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.
Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears.
We 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.
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.
Just 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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