The Face of Terrorism

I’ve been to Washington DC many times, but this trip was different.  In addition to the usual buzz created by lobbyists, bureaucrats, politicians and businessmen who had places to go and people to see, there was a sense of unease.  This feeling of foreboding was evident in the police cars parked on the street corners and the crowd control fencing encircling the White House.  It peaked with the false AP Newswire tweet that the President had been injured in an explosion at the White House which caused the stock market to nose dive.

The Boston marathon bombings were clearly taking their toll.

My American friends debated whether their country’s “experiment” with diversity had failed and whether it was time to return to the “melting pot”.  Are we all to be indoctrinated into the fundamentalist Baptist faith? 

They debated whether waterboarding was really torture.  No limbs are cut off.   And whether it was okay to torture Dzhohkar Tsarnaevthe, the suspected Boston marathon bomber, who it should be remembered is an American citizen.   

Lawmakers suggested they would have captured the Boston marathon bombers much sooner if they’d been allowed to deploy drone surveillance on the American people.

Thank god it’s not like that in Canada I thought.  We cherish our Charter rights and would never compromise our civil liberties in a knee jerk reaction brought about by fear…

…and then I came home and read the headline in Saturday’s Calgary Herald—CHANGING FACE OF TERROR.  Four faces stared off the front page;  the brothers accused of engineering the Boston marathon bombings and two men accused of plotting to derail a Via Rail passenger train.  The word “Terror” was written in bold typeface in case we didn’t get it.

Politics - Stephen Harper - CP- may 2 2012This story provided air cover for a much more important story reported the day before—the Senate and the House had passed Bill S-7, the Combating Terrorism Act.  The full name of this legislation is An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act.   

The fact that Bill S-7 is an amendment to existing legislation is critically important because it signals to Canadians (if they’d bother to check) that we already have significant anti-terrorism measures in place.

For example, Section 83.01(1) of the Criminal Code gives the police the power to charge suspected terrorists with offences under various conventions and protocols set by global authorities including the United Nations and The Hague.  These conventions include offences relating to aviation, maritime navigation, fixed platforms on the continental shelf, nuclear materials, hostage-taking, bombings and financing terrorism, both inside or outside of Canada.

Furthermore, the Criminal Code defines the offence of terrorism to include causing death or injury, endangering life, public health or public safety, inflicting property damage, disrupting essential services, conspiring, attempting or threatening to commit such an act or being an accessory after the fact or counseling another in the commission of such an act in order to pursue a political, religious, or ideological cause, or to intimidate the public with regard to its security, including its economic security.

That pretty well covers the waterfront, don`t you think?

So what’s the point of the new Combating Terrorism Act?

Here’s what the Legislative branch lawyers have to say.  Bill S-7 simply reinstates (and broadens) provisions in the Criminal Code to allow “for investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions/preventive arrest in relation to terrorist activity”. *

In plain English this means that we’ve entered the zone portrayed in the sci-fi thriller Minority Report.  Parliament has authorized the police to arrest someone before he’s done anything (that’s the “preventative arrest” part) and to force him to appear at a hearing and divulge any “information” he may have (that’s the “investigative hearings” part).  To be fair, before such an arrest can be made the police must get the consent of the Attorney General and, in some cases, a judge’s order.    

Presumably the Attorney General will rely on the information presented to him by the police urging him to let them make a preventative arrest.  He’ll be well aware of the fact that if he doesn’t grant his consent and heaven forbid something goes wrong, the Attorney General`s picture will be plastered all over the front page of every Canadian newspaper together with the alleged terrorists under the banner headline:  AG Soft on Terrorists!

Police State

Law Enforcement at Boston Marathon

The real question here is: Why?  Why do police need these additional powers now?  What’s changed so radically that the already expansive powers available to law enforcement under the Criminal Code are no longer sufficient?  And given the impact Bill S-7 will have on our civil liberties why hasn’t there been a more fulsome debate on these issues in Parliament and in the media? 

Surely we are not so frightened as a nation that we will gladly give up our civil liberties and enter a police state for our own protection—that is simply trading the tyranny of terrorism for something much more sinister.

*Library of Parliament Publication No. 41-1-S7-E

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15 Responses to The Face of Terrorism

  1. Hello Susan. How are you? I`ve read today`s blog, and I have been re-reading it, especially the paragraphs about the Criminal Code and Bill S-7.

    I respectfully disagree.

    I`m a firm believer in preventative measures, instead of reactionary measures when it comes to health and life. I also believe that if we are going to make a suggestion that our leaders are taking our country down the road of a police state, we should really speak to WWII survivors who ran from their country, because they didn’t want to live in a police state. I believe they would educate us on what is a police state, and whether Canada is heading down that slippery slope.

    Sometimes I feel we are so concerned about our civil rights being violated that we risk putting ourselves at risk. This issue came up in the new office building I work in. I work in an office which deals with complaints against the police. Not all, I repeat not all, but the majority of individuals who come in to complain about police conduct, have a criminal record, mental health issues or both. Despite the security we have with fobs and only certain office staff being able to access certain floors, these measures are not fool proof and there have been incidents when questionable individuals have skipped the reception because they`re going straight to the Commissioner. Staff would like to have security cameras installed. We have been informed that security cameras would violate individual rights. Personally, install the security cameras. I won`t feel violated.

    Do I feel that my rights are going to be violated because of the passing of Bill S-7? No. Am I a frightened Canadian citizen? No. But we are living in a time when a 19 year old man and his brother made bombs with pressure cookers, so they could murder innocent people. Then they were looking forward to bombing NYC. 9-1-1. Timothy McVeigh—the Oklahoma City bombing. That`s what has changed. The Boston Marathon tragedy came up this morning when I had run the Times Colonist 10km with my sister. The atmosphere was charged with excitement and anticipation, spectators–moms, dads, daughters and sons, cheering runners as they crossed the finish line. That festive environment made me sadly think of the carnage—loss of life, runners missing limbs, that was experienced at the Boston Marathon.

    I don`t believe Prime Minister Clark, whom I don`t care for, and Justin Trudeau, want to turn our country into a police state. I don`t believe Bill S-7 will jeopardize the rights of Canadians. I believe two politicians are trying to give authorities more power to try to prevent such a horrific tragedy from happening to Canadian citizens. Individuals, who make bombs out of pressure cookers, have no respect for human life, but they are the same individuals who will try to hide behind our Charter of Rights. I know, I worked in the prosecutor`s office, innocent until proven guilty. Is the passing of Bill S-7 reactionary? Yes. I believe it should have been passed sooner.

    I`m sure some of your followers, their fingers hot on the keys, take issue with what I have written, just as I have done with you. Thank you–a great blog which will definitely stir up passionate responses. Cheers.

  2. Andrea Bosse says:

    In response to Champs, I would quote Benjamin Franklin, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” The reality is that the risk of being killed in a terrorist attack is miniscule compared to being killed in an auto accident, from heart disease, obesity, etc. It is also worth noting that notwithstanding all of the security measures implemented since the Oklahoma City bombing, 911, etc., the government was still not able to keep the victims of the Boston bombings safe. I find it disturbing that you are so willing to leave to the government (which clearly has a geo-political agenda), whether someone is or is not guilty of terrorism. In the case of the Boston bombings, the truth is, we may never know if the Tsarnaev brothers actually did commit these crimes. Now one of them is dead and cannot defend himself, and the other is seriously injured. Wouldn’t it have been better to charge and try them publicly in a court of law and then, based on the evidence, to convict or not? Do the victims of the crimes not also deserve to have their day in court to see justice served? Innocent until proven guilty – isn’t that the system we were raised to believe was just and fair? Please remember that If individuals can be arrested and detained without charge and without trial, then that applies to you as well. You may think you are safe since you are not a terrorist, but taken to its logical conclusion, each of us is at risk of being considered a “terrorist”, particularly if we disagree with the government. Remember that at one time Al Quaida was supported by the U.S. Government. They were “freedom fighters” – now they are terrorists – except, of course, when they were freedom fighters again in fighting against Libya’s Gadaffi. Are these the people you are willing to allow to decide whether you are a terrorist? You may believe that a police state is not possible in North America, but the rise of a police state does not happen suddenly, but rather gradually, precisely in this manner. As you have suggested, we should ask WWII survivors – I suspect they would warn against giving up our freedoms so lightly.

  3. Julie Ali says:

    Hi Susan,
    I am afraid I have to (respectfully) disagree with the comments of champspersonaltraining.
    I feel that the powers of government are exceeding the requirements of the security problems being faced by any country. In other words, preventative powers such as those introduced by this government exceed the needs of the current situation in the Western countries and yet have been introduced without any major public outcry (mostly because most folks are too busy making a living to delve into each and every new folly instituted by Harper and crew in Ottawa and also because our media for the most part do not perform their democratic duty to provide accurate and comprehensive information to the public). For example have I read about this amendment in any sort of detail as provided by you in this post? Nope. So if we are not getting the taste of the police state nature of these draconian amendments that supposedly provide the ability to police to infringe on our constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms–then when we are scooped up by the police and held for questioning–how do we dissent? How do folks like Jessica Ernst of Rosebud, Alberta who is being eyeballed by Harper and crew over her fracking lawsuit against the Alberta government’s failure to protect the groundwater in the area of fracking operations in Rosebud—how do folks like Jessica feel when such measures are put into place?
    I’m sure she feels darned intimidated and constrained from doing the work of informing the public about the real risks of fracking to our aquifers and surface water supplies.

    If we even feel constrained by these “threats” of being evaluated by our police force and the government—and then held in custody for any or all excuses—then how can we effectively dissent? How can we feel free to state our opinions without the sense of being on guard against our own police force and government. What constitutes a threat to them? Is Greenpeace a threat? How is threat defined?

    You see what I mean about such stupid changes to our laws.

    Not only do activists feel under pressure (which by the way is real since in Alberta they send the RCMP to chat with you when you don’t keep your mouth shut about your flaming well water)–then how will folks from Muslim countries feel? Every time there is a terrorist attack the community contracts in fear of insult, reprisal and trouble to come. Folks get beaten up. This amendment does nothing to reassure brown folks that the Harper government won’t use them as scrapegoats to win re-election by playing the fear card that Redford played so successfully.

    So these are some of the reasons I have problems with all these security laws and amendments that I do not believe there is a need for other than in peoples’ heads.
    More problems with reference to security exist in other parts of the world and yes, they use draconian and drastic laws to try to end these terrorist acts there and so far I haven’t seen any success with this approach. What then are we to do?

    I would say it is time to look at the entire framework of our democracy and try to ensure we are all getting a piece of the power. The system is due for a shakeup. True democratic power given to each citizen will lead to a change in the economic situation where 1% of the population decides the economic situation of the rest of the population.

    The commenter above says this:

    Do I feel that my rights are going to be violated because of the passing of Bill S-7?

    **********************************************************************************

    He may not feel that his rights are going to be violated but I disagree with him.

    If you are an activist for the environment, if you are First Nations member working for justice, if you speak for the poor and work for sustainable development—or if you are a man of color of specific ethnic groups you will feel the tension of this amendment.

    Harper and crew did the change to ensure the government can do whatever the heck they want to do and I’m betting the reason for this is the need to ensure pipelines get built and bitumen flows. I’m pretty sure that any and all pipeline protests are going to be shut down using these excuses for laws.

    These are not dangerous times.
    These are times of change.
    These are times of opportunity where the economic and political systems will be changed and why will it be changed? The quick and easy flow of information in our world has empowered folks and this will not be slowed down–even with the use of dictator laws.
    The next election will result in this dumb party in Ottawa going the way of the dinosaurs. Hopefully we will have a change for the better and the repeal of the endless subversive laws that have been hammered into the democratic system by these Tea Party shysters.

  4. Carlos Beca says:

    This one obviously touched a nerve and so it should.

    This phrase by Champs is what I am interested about and the one I am going to make a comment on.

    ‘ I don`t believe Prime Minister Clark, whom I don`t care for, and Justin Trudeau, want to turn our country into a police state.’

    First of all I am assuming that Champs meant Prime Minister Harper and not Clark.

    Champs, democratic values are in the eyes of the beholder. Remember the German Democratic Republic? In my past lives my parents participated in elections with one person to vote for!
    Although I agree that Mr. Harper is not a dictator at that level, his democratic values are certainly way below mine. He has muzzled Canadian scientists and librarians, he does not allow any of his Conservative MPs to make any commnents not approved by him and he has certainly created laws that display a great deal of disrespect for other people democratic values like for example legalizing salaries for foreign workers 15% below Canadian levels. What does this mean exactly? This to me means clearly that Mr. Harper believes that there are people and then second class people that clearly deserve less freedom. If Canada needs help from foreign workers which I doubt, then when they come in legally they are not to be treated like slaves, they are workers like all of us here are and should be treated accordingly. Just point the fingers at other countries disrespect for their citizens like he constatntly does is not enough. Mr. Harper has shown to me that if he could get away with it, Canada would be a Banana Republic and all of us would have way less than we have now. By the way he is slowly moving in that direction.
    He has forced Union workers to go back to work several times even before the strikes started. Where are the workers constitutional rights?

  5. carlosbeca says:

    For some reason the last sentence of my comments was cutoff.

    So assuming that a police state is not possible in Canada is to say the least naive. Anything is possible and there are many examples around the world. The best example being the democratically elected Chancellor Hitler in Germany. By the way, at the time Germany was one of the most educated and developed countries in the free world.
    The question is what do you mean by free? For some people, and I include Mr. Harper in this group, freedom means HIS FREEDOM, not mine or yours. Unfortunately this is not as uncommon as people believe.

    • Hi Susan and Carlos. Yes, I made an error, I was thinking about the previous Conservative Leader and Prime Minister Joe Clarke, when I had meant to say Prime Minister Harper. I had run a 10km race in the morning, I was tired, it was an honest mistake.

      It seems because I agree with one point or one action of Prime Minister Harper which was backed by Justin Trudeau, I`m getting the impression that individuals believe that I am a Conservative, which is quite funny, because I have never voted Conservative in my life. I am 47 years old, I have always voted Liberal, except for last election when I voted for the late Jack Layton.

      And to add fuel to the fire, I still applaud the late Pierre Elliot Trudeau who during the October crisis in 1970 invoked the War Measures Act, and told reporters, “Just watch me.“ (I remember the re-broadcasts of that clip and thinking this man has the guts to stand behind what he believes in and will not cave to public outcry or pressure. That is a leader.) What Trudeau did in 1970 would never be able to happen in today`s society, yet this is the same man who created the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

      On Mon, Apr 29, 2013 at 11:53 AM, Susan on the Soapbox wrote:

      > ** > carlosbeca commented: “For some reason the last sentence of my comments > was cutoff. So assuming that a police state is not possible in Canada is to > say the least naive. Anything is possible and there are many examples > around the world. The best example being the democratical” >

  6. Carlos Beca says:

    Champs I just want to make it clear that I did not make any assumption about your political affiliation and that is not what my participation in this blog is about. I was just disputing one of your sentences in your post. I was just trying to discuss and put forward my view. Whether or not you agree or what your views on the matter are is just that. I knew that you had made a mistake on the prime minister name and I just said in my message that I was assuming you meant Harper and not Clark. I was not trying to find a justification for the mistake. I make many mistakes and I am absolutely fine with it.
    My point is simply that believing that Canada is immune to major shifts in policy that can very adversely affect our lives is to me naive. In todays world, like everyone else we could be in for many dramatic changes in our lives and lack of freedom is one of them. My example of Hitler was just to demonstrate that it would not be the first time. In my opinion the likelyhood of a major economic/social and political shift in the next 5 years is more likely than not. One just has to look at Europe where that is already developing. The possibility of a major economic collapse followed by a political and social crisis is not at all that unlikely.

    • Thank you Carlos. I agree about the economic/social and political shift in Europe. I`m not going to make any more comments with regards to this blog, I`m sure people are tired of hearing from me, but I wanted you to know that I thought your thoughts were well-spoken. Thank you. Cheers.

  7. Thank you everyone for a very good (and respectful) discussion. This is a difficult issue and we all have our own perspectives. I’m glad we were able to express them here. In the interests of full disclosure (I’m a lawyer after all) I should tell you that Champs is my little sister. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we don’t. Obviously this is one issue we don’t see eye to eye on, but I’d like to thank her for opening up the dialogue–it’s critically important.

    Champs’ reference to the War Measures Act peaked my interest so I did some research. The WMA was created in 1914 to give the federal government extraordinary powers in times of “war, invasion or insurrection, real or apprehended”. In WWI it was used to imprison German-, Ukrainian- and Slavic-Canadians. In WWII it was the Japanese-Canadians’ turn. As Champs points out, the only time it was used in a domestic situation was the FLQ crisis. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, after Trudeau used it, he promised to limit its use in the future, but the Liberals did not get around to modifying the Act before they lost power. In 1988 the WMA was replaced by the more limited Emergencies Act.

    The Emergencies Act authorizes the federal government to “take special temporary measures that may not be appropriate in normal times” but also says–and this is important–that even then the government continues to be bound by the Charter and Bill of Rights. The EA specifically states that those “fundamental rights cannot be limited or abridged even in a time of national emergency.”

    The EA sets out different types of emergencies, including an emergency in which intimidation or the real or imminent use of violence threatens Canadians. In this situation the government is authorized to do a lot of things including search residences and the people in them.

    Given the scope of the Emergencies Act and its application to an urgent and critical temporary situation that endangers lives, health, safety, or security, it appears to be well suited (together with the Criminal Code) to protect Canadians against terrorism without the need for Bill S-7, unless Harper is of the view that terrorism is a permanent state of being in Canada which I find hard to believe.

    Some more food for thought as we follow the progress of Bill S-7.

  8. Rose Marie MacKenzie-Kirkwood says:

    Interesting conversation, but we must stop and think. Too much power, without consequences, has never proved to be a good idea.

    • Rose and Carlos, I just watched Allan Gregg’s speech (see link provided by Carlos below). Gregg does an amazing job of showing how a government can prey on the fears of the people and use misinformation to push through legislation which erodes the rule of law and our civil liberties.
      On a related note, Calgary experienced a “suspicious package” incident at the Court House yesterday. The streets were cordoned off right beside my building but business carried on as usual. While the incident wasn’t in the same league as the Boston marathon bombing, I’m going to be very interested in the public reaction–will we become more fearful or will balance and reason prevail?

  9. Carlos Beca says:

    You got that very right Rose Marie. One day in the future when we force a true democratic system then this will not be an issue. Until then, we have to learn how to not loose our minds in face of a farse run by people that somehow have this divine intelligence and understanding that we regular earthlings just cannot reach. It reminds me of the Church power in medieval times. Not that do not have any power now but you know what I mean. The only problem is that by that time I will be long gone. 🙂

  10. carlosbeca says:

    Well after reading the Edmonton Journal and be again so inspired by this Government democratic atittudes I had to make this short comment. Rose Marie the government is thinking of suspending AUPE union dues to penalize the union on the illegal strike!! Interesting, I wonder if I can stop paying taxes to penalize this incompetent government? Correctional officers had no other way of making their concerns heard. With this type of democracy, we will see way more of this and hopefully getting these people out of there before they destroy the province for good.

  11. Carlos Beca says:

    Here is a speech ignored by the mainstrean media that I think is important to listen to.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/05/01/allan-gregg-alberta-speech-harper-government_n_3193458.html

    Thank you

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