Tag Archives: Bill C-51

Fear and loathing in prime time

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Canada, I sometimes worry, has become a bad sitcom in the American style – its elected leaders more interested in their Ward Cleaver-cum-Richie Cunningham vacuities than in their duties to office in what was once a great and global democracy of truly nourishing values.

Shall we now “Leave it to Beaver” in the evermore of “Happy Days”?

Pierre Blais, a former federal Tory minister of public safety, thinks that’s just fine if it means expanding the Government of Canada’s power to spy on its own citizens. In a “loose-lips-sinks-ships” sort of polemic, the new honcho of nation’s Security Intelligence Review Committee told the Globe and Mail in an exclusive interview last week, “Terrorists, they don’t have borders. When they decide to put a bomb somewhere – the railroad or in Parliament – they don’t care. They just do it. Governments have to adapt to that with their legislation.”

In fact, he assured his interviewers, “We know that CSIS sometimes has to be more intrusive. And I think the Canadian population accepts that.”

In the same Globe piece, the country’s spymaster, Michel Coulombe was explicit: “It could go into disrupting a financial transaction done through the Internet, disabling a mobile device. . .and tampering with equipment.”

Still, who watches the watchdogs? What, exactly, justifies the Conservative government’s new Bill C-51 and all of its paranoiac rhetoric, except, perhaps, a heartfelt determination to pitch the body politic back into a 21st-century version of Cold War mania?

Are we, in this country, so threatened by enemies both domestic and foreign that we are willing to succumb? Have we finally filled that prime-time slot of fear and loathing in our own lives that we once assuaged with frequent viewings of the “Beaver”, “Gilligan’s Island”, “The Love Boat”, “Lost” and, more recently and perniciously, the poverty-porn of reality TV?

If Mr. Blais is correct (and I suspect that he is in more ways that even he appreciates), we have become willing supplicants to an exaggerated tale of woe and wobbly logic in this fine land of ours.

Fact: Violent crime rates hover at a 40-year low; in fact, it’s safer to be alive in Canada now than it was when I was a teenager growing up in Halifax.

Fact: Gun-play across the nation is down, as are break-and-enters and physical assaults.

Fact: Marijuana use has not produced a generation of drooling idiots; the laws against it have merely swollen the ranks of the incarcerated in underfunded, poorly equipped penitentiaries where (guess what?) the young apprentice at the feet of the old, unreconstructed criminals in their midst.

As for domestic terrorism and foreign insurgencies, law enforcement authorities, and their political masters, will argue that the threat is both eminent and imminent. Naturally, though, they won’t articulate their reasons. Apparently, our best interests are protected as long as we remain utterly ignorant of our surroundings and environment (cue: “The Truman Show”), and the rights and freedoms we are constitutionally owed.

One of these is the right to know the truth of our government’s activities, with or without our consent. Another is the freedom from unnecessary scrutiny by public agencies that fully adore their sanctimonious pronouncements about what is, and is not, good for the rest of us.

Our finest hour might arrive when our elected officials finally decide that they actually live in the real world, and not in some facsimile manufactured, like a bad 70s sitcom, for the camera and the boobs who are glued to it.

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Our home and dangerous land

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We are, dear Canadians, beset from all sides of the political playing field by the proposition that our lives are no longer our own, that our freedoms are transitory, that our faith in this peaceful, prosperous land is illusory.

We get the message from the federal government, whose Bill C-51 seeks to enact, in its own wordy, doctrinaire manner, “the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, which authorizes Government of Canada institutions to disclose information to Government of Canada institutions that have jurisdiction or responsibilities in respect of activities that undermine the security of Canada; (and) the Secure Air Travel Act in order to provide a new legislative framework for identifying and responding to persons who may engage in an act that poses a threat to transportation security or who may travel by air for the purpose of committing a terrorism offence.”

At the same time, Part III of the bill “amends the Criminal Code to, with respect to recognizances to keep the peace relating to a terrorist activity or a terrorism offence, extend their duration, provide for new thresholds, authorize a judge to impose sureties and require a judge to consider whether it is desirable to include in a recognizance conditions regarding passports and specified geographic areas.”

But we also get the same message – though inverted – from the Liberal opposition in Ottawa.

As far as Justin Trudeau is concerned, “Conservatives pretend to talk a good game about freedom, but look at what they have done with it. They have fallen a long way from the era of Sir John A. Macdonald to the ‘why do you hate freedom?’ taunts of the recently departed Sun News Network. . .Our social contract sometimes requires us to moderate our freedoms. . .The ongoing question for democracies is how we strike the right balance.”

So, on the one hand, international terrorism is the single, biggest threat to our democratic rights and freedoms; on the other, official reaction to international terrorism is the single, biggest threat to our rights and freedoms.

Then, of course, there is the trusty third hand that is the Fourth Estate, which is always ready to further bewilder a benighted public on matters regarding bodily harm and spiritual peril.

In this respect, Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente (that fine newspaper company’s “agent provocateur en chef”) does not disappoint.

In her regular screed on Tuesday, she opined: “Some people are allergic to the T-word. After a lone gunman stormed Parliament Hill last fall, killing a soldier at the National War Memorial, they said it was not possible to conclude that this was terrorism. . .It’s easy to see why certain people want to play down the T-word.”

She also wrote: “The terror threat is a potent weapon in Stephen Harper’s arsenal. . .It’s true that Mr. Harper is overplaying the threat of terrorism. It’s also true that plenty of people are underplaying it. . .And it’s disturbingly clear that an increasing number of young Canadians are being caught up in a radical millenarian death cult.”

Overplaying versus underplaying; business-as-usual threats to the social fabric of this country versus radical millenarian death cults; a government that wants to put us all to sleep with bedtime stories about imminent catastrophe versus a political opposition that’s simply willing to put us all to sleep; a mainstream media that’s more than willing to oblige both ends of the ideological spectrum, oftentimes in the same column newspaper  space affords.

We do, indeed, live in dangerous times – but the greatest threat is to our right to think critically and soberly about the world around us.

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