Saturday, March 7, 2015

Tough on criminals and terrorists, but soft of crime and terrorism

Out of interest I subscribe to the email mailing lists of all 4 Canadian parties with members in the house of Commons (I have no interest in the Quebec-only parties).  While there is nothing unexpected in the mailings from the Greens, Liberals and NDP, I find the messaging from the Harper Conservatives to be surprising.  In their choice of parliamentary activity to highlight, and the language they use, they come off as excessively emotional, immature and naive.

I could quote specific examples from mailings, legislation and media, but I suspect we have all seen it.

There seems to be no recognition that there is a difference between being tough on crime and terrorism is very different than being tough on criminals and terrorists.  There seems to be a simplistic focus on punishment rather than looking into the reasons why people commit acts which are put under these labels.  There also seems to be an ever increasing list of activities which are being put under these labels, with more and more otherwise law abiding citizens fearing that their legitimate political activities might be captured by these labels.

Canadian society, like any other, is complex and the solutions to complex problems within our society will themselves be complex.  This is not what we are seeing from the Harper Government.

There seems to be no recognition that police officers are human beings.  Within the ranks of Canadian society there are a small percentage which will carry out activities which fall under the label of illegal, criminal or worse.  Contrary to the language used and policies promoted by the Harper Conservatives, the same is true of the Canadians who are employed by the various types of police, security and military agencies.  While there might be more scrutiny of the employees of these agencies than for most other jobs, there is also more exposure to a wide variety of scenarios that would entice them to harmful activities (bribery, increased power which corrupts, often seeing and having to engage with the worst of society, etc).

With the subjective language used around terrorism (which sometimes seems like we are headed towards "thought crime"), more and more power is being granted to police and security agencies that can be abused to harm otherwise law abiding Canadians.

The reality is that for the same reason why we need police forces to protect society from that minority which would disrupt it, we need to restrict the power of the police and must police the police to protect society from that minority which would disrupt us all.  The Harper Government has a blind trust of police forces and security services, naively believing that giving these agencies access to more information about Canadians without court or other oversight is not itself a harm to Canadians.  This puts information of ordinary law abiding Canadians in the hands of individuals within these agencies that can and will abuse this information.

The naive and harmful policy is the same whether we are talking about so-called "lawful access", so-called anti-terrorism laws, or so called "tough on crime" bills.

I find it both sad and ironic that the same Harper Government which cancelled the long form census (IMO incorrectly) claiming that there were privacy concerns has been ignoring the legitimate privacy concerns of Canadians when it comes to information collected by government agencies which are far more likely to abuse this information.

Terrorism is the use or threat of violence for political aims.  The purpose is to disrupt society towards those political aims.   It is hard for me not to feel like the Harper Government is disrupting Canadian society by ignoring legitimate privacy interests, granting inadequately policed powers to police and security agencies, and through the politics of fear making people feel less safe.   While the violence is not their own, it appears to me that the Harper Government is using the violence and threats of violence of others for their own political aims.   While I believe governments must protect their citizens from terrorism, I feel that what we have been seeing from the Harper Government is counter productive.

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