Two Canadian soldiers were killed this week.
The first, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, was run down by a car in a parking lot in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. The second, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, was killed while standing guard at the National War Memorial. Both were unarmed.
On Saturday a small group of Calgarians gathered at the Central Memorial Park Cenotaph to honour them. The wind was cold. The sky was the blank non-colour of steel. They sang O Canada and observed two minutes of silence…
…and then watched in stunned silence as Rob Anders, Conservative MP for Calgary-West, turned the tribute into a political stump speech.
After a few perfunctory remarks, Mr Anders painted a “what if” scenario. What if the number of dead had been 25 not two? What if the dead included the Prime Minister and his members of his cabinet? What if…? What if…?
Then Mr Anders proposed a solution to his “what if” terror scenario—the government needs to enact legislation that allows the military and police to be armed off duty.
After all (he said), “If we trust them enough to arm them during war and conflict, we should trust the military and the police to have their guns…and…ammunition when they’re off duty too”.*
The fact that the lives of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo would not have been saved had they been armed (WO Vincent was run down by a car and Cpl Cirillo was shot from behind) is irrelevant in Mr Anders’ twisted world of “what if”.
Now here’s the scary part.
Prime Minister Harper is pursuing a “what if” scenario of his own.
He’s convinced that he can protect Canadians from terrorists by passing draconian laws.
Last spring he used the Boston marathon bombings as an excuse to ram Bill S-7 through the House. Bill S-7 gives the police the right to pre-emptively arrest anyone on the suspicion of being involved in terrorism and hold them without charge for up to three days. Furthermore, it forces people not charged with an offence to testify at investigative hearings. Anyone failing to cooperate with the authorities risks a prison sentence of up to a year.
The Canadian Bar Association says Bill S-7 has the potential to violate our basic rights and freedoms and warns that “fighting terrorism” cannot justify “ever-expanding state powers and ever-increasing encroachment upon fundamental human rights, individual privacy, and the rule of law.” The Canadian Civil Liberties Association agrees.
The Prime Minister appears to think the deaths of two Canadian soldiers vindicates his position on Bill S-7. Consider his response: “In recent weeks, I have been saying that our laws and police powers need to be strengthened in the area of surveillance, detention and arrest. They need to be much strengthened. I assure members that work which is already under way will be expedited.”**
It is hard to imagine what the Prime Minister could do to “strengthen” our laws and police powers to make them even harsher than the draconian measures already contained in Bill S-7, but Mr Harper, like his friend Mr Anders, will surely find a way…unless Canadians speak up.
We cannot allow Mr Harper and his Conservative government exploit this senseless tragedy in order to perpetrate an even greater one—the denial of our fundamental freedoms on the pretext of protecting them.
Please write to Mr Harper, your MP and the leaders of the Opposition parties. Voice your objection to Mr Harper’s exploitation of the tragic deaths of two Canadian soldiers to further dismantle democracy.