The Threat from the Attack on Parliament
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” -Benjamin Franklin
Forty-four years ago this month terrorists of the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) kidnapped Quebec Cabinet Minister Pierre Laporte and British diplomat James Cross. Mr. Laporte was subsequently murdered, his body left in the trunk of a car.
In response to the crisis, the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act, effectively imposing marital law on Montreal and Ottawa. Hundreds of Canadian citizens were rounded up and arrested without charge or warrant. They were detained on suspicion; guilty by association and a frightened government suspended their constitutional rights and ordered troops into the streets of Ottawa and Montreal.
Long after the crisis was resolved, the government’s actions were re-examined and widely criticized. Cooler heads determined that the ability of a government – any government – to have the power to arrest and indefinitely inter citizens based on nothing more than suspicion was an even greater threat to Canadians than the terrorists themselves.
As a result the War Measures Act was repealed effectively removing the power to override every citizen’s rights and freedoms under the law.
This morning a gunman shot a member of the Honour Guard at Canada’s National War Museum and then proceeded to the Canadian Parliament buildings where he engaged in a gunfight with security staff and law enforcement. He was subsequently shot by the Sergeant at Arms.
It remains unclear as to how many additional attackers, if any, are involved. There have been reports that a second shooter was killed, that there were shootings at the Rideau Centre shopping mall down the street from Parliament Hill and that law enforcement is searching for a third and possibly more shooters.
None of these reports have been confirmed at the time of writing this post but it has been confirmed that the young honour guard who was shot at the war memorial has has died from his wounds.
This is an event that is more than just a news story for me and for our family.
My wife, Maggie, is in lockdown in a government building that is literally across the street from Parliament Hill where the shootings took place. Her daughter and various other members of our family are in similar situations in government buildings across the downtown core. They are all safe as I write this but I share the same concerns for Maggie, and them all, that countless others share for their wives, husbands, parents and children who are in a similar position.
In a phrase, we are worried for the safety of the people we love especially because the situation is chaotic, fluid and unresolved. Nobody really knows the full extent of what may happen and it is the fear of the unknown that amplifies our concern.
I’ve been following coverage on our local news/talk radio station; a station with a definite conservative bent and what I am hearing has served to remind me of just how far amplified fears can take us if we allow them too.
The attack was horrific enough but the commentary of the four on-air personalities is more than just frightening. Before it has even been established as to whether the shooter(s) is a radicalized terrorist or a psychopath like Kimveer Gill the Dawson College shooter, they would hand government more powers than were ever available to it under the former War Measures Act.
One commentator thinks that satellite television and the Internet should be censored. Another has been emphacizing his belief that Canadian citizens should be arrested and held indefinitely without either charge or warrant. All that would be required is that the government ‘thinks’ someone might be capable of committing a terrorist act at some point in the future.
It is the giving the government unrestricted power to ‘decide’ someone is guilty rather than being required to ‘prove’ they are either a threat to the state or have a committed a crime.
What kind of Orwellian totalitarianism is this? It hasn’t even confirmed that the shooter(s) are radical jihadists. Are these really conservatives I’m listening too? Have they so easily forgotten the lessons learned when the War Measures Act was imposed forty-four years ago?
These are some the same people who opposed the Gun Registry because it was an abuse of government power; an intrusion into the lives of citizens. How much more of an intrusion into a citizen’s life is it to arrest him or her on suspicion and then to hold them without trial or conviction for as long as the government wishes?
Many have tried to compare various progressive legislations, like the Gun Registry, to the government oppression of countries like the former Soviet Union. Despite the number of gun crimes committed in this country, they scream about the infringement of personal liberty at any attempt to further regulate gun ownership. And yet, here we have four conservative commentators advocating that citizens be arrested and detained indefinitely despite having committed no crime.
“Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).” -Ayn Rand
It isn’t merely hypocrisy, it’s fear elevated to panic; the concession of the very freedoms that make us who we are in order to obtain the illusion of security and which are guaranteed to us in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If we give in to that level of hysteria, the terrorists have already won.
We are a free people and just as gun owners have every right to the responsible acquisition and ownership of firearms without government interference, so too do we as citizens have every right to the protection our constitution guarantees us to the presumption of innocence and habeus corpus.
This country does not need a Guantanamo Prison where suspected radicals are held without trial at the whim of the government of the day.
What would be next? Would we then agree that we should arrest anyone we think might be capable of murder or armed robbery or opposition to the current government’s policies? Should we arrest and detain a legal gun owner who is has voiced opposition to the government because he might have the potential of committing an act of violence against that government? Where does it end?
Do we allow ourselves to become like Germany as the Nazis rose to power; a people willing to remain silent as our neighbours are rounded up and interred because of their religion or their political ideology? Who decides who should be arrested? Will it be the Prime Minister and his or her Cabinet? Will it be CSIS or the RCMP or local law enforcement and will the reasons why someone has been arrested be hidden and kept secret? Will the person arrested be entitled to legal representation?
I believe this kind of power in the hands of government is an even greater threat to our freedom and our security than anything a terrorist organization can proffer. The opportunity for abuse by a government willing to use it against its political opposition is glaring.
“Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.” -Coretta Scott King
What is happening downtown even as I write this is horrifying and made all the more so because my wife is in the middle of it. I am more than just worried about her. I am left feeling helpless to do anything to protect her. The downtown core is in lockdown and I can’t even drive down to pick her up and bring her home.
But having admitted to the fear that this senseless act has brought into our lives, I remain even more afraid of those who would hand over to government, the very protections that guarantee our freedom and our way of life. It is more frightening that many who are advocating it are conservatives.
The real threat of terrorism is not the these horrific acts of violence but rather what many are prepared to give up in response to them. Our way of life is under attack and as much from those who would trade away our freedoms and rights, for the illusion of security as it is from terrorism.
A free people need to remain vigilant and to remember that it is more difficult to reclaim freedoms that have been lost than it is to defend those you already have.
© 2014 Maggie’s Bear
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