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.
It is apparent that events such as this one become politicized to this government’s advantage. It is reminiscent of the John Ashcroft’s actions to create the Patriotic Act. I think Glenn Greenwald’s perspective is a fair one. it comes from a journalist on the outside looking in. Greenwald spoke in Toronto last Saturday night. He’s very preceptive and his thoughts supported by facts need to be heard. Both his presentation and his interaction with the audience can be seen here: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/5872952/events/3514250
Thankyou Susan- once again speaking sense to more fear-based populism! DS
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It was a sad day for Canadians and my sympathy and respect goes out to the families of all the men who stand for what we are.
Rose I share your grief. What’s not clear to me is why these men died. Mr Harper characterized the killings as two terrorist attacks but it’s not entirely clear that he’s right.
One thing wrong with your analysis. He’s not doing it to protect Canadians. He has his own agenda and protecting Canadians isn’t it.
Ted, David and sapeterson: Murray Dobbin’s latest blog includes the following quote from Henry Giroux: “Neoliberal authoritarianism has changed the language of politics and everyday life through a poisonous public pedagogy that turns reason on its head and normalizes a culture of fear, war and exploitation.”
Dobbin’s blog was about Harper decision to enter the mini-war against ISIS, but it’s equally appropriate here.
Why are we not surprised at the reaction of the govt? My understanding of the second killing is that the soldiers on guard did have their rifles with them, however the rifles were not loaded with ammunition. Guns are serious things with a serious purpose, and not stage props for photo opportunities with the public. I wonder if the soldiers who now guard the War Memorial are still without ammunition after the murder of their colleague.
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Jim, given what I read about the death of Cpl Cirillo it would appear that he was shot from behind and would not have been able to defend himself. Having said that I whole heartedly agree with you that guns are serious weapons, not stage props, and should be handled as such.
Harper brazenly seizing the moment: http://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/government-exploits-attacks-on-military-to-push-security-agenda-greenwald-says
I don’t know if anyone saw Jim Prentice’s statement on this situation. It’s brief so I’ll reproduce it in its entirety:
“On behalf of all Albertans, I would like to offer my sincere thoughts and prayers to the family, friends and comrades of the soldier shot today while standing on guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.
“As the situation in Ottawa is ongoing, we will continue to monitor the events as they unfold.
“Here in Alberta, we continue to be vigilant. We have robust security that includes armed Sheriffs, security instruments and protocols with the Edmonton Police Service. No further details will be disclosed publicly for security reasons.”
One wonders what our “security instruments and protocols with the Edmonton Police are. And is anyone seriously expecting a terrorist attack on the Legislature in Edmonton when it’s not in session?
The Conservative (federal and provincial) government’s propensity to default to fear mongering before the facts are known is shocking.
Shocking is being very nice. It is retarded. Furthermore we still do not even know for sure whether the so called terrorist was more upset with the politics of the Federal Government than interested in joining any training. He visited the ISIL site. That is all I have been able to find so far. So if I visit the site I will be a terrorist as well? Interesting where we are heading with all of this. All that we are sure is that he has a severe mental problem.
Precisely Carlos. Harper has been much to quick to jump on the terrorist band wagon, which is why Rob Anders’ comments are so disturbing. In his support of arming the police and military 24/7 Andres said: “If you want to stop bad people with guns, you have to make sure that good people have guns too.” I’m sure that Harper would sees himself as one of the “good” guys…isn’t that a scary thought.