Ahmed Fouad, Egyptian Presidency)</em>
Members of liberal parties and representatives of Egypt's churches withdraw from the 100-member assembly writing the constitution, protesting attempts by Islamists to impose their will. <em>A Coptic Christian monk holds a Coptic cross at Al-Mahraq monastery during the preparation of a religious festival in Assiut, Upper Egypt, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)</em>
Morsi unilaterally decrees greater powers for himself, giving his decisions immunity from judicial review and barring the courts from dissolving the constituent assembly and the upper house of parliament. The move sparks days of protests. <em>Thousands of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi supporters gather outside the presidential palace in Cairo on November 23, 2012. (AHMED MAHMOUD/AFP/Getty Images)</em>
Islamists in the constituent assembly rush to complete the draft of the constitution. Morsi sets a Dec. 15 date for a referendum. <em>A view of Cairo's Tahrir Square taken on November 29, 2012 shows tents set up by protesters on the third day of protest over Egyptian President Morsi's decision to grant himself sweeping powers until the new constitution is ratified in a referendum. (MAHMOUD kHALED/AFP/Getty Images)</em>
More than 100,000 protesters march on the presidential palace, demanding the cancellation of the referendum and the writing of a new constitution. The next day, Islamists attack an anti-Morsi sit-in, sparking street battles that leave at least 10 dead. <em>Egyptian protesters chant anti-Muslim Brotherhood slogans during a rally in front of the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)</em>
In the two-round referendum, Egyptians approve the constitution, with 63.8 percent voting in favor. Turnout is low. <em>A man dips his finger on an ink pad to mark his having voted during a referendum on the new Egyptian constitution at a polling station on December 15, 2012 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)</em>
Hundreds of thousands hold protests against Morsi on the 2-year anniversary of the start of the revolt against Mubarak, and clashes erupt in many places. <em>An Egyptian protester wearing empty tear gas canisters around his neck carries an Egyptian flag during a demonstration in Tahrir Square on January 25, in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Ed Giles/Getty Images).</em>
Protests rage in Port Said and other cities for weeks, with dozens more dying in clashes. <em>Egyptian mourners carry body of Abdelhalim Mehana who was killed during clashes with riot police on March 4, during his funeral procession in the Suez Canal city of Port Said on March 8, 2013, a day before a court is to issue verdicts over the killing of people in a football riot there. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)</em>
A Muslim mob attacks the main cathedral of the Coptic Orthodox Church as Christians hold a funeral and protest there over four Christians killed in sectarian violence the day before. Pope Tawadros II publicly blames Morsi for failing to protect the building. <em>Unidentified Egyptians throw stones towards Coptic Christians during sectarian clashes outside the Egyptian Coptic cathedral in Cairo's Abbassiya neighbourhood on April 7, 2013. (AFP/Getty Images)</em>
A mob beats to death four Egyptian Shiites in a village on the outskirts of Cairo. <em>Egyptians carry the coffin of a Shiite following funeral prayers in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, June 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)</em>
Millions of Egyptians demonstrate on Morsi's first anniversary in office, calling on him to step down. Eight people are killed in clashes outside the Muslim Brotherhood's Cairo headquarters. <em>Egyptian opposition protesters chant during a demonstration in Tahrir Square as part of the 'Tamarod' campaign on June 30, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Ed Giles/Getty Images).</em>
Huge demonstrations continue, and Egypt's powerful military gives the president and the opposition 48 hours to resolve their disputes, or it will impose its own solution. <em>Fireworks light the sky as hundreds of thousands of Egyptian demonstrators gather outside the presidential palace in Cairo during a protest calling for the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi on June 30, 2013. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)</em>
Military officials disclose main details of the army's plan if no agreement is reached: replacing Morsi with an interim administration, canceling the Islamist-based constitution and calling elections in a year. Morsi delivers a late-night speech in which he pledges to defend his legitimacy and vows not to step down. <em>Egyptian opposition protesters demonstrate at the Egyptian Presidential Palace in the suburb of Heliopolis on July 2, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Ed Giles/Getty Images)</em>
Egypt's military chief announces that Morsi has been deposed, to be replaced by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court until new presidential elections. No time frame is given. Muslim Brotherhood leaders are arrested. Tens of thousands of Morsi supporters remain camped out in two mass sit-ins in Cairo's streets. <em>Egyptian Army soldiers patrol the streets outside Cairo University after a broadcast confirming that the army will temporarily be taking over from the country's first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013 in Cairo. (MAHMOUD KHALED/AFP/Getty Images)</em>
Supreme Constitutional Court Chief Justice Adly Mansour is sworn in as Egypt's interim president. <em>Egypt's chief justice Adly Mansour prepares to swear in as the nation's interim president Thursday, July 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)</em>
Mansour dissolves the Islamist-dominated upper house of parliament as Morsi's supporters stage mass protests demanding his return. Clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi groups in Cairo and Alexandria, and violence elsewhere leave at least 36 dead. A Brotherhood strongman, deputy head Khairat el-Shater, is arrested. <em>An anti-Mohammed Morsi protester is attended to after allegedly being shot by Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Tahrir Square during fighting between the two camps on July 5, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)</em>
Egyptian soldiers open fire on pro-Morsi demonstrators in front of a military base in Cairo, killing more than 50. Each side blames the other for starting the clash near the larger of the two sit-ins, near east Cairo's Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque. Mansour puts forward a time line for amending the constitution and electing a new president and parliament by mid-February. The Brotherhood refuses to participate in the process. <em>A man reacts after seeing the body of a family member at the Liltaqmeen al-Sahy Hospital in Cairo's Nasr City district, allegedly killed during a shooting at the site of a pro-Morsi sit-in in front of the headquarters of the Egyptian Republican Guard on July 8, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Ed Giles/Getty Images)</em>
Mansour appoints economist Hazem el-Beblawi as prime minister and opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei as vice president. A military announcement backs up the appointments. <em>In this Tuesday, July 9, 2013 file photo released by the Egyptian Presidency, Hazem el-Beblawi meets with interim President Adly Mansour, unseen, in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency, File)</em>
Millions pour into the streets of Egypt after a call by the country's military chief for protesters to give him a mandate to stop "potential terrorism" by supporters of Morsi. Five people are killed in clashes. Prosecutors announce Morsi is under investigation for a host of allegations including murder and conspiracy with the Palestinian militant group Hamas. <em>Supporters of the Egyptian Army take part in a demonstration at Tahrir Square on July 26, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Ed Giles/Getty Images).</em>
Security forces and armed men in civilian clothes clash with Morsi supporters outside the larger of the two major sit-ins in Cairo, killing at least 80 people. <em>A supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi prays prior to the 'iftar' fast-breaking meal at a sit-in protest at the Rabaa al Adweya Mosque in the Nasr City district on July 28, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Ed Giles/Getty Images).</em>
The EU's top diplomat Catherine Ashton holds a two-hour meeting with detained Morsi at an undisclosed location. She is one of a number of international envoys, including U.S. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, to visit Egypt to attempt to resolve the crisis. <em>This image released by the Egyptian Presidency shows interim Vice President Mohamed El Baradei, right, making remarks at a joint news conference with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, left, at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, July 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)</em>
Egypt's presidency says that diplomatic efforts to peacefully resolve the standoff between the country's military-backed interim leadership and the Muslim Brotherhood have failed. <em>Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi attend the Eid al-Fitr dawn prayers, marking the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan outside Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, where protesters have installed a camp and hold daily rallies at Nasr City in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)</em>
Egyptian security forces announce that they will besiege the two sit-ins within 24 hours to bar people from entering. <em>Supporters of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi (portrait) cheer during a football match between the two main Cairo protest camps by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and backers of the ousted Islamist leader set up at the Nahda and Rabaa al-Adawiya squares, on August 11, 2013 in Cairo's al-Nahda square. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)</em>
Authorities postpone plans to take action against the camps, saying they want to avoid bloodshed after Morsi supporters reinforce the sit-ins with thousands more protesters. <em>Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohammed Morsi (portrait) demonstrate outside the High Court in Cairo on August 12, 2013. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)</em>