Discussion on Bill C-51, Anti-terrorism Act, 2015
On January 29, one day before the Harper government introduced its new anti-terror act in the parliament an article appeared in the Globe and Mail entitled “Canadians support increased security powers, poll suggests.” It is worth asking why such a dramatic headline would be used before the contents of the bill were revealed.
The article discussed a poll by Nanos Research commissioned by The Globe and Mail and conducted by telephone and online between January 24 and 26, said to have a margin of error of +3.1 percentage points. Only one of the questions related to specific content of anti-terror legislation, which found support from respondents for government power to remove internet content supporting the “proliferation of terrorism in Canada.”
The manner in which the results of the poll were interpreted and then used by the Globe are questionable indeed. Nik Nanos, head of Nanos Research was quoted as saying “[Canadians] expect more attacks, and that is the general frame through which a pretty comfortable majority of Canadians are looking at these issues related to our role around the world and what is happening at home.” In fact, there was no question in the poll as to whether Canadians expected “more attacks.” One question found that a majority of respondents said they believed that terrorist attacks are no more likely today than they were a year ago.
One question that seems to be altogether irrational asked Canadians if they believe that “Canada is currently at war with terrorist groups.” It is well known that the Harper government has embroiled Canada in a U.S.-led war in Iraq where Canadian forces have conducted bombings and ground operations against the terrorist organization called ISIS. To make this a matter of interpretation is sure to confuse and it is not surprising that this was answered in the affirmative.
Another question found a slight majority of respondents disagreeing that the Canadian justice system is well equipped to “handle homegrown terrorism,” but the reasons for giving such an answer could be as numerous as the respondents.
For instance, do Canadians think the problem is with the justice system? Do they think it lacks the tools to deal with the problems which arise? Or does the problem lie with the lack of an objective and enlightened definition of “terrorism” and attempts to turn political problems into law and order problems? Many things can be considered.
A more straightforward question, asking if respondents were concerned about the possibility of security agencies being given too much power, found that 64 per cent of respondents were indeed concerned about this.
According to the poll itself, just as many respondents were concerned about the powers of security agencies as supported removing web sites supporting the “proliferation of terrorism in Canada.” It is highly questionable then on what basis the Globe and Mail could assert so boldly that “Canadians support increased security powers” as the main conclusion.
In the first place, declarations aiming to tell Canadians “what they think” in the context of dangerous laws legalizing “dirty tricks” against the people should be seen with utmost caution and their credibility and aims questioned. When the ruling elite takes a pre-emptive approach to proclaiming the legitimacy of the illegitimate in the name of Canadians, it is without a doubt that a pro-active approach is required on our part to end the marginalization of the people from political power.
1. Another Nanos poll, commissioned by CTV News and conducted between January 24 and 26 by telephone found that 76.8 per cent of respondents affirmed that the “economy and jobs” would be more important in influencing how they choose to vote than “fighting terrorism,” while 9.5 per cent said they were unsure.
Source Democratic Renewal, February 24, No. 23
“New anti-terrorism act: Irresponsible polling and media coverage,” February 21, 2015