The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, September 9, 2011

This and That No. 17

In my last "This and That" I praised the Harper government for restoring "Royal" to the titles of our navy and airforce but warned against the Omnibus Crime Bill and the threat to privacy and free speech which it poses.

In this edition, I would like to again offer praise and criticism to the government. Prime Minister Harper has ordered all Canadian embassies to display a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. That is an excellent decision although it is unfortunate that it was necessary - the embassies should already have had the Queen's portrait on prominent display.

Now for the criticism.

In an interview with the CBC's Peter Mansbridge, Prime Minister Harper said that the biggest security threat to our country is Islamic terrorism. That may or may not be the case. It is not this statement of Harper's that I wish to criticism but his plan to revive the anti-terrorist legislation the Chretien government introduced 10 years ago after 9/11.

This legislation gives the police powers which they do not need to effectively fight terrorism. This violates the rights of all Canadians.

The United States, after the terrorist attack of ten years ago, passed the USA PATRIOT Act which granted enhanced investigatory powers to the executive branch of the American government. A couple of years later the Bush administration asked for yet more powers. The late Sam Francis, in his syndicated column, wrote the following:

It is thunderously noticeable in most of the defensive speeches, wisecracks and sarcasm about the critics of these laws that hardy anyone ever actually specifies why such vast powers are needed and what terrorism they have actually prevented. What we do know is that every few weeks the government issues yet another statement claiming that the "terrorist threat" remains serious or is greater than ever or may be getting worse. There seems to be no reason to think the new powers have helped us at all.

But the larger point is not what this administration does or doesn't do with the new powers.

The point is that the powers are far larger than the government of any free people should have and that whatever powers this administration doesn't use could still be used by future ones.
(Sam Francis, "Bush Writing Last Chapters In Story of American Liberty", Creators Syndicate, September 25, 2003)

The same, of course, can be said of the Canadian equivalent of such legislation.

Here in Canada, we ought to be aware of the way measures taken to combat terrorism can threaten the liberty and rights of ordinary Canadians. Or have we already forgotten how Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act in peacetime in 1970, imposing martial law on the entire country, in response to the criminal actions of a domestic terrorist organization based in Quebec?

Pierre Trudeau had absolutely no respect for Canada's British tradition and the rights and freedoms which are the heritage of Canadians because of that tradition (he had no respect for Canada's French tradition either but that is not relevant in this context). Prime Minister Harper, however, by restoring the traditional titles of our military and properly insisting that our embassies display the Queen's portrait, has been telling Canada and the world that he does respect our British tradition.

That tradition consists of more that outward symbols, important as they are. It consists of rights and liberties too. As I wrote at Free Dominion the other day:

"Islamic terrorism poses no threat to Canada that a sensible immigration policy would not solve. There is no need for domestic surveillance and laws which further erode the traditional, prescriptive, rights of Canadians. It would be better for the government to work at undoing the damage to the traditional rights which all Canadians are supposed to possess as subjects of the Queen that was done by Trudeau's Charter of Rights and Freedoms." (

I am still working on my next essay in my "Arts and Culture" series. It is on the topic of music. I have re-written it a couple of times already and am still not satisfied with it, but will hopefully have it ready to post next week.

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