Freedom vs Security

Filed in Articles by on 9th Nov 2014

This week’s attacks on Canadian soldiers in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa have raised the levels of fear and uncertainty in Canada. The overall respect for our fellow Canadians has been denigrated as well as our image of ourselves as a peaceful, law-abiding nation. Off-duty members of our Canadian Forces have been ordered not to wear their uniforms in public, the very symbol of pride in defending our country. This only serves to highlight how the tectonic plates of ordinary life in Canada have shifted from relative stability to greater uncertainty.

A Real Danger

There is a real danger here that the federal government’s efforts to bring in tighter security measures in the wake of these attacks will contribute to this uncertainty, further eroding the freedoms we take for granted.

As mentioned earlier this week by the RCMP, it is not against the law to harbour thoughts of allegiance to the belief of Islamist rebels. It is conspiracy against the state, or putting such beliefs into action that is illegal.

Former NSA analyst Edward Snowden showed how intelligence agencies, presumably exercising their craft for national security reasons, expanded their reach into political and industrial espionage, then into using the laws of alliance partners to circumvent national laws to gather information on their own citizens. That’s not much different than the actions of Stasi, the East German secret police, or the former KGB.

Next Step

What’s the next step?  New laws so the government can gather more information without a warrant? That could include all information on servers, smartphones, laptops and tablets such as all your contacts, bank accounts, personal notes, calendars, daily agenda, meetings, and personal correspondence, even what sites you read on the Internet.

Will more state-controlled databanks really guarantee greater security, and still allow us to retain our individual rights?  In a court of law, anything you say can be used against you. Will that now extend to anything you think, as evidenced by your reading material?

We already have intelligence agencies and laws to prevent sedition. Otherwise we would never have tracked down foreign agents or be able to watch radicalised youth. More well-trained police and security personnel yes! Strong oversight committees to ensure overly zealous or overly-emotional officials can’t ride roughshod over individual rights – by all means! However, given the emotional impact of this week’s cowardly attacks, clear reasoned thought might be in short supply. Add to that the Harper majority government’s demonstrated penchant for limiting debate. This does not bode well for the rights of everyday Canadians. If ever there were a time to stand on guard, this is it!

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