Canada’s Conservative government has tabled a new anti-terror bill.
Bill C-51 grants new powers to authorities to go after domestic terrorists before they strike, like when a Muslim gunman killed a young, unarmed Canadian soldier then went on a rampage through the Parliament Buildings last year.
Canadian progressives are predictably against this new law outright, cheering Edward Snowden when he condemned it while speaking in Toronto.
(Whether they object on principle or simply because they believe the Prime Minister is the embodiment of evil is always difficult to determine…)
Meanwhile, some “small-C” conservatives and libertarians are torn.
Having campaigned long and hard to get “Section 13” of our “hate crimes” law struck down — the one that encouraged identity-politics lawfare and internet censorship — not all of us are thrilled by the implications of this new bill.
Lawyer, blogger and long-time anti-Section 13 campaigner Jay Currie spoke for me and many others:
For example, the intention to disrupt a meeting of the G-20 whether in Canada or abroad, if there is even a hint of the physical could trigger the provisions of the bill. I might think G-20 protestors are dweebs but I think there is room for robust protest in the political sphere.
What happens if the Jewish Defense League decides to protest a speaker at Palestine House in Toronto? Or to counter march against the Musoloons the next time Hamas or Hezbollah attacks Israel? And what happens if I or BlazingCatFur put up a link to the protest or counter march?
And when Mark Steyn is worried, it’s hard not to be.
So I’ve been surprised by the (admittedly tempered) enthusiasm expressed for this new law by some of my fellow “free speechers, like Ezra Levant and Brian Lilley of Sun News.
Over at the National Post — another (mostly) anti-Section 13 outlet — agrees with Levant and Lilley that fears of a looming police state are misplaced, although I have to admit that their assurances had the opposite effect on me:
Some of the wording in the legislation is exceedingly vague: it would allow people to be detained if they “may” have terrorist plans. Everyone “may” have terrorist plans. I “may” get dementia next week and start advocating a coup d’etat. But it’s not likely.
Yet it wasn’t that long ago when some of us successfully argued that the “likely to” clause in Section 13 was one of its most sinister features.
Fortunately, we can all debate the pros and cons of these new measures in the coming days and weeks.
With a federal election on the horizon, the stakes are high.
At this point we are dealing with a Conservative government which has been pretty clear eyed about where the terrorist trouble is coming from.
“It doesn’t matter what the age of the person is, or whether they’re in a basement, or whether they’re in a mosque or somewhere else,” [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper said Friday in Richmond Hill, Ont. [when he unveiled the bill.]
But what if the very dim Liberals are elected and have access to this same set of tools? It is not difficult to imagine that they would loose the dogs of CSIS on people engaged in Islamophobia (or what we call around here, clear thinking) or any other activity which does not contribute to Kumbaya Nation.