PHOTOS: Liberal candidate Adam Vaughan’s photo of the Kurdish Peace and Cultural Festival in Toronto Saturday, with an image of PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan visible in the background. (Grabbed from Twitter.) Below: Defence Minister Jason Kenney, who bragged about being at the event, and Mr. Vaughan.

Jason Kenney, who notwithstanding the dissolution of the House of Commons continues to hold the defence portfolio in the Harper Ministry, was this week courting votes at a picnic organized by a Toronto Kurdish group.

“Spoke to thousands from Canada’s #Kurdish community, who thanked us for Canada’s military operation against ISIL,” Mr. Kenney boasted in a Tweet Saturday evening.

So far so good, it is election season, after all, and Mr. Kenney is Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s point man on ethnic politics.

But this is where things begin to get a little murky.

The group that organized the “13th annual Kurdish Peace and Cultural Festival,” it turns out, appears to support the Kurdistan Workers Party, an organization founded by Kurds who live in Turkey that is commonly known by the initials PKK.

The connection works like this, according to a blog called some random political blog,” which makes the connections quite persuasively: The Peace and Cultural Festival, which took place at the Toronto Kurdish Community Centre, appears to have been put on by a group called the Democratic Kurdish Youth Commission, which on its Facebook page identifies itself as the Toronto Kurdistan Youth Assembly. TKYA materials demonstrate the group’s support for the PKK – indeed, on Twitter the group uses a hashtag, #WeAreAllPKK.

In addition, visible in the background of a photo taken at the event and Tweeted by another campaigning politician – Spadina-Fort York Liberal candidate Adam Vaughan – was an illustration of one of the PKK’s founders, Abdullah Ocalan. Mr. Ocalan, 68, is serving a life sentence in a Turkish prison for treason.

Why does this matter? Well, as this is written, PKK military units are under heavy attack by the military forces of Canada’s NATO ally Turkey – which claims that the PKK is a terrorist organization.

As has been written here before, life in that troubled region is not as simple as a Turkish Armed Forces press release, and as the largest ethnic group on earth without a homeland, a good case can be made for the Kurds in at least some of their territorial disputes with Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. We would all agree, at the very least, that these are not necessarily the neighbours you’d want if you happened to be homeless.

Nevertheless, however unjustly, the PKK has been declared a terrorist organization, not just by the Turks, but by North Atlantic Treaty Organization, of which Canada is a proud member, and also by the governments of, among many others, Australia, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, the United States and … Canada.

So here we have the Canadian minister of defence, one of the main cheerleaders for the Harper Government’s so-called Anti-Terrorism Act, probably unconstitutional legislation that among many other things makes it a criminal offence to advocate or promote the commission of terrorism offences in general, at an event put on by a group that publicly supports an organization identified as a sponsor of terrorism by Canada and its allies!

Having written in the past about The Harper Government’s apparently strategy-free military activities in the Middle East, I came across this situation when I noticed another Tweet by Mr. Kenney, expressing “solidarity w/ Kurds fighting ISIL. No one from NDP or LPC came to explain why they went (sic) to abandon the Kurds.”

As noted, there was in fact someone there from the Liberals. But the C-51 connection may have explained the lack of a New Democrat.

Regardless, I Tweeted back, “Do you propose to do anything about our NATO allies, the Turks, attacking Kurds with jet bombers?”

Mr. Kenney responded later, saying, “Spoke to that last night. We call for an end to violence and a return to peace negotiations.”

This led to me poking around online, which turned up to the informative “random blog.”

So what’s wrong with this picture? I’m no lawyer, but it seems to me there’s a case that Mr. Kenney may have been acting in violation of his government’s own anti-terror legislation, still known to most of us as Bill C-51.

Certainly he was sailing close to the wind by attending this event, whether he did so out of ignorance and lack of preparation, or the belief not uncommon among the Conservative Party’s insiders that the rules are for everyone else. Indeed, a separate illustration of this phenomenon is unfolding this week in an Ottawa courtroom.

If Mr. Kenney was in violation of the act, even unintentionally, shouldn’t he resign as defence minister, although he would be entirely within the scope of Parliamentary convention for him to continue to be a Conservative candidate?

There’s not much hope of that happening, of course. These Conservatives don’t really hold with parliamentary conventions – indeed, they hold the institution in contempt.

Regardless, if Mr. Kenney indeed proposes to do something to help the Kurds – including the PKK by the sound of his Tweet – he’s going to have to do better than issue “calls” to our NATO allies, the Turks. They don’t seem to listen to calls.

This post also appears on

Join the Conversation


  1. There is a reason we have professional diplomats in the Department of Foreign Affairs (or whatever the current political Mafia are calling it,). The world is a complicated place. Politicians who refuse to heed the advice of the professionals (i.e. the Harper government including Mr. Kenney) have a serious risk of foot in mouth. This guy seemed to be doing a good job, but ever since he was appointed Minister of National Defence it has been fumble after fumble. Ain’t voting for Jason Kenney on 19 October. The arrogance of Harper’s people is just amazing. The Canadian public service used to be considered one of the best in the world. The “Harper government” has done everything it could to demolish that reputation

  2. ” … whether he did so out of ignorance and lack of preparation …”

    This points to the fundamental problem of ideology, from Regan & Bush to Klien to Herr harper; the belief trumps all, including reason and facts. They are fundamentally no different than ISIS or any of the other religious nutbars running around tearing their hair out and blowing up shit.
    As long as one makes the right hand gestures or says the right slogans, truth, knowledge, analysis, facts and reason do not matter one whit.

    1. re: ‘They are fundamentally no different than ISIS ‘

      I think you got that ‘fundamentally’ bit quite right.

      Fundamentalism is the root of the authoritarian rot of modern conservatives that salute Harper.

      1. Lol, Sam and Political Ranger I think you’re both taking your “fundamentals” on quite a long stretch!
        The Tories are “no different than ISIS” Seriously? Have I missed something? Either that or the Tories are secretly stoning or beheading opponents on Parliament Hill. Dave, on a side note, you really should encourage some of your contributors to this excellent site to get a grip…they seem to be losing their fundamentals.

  3. We must forgive our dear brother Jason ‘another boy fer Jesus’ Kenny for his impetuous and silly actions. ‘Canada’s Chubbiest Army Cadet’ ™ is merely trying to rally our disenchanted and demoralized Harperite ‘troops fer freedom’ to vote. Amen.

  4. Nice to know that Li’l Jason has such a firm grasp on the complexities of the Middle East. I feel soooooo much safer now. Good grief (Charlie Brown), does anybody in the dregs of the Con government know what they’re doing?

  5. Lol. This is almost as bad as Kenney attending a NDP rally. Something I fully expect one of these years with our aging population and corresponding rise in senility.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.