As many of you know a shooting occurred in Ottawa on Parliament Hill recently. A young father of one was killed by a gunman as he stood guard over the memorial cenotaph. The assailant was subsequently shot and killed inside the Parliament building after numerous shots were exchanged. The Prime Minister of Canada called it a terrorist incident.

In August of this year in Moncton, New Brunswick another man killed three police officers and wounded two others during a shooting spree. He surrendered and plead guilty to the crime.

These two events are seen by the Canadian government (and others) as being diametrically different; not for the crimes themselves, but because of what the shooters were thinking.

In the Parliament Hill shooting the suspect was labeled as a Jihadi sympathizer. He'd recently had his passport taken away as he was seen as a potential threat, but as he hadn't broken any laws the police could do nothing further.

Treating a murder case differently because of a suspects religious, political, or personal beliefs is a slippery slope. When someone today is convicted of a murder, the circumstances of the crime are taken into account and that is where the judge can increase the sentence based on the nature or severity of the offence. It's a system that has served Canada well; up to and including the aforementioned man who shot multiple police officers in Moncton.

Murder is a crime in Canada and has been for some time. First-degree murder, second degree murder and manslaughter cover the various kinds of adult homicide in Canada with many cases successfully tried under those statutes. Now there is a call from those in government wanting tougher statutes. New laws restricting freedoms and giving police wider powers typically follow tragic circumstances. Yet, none of these new laws could have stopped the original (or any subsequent) crime. Laws are only respected by honest people and enacting new law to cover crimes that are already illegal is simply a "feel good" exercise.

Today, the word terrorism is being thrown around by those who want more police and government power. They want more surveillance, more tracking, more search and seizure, etc. They want to know who you are, where you are, who you are talking to, your political affiliations, and the resulting information will go into monstrous databases. They want to be able to search anyone at anytime, listen in on your phone calls, read your emails, and do all of that without warrants. They will say it is necessary to fight terrorists and protect the citizens of Canada. What they fail to mention is that Canada has experienced a long string of "terrorism" since 1692. The more recent examples include:

1963-1969 The FLQ performs a six year long bomb campaign. Six people died with dozens being injured.
1965 Croatians set several bombs in Yugoslavian buildings in Toronto and Ottawa.
1966 The Cuban embassy in Ottawa is attacked by bazooka.
1966 A man bombs Parliament in Ottawa by blowing up a bomb in a bathroom.
1970 The FLQ kidnaps two diplomats. War Measures Act enabled. 465 people are detained without charge.
1985 Sikh militants bomb Air India Flight 182 killing 329 people.
2006 "The Toronto 18" are arrested after plotting a bombing and terror campaign.

Suffice to say the new laws introduced after these incidents didn't stop the next. Murder (by bomb, knife, gun, or whatever) is already illegal. Adding new laws so a politician looks tough on terrorism while degrading a citizens freedoms accomplishes nothing.

It's time for me to voice an uncomfortable truth. No law can protect 100% of people, 100% of the time. Otherwise it would already be in place. You can put a police officer with a machine gun on every street corner in the country and there will be further violence or bloodshed. A person who is willing to sacrifice their own life to kill others (for whatever reason) cannot be stopped by additional laws or protective measures. There will be more incidents in the future with every occurrence followed by podium pounding politicians demanding more restrictions on your freedoms. These politicians are not afraid of the terrorists, they simply want to be seen to be doing something to deflect criticism so they can get re-elected.  

Parliament Hill has always been an open place. Citizens are free to walk in and ask to see their elected representative. Additional security to detect weapons will probably be added along with other less obvious measures. That's a common sense solution to having an armed man storm into a government building. Restricting everyone's freedoms throughout the country due to the actions of one man is not.

Canada has generally taken a fairly middle-of-the-road position in dealing with terrorist acts. After the imposition of the War Measures Act during the FLQ crisis, that draconian legislation was replaced with a much less invasive Emergencies Act which was subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Balancing a citizens rights and privacy against the need for effective policing is a debate that has raged for years. That debate should continue. BUT... The government of Canada works for its citizens and not the other way around. Government should not dictate to us. We tell them what to do and how we want it done. Other countries have adopted paranoid policies and severely curtailed freedoms of speech and action to counter terrorism. I simply hope Canada can find a sane path to navigate through this and subsequent crisis.

That's my opinion. What's yours?


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