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Have shoe, will throw it

While most Quebec politicians enjoyed some downtime over the holidays, newly elected Quebec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir was already stirring up controversy and garnering headlines.

It all started on Dec. 20, when Mr. Khadir hurled a shoe at an effigy of George W. Bush during a rally in solidarity with jailed Iraqi journalist and renowned footwear-hurler Muntadhar al-Zeidi. At the protest, Mr. Khadir asserted that there are "thousands of politicians in this world who dream of having the opportunity to do what I just did."

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Mr. Khadir's actions prompted Gilbert Gagnon, a Cégep teacher from Sainte-Foy, to file a complaint with Quebec's National Assembly. In an interview with Quebec City's Le Soleil, Mr. Gagnon said that Mr. Khadir's shoe-tossing "encouraged violence" and argued that it was inappropriate and "lacking in dignity" for an MNA to take part in such an activity.

Mr. Khadir was unrepentant, characterizing his actions as a protest against a symbol of "lies, manipulation, war, and destruction." He maintained that he would never throw anything at the real-life President Bush.

In her column on Dec. 31, La Presse's Rima Elkouri opined that those outraged by Mr. Khadir's actions were overreacting. Ms. Elkouri acknowledged that throwing a shoe at the head of a person is "a violent act," but argued that throwing a shoe at the image of a politician is "above all a symbolic act." She went on to suggest that Quebeckers should not be surprised by Mr. Khadir's "juvenile and confrontational" style.

"What did we expect from a hardcore activist from the left?" asked Ms. Elkouri. "That he would wait quietly for his turn before raising his hand?"

What would Quebeckers do?

Debate over Israel's attacks on Gaza dominated Quebec opinion pages last week. Writers for the rival Montreal dailies La Presse and Le Devoir both considered the moral implications of the attacks by asking Montrealers to imagine how they would react if a (vaguely) similar conflict occurred on their home turf.

In last Tuesday's editorial, La Presse's André Pratte asked what Montrealers would do if "a Mohawk terrorist group from Khanawake fired missiles at the island of Montreal every day?" He suggested Quebeckers would want the army's reaction to such an act to be "decisive" and not "proportionate."

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Mr. Pratte's editorial elicited a deluge of angry letters, including one from a UQAM professor of sociology who accused La Presse and the rest of the mainstream Canadian media of "internalizing the Israeli government's propaganda," which he argued is based on "colonial logic."

In an editorial on Wednesday, Mr. Pratte acknowledged that "the majority of Quebeckers are on the side of the Palestinians," but argued that this "understandable bias" leads many people to put all the blame on Israel while "closing their eyes to the responsibilities of Palestinian leaders."

Meanwhile, in a column in Le Devoir, Radio-Canada's Francois Brousseau described a hypothetical scenario very similar to Mr. Pratte's "Khanawake terrorist" situation. Mr. Brousseau asked his readers to imagine how Quebeckers would respond to rocket attacks on the low-income neighbourhood of Montreal-North at the hands of a "mysterious terrorist organization."

Mr. Brousseau predicted, like Mr. Pratte, that the attacks would elicit a strong military response. But unlike Mr. Pratte, he took the comparison far enough to imagine the "appalling results" of such an attack, which he imagined would include "dozens dead, hundreds wounded, including women and children, two hundred homes destroyed, and a neighbourhood ravaged." Mr. Brousseau concluded by asking his readers to consider whether such "a devastating" attack would seem "justified."

Video of the week

This video clip from LCN news includes Amir Khadir's two seconds of shoe-chucking fame.

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