Brown: Danger in Canadian bill


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The Canadian government is planning on introducing a bill that would drastically expand the power of law enforcement and federal government to prevent acts classified as terrorism. The bill, titled Bill C-51, will encroach on the civil rights of the Canadian people under the pretense of protection from the ambiguous plague of terror.

Partially a response to the attacks on Canadian soldiers and Parliament in October, this bill would give the Canadian spy agency Canadian Security Intelligence Service the power to pre-emptively thwart terrorist plots, detain people without a charge for up to a week, and invade homes, among numerous other frightening items. In its entirety, this bill is tantamount to a conspiracy theorist or 1984 enthusiast’s wet dream. Furthermore, the grounds on which these measures can be implemented are vague at best, setting the precedence for a full-on strip and cavity search of civil rights if incorporated into such an agenda.

Responses such as these are natural from governing powers in the wake of seemingly indisputable attacks on the freedom of the people they are entrusted to protect. It is easy to cajole the masses in turning over their rights in the name of preserving security. Jingoistic rhetoric can take the place of logic. Suddenly, there’s an “us versus them” mentality making the general population unwitting persecutors of an imaginary minority while tying their own nooses at the same time. There’s nothing more appealing than the unison chant of freedom, liberty, and security. Who wants to be the guy in the background mumbling about preserving rights that could potentially give terrorists the ability to dismantle our way of life? If you aren’t guilty, what do you have to fear?

More frightening than the possible powers allowed by Bill C-51 is the reluctance to oppose it. Naturally, the bill is being pushed by Canada’s Conservative Party, but even the opposition parties support the bill (or not being vocal about their disapproval). The seeds of tyranny grow in the soil of mob-thought, fear, and propaganda. These elements grow harder and harder to recognize in times of turmoil and panic. Apprehension becomes sedition, and the willingness to be oppressed becomes patriotism.

Lines blur with good intentions, and during moments of adversity, it becomes all the more important to maintain distinctions. By distinctions, I do not mean between us and the enemy. The only distinction a citizen must keep in mind is that between a social contract and totalitarianism. The citizen of any functioning government must on some level sacrifice certain personal freedoms to ensure the continued functionality of the government and by extension society. However, it works both ways. When the governing body takes and does not give, it becomes totalitarian. The implementation of Bill C-51 may prove beneficial to the Canadian people, but there is a danger in cutting the nose of the nation to spite its face. Furthermore there’s a danger in an over-willingness to turn over rights by the people. The enemy changes when your freedom changes.

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