In Response to John Weston, MP, “Weston: the silent majority supports bill” published in the Local Weekly, March 26, 2015.
“Bill C-51 [is] carefully attempting to balance freedom and security.” Mr. Weston asks Canadians to take the supposed benevolence of CSIS and his government on blind faith. He offers no formula for his “balancing” act, no criteria to justify further invasion of personal human freedoms which are already impaired. No case whatsoever. He fails to cite any facts or law which would even allow a government to engage in a balancing act, and such power is not granted from liberty itself, borne of mere human existence, not a gift from the leader.
Secret courts, secret prisons, detention without charge, access to counsel denied, no right of habeas corpus. Some of this already exists in Canada - Mr. Weston and his government desire ever more at a time when they seek to expand Canada’s role in the fire zone, a move sure to bring real terror to life within Canada’s shores. Ah, justification. Following the lead of the U.S. and maybe Russia, right down the rabbit hole.
Probably unknowingly, Mr. Weston characterizes Canadians as sheep, unable and unwilling to defend themselves, and therefore needing the guidance of the saber-rattling shepherd in Ottawa. He underestimates Canadian resolve and grit, just as U.S. leaders, at the beginnings of World War II underestimated Americans.
History did not rub off on Mr. Weston during his tenure at Harvard, though it’s likely he spent time in both Cambridge and Boston. It’s doubtful his odd comment about forefathers and foremothers fighting for Canadian freedom was intended to relate to the American War of Independence. Had he intended such a reference he would have been on the mark - the ancestors of many Canadian families reaching North America, mostly as separatists, landed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and other colonies during the 17th and 18th centuries. Many fought and died on the side of independence, and many became pillars of American democracy.
It’s appropriate to consider the freedoms those souls bled for, the truth that liberty and freedom are inherent in human existence, and that in order to curtail any right or freedom, even temporarily, government must make an overwhelmingly compelling case. Mr. Weston offers only fear and his assumption/belief that Canadians are willing to “go along” with whatever government wants.
There is clearly trouble ahead when Mr. Weston stoops to invoking Nixonian justifications and assurances. The silent majority, “polls show . . ,” “we have a secret plan to . . .” His message is one which directly follows Nixon’s: Curtail Liberty’s freedoms to save them. Burn the village to the ground to save it.
It is profitable to recall two comments from the great colonial and American statesman, Benjamin Franklin.
Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on it ruins. B. Franklin, On Freedom of Speech and the Press, Pennsylvania Gazette (17 November 1737)
“Those who would sacrifice freedom for perceived safety deserve neither.” B. Franklin, writing for the Pennsylvania Assembly in its Reply to the Governor (11 November 1755).
The “balancing” act promoted by Mr. Weston and his Ottawa boss will lead to further invasion of freedom, particularly privacy, and it will, in its inevitable failure, reap only greater fear and trepidation among Canadians.
Canadians are being asked to trust that treating the economy (an indefinable “thing” in itself) as a matter of national security, to be protected with all of the power of CSIS and C-51, won’t be used by government against Canadians. That trust is not merited in an environment where invisible subjective judgment, not any visible objective standards, will suit to justify almost any action government wishes to take. Platitudes and mere assurances offered by Mr. Weston provide no protection and actually open the way for unfettered abuse. The recent suggested amendments to C-51 are makeweights, overborne by the ultimate enabling purpose of the bill, easily navigated by existing authority and that which would be created by the bill itself.
The hypocrisy of this government on the issue of economy cannot be overstated. As in the U.S., the “economy” has been sold in substantial part to foreign interests, rendering it fundamentally insecure. Consider that a U.S. corporation owns and operates the second largest ferry system in the world, right here in BC. Dubai Ports owns or controls the Port of Vancouver and other BC ports. This government has made secret deals (some ultimately revealed superficially) with many countries, including China, to encourage investment in Canadian business and infrastructure. Canada losing control. No, giving it away.
It is worth considering the spectacular fall of the Loonie under this government. That is one factor which will encourage the stifling of debate and free expression of views which criticize the party line, the deal makers. If demonstrations might create a negative impression of Canada, for investment purposes, government may well take steps to prevent such demonstrations.
Like the U.S. Patriot Act, born in a caldron of fear and desperation following the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001, C-51 will allow and promote ever more invasion of Canadian rights and privacy. But it is just a single part of a serial invasion - the conservatives’ constant cry for more “security” requires that Canadians give up just a little more than they already have, and next year, after another incident on Canadian soil, they’ll just have to give up a little more freedom . . . It won’t end until Canadians loudly say “no more.” Perhaps the most destructive aspect of this process is the effect it has on the baseline of liberty - new restrictions rise from the current baseline, not the original, unfettered freedom of humans. Each new incursion steps off from the last. Children born now will be conditioned to whatever level of freedom remains when they reach cognizance, and for them, that will be the baseline, however tainted it is.
Spend one hour on the net reading about how the U.S. Patriot Act has impacted liberty, free speech, how it has invaded personal privacy. If one values liberty, freedom, that exercise can only warn against following the U.S. example, something this government has been doing since the early days of George W. Bush.
There is a chilling wind blowing from Ottawa, and it stinks of the same lust for oppression of human freedom as the frozen winds that emanate from Washington, D.C.
Frank L. McElroy
Rockport, MA and Roberts Creek, BC
I am a litigator in Massachusetts, now for almost 34 years. Born on Manhattan, NY, graduate of Cornell University and Washington University, married to a Canadian.
My family is almost all Canadian, and the ancestors of same came in large part through Rehoboth and Plymouth, Massachusetts in the early 1600s. My father’s ancestor (Richard Bowen) arrived in Rehoboth and died there in 1634. Members of his clan fought for independence, including the Battle of Bunker Hill in Charlestown, MA. In steps the Bowen family spread to Vermont (some fighting from there in the U.S. Civil War) and then to Ontario. My spouse’s ancestors arrived in Plymouth on the first Mayflower, December, 1620.