Most reasonably conscious citizens carry a healthy distrust of their government. They carry such distrust because they understand the implications of a lackadaisical populace; a government that goes unchecked, the likes of which swiftly precipitates into an overgrown, poorly regulated, and crushing bureaucratic mess. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, a government big enough to oversee and regulate all has the means to take it all away.
The technological marvels of today afford the enemy as much freedom as they do everyone else with access: Currently before Canada’s parliament is the response. The last time the Canadian government answered an outcry for public security in the fall out of a tragedy, millions of law abiding Canadians became criminals overnight (à la École Polytechnique). Despite blatant charter rights violations and flawed reasoning, draconian firearms legislation was written into law.
The mere ownership of a firearm became an automatic criminal offense unless properly licensed. The new regulations were crippling and deliberately vague, that they may be spread thinly to enhance their effect. The wake of emotions carried; Canadians felt it sensible to sacrifice their freedoms, and the freedoms of future Canadians, for the idea of security. A peaceful hobby, a part of Canadian culture, was demonised and crushed. To this day, all firearms owners in the country are subject to the tragic Firearms Act: No appreciable enhancement of public safety, attributable directly to the act, has ever occurred. Hence, in one corner we have freedom, and the other, security.
It is understandable that many Canadians are expressing a mixture of concern and confusion in the wake of recent domestic terrorism. The stage has been set yet again, and all the major players have returned: a perceived public threat, a tragic event, public outcry, political scrambling, and emotions. This time around, hanging in the balance is our freedom of multimedia and privacy.
A staunch libertarian would immediately dismiss any idea that suggested an exchange of freedom for security, without a second thought, regardless of how little freedom is in question. After all, history will show us that it is almost never a worthy exchange. However, as with nearly everything, there is much more to be found beneath the surface.
The liberal media and its criers, which constitute the majority of our media coverage today, will have us all believe that C-51 calls for: widespread government espionage upon lawful citizens, especially online; sharing of private information between government institutions, police, and security forces; enhanced means for search and seizure; the elimination of lawful protest/dissent; and so on and so forth.
One popular graphic floating around currently is of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms stricken with felt pen to the effect of it being essentially null and void. Some of the more scholarly opponents even cite passages from the bill that afford a rather troubling view of a very proximal Orwellian future. That being said, the modus operandi of any politicized media outlet is to immediately oppose everything that did not originate from within their ranks.
This author has taken the opportunity to obtain a copy of C-51 (freely available here) to understand its intention without the help of politically driven perception. Although there is indeed a sliver of truth to the ramblings of the opposition, it is clear that their statements are based on specific passages that have been taken out of context and then exacerbated in vitro. When examined in full, and kept in context, C-51 is nowhere near as terrifying a bill as we are led to believe.
As per parl.gc.ca:
“The purpose of this Act is to encourage and facilitate the sharing of information among Government of Canada institutions in order to protect Canada against activities that undermine the security of Canada.”
Guiding principles do apply.
“Whereas information in respect of activities that undermine the security of Canada is to be shared in a manner that is consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the protection of privacy; and whereas Government of Canada institutions are accountable for the effective and responsible sharing of information;”
That’s right, C-51 must operate within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“activity that undermines the security of Canada” is most clearly defined in the Bill and contains no unsettling definitions:
“(a) interference with the capability of the Government of Canada in relation to intelligence, defence, border operations, public safety, the administration of justice, diplomatic or consular relations, or the economic or financial stability of Canada;
(b) changing or unduly influencing a government in Canada by force or unlawful means;
(c) espionage, sabotage or covert foreign-influenced activities;
(e) proliferation of nuclear, chemical, radiological or biological weapons;
(f) interference with critical infrastructure;
(g) interference with the global information infrastructure, as defined in section 273.61 of the National Defence Act;
(h) an activity that causes serious harm to a person or their property because of that person’s association with Canada; and
(i) an activity that takes place in Canada and undermines the security of another state.”
One of the predominant concerns floating around discussion boards is that well-meaning citizens will be caught up in the bill if they were to use terrorist propaganda (i.e. videos, images, statements) for the purposes of expressing opposition to the terrorists’ activities. This is not true. In closing the definition, it clearly states that lawful advocacy, protest, dissent, and artistic expression are not included in the definition.
Of particular interest is the criminal code amendment contained in C-51. Upon the author’s examination, this stood out the most:
“83.221 (1) Every person who, by communicating statements, knowingly advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general—other than an offence under this section—while knowing that any of those offences will be committed or being reckless as to whether any of those offences may be committed, as a result of such communication, is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years.”
This is the star point of the entire bill: attacking the promotion of terrorist activity within Canada.
The principle purpose of any nation’s armed forces is national defense. Serving members operate internationally and domestically to promote the security of their respective nations. However, their responsibility and capabilities do not reach into domestic policing. Their efforts are without merit if the enemy is allowed to fester at home.
Canada has identified a need to evolve her laws in order to keep up with a modern sophisticated enemy: C-51 is the response. It may look frightening on the surface, especially if you subscribe to politically dramatized perceptions, inasmuch as a large camouflage-clad man carrying an assault rifle appears frightening. That is until one understands that he is trained to protect, and that what appears frightening about him is a part of what makes him function and is not meant for you.
(Featured image courtesy of wsj.net)