Party leaders debate the meaning of ‘terrorist’

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair says the man behind last week’s shooting in Ottawa was not a terrorist. Predictably, PM Stephen Harper took issue with Mulcair’s comments. Even more predictably,┬áthe intellectual heavyweight as he is, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau offered a deep thought in the form of “The RCMP was clear, these were acts of terrorism. These were acts of terrorism.”┬áThe oldest tactic in the debating textbook: when in doubt, defer to authority. I suspect that in coming months, we will witness more of Trudeau’s brilliant intellectual weight (for those who didn’t get it: yes, I am being sarcastic).

The Criminal Code has a long definition of terrorism. Personally, I am inclined to agree with Mr. Mulcair’s interpretation of the events. But more importantly, anyone who says with any degree of certainty, one week after the event, that this was (or was not) in fact an act of terrorism, is jumping to a hasty conclusion. At what point were the actions of a deranged criminal aimed at intimidating the public? As a single man taking on the Canadian Parliament, clearly he had no chance of succeeding with that.

If I had any sympathy for the man, it would be that he was mentally ill, and that he may have gone through a lot of suffering before going over the edge. All that said, the reaction of the security, the RCMP, and the MPs was a swift and correct course of action. In the end, he had become a violent criminal, and our society cannot tolerate being violently attacked, no matter how difficult an individual’s circumstances may have become.

Which brings me to the issue of individual vs. collective rights, and how they relate to the whole privacy & surveillance fiasco. By engaging in a wholesale surveillance, the agencies run mostly by unelected bureaucrats, largely out of sight and out of control, are violating the individual rights of all the citizens, while not protecting the collective rights at all. None of the surveillance business could prevent last week’s shooting. In my view, the resources (read: taxpayers money) are wasted on the surveillance technology, and should be redirected to give better tools to the police to prevent the kind of attacks we witnessed last week.

The worst thing about the event is that it has already been used as an argument to expand the powers of secret agencies to do even more surveillance. I am in an awkward position of agreeing with NDP’s Public Safety critic Randall Garrison:

…we are also responsible in this House for protecting our fundamental freedoms. These will both present continuing challenges in the coming weeks and months…

Mr. Garrison is my MP. Perhaps I should pay him a visit and talk about the surveillance business a bit more.

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