Canada deserves more freedom, not less

FRED RYAN

We may feel the federal government's big hurry to pass two pieces of important legislation is of little concern to us here in Aylmer. We are sure to regret it if we shrug this off and allow the Liberal majority to push ahead with re-defining the rights which we have always taken as the basis of our democracy.

Bills C36 and C42 quite clearly contain the legal tools to restrict Canadian civil rights. By our public consent, we are not fighting terrorism; you and I are giving to the terrorists exactly what they seek--the crippling of our freedoms.

Whether the terrorists themselves manage to take away our rights or those rights are taken away, using the threat of terrorism as a pretext, we are nonetheless losing fundamental civil rights.

Bills C36 and C41 allow the federal authorities to suspend our rights to assemble, to express opinions, to protest, to travel anywhere in our country, plus certain legal guarantees such as our right to see a lawyer upon arrest, and to remain silent, and our freedom from unexplained detention.

It is unacceptable in a mature democracy that civil and military authorities are able to unilaterally suspend rights, except in extreme circumstances.

You and I are convinced that ours is the best of societies, and this conviction comes from being told daily by the media that we are the world's shining example of freedom. Yet, turning our rights over to the federal cabinet and the military for their approval puts Canada in league with such democracies as Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

Some readers may find this interpretation extreme. They will remind us that suspensions of our freedoms are necessary in the fight against terrorism.

Are they? Or is this just a pretext?

Canada is not under attack by terrorists. Canada may become a target, as the grand ally of the Americans, but apart from hypothetical "plots" against the Montreal Jewish community, there is no evidence that we are a target.

So, without a legitimate threat, why agree to suspending our civil liberties?

Our society is under attack from biker gangs--remember them?--who have used bombs, assassination, arson, kidnapping, and intimidation, on Canadian soil. Yet our government says it can do nothing with these homegrown thugs.

Either there is no will to pursue them--that's a curious idea, isn't it?--or this big hurry to fight a non-existent enemy is a pretext for something else.

Could the pretext be to give authorities extraordinary power to silence unions, environmentalists, students, and various Canadian dissidents who disagree with globalization?

The Chrétien-Martin government has embraced the global corporatization of our trade. When India declined the G-20 meeting last month, Canada jumped to host the conference--and then used the event to demonstrate its power to squash any protest against corporate globalization. Aren't pretexts grand! Thugs in a protest march who break a few windows are a fine pretext to rush in the dogs and snatch squads to intimidate the peaceful protesters--and citizens watching TV. Thugs acting in other countries are an equally great pretext.

The real pretext for some new legislation should be global warming, pollution of our water supply, or clear-cutting of our forests. We see little done here; we see next to nothing against biker gangs and international mafia.

The government is abusing its majority by forcing these anti-democratic measures through parliament; it is debasing its mandate by putting our civil rights up for police review.

The federal government is counting on our apathy, our acquiescence--and our media-driven blindness. Why? Our great country deserves more justice, not less.

Fred Ryan is publisher of Quebec's Aylmer Bulletin, West Quebec Post, and the Pontiac Journal. He is also a director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.




Copyright © 2001 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/12.01