Debate: What is the appropriate response to Canada’s new “anti-terror” Bill C-51?
We need an alternative anti-terror solution
By: Fraser Allan
Bill C-51 will pass. Perhaps not in name, but in effect. If you are a student on an urban university campus your mind is probably made up: C-51 is an unacceptable violation of civil liberties. And you’re right.
But that’s not enough.
While you are right to resist this Orwellian counterterror initiative, it is not a checkbox. The question is not “Do you want to expand the government’s civil authority?” Canada faces a legitimate threat from ideologically-motivated militant Islamists, some of whom orchestrated an attack on the Parliament Building late last year. This problem needs a solution.
While the left has diligently guarded civil liberties, its objections have not been backed with credible alternatives.
Like anyone caught without a solution, they deny the problem. “You are more likely to die from a lightening bolt than from a terrorist attack,” and other such statistics, are popular refrains. Their implicit case: we shouldn’t focus our efforts on terrorism since it poses such an insignificant threat.
While stats aren’t biased, our interpretations of them are. We conveniently pretend that efforts should be proportionate to danger, but they shouldn’t. If we do nothing about lightening bolts, they will kill a roughly equal number of people next year; the same cannot be said about international militant Islamists, who can become more numerous and adept.
Twisting the stats allows us to deny the problem. A recent Globe and Mail survey showed that more Canadians worried about the economy (90%) than terrorism (4%). But this doesn’t mean that terrorism is not a problem. No doubt, everyone polled would prefer to be the victim of a bad economy than a terrorist shooting.
But this brings us to another problem: on fiscal issues, the left likes “big government.” They push the government to fund the arts, keep the phone bill down, regulate the food we eat. All of these positions are favorites on university campuses.
The chorus calling for more government involvement is only interrupted when it comes to defense, and proposals like Bill C-51.
There is basis for a change of tune; the government surveying food producers to monitor trans fats doesn’t violate individual liberties in the intimate way that a wire-tap does. But rather than change tune, opponents have simply fallen silent. The most staunch opponents of the bill have offered nothing by way of alternative for the very real threat of terrorism.
On the left, “more government” is so widely used as the magic bullet that to think in other terms is challenging, yet this is the very thing that the left has to do to to counter Bill C-51.
Terrorism is a legitimate threat to Canadians, no matter how we interpret probabilities If we can’t think like conservatives and find a security solution that requires less government, rather than more, Bill C-51 is inevitable.
We can’t look for solutions without defining terror
By: George Neish
As we all know, the global movements which seek to undermine Canada and the West are 'growing, highly organized and well-financed.' Worse, these non-conventional, non-state actors present an ambiguous profile to Canada's security services, creating a situation where seemingly 'peaceful activists' often harbour sympathies and foster links with more radicalised 'militants and violent extremists.' The RCMP, from whose internal report these words are taken, has every reason to be heartened that the battle to keep Canada safe will be made just a little bit easier with the impending passage of C-51.
The bill, which, supported by both the Conservative and Liberal parties, should pass easily into law, grants far-reaching powers to multiple government agencies in their struggle against extremism. The mandate of CSIS in particular will be greatly expanded, to better allow it to detect, pursue and eliminate the fanatical elements who threaten us all. But probably the most welcome part of the bill, for the authors of the aforementioned report that is, will be the introduction of a new criminal offence, which casts a wide net to capture those who express ideas 'sympathetic to terrorism.'
Just how wide this net could become, however, might come as a surprise to those outside of the security community. The groups referred to in the RCMP report are not ISIS supporters or religious militants at all – though some of their members happen to be Muslims. Rather, they are environmental activists whose threat to Canadian interests is their opposition to the expansion of petroleum production in environmentally sensitive parts of the country. They are also activists from first-nations communities who challenge the encroachment onto their land of oil pipelines (on which, needless to say, our way of life also depends).
Since these groups have been characterised by Joe Oliver, a minister in the current government, as ' foreign-funded radicals', it is not a stretch to imagine that these new powers will be applied to them by grateful security agencies throughout Canada. In fact, this prediction is borne out by the experience of political activist in the UK. After a similar 'anti-terrorism bill' cleared the Westminster parliament there were many cases of the powers it sanctioned being used not only against people involved in oppositional politics, but also to harass totally benign photographers, nature-walkers and even train-spotters.
These are firm precedents for what will happen if C-51 is not stopped. It is important to remember that it is concrete acts of injustice like these, not the abstract notion of harm to 'civil liberties', that demonstrate the wrongness of this kind of security power-grab. Labels like 'terrorism' and 'militant' are flexible; we have seen that police can apply the terms to peaceful environmentalists. Perhaps true terror is state authoritarianism grounded in fear. That is why opponents of C-51 do not have to provide an alternative way to safeguard Canadians against extremism. By fighting against this bill, they are already doing exactly that.
Slideshow image: JMacPherson http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/