Pushing Bill C-51 through Parliament, the government has chosen to ignore the nation’s lawyers, judges, law professors, former prime ministers, and the newest polls. In the hearing for the bill, our elected representatives will not hear from privacy experts, nor from the Privacy Commissioner who Harper himself appointed recently. Instead, we get an emotional appeal from the sister of a soldier killed not long ago in an act of domestic terrorism. Her sadness, presumably, making her an expert on civil liberties and anti-terror legislation.
What Mrs. Vincent doesn’t seem to understand is that her brother was a soldier in an army of a nation that declared war on an enemy which practices the type of asymmetric warfare that leads to people being killed in Canada. It will probably happen again. A soldiers death, like the death of any human being is unquestionably a tragedy; but it’s insanity to change the laws of the nation in response to their deaths. Soldiers die in war, and if you don’t want your soldiers to die, don’t send them to war, especially wars which are ill-conceived, unwinnable, and aimless.
As a soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces, Patrice Vincent made an oath to the Crown and, by extension, the Constitution. He died in service to that oath. His sister now lives to undermine it. I mean, yeah, we all grieve in our own ways I guess, but sometimes people, in their grief, act out in destructive ways. They develop drinking problems, or start supporting authoritarian political parties. They make public statements in an attempt to leverage their grief to make the country worse.
And someone has to tell them, someone has to have the heart to say, “Stop. Undermining civil liberties and the rule of law, ripping up the Constitution won’t bring your brother back.”
This is not the first time that I’ve been outraged by the senseless death of innocent people at the hands of deranged savages. Far from it. Whenever there has a been a mass shooting at a school, or a terrorist attack in another city, I have sat by my television and watched the wall-to-wall coverage of slowly emerging facts, I have sat at my browser hitting refresh as investigations were underway.
I have nodded considerately at the dominant narratives to emerge, spun out by those in the media paid to think about these matters. When they said it happened because of poor gun laws, I was pro-gun control. When they said it was untreated mental illness, I was pro-pill. And when they said it was because of the terrorists, I was pro-war.
George W. Bush said that they hate us for our freedom. I never believed him. He was an untrustworthy man, I’ve been told. Did you hear he might of lied about something during the last Iraq war?
Clearly, history has vindicated Bush the Second, with the horrific events in France earlier today when men in balaclavas murdered the staff at Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine which fearlessly mocked everyone, including the Prophet Muhammad, despite the fact that they very well knew that something like this could have happened. For what else could this be, but a blatant attack on free speech?
Read the news, everyone agrees.
Granted, I was ready and willing to surrender my rights to due process and my freedom from search and seizure without cause in service to the War on Terror. But those freedoms were an easy offering. Nobody like me, nobody who looks like me actually felt the loss of those rights, nobody I know was detained at airports, renditioned or tortured. I’ve never had law enforcement investigate my friends, my family, my fellow mosque-goers, as ‘persons of interest’. I don’t even go to a mosque. Besides, it’s only temporary. Once the wise men who run our government win this war on a concept, an amorphous and semantically ambiguous foe, things will return to normal. Just like income taxes will go away when we no longer have to fear the Germans (almost there).
I was ready to accept living in a world where government monitored, or had the ability to monitor, all of my communications and online activity without a warrant. After all, I haven’t done anything wrong, so what would I have to worry about?
But my freedom of speech, especially my freedom to make fun of other people’s religion, this is something I hold sacred.
And even if the government tells me some day down the line that I need to, for a little while, give up my freedom of speech for the cause (I know, it can never happen here), I will gladly hand over that right to defeat an enemy who would rather take it away from me by force.
The second of my two-part critique of Canadian democracy is up at Provocative Penguin. The first can be found here. This one deals with the misguided reforms proposed in the Fair Elections Act earlier this year, and the need to implement proportional representation to ensure that every vote counts.
Something strange always happens on an election night. In the weeks building up to it a barrage of stump speeches, photo-ops, and debates are accompanied by a series of polls which are meant to indicate who is winning, who is losing, and what the electorate is thinking.
But when voters come home from the polling stations and turn to their television sets to watch the live election coverage, the polls have become irrelevant. The rules have changed. The relative success of each party’s campaign performance is no longer measured by the overall amount of voters who support them, but by which ridings their supporters are concentrated in.
Occasionally, the popular vote will be displayed onscreen, but only when there is no new data to report, and the anchors get bored.
Head on over to Provocative Penguin, where the first of my two-part critique of Canadian democracy:
…when the Harper government introduced two controversial bills this year–C-13, the cyberbullying bill; and S-4, the Digital Privacy Act–opposition MPs were able to do little more than join the chorus of privacy experts, commissioners, and the media in decrying the legislation.
By chance, the Supreme Court made a ruling last month in R. v Spencer, a child pornography case, which undermined the government’s legal argument behind sharing personal data of internet subscribers, a practice which would likely have become more prevalent under both bills before the ruling.
While the court satisfied Harper’s critics, it remains an indictment of the electoral system when we must rely on unelected levers to check the power of a party most Canadians did not vote for.
Read the rest at Provocative Penguin.
Yesterday it was announced that The Grid would be publishing its last issue ever. It was met with universal dismay by Toronto media and probably anyone who hopes to make a living in the industry, not to mention its readership.
News of the troubles at the Globe and Mail, by contrast, is a reassuring affirmation of karmic justice. While the newspaper’s reporters go on strike to protest the requirement that they write articles paid for by advertisers, management is erecting a fence to keep them out.
If this is the beginning of the end for the company, it could not have come sooner. A few weeks ago, it was revealed that when the Thompson family-owned paper announced its editorial board’s endorsement of Tim Hudak in the Ontario provincial election, it actually did so over the objections the editorial board who had unanimously endorsed Kathleen Wynne.
Last summer, while Canada’s Big Three telecommunications giants initiated an hysterical fear-based marketing campaign over the potential entry of Verizon into the Canadian wireless market, allegations emerged that executives at Bell Canada, which owns a minority share of the Globe, ordered its media subsidiaries to write telecom-friendly op-eds. Though the Globe and Mail was not named specifically in these allegations, it did run favorable press at the time, and the whole incident raises serious questions about journalistic integrity.
Hopefully, we will not have to go too long without the work of accomplished reporters such as Robin Doolittle, Jeffrey Simpson, Colin Freeze, among others. Already, striking writers are threatening to publish a rival publication which would appear at the URL globenation.com.
However, if the Globe becomes the latest casualty in an industry struggling to adapt to the Internet Age expectation of free content, it will not be the one to miss.