Opinion » Maxed Out

Living the one true way... no, thank you

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A friend recently posted a facetious statement on a social media site in response to a news story posting. The Canadian Press story was about our Supreme Leader's response, during question period, to issues raised by the leaders of both the NDP and Liberal parties about how it was Canadian special forces came to be involved in combat with Islamic State fighters. After all, when Canadian troops were pledged to this adventure, their role was specifically limited to training. Canadians — many of whom still cling to the fading notion we are a nation of peacekeepers — were assured our troops would remain behind the lines, giving advice and instruction to Kurdish fighters. I'm pretty sure fingers were crossed when this was said.

When questioned about their new, expanded role, the Supreme Leader dodged the issue and, characteristically, turned his reply into an attack on the opposition. He wrapped up his obfuscation by saying, "Guess what, if fired upon they (Canadian forces) are going to shoot back; and if they kill some of the ISIL terrorists, Canadians are going to support that, no matter what the New Democrats think."

On the social media site, under a picture of the Supreme Leader, the headline — if that's still what those things are called — read, "Canadians OK With Killing Terrorists: Harper."

My friend posted the story with this retort to the headline: "I'm OK with killing Harper, the Canadian terrorist!!!!!"

Was he serious? Was he advocating killing the Supreme Leader? Or even suggesting he'd acquiesce in or even celebrate such an action? Were his words an incitement? A smart-ass comment? Protected speech?

If the Supreme Leader gets his way, those words may well be a criminal offence with a penalty of up to five years in prison. The — so-called — Anti-Terrorism Act would make it a crime to encourage, whatever that means, terrorism on the Internet. Hey, who could disagree with the need to fight terrorism?

But wait a minute. Isn't this the same cabal of neo-fascists who equate environmental activism with terrorism? Why, yes; yes, it is. And, not surprisingly, at least part of the aim of the Anti-Terrorism Act is to protect us against terrorists who threaten not only our lives but our livelihoods, the ability of the Canadian government to maintain economic and fiscal stability.

So will a replay of the War in the Woods suddenly become a terrorist act? Will the widespread protests against Northern Gateway be equated with jihadi murder? Will the heavy-handed police action on Burnaby Mountain be merely a warm-up to state police intrusion into what we used to think of as peaceful protest protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Stephen Harper promised to remake Canada into something we wouldn't recognize. He's nearly succeeded and he's pressing the advantage. He's denigrated Parliament, turning it into a sideshow, a toothless assemblage of talking heads. If he doesn't like what's said in Parliament or things get too uncomfortable, prorogue it. Send the elected representatives home. Who needs their meddling anyway?

He's militarized Canada, wasted lives sending soldiers into thoughtless, meaningless combat for no abiding reason and then tossed them on the scrap heap to be further debased by the likes of Julian Fantino.

He's gutted the very fact finding and science that allows thoughtful people to engage in fact-based problem solving, and then has the gall to tell Canadians his government will look to science to justify its ideological crusades.

He's built a police and prison industrial complex to deal with imaginary crime and draconian sentences for petty crime.

And now, claiming to "own" the security portfolio, he is attempting to create his own secret police force. Holy dictatorship, Batman!

There has been, since its inception, a firewall between CSIS and the RCMP. CSIS collected intelligence and information, the RCMP in turn, acted upon it. Under the new, sweeping powers proposed by the Supreme Leader, CSIS will be empowered — under warrant — to break into our homes, take or copy documents, install bugs and do anything they can convince a judge to allow them to do.

Does having a warrant make you feel secure? If it does, you haven't been paying attention to what's been happening south of the border.

There were sound reasons to strip the RCMP of intelligence-gathering duties several decades ago, sound reasons borne out of fundamental breaches of civil liberties. Intelligence gathering and policing lead to abuses and need to be separate and subject to external, albeit political, oversight. Nothing has changed that dynamic.

Except in StevieWorld, a land where terrorists lurk under every bed and behind every door. The Supreme Leader is doing his best to scare the bejesus out of Canadians. If the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, he's prepared to ladle it out by the bowlful, equating the acts of marginalized, and quite possibly mentally unstable loners with those of the Islamic State. He wants Canadians to believe we are in imminent danger of attack and asks us to believe, "Jihadi terrorism is one of the most dangerous enemies our world has ever faced."

The most dangerous enemy Canada has faced in most of our lifetimes is Stephen Harper.

Asked if he wasn't concerned his new regime might not be treading on what Canadians have come to think of as their civil liberties, he answered, "This is really what we get from our opposition, that every time we talk about security, they suggest that somehow our freedoms are threatened."

In StevieWorld, there are no civil liberties. There is only fear. There are no shades of grey. There is only black and white. There are no reasonable disagreements. There is only the one true way. There are no worthy opponents. There are only caricatures to be vilified in venomous attack ads. There is no honest debate.

The Supreme Leader doesn't care if you're a real terrorist out to cut someone's head off or a teenage troll writin' trash on Facebook. His government doesn't want to make that fine a distinction, likening it to the overreach of the TSA at airports who brook no mention, even jokingly, of security threats.

I read about a world like that once in a George Orwell novel. I prefer not to live in one. And as much as my friend's comment may have been in questionable taste, I don't consider it a crime. In the world I'd prefer to live in, I like to think of it as protected speech.

But I fear that world, like the one where reasonable people can disagree and continue to be friends, is rapidly disappearing.

Oh, Canada.

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