Victoria Times Colonist

Fry criticized for silence during anti-U.S. speech

Victoria Times Colonist
October 2, 2001

OTTAWA -- Secretary of State Hedy Fry was condemned Monday for sitting silently while a B.C. feminist told a cheering audience here that the U.S. government is more threatening to the world than international terrorism.

Sunera Thobani received several standing ovations from about 500 delegates at the Women's Resistance Conference that began earlier Monday.

"Today in the world the United States is the most dangerous and the most powerful global force unleashing horrific levels of violence," said Thobani, a women's studies professor at the University of British Columbia and former head of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women.

"From Chile to El Salvador to Nicaragua to Iraq, the path of U.S. foreign policy is soaked in blood."

Thobani said she empathizes with the human suffering following the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania that left more than 6,000 people dead or missing. "But do we feel any pain for the victims of U.S. aggression?"

Opposition MPs called on the government to fire Fry, charging that she should have immediately condemned such statements.

Thobani also ridiculed any suggestion that the U.S. would be advancing women's rights by ousting Afghanistan's Taliban regime, which has forbidden women from working, attending school, or showing their faces in public.

"It's really interesting to hear this talk about saving Afghani women," she said. "Those of us who have been colonized know what this saving means."

She said women will never be emancipated until the U.S. and the West stop dominating the world.

"The West for 500 years has believed that it could slaughter people into submission and it has not been able to do so. And it will not be able to so this time, either."

Fry, the Chretien government's secretary of state for multiculturalism and the status of women, who also delivered a speech at the conference and was on the podium while Thobani spoke, should have sent an immediate message that the speech went too far, opposition MPs said.

"She should apologize to Canadians and our American cousins for not condemning these comments and walking out on this insulting and inflammatory speech," said Chuck Strahl, deputy leader of the Tory-Democratic Representative coalition.

New Democratic Party Leader Alexa McDonough, whose party was once a close ally of NAC's, said Fry should have offered "an unequivocal rejection of the kind of cheap sloganeering, of the excessive rhetoric.

"This is a time to be building tolerance, to be building bridges, not to create greater divisions," McDonough said.

Fry defended freedom of speech within Canada, but said she didn't applaud and immediately left the event after Thobani spoke.

"I condemn that speech," the Vancouver Centre MP told jeering opposition MPs.

"I thought the speech that was made by the expert of NAC to be incitement."

Opposition MPs said Fry, who wrongly portrayed Prince George as a haven for cross-burning racists earlier this year, has made one too many blunders and must be fired.

"The history of this minister is not a very happy one and I think it is time for a change," said Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day.

McDonough said Fry doesn't have the credibility to travel across Canada and speak publicly against intolerance.

© Copyright 2001 Victoria Times Colonist