Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hurrah for the Canadian Coalition for the Defence of Civil Liberties

While I disagree with some of the nuances in its 8-point proposal for reform, I am in full agreement with the spirit of what the Canadian Coalition for the Defence of Civil Liberties is proposing: it is 100% behind our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Geneva Convention.  I fully see founder Justin Beach's point that new laws to limit our civil rights (or law enforcements practices outside the law!) justified by anti-democratic politicians by invoking frightening Security Threats, can have the effect of taking away the very thing they supposedly want to protect: our cherished freedoms.

I believe that the majority of Canadians are simply not thinking about these dangerous consequences to their own freedoms when they loudly proclaim their support for 'get tough' practices that go outside the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the Geneva Convention.  It's like we have asked ourselves: "Where do I sigh up to be most patriotic?", and generally came to the conclusion that harsh medicine dished out instantly to law-breakers and anyone near them is just what a patriot would support.  What about cries for the “Civil rights” of these law breakers and the people who were nearby while they did their damage?   Right now, these patriots only hear such concerns as wussy, weasely, whining.  They are just glad that the people they perceive to be have been caught red-handed causing chaos and busting stuff got taught a lesson.  They haven't really thought about and don’t want to be troubled by “rights talk”.  Their belief is that, in responding this way, they are being Hard Liners in the fight for What is Right, taking an uncompromising and righteous stand against forces of evil and chaos. 

What they haven't seen yet is how their stand actually plays into the hands of those enemies of our envied freedoms (AL Qaeda etc), who would deny us those freedoms, who would love to see us live in fear and act out of fear.  Yes, the bad guys win when:
  • we applaud our government as it effectively suspends the civil rights of Joe Canadian,
  • if it were to make any Joe's email and phone calls, bank account fair game for secret tracking without a warrant (as the US did with the Patriot Act)
  • if it were make it possible to search or detain any Joe without any legal reason (as it did at the G20). 

Joe Canadian hasn't yet realized that rights are indivisible, either everyone has them, or no one has them.  That means him or her (I know a few women named Joe).  "Yes, suspend my Legal Rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, please!  I insist!"  This is what it actually means to be unconcerned about the rights of some "stupid protesters" you might detest or just not like.  Joe might be a busy man or woman, but he is not stupid.  When he or she takes the time to follow the bouncing ball on this point, and realizes what is at stake ...he and she are both going to insist that Rights remain Rights.  

Thanks to the Canadian Coalition for the Defence of Civil Liberties and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association for taking the stands they have, bringing the real significance of these vital issues to the attention of Canadians.  The "Joes" who have got the Harper and McGuity governments' number now are a minority, but they are growing.  I am confident that when Canadians really have had a chance to think the issues through, and in their admirable desire to be uncompromisingly behind What is Right, they will insist on a full public inquiry into the rights violations during G20 policing (along with the massive over spending, and decision to plunk it downtown in our biggest city).  

Later they'll have the chance to vote in a Federal election.  Parties will align themselves with our cherished rights and Canadian way, or Joe Canadian will throw them out.  We'll stand up against the fear that would make a fool of our forefathers (and foremothers!), and of the free and decent society we have gratefully inherited.  No we are not a perfect nation. We have progress to make.  We must and will not go backwards in standing up for the rights of the common man and woman.

We have to fight new, less easy to understand enemies than did the WWII generation. These enemies are Fear-Inspired, Malignant Ideas (not the people who are seduced by them, thinking the population actually want a less free society).  The enemy is the Bad Idea that in the name of security we should weaken our protected individual freedoms, consent to invasive government spying on anyone, and allow police forces to ignore Charter Rights . We fight these ideas by remaining unflinchingly committed to decency, *unflinchingly committed to our freedoms as guaranteed by the Rule of Law*, unflinchingly committed to civil and human rights for all. No compromise.  And yes, no one should be above our laws, including the people we elect, or hire to enforce the law.  THAT is the Canadian Way.

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