Sunday, August 07, 2005

Eroding Human Rights

Between the recen renewal of the US "Patriot Act" and Tony Blair's proposals to limit the rights of "Islamic Extremists" in the UK, it seems to be increasingly dark times for those who value the notions of human rights and equality in the world.

With the Conservative Party in this nation aping recent American paranoia over the topic of national security, Canadians need to take a long, hard look at these policies, and whether or not they reflect a rational, measured approach to human rights.

Blair's heavy-handed, obviously xenophobic reaction in the wake of July's subway bombings, does no service to the open rights of legal citizens of his nation. Essentially, in his paranoid response, Blair is following Bush and suspending the legitimate rights of citizens and immigrants. The justification 'we are in a time of war' is fundamentally false. To claim that treating followers of Islam differently from other faiths flies in the face of logic. During some 30 years of IRA activity throughout the United Kingdom, there was no attempt made on the to limit IRA practices through their religious affiliations.

In Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, we have laws in place for dealing with what so-called "Islamic extremists" are doing.

An Imam calling for "holy war" against "western society" is engaging in the propogation of hatred just as surely as the White Supremacist who calls for the expungement of Jewish peoples from the face of the earth. We have laws for dealing with that.

An organization that is planning - and carrying out - bombings, shootings or other acts of violence is a criminal organization. The rights to "freedom of association" are reasonably bounded by the laws that make conspiracy to commit a crime criminal itself.

The person who sets a bomb to harm others is a criminal just as surely as the bank robber or petty fence is. All of the Western nations have laws that reasonably handle these situations.

Critics of our current environment need to be reminded that our laws work upon the presupposition of innocence. We presume that someone is innocent until we have evidence or proof of a crime being committed. The government asserting the right to prosecute people for non-criminal behaviour is a serious violation of our lives and rights as citizens and peaceful immigrants. Mr. Blair's attempt to curtail "Islamic Extremism" is laughable in its naivte, and insulting in its heavy-handedness.

We need to encourage our governments to properly fund and staff the agencies charged with hunting down extremists, criminal organizations and criminals appropriately. The legal tools already exist in legislation. What we need to do is to enforce those laws effectively.

Ham-handed approaches like Blair's, or the equally ill-considered "Patriot Act" in the United States will never accomplish the real goals in dealing with extremists and terrorism.

To combat shadows, one must become a shadow.

What must we do? We must demand of our politicians that not only must they pursue these criminals with every tool available to them, but they are bound to do so within the bounds of our laws. Canada does not need additional laws to pursue the criminal elements that planned 9/11, or 7/7. The laws exist, it is a matter of applying those laws. If our investigative and enforcement organizations need to be better funded in order to ferret out these organizations, then let us fund them more appropriately.

Above all else, it is critical that the citizens of our nation become active participants in our governance. Democracy only works when citizens participate - both through the voting process, but also through the policy making processes in the parties.

Canada is ideally positioned to learn from the mistakes of others. Following Bush and Blair would be a critical mistake. We do not need to sacrifice our rights as citizens on the altar of "national security", nor should we. We must view with suspicion those who would do so.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One could argue that by limiting such rights because of terrorist activities is an indication that the terrorists are winning.