In the wake of the Boston bombing and alleged via rail plot, Harper rushed Bill S-7 through Parliament—reviving attacks on civil liberties passed by the Liberals in the wake of 9/11.
Boston was shaken on 15 April by a tragic bomb explosion in the city, taking the lives of a few and injuring many. A week later Canadian media were covering the story of an alleged terrorist plot to derail a via rail passenger train. While the media focused on this event, the Harper government took the opportunity to pass Bill S-7, “An Act to deter terrorism and to amend the State Immunity Act,” through Parliament.
Harper’s timing is suspicious, and even mainstream media have noticed, as the government blatantly used people’s fears to justify the bill and its attacks on civil liberties. The bill had been waiting third reading for months, and was suddenly rushed through in the wake of the Boston bombing and alleged via rail plot.
The government is presenting events as if there is a choice to be made between safety and liberty, but Bill S-7 puts unreasonable power in the hands of a few and removes basic civil liberties. It allows for “preventive detention” without charge, and probationary conditions enforced by the threat of 12 months jail. The bill can also force people to show up at a secret “investigative hearing” without any charges being laid if the authorities only suspect that he or she holds knowledge of a terrorist activity—again with the threat of a year in jail if they refuse.
These two civil liberty restrictions were originally imposed by the Liberals in the wake of September 11, 2001, and the Liberals joined Tories’ in re-imposing them. The government used fear to pass the bill, and like other civil liberty restrictions, such laws lead to increases in racial profiling and discriminatory arrests. All this power handed to the authorities will be abused, and has been abused in the past, and only the people will suffer.
According to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, "The preventive arrest and investigative hearing laws, in effect from 2001 to 2007, were never once used for their intended purpose, and every major criminal terrorism-related incident in Canada since 2001 has been disrupted and prevented without the need for preventive detention or investigative hearings." Instead of focusing on the root causes of terrorism, the bill’s passage was timed in order to support the Harper agenda of fear, incarceration, and reduced freedoms.
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