On Wednesday, as most Canadian politicos were either basking in the afterglow of the Orange Wave which swept Alberta or nursing their hangovers, the House of Commons passed Bill C-51, the Harper Government’s so-called anti-terror legislation. This wasn’t a surprise by a longshot, but it is, nonetheless extremely unfortunate.
All the major parties voted as the said they would. The Conservatives voted for it, the NDP and Greens against, and the Liberals, living up to half of their promise to help make it law and then change it if they come to power, voted yea.
Much has been said about how this Bill is fundamentally flawed and over-reaching. Many pundits, including myself, have raised concerns that C-51’s definition of terrorism was left vague so the bill could be used as a weapon against the government’s political opponents such as environmentalists, First Nations, BDS supporters and others.
One thing that really hasn’t been talked about, though, is that even if C-51 was on-target and not a typical Harper Omnibus distraction, there still wouldn’t be need for it at all.
A Tale of Two Tragedies
I will never forget the Dawson shooting. My old CEGEP turned into a crime scene. Anastasia DeSouza was gunned down, an innocent, random victim of one man’s violent delusion. Her murderer, Kimveer Gill, killed himself after being shot in the arm by police, though this is one of those rare times when I think deadly force by police would have been justified.
At the end of the day, two people were dead, one an innocent victim, one very much the exact opposite. Several people were injured and survivors were left traumatized.
It was a terrible tragedy. In the aftermath people were calling for tighter firearms regulations and improved services for people suffering from mental illness. No one, though, was screaming terrorism, because it wasn’t. It was the act of one man.
What happened last October in Ottawa was also a tragedy. Corporal Nathan Frank Cirillo died senselessly, the victim of one man’s delusion. His killer, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was justifiably killed by Parliament Hill Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers.
At the end of the day, two people were dead, one innocent, one guilty. Others were injured and survivors were traumatized. I don’t laugh at Prime Minister Harper hiding in a broom closet (though I do question the RCMP’s exit strategy for a head of state), he’s human and was a victim of this event, too.
Despite its similarities to the Dawson shooting and other horrific attacks carried out by troubled lone gunmen, the reaction to the Parliament Hill shooting was different. It was instantly labelled as a terrorist attack.
A few thousand people, or even just a few people, killed by a coordinated assault planned by a group is a terrorist attack. It doesn’t justify something like the Patriot Act, in my opinion, but at least the shoe fits. A lone gunman going on a spree is a spree killing, even if the spree is cut short after one or a few victims.
While Zehaf-Bibeau may have had thoughts of jihad in his head and chose targets based on his take on world politics, he was still just a disturbed man acting without outside coordination. Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was as much a member of ISIS as Kimveer Gill was the Angel of Death he claimed to be on a website.
Political Reasons Only
Justin Trudeau was interviewed on Vice News a few weeks ago. Shane Smith asked him about his party’s confusing position on C-51. Trudeau said that despite C-51’s faults, “there are a number of things in that legislation that increase security for Canadians, that do make us safer at a time when people are worried about terrorism.”
I’d honestly like to know what those things are. How does anything in a bill, inspired by an event that is not terrorism, but the act of a disturbed individual, protect Canadians against the bogeyman of terrorism?
It can’t, but that’s not the point. The point, at least for Trudeau, is “at a time when people are worried about terrorism.”
It’s politics, pure and simple. Polls, albeit sketchy polls, showed support for the bill at the time. He went for it. So did the Bloc Quebecois. When C-51 came up for a vote, though, the Bloc voted against it. I guess they saw that the bill was now opposed by many. If there ever was a time for the Liberals to flip-flop and not suffer for it, it was Wednesday.
There are so many ways Trudeau could have sold a reversal on this that even the cleverest Dipper wouldn’t be able to use it to hurt his party. While I’m not a Liberal supporter by any stretch of the imagination, I would have welcomed it. The more voices against this bill, the better. I even wrote to Marc Garneau, my current MP, asking him to convince his boss to change his tune.
Being the anti-Harper candidate doesn’t just mean looking younger and fresher and having somewhat more progressive social policies. It means opposing crap bills with no purpose like C-51.
Instead, Trudeau stuck to his badly aimed guns. The opposition to this monstrosity of a piece of legislation now clearly belongs to Tom Mulcair. The NDP leader is a moderate centrist at best, but, thanks to a little bit of rain on his hair and some serious Liberal bungling, he has the chance to come across as a street fighter, standing on a soapbox railing against oppression and invoking the War Measures Act and Duplessis’ Padlock Laws. He’s Angry Tom who’s angry for a very good reason.
C-51 may have cost Justin Trudeau any chance he had in the upcoming election. That is, if people remember a few months from now that he sided with Harper on a bill which has no purpose but potentially horrible repercussions. If they do, he can forget about the left. As for the right, why would they vote for Harper Light when the real deal is also on the ballot?
This colossal miscalculation on the part of the Liberals doesn’t necessarily mean a new era, though. Stephen Harper is still one of the craftiest politicians out there. Even if the anti-Harper vote crystallizes into a shade of orange, some of what once was red may turn blue and join their right-wing brethren to fight the feared wave.
The real trick is convincing all, or most, Canadians, whether they lean right, left, stay in the centre or don’t really care about politics at all, that taking away our basic rights to express ourselves for manufactured purposes is just plain wrong.
* Featured image: openmedia.ca