Harper ‘radicalizes’ his attack on civil liberties

harper internet
by Barry Weisleder
The Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is using the October shootings in Ottawa, and the deadly assault that killed another soldier east of Montreal, to advance its authoritarian agenda.
With Bill C-44, the “Protection of Canada from Terrorism Act”, Harper seeks to increase the authority of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to spy on Canadians and foreigners abroad, and to share information with foreign agencies – although that might expose innocent people to imprisonment and torture, as happened in the infamous case of Maher Arar.
In addition, the government proposes to give blanket anonymity to CSIS informants whose testimony federal prosecutors want to use as evidence, even though it would make it harder for accused people to defend themselves in court.
This is just the tip of the ice berg. Conservative Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney told Radio-Canada that the government may make it easier to arrest and detain people without charging them.
Preventative arrest already exists in the Criminal Code. It was introduced by a Liberal government in 2002, allowed to lapse after five years, and then reinstated by the Conservatives, with Liberal support in 2013. Although never used, the Harper administration is toying with the idea of broadening the law to target not only innocent persons it believes will commit a terrorist act in the future, but also those the security services deem to be terrorists. That ‘deeming’ could include commission of ‘thought crimes’ like claiming online that terrorist acts are justified.
What’s next, making it illegal to support governments on a list of regimes labelled ‘state terrorist’ by Ottawa or Washington – like those in Gaza, Iran, Venezuela or Cuba?
Sadly, the assault on civil liberities is all too familiar to Canadians.
Ne-1970In October 1970 the Liberal government of Pierre Elliot Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act. It suspended basic freedoms of speech, press and assembly after members of the Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ) kidnapped a British diplomat and a provincial cabinet minister, who was later murdered. Trudeau claimed that Canada faced “an apprehended insurrection”. The claim was proven false. And it also emerged that the RCMP had infiltrated the FLQ and pushed for violent actions.
The repressive measures implemented by the state, including the military occupation of Quebec and the arrest and detention of over 500 labour, political and cultural personalities who were never charged with an offense, backfired big time. The ugly sweep contributed to the 1976 election of the first pro-independence government in Quebec.
Unlike Pierre Trudeau (whose son Justin now leads the federal Liberal Party), Harper didn’t wait for an excuse to bring down the hammer. His Bill C-24, the “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act”, enables the government to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens – like those who demonstrate support for a foreign power Ottawa doesn’t like.
And in a related move designed to undermine social solidarity, the Tory regime has restricted the ability of refugee claimants to access social assistance. That followed its earlier decision to limit refugee claimants’ resort to universal, public health care.
The fact that the latest exclusionary step was buried in a government omnibus budget bill, containing hundreds of pages of unrelated measures, says a great deal about Harper’s modus operandi, and about the growing trend of capitalist rule that must be confronted and defeated.