Ottawa’s anti-terrorism cure worse than the price

The very foundations of our free society slowly being whittled away

Purchase Ottawa’s anti-terrorism cure worse than the price

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CALGARY, AB, Feb 12, 2015/ Troy Media/ – Here’s a trick question for you: Why do you see young adults stopping friends who’ve been drinking from getting behind the wheel?

You might say it’s because they don’t want their friend to get into an accident, hurt somebody or end up in jail. All of those reasons are valid, but they’re not the full answer.

The real reason people drink and drive less these days is because society has decided that doing so is a truly bad idea. In other words, doing so amounts to engaging in “abnormal” behaviour. There was a time when drinking and driving was considered naughty, but not out of the norm. And during those days, a lot of people did it.

Difficult to stop terrorism

Sociologists will tell you one of the most effective ways to achieve compliance with laws and regulations is to create the belief that adherence to that law — rather than breaking it – is the normal thing to do. If everyone expects you to obey a particular rule, then you are much more likely to do so.

This is part of the reason why it is so difficult to stop people with radical ideologies from engaging in acts of terrorism. They actually don’t care what the norm is; in their universe, actions the rest of us consider abhorrent are encouraged and rewarded.

As noble as the motive is, Ottawa’s terrorism strategy is flawed and destined to at best be semi-effective

You can make a law – as Canada has – banning acts of terrorism, but enforcing such a law – there’s the rub. Enforcing laws often depends on broad social acceptance of the law’s legitimacy, but when the law is held in contempt enforcement is next to impossible. For proof, you need to look no further than Prohibition-era smugglers of booze or, in modern times, the failed attempts to suppress the use of marijuana. In both cases, our governments eventually had to admit defeat.

This normative theory of behaviour has some troubling implications as our federal government clamps down ever tighter on Canadians rights of association and expression in its questionable strategy to frustrate terror attacks. As noble as the motive is, the strategy is flawed and destined to at best be semi-effective.

Sure, with the provisions of Bill C-51, the government’s latest amendments to anti-terrorism law, the chances of another attack on Parliament Hill like the one that claimed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo will be reduced. But why in God’s name would we expect radicals to try to mount the same sort of attack? Preventing the attack that’s already happened is about as effective as stopping you from bringing a large size tube of toothpaste on your carry-on, for fear that it’s actually an explosive device. In other words, not at all.

The law is doomed to a troubled future because the terrorists do not agree to obey it. They never will. And the people who accept the law as legitimate aren’t the ones we need to worry about.

In the meantime, the foundations of the free society we have grown up in – the society that tolerates anarchists, communists, atheists and just about any other belief system – is ever-so-slowly being eaten away. The changes are that, in such tiny increments, we barely notice that anything has happened at all.

Oh, but they have. And they’re about to change much more, according to federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien. Of Bill C-51, he said:

“This act would seemingly allow departments and agencies to share the personal information of all individuals, including ordinary Canadians who may not be suspected of terrorist activities, for the purposed of detecting and identifying new security threats.”

Terrorism law needs close scrutiny

Civil libertarians warn the law will criminalize intent, rather than the current law’s focus on action. It will also be easier to detain people without due process, and for security agencies to see you tax records, online communication and travel plans.

We all want security. We all dread the possibility of a serious terrorist attack. We agree on that.

We don’t want, however, to give up so much of what makes our society special in the process. Bill C-51 needs some very close scrutiny.

Doug Firby is Editor-in-Chief and National Affairs columnist for Troy Media.

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