Anti-Terrorism Act is Anti-Freedom
Date: Sunday, October 16 2005
Letter to the Senators on the Special Committee
Attention: Special Committee on the Anti-Terrorism Act
October 15, 2005
I had the privilege of watching CPAC’s coverage of your September 26 meeting where you heard witnesses David Matas (B’Nai Brith Canada) and Ed Morgan (Canadian Jewish Congress).
First, let me congratulate you on your excellent questions, although I was seeking answers. You have renewed my hope in the senate as indeed a ‘second thought’ process. Your guests who appear to be reacting to perceived or real fear as they embrace the current anti-terrorism laws and encourage further restrictions, caused me great concern.
Senator Serge Joyal made an interesting point, which I agree with in its entirety. He said, ‘We must be careful not to enact legislation just to appease public opinion without being effective…we see the example of the United States and by looking at them we see what not to do’ - or words to that effect. I would strongly suggest that his comments reflect exactly what we are doing! I also agree it is wrong.
Several points cause me great concern. The very dynamics of this legislation is reactive. Unless you have spies everywhere you will never be certain of what any human being can or will do to another. This by itself is an atmosphere of presumed terror. Certainly, no Canadian expected the Sponsorship Scandal or any of the other mismanagement of public funds! Some would consider the threat of being robbed to be a form of terrorism.
The declaration (as suggested in your meeting) of ‘the glorification of terrorism’ to be seen as illegal, is in fact an infringement on freedom of expression. How can one have a glorification of terrorism when no agreement has been arrived at as to how “terrorism” is to be defined? There are horrific acts carried out by groups seeking many things that fly in the face of the status quo and usually these acts are a reaction to rather than initially initiated.
The concept of glorification of an undefined word is ludicrous. The very word “terror” when applied to political concepts creates what it claims to eradicate.
For example, what if a writer or a movie script portrayed a human being acting as a ‘freedom fighter’ believing in their cause, etc., as was often done in history? That character or historical figure could be created in a positive image, according to the authors view. They could be seen as glorifying terrorism. History would have to be re-written to prevent this perception from occurring. We wouldn’t want history to be re-written, otherwise we couldn’t learn valuable lessons from it. Lessons like those from WWII. Freedom of expression is a basic human emotion. One person’s perception is not the same as another’s therefore our laws should not be based on emotion.
Current legislation leaves too much to interpretation. The term incitement of hatred can in fact be applied to the arts. Hatred is an emotion which cannot be legislated. In the event that an author creates a character or series of characters that cause emotion in the reader, they could in fact be inciting hatred towards a group of people. One might consider a depiction of Hitler as an incitement of hatred towards Germans. Taken to the extremes, a movie about a husband who beats his wife could incite hatred in women towards men. While I fully appreciate the views expressed by your guests, that they require protection from terrorism, and that according to their statistics more acts of terrorism are used against Jews than any other group. Some might argue that the present state of affairs is terrorizing the Muslim Community. What I fail to understand is that the Jewish people in Nazi Germany were racially profiled; they were tattooed, rounded up and detained as suspects. They were imprisoned and then murdered by the state, because in the eyes of the Nazis they were a threat to the German way of life. Yet your witnesses are supporting a similar atmosphere in Canada. Many other groups of people were systematically targeted during the War. Many historians draw very direct parallels between the current atmosphere of fear being imposed through media and government and the precursor years to WWII.
Yet even with this well documented horrific history, our government is proposing biometric identification (a modern day tattoo) while discussing immigration restrictions or alerts based on country of origin. We are seeing in Canada today the arrest and detainment of people suspected of being a terrorist, without charge for unspecified lengths of time. How can a person be a suspected terrorist, when we are unable to define terrorism? We are seeing Canadians losing our liberty to pacify another country’s fears. What is the basis for their fears? We are funding a military war regime to quell their fears at the expense of life sustaining social programs. In effect we are participating in the destruction of lives on both ends of the spectrum with one parasitic policy.
We are reactionaries rather than using existing laws, we are imposing more restrictions on law abiding Canadians. Intelligence gathering in Canada did not prevent the Air India bombing, nor assist in the trial. It did not prevent Mahar Arar from being deported to a country for torture! More monitoring of Canadians at large will not prevent crime.
As I listened to your guests and the Senators questioning them, one very real concern was left hanging. What is the definition of terrorism? None of you could define it. Is it something, which creates fear, chaos, and the threat to lose of life, liberty and freedom of rights? Some might suggest that the anti-terrorism laws themselves are creating those emotions. Some would suggest that the invasion of Iraq caused the same. Is terrorism the word used to describe an act by individuals against individuals? Is the word ‘war’ used if those individuals have the backing of a government?
The senate being the mode of ‘second sober thought’ in a democratic nation by its very nature, ought never to have reacted emotionally to another country’s demands. If we are serious about a nation of free people, we ought to rescind Bill C-36 and C-7. We must not implement the proposed new cell phone and internet intrusions, via invasion of privacy laws. We ought to ensure that we screen individuals wishing to enter Canada. Make certain that their passports are valid and not obtained through illegal means. The issue brought up regarding people arriving in Canada who are undesirable and present a problem of deportation back to a country that will torture them, should never occur. The solution seems quite simple. Pre-approve their entrance through the Canadian Embassy in the country of origin.
The tone of the meeting indicated that the restrictions being imposed on Canadians, is to protect one special interest group while sacrificing the rest. Where are the Catholic, Baptist, Muslim, and non-denominational groups? The legislations implies a government attempting to harness people’s emotions. If a crime is committed it should be investigated. The motivation for the crime should not create more weight. If a person is murdered, the loss of life is the issue, not whether they were hated. The perpetrator should be arrested, charged, stand trial and if found guilty, sentenced appropriately. The restrictions presented in these bills are creating victims of us all!
We can continue to create laws to restrict and prisons to hold our citizens, or we can cease this insanity now. We can lead on the world stage and help to eradicate the hate behind violence, vengeance, retaliation and threats to world peace. We help feed the planet. Raise the standard of living for all people. We can insist that countries sign treaties for non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and stop funding the war machines. We can insist that all nations adhere to the World Court and reintroduce the notion of equality. If we refuse to look at the root cause of chaos, which is inherently greed, lust for power and control. Then we will never be able to legislate enough to end the suffering in the world.
If we refuse to see the sick, the homeless and the hungry in the world and address the cause of these unnecessary conditions, we cannot call ourselves a civilized society. If we continue on this path of stripping people of their liberties in the name of a false sense of protection, we will become like our neighbors to the south, with a huge percentage of the population living in cages! That is not the 'Canada' that Canadians desire.
I urge you as the ‘second thought,’ the sober thought, to recommend that parliament return Canada to the true north, strong and free! Rescind the laws that bind us! Our war vets made the supreme sacrifice so that we might live free! As the chair stated in her opening presentation; anti-terrorism legislation was created in the heat of emotion after 9/11. No rational decision ever comes from reaction to emotion. Acknowledging this error and reinstating the freedoms granted to us by past-generations’ acts of patriotism, is the right thing to do. There is no real indication that these laws that bind are preventing acts of terrorism, but they are terrorizing Canadians!
I thank you for the opportunity to express my deep concerns and look forward to a favourable response in support of democracy.
Catherine Whelan Costen
Canadian Action Party, Vice President, Communications Director & Candidate
cc: Connie Fogal, CAP Leader
Jack Layton, NDP Leader
Gilles Duceppe, Bloc Leader
Steven Harper, CP Leader
[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on October 17, 2005]