Wednesday, 17 June 2015

I know it's a lot to ask...

Can we just calm down and take a deep breath and think this through?

In October 2014, one raggedy, drug-addicted, mentally ill man tried to take Parliament Hill with a pump action shotgun. He shot one person, an unarmed honour guard who was facing the other way, before he was taken down in a hail of bullets.

The RCMP and any other security, clearly screwed up in that the guy was able to make it into the hall outside the caucus rooms and almost all the way to the Parliamentary library...

But the media and politicians have ramped this up. The rhetoric suggests a Rambo-like character armed with a Kalishnikov stormed the very heart of the House of Commons. And that is why Harper says we need to give up our rights and freedoms. So he can protect us from the bogey-men.

"ISIS is in our midst!", "The jihadists have attacked the core of Canada!", "We are at war!"

Please... Breathe.

They immediately called it a terrorist attack. They didn't call the killing of 3 Mounties in Moncton a terrorist attack. Maybe because Justin Bourque was white. Maybe because he had more mainstream mental health issues, like rage.

To say a person is "radicalized" is not really a very good descriptor of their mental state. Was the person "radicalized" by someone? Or did the person happen upon some online propaganda that appealed to their deep sense of alienation so much that they latched onto it and made it their mantra? Did you know Charles Manson thought the Beatles were telling him to kill people in their song lyrics? Effectively, he was radicalized...

And then, there is the case of the couple recently found guilty of terrorism in BC. The RCMP all but dug the holes to bury the pressure cooker bombs for them. Did Michael Zehaf-Bibeau have RCMP handlers? Did they give him the gun, the ammo, the script for his final cell-phone video, and the car to get to Parliament Hill? We will likely never know. That it is not outside the bounds of possibility is more than disturbing, though.

And how did it happen that the PM and members of his cabinet were able to identify the driver of a car that hit and killed another soldier in Quebec a couple of weeks earlier as a jihadi terrorist before the story even hit the news? The timing was such that it almost was like they knew it was going to happen. They jumped the gun, just a teensy bit, but enough to raise some questions.

So where are we now? Bill C-51 will take away our privacy. It will make it possible for the various law enforcement agencies to make judgements on us based on our communications with others, either in public forums such as social media or in so-called private communications, and it is at their discretion to determine whether we may pose a potential risk to the security of Canada. Or is that a threat to the security of Harper as PM? Hard to know, really.

They can share our information with a very long list of other organizations. That would include health records, income tax information, legal information, and what you had for lunch on Thursday. Are you really ok with that?

Other goodies in C-51 include being able to intercept and alter your communications, disrupt or shut down your blog or web-site, and detain you without charges for at least a week without you having actually done anything. Just because they think you might, maybe, do something that would constitute some kind of risk to someone. Still ok with it?

They are curtailed by the restriction that they may not rape or kill you. But there are ever so many other things they could do to make your life hell that are excluded from that. That restriction, de facto, authorizes torture. Just not sexual or lethal torture. Still all cool with C-51?

There is no recourse to the law. It is up to CSIS to decide if their infringement of your rights is egregious enough to seek a warrant from a judge. And let's not forget, Harper made Vic Toews a judge, so there is very little reassurance in them seeking a warrant to violate your human rights. Hearings will be in private, with secret evidence and witnesses. There is no appeal.

If you are an immigrant with Canadian citizenship, they can strip your citizenship (thanks to bill C-24). They can also do that if you were born here but either have acquired dual citizenship through the citizenship of your parents or by applying for it for work, study, etc. If there is some chance you might be eligible to claim citizenship anywhere by virtue of your grandparents being born somewhere else, they can take your citizenship and deport you.

And with their mandatory minimum sentences for all manner of things they can snoop on your communications and lock you up and throw away they key for all manner of offences.

There has been a slow but insidious build-up of tools for the Harper government to get rid of critics and opponents one way or another. They say terrorist threat, but many say the real targets are First Nations, environmentalists, and critics.

Last I heard, you were far more likely to be killed by lightening, or moose, or geese, or coyotes in Canada than by a terrorist.

In closing, if a lost, homeless, muddled guy with a gun like the kind country kids use to shoot gophers is the best ISIS can come up with to attack Canada, I would rather keep my freedoms and privacy, thanks ever so...

Thoughts on the Death of a Police Officer

Dear Mainstream Canadian Media: Is it really necessary to engage in this orgy of grief every time someone in uniform dies? It is a terrible tragedy, yes. Possibly one that could have been averted if guns were more tightly controlled, or if there was some way for police to know there are firearms behind the door they are approaching. 

But do we really need to see every parade of police through the streets, hear from the mothers of other officers, hear from every first responder willing to talk to your camera crew? Do we need to intrude on the funeral itself, like a nation of voyeurs? It is sensationalizing what is really a personal tragedy for his family, and for his friends. More than that, it conveys the impression that the world is a very dark and dangerous place. It supports the increased militarization of police services in the minds of viewers. 

Fear is not a positive social norm. Regardless of the current government's enthusiasm for instilling dread in the public, thus justifying their draconian laws, CBC, the national broadcaster, the PUBLIC broadcaster, is doing us a great disservice by reinforcing the fear message, as are the privately controlled media. There is a place for respectful recognition and tribute. But continuous coverage of the funeral all day is over the top, and enters the realm of the lurid. 

Generations past would be utterly horrified by this conversion of personal tragedy into public spectacle. Workers who die in accidents on the job also die "in the line of duty", but they do not get massive death pageants. The glorification of the police and military, just like the many over-sized flags that Harper likes to festoon any place he speaks, and the military monuments that are springing up around the country, are all part of the psychological take-over that is being perpetrated on Canada.

I, like every one else in Canada, feel very sad for this family that has had husband, son, father ripped from them. This is not a negation of their pain, or the support the Edmonton community has offered them. This is about the manipulation of this tragedy for political ends.