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Canada Strong and Free? Perhaps Not So Much These Days

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin Franklin

Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears.
Arthur Koestler

flagWe are living in a time of global threat from radical Islamic terrorists. Groups like Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab, Hezbollah, Hamas, ISIS and countless smaller groups have emerged to ravage the Middle East and Northern Africa with barbaric efficiency.  We are right to be concerned and to take effective measures to combat that threat but that doesn’t mean we should act out of fear or tremble at every threat that is voiced.

The cold brutality of terrorism is a tactic designed to instill fear in others as a means to achieve whatever perverted objective a terrorist group may have. The IRA, the FLQ, Timothy McVeigh, The KKK, the Bader-Meinhof Gang, Black September….the list of terrorist groups and individuals extends over decades but in the end, they all share much with the current crop of terrorist groups: instill fear in the population as a means to force government(s) to meet their demands. They seek to create that fear through horrific, random attacks on every day citizens.

The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it. – Adolf Hitler

 Virtually every country has experienced some level of terrorist activity at one time or another A few, like 9/11 extend beyond national borders to affect us all. Canada is no different from other nations and has experienced more than 100 terrorist attacks over the years.

Indeed, last fall’s rampage by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau wasn’t even the first assault against Parliament.

In 1966, Paul Joseph Chartier died in an attempt to bomb the House of Commons. He had fashioned his bomb with dynamite but it exploded prematurely in a washroom of the Parliament Buildings killing him instantly.

Since then we have experienced a number of terrorist attacks, almost all of which were by ‘home-grown’ terrorists.

In 1970, the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ)kidnapped James Cross a British diplomat and Pierre Laporte, a cabinet minister in the Quebec National Assembly. Mr. Cross was subsequently released but Mr. Laporte was found murdered in the trunk of a car. These two attacks, which had been preceded by random bombings in Quebec led to the imposition of martial law in Montreal, Quebec City and Ottawa as the federal government implemented the War Measures Act.

Overnight, hundreds of Canadians were rounded up and arrested without due process or access to a lawyer. Virtually all were subsequently released after the crisis passed but the suspension of civil liberties was so egregious and so un-Canadian, that Parliament moved to repeal the War Measures Act so that no government would ever again have the power to take away the basic rights of citizens as it did then and in 1940 with the internment of Japanese-Canadians simply because they were of Japanese descent.

There is no passion so contagious as that of fear. – Michel de Montaigne

In 1984 a lone gunman attacked the Quebec National Assembly killing three people and wounding 13. That same year, Thomas Bernard Brigham, a retired American armed forces officer detonated a bomb in Montreal’s central station that killed 13 and wounded 30 people in protest of a visit by the Pope.

In 1985, Sikh separatists in Canada were linked to an Air India bombing that killed all 328 passengers and crew. It remains the largest mass murder in Canadian history.

A day after the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh, Charles Bell placed a powerful pipe bomb outside the Prince Edward Island legislature that injured one. He was later convicted of a series of pipe bomb attacks throughout P.E.I. and Nova Scotia.

Three Second Cup locations were fire-bombed in 2001 as was the United Talmud Torahs School in 2004. During the period 2008-2009, a number of pipe bombs were used to damage pipelines in western Canada and last year two lone-wolves separately attacked members of our armed forces and Parliament Hill.

With the possible over-reaction of the Trudeau government when it implemented martial law and suspended civil rights in 1970, Canada has stood strong reflecting the words in our national anthem: “the truth north strong and free.” We have been, for all of our shortcomings, Canada Strong: a nation unwilling to cower or compromise our way of life and our freedom in the face of random acts of terrorism.

But that is changing and that change is being encouraged and fueled by the current Conservative government.

Facing an election within a few months and having little else upon which to run, the Harper government has begun to employ fear of terrorism as a means of gaining support.1463199_10153072530084204_2050127856646203921_n

It has introduced legislation (Bill C-51) to expand the powers of the Canadian Spy Agency and federal law enforcement (RCMP) to spy on Canadians and even to arrest and detain them without due process. It flies in the face of everything we have stood for through all of the wars, natural disasters and terrorist attacks in our history. Indeed, it flies in the face of the stated positions of the heads of CSIS and the RCMP; both of whom appeared before a Parliamentary Committee last fall and reported that they did not require more power – they needed more resources and funding.

Just today, the Commissioner of the RCMP appeared before the Parliamentary Committee reviewing Bill C-51 where he released the cell-phone video made by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau minutes before the attack on Parliament. During that appearance the Commissioner stated again, that law enforcement already had the tools it requires.

At a press conference held immediately following the Committee hearing, a spokesperson for the government used the assault of Parliament as justification for Bill C-51 following precisely the government’s talking points about Bill C-51. When asked how the new powers would have prevented the attack on Parliament Hill, she refused to comment.

The government isn’t listening to either legal or security experts. It has rejected the needed funding increases and opted instead to make a show of providing enhanced security through poorly conceived legislation and is promoting a fear of terrorism as a means to get it passed.

The simple truth is that CSIS is already drowning in data it collects every day and which it cannot properly assess or analyze for lack of resources. Despite this, both CSIS and the RCMP have done an exceptional job of keeping this nation safe with both the powers and the resources they currently have at their disposal. They have prevented a number of attacks in Canada including the Toronto 8 and just recently a terrorist threat in Ottawa.

Canadians are as safe today as we have always been perhaps even more so because our security agencies are more focused on the issue and more vigilant than ever before.  And yet, our government, which should be reassuring Canadians and which should be the embodiment of everything for which we stand, is engaged in the worst kind of cynical politics by playing to fear rather than inspiring courage and renewed confidence in our security agencies and law enforcement to do their jobs well.

10644770_10153146685789204_588606463423569754_oJust this week, the Conservative Party appealed for support with a shrill web-post playing up the fear of a potential terrorist attack on the West Edmonton Mall. Even in the rough and tumble that politics has become in this country, it was unbelievably over-the-top and has led to cheerleading groups cancelling their participation in an event that was to be held at the mall this weekend out of concern for their safety.

Is that this government’s idea of keeping Canadians safe – frightening teenage high school girls until they are afraid to pursue their normal lives in public within their own communities?

Isn’t that the very thing that terrorists are attempting to achieve? Instill fear and make us change our way of life, compromise our values and our freedoms? What kind of message has our government sent terrorists other than that we are afraid? Does that not inspire them to continue to terrorize? It hardly matches Stephen Harper’s brave words when he stated, “Canada will not be intimidated.”

But increasingly we are being intimidated and not by terrorists. It is our own government stoking the fires of fear.

If we are to really live the bold words we speak and remain the true north strong and free then we cannot allow a desperate political party or a government to compromise our freedom by making us afraid to live our lives.

That is anything but Canada Strong. It is instead, allowing ourselves to be turned into trembling sheep manipulated by political cowards and bullies.

A nation which has forgotten the quality of courage which in the past has been brought to public life is not as likely to insist upon or regard that quality in its chosen leaders today – and in fact we have forgotten.
John F. Kennedy


© 2015 Maggie’s Bear

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Twitter: @maggsbear – Facebook: Maggie’s Bear  – ivmaki@sympatico.ca


  • charlie98

    your link, It flies in the face of everything we have stood for, is a opinion and a rant about petroleum and the environment as viewed by the left.

    has nothing to do with terrorism as currently happening with respect to religious extremism

    • MaggiesBear

      You miss the point of the article.

      • charlie98

        I quite often miss the point of things unless it’s clearly explained.

        • MaggiesBear

          Thank you. I enjoy a good debate and always welcome points of view that don’t necessarily agree with mine. I often learn something new from those discussions.

  • V103115

    We are going down the dangerous road that the United States went down when the Patriot Act was put into action right after 9/11. While the premise was national security, everyone became fair game and look to the lengths domestic spying has got to in the USA under Obama.

    What worries me here is what happened in the USA-the current government is telling us this is all in the name of national security and whoever forms the next government using this legislation for their own means. The thought of a Trudeau government behaving in the same way Obama is behaving by using agencies of the government to spy on people who disagree with them is something we all have to consider.

    Saying that you have nothing to hide is no rationale for being OK with the government’s new powers. We are all one email, text message, Twitter or FaceBook post away from being singled out by the current government.

    We should all heed Benjamin Franklin’s wise words – “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

    My message is that I will not be intimidated by any of our enemies or my own government.

    • MaggiesBear

      “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”

      Fear causes many to suspend common sense and to act without thought. There are things in this world to concerned with and national security ranks near the top if not at the top but we are not being overwhelmed with terrorist attacks. There were more shootings in one neighbourhood in Toronto this year (75) than from all of the terrorist attacka in Canada in the last decade. If we want to make Canadians safer, we could start by providing funding for law enforcement to address gang related issues and illegal firearms. Unfortunately, there are few votes to be had there so fear of terrorism is the fear du jour and it isn’t just in Canada. Many politicians in the U.S., Israel and some European countries are playing the same card but not to keep us safe….merely to get reelected.

      • V103115

        And the more we buy into the fear, the less safe we become.

        • MaggiesBear

          I agree.

  • Oakville Homes

    You’ve made some good points but, when it comes down to the brass tacks, we need some method of gaining information and utilizing this info to protect ourselves. Yes, the government broadcast the Edmonton Mall issue. If they didn’t the liberal lawyers would strip every penny from the taxpayers when they sued for damages in the event something happened. The government could have done the European method and flooded the mall with soldiers and police. Let some other unprotected mall get the hit. It is complicated…. Bin Laden’s strategy was to bankrupt the west and he is succeeding. Increased security costs money and the taxpayer pays. Is it really helping to stop terrorism or just making it harder for them – a layered defence. The real people who will lose from increased security is not the average guy. So what – some guy reads my email. I’m more worried about the guy who tries to phish me, scam me and other electronic methods to strip me of my money. And, I’m not worried if this security grabs more criminals who cause the deaths of many due to their crimes. Before WW II most really didn’t try to stop Hitler and many millions died as a result – Jews, gypsys, gay, straight – anyone not a Nazi. Our problem is to ensure we don’t get the Stalin version of security in that he killed millions of his own.

    • MaggiesBear

      Let’s agree that we need to have a robust national security apparatus and that we both as a nation and as individuals should always remain vigilant. The issue then becomes do we walk our talk or do we talk loud but tremble when the rubber hits the road? What happens the next time some group posts a threat on social media – do we pass even more repressive legislation?

      CSIS is already collecting more than 1.5 million bits of communication data each and every day through intercepted emails, mobile transmissions and other methods. It lacks the resources to adequately analyze that much data. They need more resources. Both of the terrorist attacks last fall were perpetrated by individuals who had been on law enforcement’s radar but due to lack of resources, were taken off the watch list so available resources could be used elsewhere. The threat from Al Shabab is exactly that. It is a threat and one without much evidence that they have the capability of carrying it out. But even if they have, Bill C-51 would do little to prevent it and that’s the point.

      Trading some of what makes us Canadian, some of our constitutional rights for the cheap illusion of security is a dangerous road to travel especially when it is being offered up in a desperate attempt to cling to power. I resent a government trying to scare me into voting for them. None of the conservatives who support the Harper government’s initiative have stopped to ask themselves what would happen if sometime in the future, a Liberal or other government used that legislation against Canadians. Legislation like this takes on a life of its own and different governments may well add t it to further increase the state’s power over its citizens. Are we really so afraid that we are prepared to go down that road or are we going to stand up for who we are and for our way of life?