Terror in Tiny Town

The human rights maestro

The human rights maestro

You can always count on Canada to provide black comedic relief when it comes to how terrorist threats ought to be blunted. We – unerringly – take an American legislative excess and give that delightful, north of the 49th insouciance to make it our own. Remember ‘extraordinary rendition’ in the wake of 9/11, a dark Rumsfledian Star Chamber vision administered by charming Syrian prison officials? In 2002, the Mounties and our internal security nimrods helped the US Homeland crew take one of our own citizens off a plane in New York City, complicit in his transfer, detention, torture and general all-round Syrian brutalizing for over a year. The luckless dude, one Arar – never charged, and $10 million later paid by the Canadian taxpayers to ease the pain when it turned out that the Americans were (ahem) mistaken. These two items that follow 10 days of legitimate American pain and anger should enlighten and frighten anybody that cares a smidge for civil liberties.

When the Boston Marathon horrors first broke, our national political leadership weighed in – like anybody in the US at that minute, the next day, or ten years from now ought to give a rat’s ass what a Canadian politician thinks in the immediate aftermath of a shocker. But our boyos, undeterred by circumstance, and unencumbered by common sense offered some beauts. Justin Trudeau, newly anointed leader of the third place Liberal Party, thought it was high time to examine the ‘root causes’ of terrorism, y’know like why terrorists act out, and how we can all get together to help them overcome their problems, it takes a village to raise a child, kumbaya. What a bonehead.

But the ruling Conservatives as always go one better. Right on cue, the Tory majority and our Parliament passed new national security legislation that does a neat end run on the rule of law. Detention without charges – and probation-like terms imposed for 12 months afterwards, broadened warrantless wiretaps…you know the drill. When the UK, America’s other BFF, enacted similar legislation in 2002, a group of ‘detained without charges’ lads of the Muslim persuasion sued the Brit government for their release. In the House of Lords (now the UK Supreme Court), Lord Hoffman aimed these stingers at his government that bear repeating today, especially when callow Canadian politicians seek to make domestic hay from the Boston horror:

The real threat to the life of the nation… comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve. It is for Parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory.[1]

Over to you, Prime Minister.

And to Boston?…. illegitimi non carborundum. No one gives in to terrorists, cowards to the core. But please – we ought not to give in to government assaults on time honoured rights, either. Building political capital on the misery of our American neighbours is a small but oh so telling offence committed in Ottawa…


[1] A v. SSHD [2004] UKHL 56, at paragraph 97.