‘Radical capitalist’ balks at Bill C-51

The only protection against the abuse of power is not to give those broad powers to the state in the first place

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BELLEVILLE, ON, Apr 3, 2015/ Troy Media/ – At the age of 18, I won an essay contest sponsored by a Toronto group called Radicals for Capitalism.

I don’t remember my essay, but it must have advocated laissez-faire capitalism, inspired by my Grade 13 study of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

I’ve never worried about my radicalization before, but recently I received a flyer from my Conservative MP, Daryl Kramp. He chairs the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, and he’s an avid promoter of Bill C-51, the anti-terrorist legislation.

Bill C-51 too broad a brush

His flyer contains a point-form description of the bill, then concludes with this paragraph: “Although not part of this proposed legislation, I, along with my colleagues of our Government are [sic] also working with communities to prevent radicalization and intervene when individuals show signs of becoming radicalized.”

I’m pretty sure that Mr. Kramp and his government aren’t targeting me and my fellow radical capitalists when they spend our (annoyingly high) taxes on their anti-radicalization efforts. No doubt they’re targeting radical jihadists. Nevertheless, I have encountered many people over the years who considered my radical philosophy abhorrent. They have sent letters to me, or to the newspapers I have been published in, saying so.

Bill C-51 should concern all of us

These anti-radical-capitalists probably vote on the left. They might well usher in a new government at the next election. Will that government then follow its predecessor’s precedent and take steps to prevent people’s radicalization?

I continue to publish my radical columns in various newspapers and online, and I occasionally lecture to university students or adult groups, always from that radical capitalist perspective of mine.

My unequivocal, unconcealed intention is to persuade to my way of thinking (and therefore, to radicalize) as many readers or listeners as possible. Will some future Liberal or NDP government, building on the Conservatives’ precedent, try to prevent my doing so?

Bill C-51 will establish a new network for sharing information about individuals among 17 Canadian government agencies, and with foreign governments. The activities that can be monitored are not confined to terrorist activities. The broad definition includes “any activity . . . if it undermines . . . the security of the people of Canada. . . .”

What about this? There’s an ongoing lawsuit where the plaintiffs are claiming a right to be provided by the state with affordable housing, supposedly pursuant to the Charter of Rights.

I wrote a column advocating that the courts not recognize any such affirmative right as part of the Charter guarantee of “security of the person.” But if the Supreme Court of Canada decides otherwise, will my dissenting column then be deemed an activity that undermines the security of the people? Will the government open a file on me and toss in all the columns I have written over the years arguing that positive rights are a travesty? Will they then share this with 17 different government agencies and various foreign governments? Are my travelling days over?

Meanwhile, what exactly does it mean for the government to “work with communities” – outside of the proposed legislation – to prevent radicalization? What would it mean for an NDP government to do this? Would Atlas Shrugged never appear again on the high school curriculum? Would it disappear from libraries and bookstores?

Mr. Kramp’s government acts as though no one need be concerned about expanding the powers of the state because the government is composed of really nice, decent people (i.e. them) who would never abuse such powers. But eventually, someday, this really nice, decent crowd will be turfed from office.

Anyone can be deemed “suspicious” under Bill C-51

Suddenly, they’ll find those powers being wielded by people less nice and decent than they were – and perhaps as “radical conservatives” they’ll join me on the list of suspicious characters.

The only protection against the abuse of power is not to give those broad powers to the state in the first place.

Karen Selick is the litigation director for the Canadian Constitution Foundation.

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