There was a time in this country when those charged with enforcing the law broke it in the name of national security. Tom Walkom reminds his readers why CSIS was created:
In 1984, CSIS was created specifically to get Canadian spooks out of the dirty-tricks business.
Before that time, security had been the purview of the RCMP which, as a 1981 royal commission found, routinely broke the law in its war against those it deemed dangerous radicals.
In one famous incident, the Mounties burned down a barn in order to prevent a planned meeting of Quebec separatists. In another, they circulated bogus medical information about a member of a small Toronto leftist group that they were trying to discredit.
The royal commission recommended that Canada’s spies stop trying to disrupt the activities of alleged subversives and concentrate instead on gathering and analyzing intelligence.
But Stephen Harper -- who looks at the world through a rear view mirror -- wants to return to those days of yesteryear. His new anti terror legislation, Bill C51:
explicitly gives CSIS the right to contravene both the law and the Constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The only requirement faced by the agency is that it obtain judicial warrants before acting — a condition that shouldn’t be too onerous.
The government would criminalize the communication of statements that promote and advocate terrorism. This section seems to be aimed primarily at the Internet and, subject to a judge’s warrant, would allow police to seize printed or electronic material that they believe to be terrorist propaganda.
The definition of propaganda in the bill includes any writing or “sign” that promotes terrorism.
The question we should be asking ourselves is whether or not this legislation is needed:
But on first reading, it’s hard to see the point of Bill C-51. In Canada, it’s already a crime to plan or support terrorist activity. The RCMP already uses legal methods to disrupt planned terror attacks. That’s what it did with the Toronto 18.
Or is this all about getting re-elected? The economy shrunk by .02 percent in November and the Loonie is below 80 cents. The man who planned to be re-elected on his economic record needs something else to sing about. Before long, instead of reedy versions of old Beatles songs, he'll be leading lusty choruses of "Onward Christian Soldiers."
He's become Canada's Elmer Gantry -- who, at the opportune moment, gave up selling vacuum cleaners and started peddling Bibles.