Environmentalists and other Terrorists
Recently the Canadian federal government introduced new anti-terrorism legislation. This comes as a response to the growing, and very real threat of terrorism activity overseas, and from attacks on Canadian soil on two Canadian Forces soldiers at the end of 2014.
There is little doubt that we need to take the threat of terrorism seriously. There is a small, well organized, and no doubt clinically insane group of people in the world who have bastardized their religious beliefs to suit their homicidal intent and are killing innocent people as a result. There are also Islamic extremists to be concerned about.
As has been its modus operandi the federal Conservative government under Stephen Harper has used this excuse to attack its own political enemies. In this case they have introduced a piece of legislation thinly disguised to address a real problem while actually giving their own government and its law enforcement and security agencies the power to do something else entirely.
This past weekend, while reading the paper-version of the Globe and Mail, Jenn asked me what I thought of the new legislation. I hadn’t finished reading the Globe’s coverage yet, but told her that I expected that very soon we’d be hearing how these new powers would be used to fight “domestic terrorists” like those of us who oppose Prime Minster Harper’s pandering to the oil and gas industry.
No sooner had I said that than I read this: “The new internal government information-sharing legislation blinks red. Critically, it paints national security broadly – including things like the “economic and financial stability of Canada.”(Not all proposed Security reforms guarantee Canadian’s safety, Kent Roach and Craig Forcee, Globe and Mail, January 31)
Joe Oliver, now the federal Minister of Finance, but then the Minister of Natural Resources already started framing the debate over forestry, oil and gas and hydro projects as being germane. In a letter published in the Wall Street Journal in 2012 he said: “Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade. Their goal is to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth. No forestry. No mining. No oil. No gas. No more hydro-electric dams.”
I’ve never been opposed to being called a radical by someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about. Being a radical means to get to the root of things and that’s what we need to do in the debate over Canada’s energy future. But that’s not what the Honorable Minister meant.
Prime Minister Harper’s anti-terrorism strategy, while doing little to stop the very real problem of actual radicalization of Islamist extremists, instead targets Canadians who simply disagree with the direction our current government have taken our country. Again in 2012 then Public Safety Minister Vic Toews outlined the government’s policy on terrorism that states it would be vigilant against “based on grievances – real or perceived – revolving around the promotion of various causes such as animal rights, white supremacy, environmentalism and anti-capitalism.”
Now we have legislation that characterizes threats to Canada’s economic and financial stability as terrorism. It’s likely that this will be explained away as necessary to protect infrastructure and property from rare instances of actual sabotage, but I expect that sooner than later crackdowns on protestors, environmental groups, First Nations and every-day average citizens concerned about our future will be justified under this new legislation. We’ve already seen a dramatic escalation in the response to protests, such as those in New Brunswick over concerns about fracking and in BC over the Kinder-Morgan pipeline on Burnaby Mountain. It’s only a matter of time before the Harper government stops insinuating that First Nations people, environmentalists and others are “terrorists” and starts labeling us as such under this act.
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