Following the terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month, the Political Science and Pre-law Association collaborated with the political science department to ask, “Where do we go from here?”

The panel, held last Wednesday, discussed the acts of terrorism and their effects on Canada.

Political science professor Spyridon Kotsovilis provided a brief overview of the Syrian conflict, the various actors involved, and the complex and conflicting agendas fueling allegiances for and against the Assad regime in the Syrian government.

“The configuration of this kind of conflict is unlike what we have seen before,” said Kotsovilis. “The overall level of complexity here makes it even more important to thoroughly discuss the series of events that have led us to our current state of affairs.”

Kotsovilis spoke about the Syrian conflict as a “chaotic mess” that began when anti-governmental demonstrations in 2011, part of the Arab Spring uprising, violently escalated when protestors were met with brutal government retaliation. Divisions between secular and Islamic rebels and between ethnic groups further complicated the fight against the regime.

Since 2011, casualties of the civil war have risen to over 220,000—approximately 30,000 of which have been civilians.

“It was and continues to be traumatic and dramatic for the thousands of people who have been displaced as a result of this conflict,” said Kotsovilis.

A key player that has emerged from the Syrian genocide and conflict is the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Kotsovilis explained that ISIS seeks to form an Islamic State and uses terrorism as a tool to spread its ideologies and principles—a tactic seen on November 13 in Paris when a series of planned attacks left 130 people dead before ISIS claimed responsibility.

According to Holly Luffman, interim director of Safety Abroad at U of T’s Centre for International Experience, at the time of the attack, 38 U of T students were studying in Paris.

Aslan Amani, a political science professor, brought the discussion back to Canada and its role in the combat mission, specifically as a peacekeeping country. Amani drew on a recent Ipsos survey conducted after the Paris attacks, which reported that 75 percent of Canadians view the threat of a terrorist attack as very real. However, the survey also indicated that Canadians are divided when it comes to Trudeau’s decision to remove six Canadian CF-18 jets from the air strike mission against ISIS.

On November 13, 130 people were killed in Paris during the orchestrated terrorist attacks.
On November 13, 130 people were killed in Paris during the orchestrated terrorist attacks.

Amani, however, believes that disengagement may not be the appropriate response.

“If ISIS represents a genuine threat to civilization and human security, which I believe it is, there is an international responsibility to collectively deal with it,” said Amani.

Instead, Amani suggested that Canada should respond with “responsible military engagement” and demonstrate its multiculturalism in response to the 25,000 refugees Canada has pledged to accept.

“The correct response to these events should not be to move away from multiculturalism,” said Amani. “In fact, we will do much good internationally by promoting and expanding our multicultural model”.

Ramzi Thabit, Political Science and Pre-law Association VP, commented on how he intended for students to gain a holistic understanding of the complexities of the conflict, which has affected the lives of many and can be seen in the backlash towards members of the local Muslim community.

“I wanted the event to give people an understanding and a background of what happened, what exactly is happening, and how collectively as a society we can learn and go forward.”