By PAULINE EASTON
(Oct. 25) – IT IS CLEAR that there are a lot of people across the country who are very disturbed by recent events. Under such circumstances, it is not fruitful to incite passions and fuel tensions by presenting opinion as fact as the Prime Minister and his Ministers have done and continue to do, or to enact more legislation which is self-serving and destroys the standards and due process established by a civil society based on the Rule of Law, as the Prime Minister and his Ministers are planning to do. On the contrary, what needs to be done is to go into the heart of the matter and appeal to all people to draw warranted conclusions and unite on that basis. The issue is to focus on what will resolve the crisis in favour of the people and what will not. The outlook that upholds Might Makes Right and enacts legislation on a self-serving basis will not permit any problem to be sorted out. On the contrary, it exacerbates the problems which already exist. This is especially true when the outlook is racist and targets mentally ill and socially displaced people for attack in the name of high ideals.
In this context, the question has been raised of when a group or individual pose a danger to society. Linked to this is whether a group or individual have the right to preach whatever they wish. The answer is that while such a right does exist, nobody can have the right to violate the standards of human behaviour achieved by society. If a society is to be considered truly democratic, merely holding or giving an opinion cannot be considered a crime. However, when an opinion is put into practice and turned into life, it has to be closely scrutinized, not only in accordance with the prevailing economic and political system but most importantly on the basis of the accepted human standards of behaviour. For instance, should an individual hold an opinion that cannibalism is an expression of the highest form of civilized behaviour and preach such an opinion, they are free to do so. And so too those who oppose such a view must be free to do so. But as soon as such an opinion is implemented, it becomes a crime, something which has been rejected by the established standards of human behaviour, judged according to the accepted norms which guarantee due process.
In this regard, the greatest danger to the society is not posed by individuals who commit crimes, because all the mechanisms are in place to bring them to trial and hold them to account. The greatest danger is posed when governments pass laws and endorse practices which permit ministers and security agencies to act with impunity, on the basis of arbitrariness, not Rule of Law. When such laws and practices go against the standards achieved by human beings and their society and in fact constitute crimes, despite the opinion of those who enact such laws that they do not, then society faces a serious problem.
The problem is that for governments to carry out their destructive activities, they confound fact and opinion. On this basis not of fact but of their opinion, they inflame passions and spread disinformation for self-serving purposes.
For instance, when speaking to Parliament on October 23, the day after the soldier was killed in Ottawa, Harper ignored the fact that the motivation behind the attacks is yet to be established and declared them to be terrorist:
“Mr. Speaker, with regard to the events of yesterday and in recent days, a number of questions remain and will all be answered over the course of the police security investigations.
“But I can tell the House this today: the objective of both of those attacks was to spread fear and panic in our country and to interrupt the business of government.”
He proceeded to treat his opinion as if it were fact to justify more legislation which suppresses the rights of the people:
“For that reason and with the belief and security that Canada is the government’s primary responsibility, we have over the years passed such legislation as the Combating Terrorism Act and the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act to better protect Canadians and secure institutions.
“Last week, our Government proposed amendments to the legislation under which the Canadian Security Intelligence Service operates.
“And as you know, Mr. Speaker, in recent weeks I’ve been saying that our laws and police powers need to be strengthened in the area of surveillance, attention and arrest.
“They need to be much strengthened and I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that work which is already underway will be expedited.”
News agency reports also corroborate that laws will be passed which take away the rights of citizens and residents on the basis of this unsubstantiated opinion presented as fact. The Canadian Press points out the Conservatives are hinting that “more powers are needed to make pre-emptive arrests following deadly attacks on soldiers in Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.
“That would come in addition to long-planned legislation that would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service more power to track terror suspects abroad and provide blanket identity protection for the agency’s human sources.”
CP points out that “Under existing provisions, leaving Canada to take part in terrorism abroad is a criminal offence.
“In addition, police have the power to make a preventive arrest of anyone suspected of planning a terrorist attack.
“They can also require people with information relevant to the investigation of a past or future terrorist act to appear before a judge.”
This shows how dangerous it is for a group or an individual who holds opinions to go beyond advocating that their view should be considered above everything else and instead turn this opinion into law. It violates the basic principles of democracy and poses grave dangers to society. Furthermore, past experience shows that the Canadian state and its agencies have more often than not been implicated in sting operations which have incited individuals to carry out acts that they themselves, on their own, would neither think of carrying out, nor have the means to carry out. The individuals are subsequently blamed for the attacks. The state then provides itself with justification for more repressive measures, saying it stopped many more attacks thanks to its actions.
This is what the Harper government is doing. It is already criminalizing the right to conscience and is planning to ban it outright. It shows that the government has itself become extremist. It justifies its actions on the basis of replacing facts with its own opinion, reverting to the medieval practices of defamation and outlawing individuals with whom it does not agree. Once an individual is declared an outlaw, he or she is “fair game” – that is, a target of attack.
Furthermore, it continues to uphold double standards. While condoning and practising state terrorism in the name of the war on terror, it shouts loudly that it is for rights and democracy.
For instance, it is a matter of public record that the Harper government says it wants to stop “young jihadists” from committing terrorist acts. But in the name of defending democratic values, it does nothing to stop the approximately 145 Canadians enlisted in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), some 30 from Ontario alone, despite the fact that the IDF have committed heinous crimes against the people of Gaza. Instead, the Harper government calls anyone who supports the Palestinian Resistance anti-Semitic, which is a hate crime. It has defunded organizations which support humanitarian work in Palestine. People are asking whether it will now also imprison all those who hold political opinions in favour of those who wage resistance struggles all over the world? Will those who support the people of Venezuela, Cuba, Palestine and Syria, who are fighting foreign interference and terrorism. now also be called terrorists?
Opinions about this or that group or individual cannot replace hard facts. The hard facts show that it is the actions of the Harper government both at home and abroad which pose the greatest danger to society at this time. The individual right to conscience must be affirmed not violated. This goes hand in hand with taking firm stands against all those who instigate or organize violence. Everything has to be looked at according to its own merit. The Government of Canada must stop declaring that the violation of rights at home and of international law abroad makes Canadians safer. Its duty is to defend the rights of all. The conception that democratic liberties have reasonable limits which are then defined on a self-serving basis is not a modern conception or standard of behaviour. Rights belong to the holder by virtue of being human. Those who trample them underfoot attack the very being of the targeted individuals, minorities and organizations and thus the very being of society itself.
The aim of legislation cannot be suppression at home and conquest abroad. This is why it is so important to take a bold stand in defence of the rights of all at this time. Let us unite all honest and sincere individuals and groups to bring about the renewal of the democratic institutions and process in a manner which upholds the rights of all and provides them with a guarantee. This is the way to guarantee the security of Canada and its peoples.
Source: TML Weekly Information Project