September 11 is fast approaching. Every year it marks the dark anniversary of a 2001 deadly terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York City – and the beginning of the much deadlier U.S.-led “War on Terror”. The world has changed forever, and Canada changed with it. The military has become an increasingly active and violent participant in unending wars and occupations focused on the Middle East and North Africa. This has been matched by a significant increase in domestic “anti-terror” laws limiting human rights – best exemplified by Bill C-51 and its new “Liberal-Party-lite” cousin Bill C-59.
With billions of dollars spent, millions of lives lost, and fundamental rights trampled on - it's worth asking: Is the “War on Terror” really justified? Are we safer? Are our lives getting better?
War at Home Matches War Abroad
Canada spent at minimum $18 billion on the war in Afghanistan, with over 40,000 troops serving in this country's longest war. After 16 years of foreign military “help” the country continues to be devastated by growing poverty and displacement, as well as a never-ending foreign occupation.
As military expenditures have skyrocketed, the quality of life of poor and working people in Canada has plummeted. A recent study by the Broadbent Institute found that the cost of a house in Canada now requires double the working hours that it did in the 1970's, and the income inequality gap is the worst it has even been. A Statistics Canada report has also found that income inequality, is associated with the premature death of 40,000 people ever year in Canada, which is 110 every day.
Since September 11, 2001 the Canadian government has also passed at least 10 major “anti-terrorism” laws. We live in a country which has “legalized” secret trails, arrests without warrants, detention without trail, massive surveillance, limits on the “right to remain silent” and no fly lists. This was even before the Conservatives rammed through Bill C-51!
Among many changes, Bill C-51 granted CSIS undefined powers of “disruption” which included explicitly breaking laws and violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, gave 17 Government agencies the ability to share our personal and private information without a warrant, and used language so broad that countless legal experts pointed out it could be used to target practically anyone – especially peaceful protestors.
In June of this year the Liberals laid out plans to boost military spending by a massive 73 percent over 20 years. They also announced their “Bill C-59”, which was supposed to follow through on their almost two-year-old promise to “fix” Bill C-51 if elected.
These two moves must be seen as connected – as they are the right and left hands of the Canada's “War on Terror”.
Canada's military is already spending more per year than it did in World War II, and all it has to show is it's “success” in bombing, occupying and ruining countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Are they really better off now? Are more troops, more guns, more tanks, more bombs going to improve this?
Meanwhile, Bill C-59 might limit some of the most outrageous parts of Bill C-51, but it keeps others (government sharing of our private information, vague CSIS powers of “disruption”), expands others (cyber-surveillance and data collection, legal immunity for CSIS agents), and still fundamentally leaves us with less government recognized human rights than we used to have.
“War on Terror” is a War on Poor and Working People Worldwide
At home and abroad, the government justifies what would normally be thought of as outrageous and unnecessary by wrapping it in the hysteria of the “War on Terror”. The tone and branding of Trudeau may be different than Harper – but fundamentally the government is racing down the same road.
There is 16 years and millions of deaths which show that these wars are more about competition for control of territory and resources than helping people. Across the world, as advanced capitalist countries like the U.S., Canada, France and England spend more and more on warring against each other and less and less on the social services poor and working people fought to establish and pay taxes for – governments are bracing for an inevitable backlash. The massive Iraq War protests, the “Occupy”, “Idle No More”, “Black Lives Matter” and climate justice movements, among countless other protests which have never stopped, are all evidence of a simmering unrest looking to boil. “Anti-Terrorist” legislation is about containing the domestic fallout from the “War on Terror”, not protecting us.
The Canadian Parliament returns on September 18. On their agenda is the passing of Bill C-59. We need a much stronger response and cross-country organizing effort to scrap Bill C-59 and Repeal Bill C-51 altogether. Now is definitely not the time to compromise and take a “give and take” approach negotiating with our human rights. The government is just looking to take, take, take, and the consequences for poor and working people in Canada around the world are horrendous. We are much safer when governments respect human rights at home and abroad. Let's fight together for that!
Repeal Bill C-51!
Scrap Bill C-59!
Justin Trudeau, Respect Our Human Rights!
Our Security Lies in Defending the Rights of All!
Follow Thomas Davies on Twitter: @thomasdavies59
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