Canada’s proposed anti-terrorism law, Bill C-51 (“The ‘C’ Stands for ‘Could Happen’”) is receiving wide support across the country. There are some, though, who say it doesn’t go far enough, while others feel the Harper government is both exploiting and propagating a climate of fear.
I feel the bill doesn’t go far enough in defining how fearful I should be.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has told Canadians that a “great evil has been descending on the world… violent jihadism.” Not a pretty-big evil but a great evil. I’m no evil expert, but I suspect he’s talking at least an 8 or 9 out of 10 evil. “How was the evil?” people ask concerning the violent jihadism. “It was great,” Canadians respond, and considering that the traditional Canadian answer is, “Pretty good,” that’s something.
The feds have addressed this evil by rushing through Parliament Bill C-51 (“The ‘C” Stands for ‘Circumvent’”), which will allow Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, to disrupt threats to the security of Canada or its institutions, even by means that violate the Charter of Rights and Freedom. The government and/or CSIS can act if it perceives that a threat may (not will) occur, with virtually no additional oversight for any of these actions.
Clearly, to introduce such severe measures above and beyond the existing measures that are already doing a pretty darn good job of ferreting out threats to national security (although, to be fair, they were probably only so-so evils), we must be living in scary times.
But still I wish I knew just how scared I should be.
Should I feel the paralyzing fear that prevents me from going out in public in case terrorists are lurking around every corner, even though statistically I have a far greater risk of being killed by heart disease caused by eating the fast food available at every corner, which is non-violent consumer jihadism, though in suggesting this I’ve made it clear that I really have very little idea what “jihadism” actually means?
Should it be the irrational fear of everyone who is Muslim or looks kind of Muslim or defends Muslims or has ever visited a Muslim country or Googled “Muslim” or mumbled something that sounds like “Muslim”?
Or should it be the paranoid fear of never knowing if something I said or did or petitioned or marched in or posted online could be perceived as a threat to Canada? Or a threat to hockey, because that’s a Canadian institution, and Stephen Harper loves hockey, and I once described hockey as “soccer made needlessly difficult” – I mean I read that somewhere. I only read it, I swear!
Or maybe I should feel the political fear of, say, the federal Liberals, who are worried that if they come out in opposition to C-51 they will be accused of being soft on terrorism, like, really, if they love terrorism so much, why don’t they marry terrorism.
Or maybe it should be the fear of persecution that Canada’s Muslim community must feel when they walk outside given the general climate of xenophobia being fostered by our leaders for their own political gain. But heck, I’m white and Christian-ish, so this is probably not the right kind of fear for me.
Perhaps instead I should be filled with the intellectual fear that by demonizing Muslims we are further alienating the more vulnerable among them and perpetuating radicalization, ironically feeding the very terrorist threats that despite our best efforts will continue to pop up here and there, but (let’s be rational) not likely often enough to justify sacrificing our own privacy and civil liberties.
Or maybe I should fear simplistic, pandering clichés, like “the terrorists hate our freedoms.” That’s what we’re told. They hate our freedoms the way some people hate broccoli, even though maybe they’ve never tried our freedoms. Maybe they should try our freedoms lightly steamed with ginger and oyster sauce. Maybe the freedoms they tried that one time were neglected for too long and had gone all yellow and gross. “Oh, sorry. These freedoms are disgusting,” someone said, and they threw them away. We should never throw away our freedoms. At very least, we should compost them.
Or maybe I should simply be afraid that Canadians will fall for the manipulative window-dressing of Bill C-51 (“The ‘C’ Stands for ‘Cavalier’”), which will lead to the re-election of the Harper Conservatives, thereby allowing them to continue their campaign to erode the overall character of Canada. Because that’s really scary.