Sunday, April 21, 2013

Our Inconvenient Civil Liberties/Charter Rights

It may be that I am overly sensitive to the reactionary agenda that seems to dominate society today. It may be that I am misinterpreting a public statement made by a Canadian professor who teaches at both the Royal Military College of Canada and Queen’s University. It may mean nothing at all. Or it could have very dangerous implications.

Ever since the terrorist attacks in New York in 2001, there has been a steady erosion of civil liberties in the United States. Illegal renditions by that country, aided and abetted by many other jurisdictions, targetting American citizens for assassination, and denying suspects their Miranda rights are but three examples.

Lest we think we are beyond such practices in Canada, we need only think of the infamous case of Maher Arar, whose rendition to Syria for torture and imprisonment was aided and abetted by our government.

So it was with real interest that I read in this morning's Star the fact that two years ago, Russia warned the FBI that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the 26-year-old bombing suspect killed earlier Friday after a firefight with police, was a follower of radical Islam” and that “he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.”

The question naturally arises, of course, as to why, with that warning, nothing was done to prevent the deaths and grievous injuries that occurred last week at The Boston Marathon.

Canadian professor Christian Leuprecht addresses that question in the following way:

“Is there anything in the way that the law is written that prevented intelligence agencies from doing the job they need to do?”

“It points to the difficulty we’ve put intelligence services in,” he said. “On the one hand we expect them to pick out all the radicals and rein them in and make sure they don’t do anything crazy. On the other, we live in a society where we agree that just having marginal ideas is not illegal.”

Again, I am perfectly willing to admit the possibility that I am misinterpreting Professor Leuprecht's comments, which may simply be observational in nature. However, if they are, instead, prescriptive, he and everyone else who may see our rights and freedoms as inconvenient or unnecessary fetters to law enforcement need to be reminded of one inconvenient truth: those rights and freedoms exist to protect citizens against abuses from the state; they are not there to make anyone's job easier, even for those charged with the responsibility of rooting out terrorism that may reside in our midst.


  1. Boston incident was tragic and very innocent people were killed. However, to use this tragedy to obliterate human rights will be very dangerous move.

    I did take part in the public input for the Chart of Rights and Freedoms. It is one of the most important documents in Canadian constitution and it must not be violated.

    As far as violence in U.S is concerned U.S has exported horrible violence to Afghanistan, Iraq and many other countries in Asia and Africa.

    Mound of Sound has a good write-up on this subject matter.

  2. Murrow knew how easy it was to scare people into submission, Lorne. If he were around today, he would repeat the warning.

  3. Thanks for the link and the comment, LeDaro. Our much cherished and much taken-taken-for-granted rights and freedoms, I agree, are far too important to allow the emotions of the moment to compromise them.

  4. It is indeed telling, isn't it, Owen, that we have few in the MSM willing to state such a hard truth.