ISIS and Ebola: Two troubling scenarios

By Patrick Hunter Wednesday October 15 2014 in Opinion
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The rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East, known as ISIS or ISIL, and the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa are two major crises in themselves that have had, and will continue to have for some time, a considerable impact on our world. Far and apart from the direct impact of war in one case and health in another within their immediate surroundings, these two ongoing events could have considerably troublesome impact on our citizenry if not handled carefully.


Already, in the case of ISIS, the thought and prospect of several young people who are Canadian citizens and who may have become involved with the inhumane behaviours and atrocities of this group is troublesome enough. Their ability to return to this country to “wreak havoc” is troublesome. And, by all means, our security defenses need to be alert to this. But, there is another dangerous path here that needs to be addressed with a great deal of caution.


The fact that Canada has chosen to enter into – at the moment – the air war against ISIS places us higher in the enemy target list. That would also suggest that in anticipation of countering potential internal attacks, our security will likely increase – and may have done so already – its surveillance targeting of young Muslims. That means that if we thought carding was an issue within police circles here in Toronto, it could become an even more serious issue, particularly among Muslims, but certainly among the Black population.


The fact is, we are used to the tendency of governments to over-react. In the name of security, we have seen a history of internment of Canadians because of their ancestry – Japanese, Germans, Italians and Ukrainians – during World War II. We have seen popular unsavory reaction to Muslims, and sometimes non-Muslims, and Middle Easterners as a result of the 9-11 attacks. And, with a government in power that seems to subscribe moreso to “law and order”, we should be on guard to ensure that young Black men who are Muslims are not overly targeted for security reasons.


We have already seen this government begin the move to strip Canadians of their citizenry if they believe that they have travelled outside the country for “terrorist reasons”. In some circles, the introduction of Bill C-24 does just that – represent an over-reaction and therefore a danger to all Canadians.


The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) notes in a communiqué that “the new law allows the Minister [of Citizenship and Immigration] to revoke citizenship if he believes citizens did not have the intention to live in Canada when they applied for citizenship”. That means that “Canadian citizens could be stripped of their citizenship without a hearing” because they moved to another country for reasons that may have absolutely nothing to do with terrorism. In other words, the Minister, acting alone, could revoke a person’s Canadian citizenship.


Previously, the only ground that existed for the revocation of citizenship was if a fraudulent application for citizenship or permanent resident was submitted. That is a lot of power to place in the hands of one person. Bill C-24 is now the law of the land, and it represents a dangerous move, not unlike the laws that existed when the Japanese were interned.


The case of Ebola presents a slightly different problem. The outbreak itself is cause for alarm. Interestingly, just this past week, there was a report that targets the AIDS epidemic to one place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are the targets for the next devastating outbreak of a disease that no one seems able to put a handle on and there is no known cure yet.


We have had the experience of SARS here in Canada. And there were some nasty reactions to the Chinese during that crisis. The powers that be were slow in ensuring that negative reaction to the Chinese population did not go overboard. Although I have not seen any reports of abuse yet towards Africans, and particularly West Africans, one has to wonder whether precautions are being taken to ensure that stupid gut reactions do not take place.


So far, there are no known cases of Ebola in Canada. There are systems being put in place to screen travellers from the infected areas. We can only hope that these measures are not overblown or give permission to employ other discriminatory action that surpasses the need to restrict the spread of the disease.


British Airways has already stopped flights to the affected countries and there are calls in the United States for similar suspensions by people who should know better. Air Canada does not operate direct flights to Africa (which should be a problem in itself, separately).


It is important that precautions in these cases, both with Ebola and ISIS, be taken. It would be irresponsible if they were not. What the concern here is, is that the measures taken are respectful and not complicated by discriminatory activities. / Twitter: @pghntr

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