An affront on our values
Canadians have faced a year like no other in our nation’s history. We witnessed an attack on our parliament, a hallowed ground where every member of our society ought to be able to express themselves free from fear.
A soldier was murdered in cold blood, run over by a car driven by a vicious radical with a pernicious set of beliefs.
Even now we are engaged in military action in the Middle East, facing a group bent on laying waste to the sanctity of human rights.
Bill C-51, dubbed the Canadian “anti-terrorism” bill, was tabled in parliament last week, and is thought to be the largest reconstruction of Canadian security laws since the 9/11 attacks.
The bill would decrease the standard for arrest, allowing police to arrest somebody if they think an attack “may be carried out,” differing from the current standard of “will be carried out.”
The bill would also allow Canada’s intelligence agency, CSIS, to disrupt online activity of suspected terrorists, meaning officials could interrupt communication between subjects or involve a subject’s family or friends in deterring that person from taking part in terrorist acts.
Finally, officials would be able to apply for a court order to seize, or force a website to remove, “terrorist propaganda” with the consent of Canada’s attorney general.
Bill C-51 can be interpreted as being vague, unclear and even grossly overreaching in its goals to prevent terrorism in Canada.
The bill almost seems to pay homage to the Patriot Act, the American anti-terrorism legislation that came to fruition in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
The Patriot Act greatly expanded the American government’s surveillance capabilities, which in the post-9/11 world, looked to be a promising way to prevent future attacks.
What the American people found nearly a decade later was famously revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden; the act helped the National Security Agency collect information on Americans with little to no oversight and gross insensitivity.
However, can we really lay blame on the federal government, including both the Conservatives and Liberals as supporting parties, for suggesting a bill that seems so ambiguous and disconcerting?
Recent polls from Angus-Reid show that Canadians overwhelmingly support the expansion of government powers to battle terrorism.
What’s more, it was revealed that the majority of us either feel that Bill C-51 rightly balances freedom with security, or “does not go nearly far enough” to provide security.
The poll also showed that most of us garner a “fair amount of trust” in the federal government using our personal data only for the purpose of combatting terrorism.
We have showed the federal government that we are scared and have an appetite that craves a hefty portion of security, assured that it will not spoil our side of charter rights.
Polls signal to the federal government that legislation of this nature is a winner, much desired for a ruling Conservative party facing recent unpopularity, and a Liberal party haunted by historic third-party status.
We must not fall victim to the heinous purpose of terrorism by allowing ourselves to eke out an existence in an eternal state of fear.
In the face of fear, we must not allow the court of public opinion to push for the unjust prosecution of our fellow countrymen.
We must live by the infamous words of American journalist Edward R. Murrow from his See It Now broadcast: “We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men.”