Defence Minister under fire for tweeting questionable photos
OTTAWA — Defence Minister Jason Kenney has come under criticism for photographs he published on his Twitter feed last Sunday, one a picture he suggested was of Muslim women put in chains by Islamic extremists but was actually from a religious ceremony, and another that potentially identified Canadian special forces in Iraq.
To mark International Women’s Day on Sunday, Kenney tweeted photographs of Muslim girls in chains with a message thanking Canadian Forces “for joining the fight against (Islamic State’s) campaign to enslave women & girls.” Later that day he tweeted pictures from a ramp ceremony for Sgt. Andrew Doiron who was killed by friendly fire in Iraq last week. Doiron was with the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, based in Petawawa, Ont.
The supposed pictures of women in chains were actually of a re-enactment that is part of the annual Ashura ceremony celebrated by Shia Muslims the world over. The chained girls are meant to symbolize the sister of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson being taken to Damascus after he was beheaded.
Kenney’s office has refused to respond to questions about the pictures he tweeted. As of Tuesday afternoon, the pictures were still posted on his Twitter account.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims called Kenney’s Twitter message “another example of our elected leaders, at best, ignorantly conflating Islam and Muslims with extremism and terrorism and, at worst, deliberately attempting to score political points by stoking divisions among Canadians.”
In a written statement, NCCM executive director Ihsaan Gardee wrote that the message “is corrosive and casts a pall of suspicion over all Canadian Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim.”
Regarding the release of the special forces photos, NDP defence critic Jack Harris said Kenney’s behaviour was reckless. “They don’t allow photos to be taken of troops going to train in Poland yet he releases these types of pictures,” Harris said. “Maybe it’s inexperience on Kenney’s part or maybe the value of the images to the government’s narrative about the Iraq mission is more important than security of special forces.”
Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray said the minister’s decision to release the special forces photos puts troops at risk and is hypocritical because Kenney’s office has prevented journalists from taking photos of other military personnel at other events for security reasons.
The photos were tweeted by Kenney and provided to news outlets by the Canadian Forces and used extensively.
It has been the military’s policy not to allow the faces of special forces personnel to be photographed by the media.
Department of National Defence spokesman Dan Le Bouthhillier said the Canadian Forces is continually adapting its security and force protection measures to meet the changing situation. The safety of military personnel is the primary concern, he said.
Le Bouthhillier noted it is up to individual commanders to determine and adopt appropriate force protection measures for specific circumstances.