We have to hand it to our prime minister. When he gets hold of a talking point, he holds firmly to it, regardless of other meaningful interpretations. Especially if it fits a preferred narrative.
In the aftermath of two horrendous killings of Canadian soldiers on Canadian soil, we cannot completely rule out the impact of radical Islamists and their teachings, and how they attract the disenfranchised toward radicalization. Yet, there has been a substantial amount of information to suggest that at the root of these actions by one man in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and the other in Ottawa at the War Memorial was mental illness and social antipathy.
Harper has dismissed that information while emphasizing the two individuals’ apparent identification or fascination with the current anti-West Islamist influence that threatens stability in various parts of the world.
That Harper can hold to this narrative means he can move forward with anti-terror initiatives that had already been in the works.
For one, he can give more justification for Canada’s military involvement in the turmoil now taking place in Iraq and along the Syrian border, where the militant group Islamic State is taking hold. For another, it gives him ample ammunition to ramp up the plan to implement further police powers and spying on people living in Canada.
In the aftermath of the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. 13 years ago, the events we all remember as 9/11, the then Liberal government also reacted by implementing anti-terrorist security measures that in effect infringed on our civil liberties. Now the government under Harper wants to go even further.
The need for surveillance of individuals who are flirting with this new generation of terror merchandisers is real. There is enough evidence of young men born here in Canada who have found affinity with the messages being beamed through the Internet, and who have left this country to participate in their imagined heroic activism. Yet, systems are already in place to locate and identify such individuals.
Harper’s plans to increase security, increase the power to search by police, and to have more power to delve into our private communications will eventually drag innocent citizens into problems of the government’s making and not of their own.
Under the current anti-terrorist, national security program, there have already been victims. Let us not forget Sudanese-Canadian, Abousfian Abdelrazik, of whom the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the RCMP could find no account of terrorist activities, but who was refused the right to his Canadian passport to return to Canada by this government after visiting his mother in Sudan, where he was tortured. Their refusal came even after being ordered to reinstate his passport by the Federal Court in 2009, three years after he was first detained. The case of Canadian-born Omar Khadr, arrested as a child soldier, whose rights had been serially violated under this government’s watch is also on the record. Then there was Syrian-born Canadian citizen, Maher Arar, who was returned to Syria while travelling back to Canada from a vacation in Tunisia. Arar was tortured in Syria as a suspected member or associate of al-Qaeda. All the while the Canadian authorities looked the other way.
An inquiry into Canada’s post 9/11 security activities found serious human rights violations and now Harper wants to add more muscle to more security measures.
Sticking to labeling two deranged individuals as terrorists makes this initiative much easier. But it does not address the problem of why young men feel so disconnected from the values of this society that they would become coerced into associating with destructive forces. It does not look at the underfunding of mental health facilities and programs. It does not look at how well or how poorly police organizations are coordinating with mental health associations to help these individuals.
Implementing more laws that further clamp down on our civil liberties is the least effective way to go.