Reason, Freedom and the War on Terrorism


3 November 2015

Thank you very much for those kind words, James. But before offering any more thanks or saying what an honour it is to be invited to deliver the 2015 MacEachen Lecture, I want to first apologize to St. F. X. and the lecture organizers for cancelling an earlier scheduled event when I threw my back out. It was the first day of work I have ever missed and the only event I have cancelled in my professional career. But as sorry as I am for that inconvenience, trust me, if I gutted it out and made my way here on October 6th, you would not have enjoyed watching me deliver the lecture flat on my back, or punctuating my remarks with intermittent groaning and howls of pain. So I want to thank the university, the MacEachen Lecture organizing committee, the Department of Political Science, and especially Doug Brown, for having the grace to ask me back today and reschedule this lecture for tonight. It is also a great honour to be invited to deliver this particular lecture. I am well aware of St. F. X.’s storied history, the luminous list of university alumni that your president was just talking about, and the parade of great men who have delivered the MacEachen lecture before me. Unfortunately to this date no great women, but Douglas that's on your checklist to fix. And speaking of great men, it is a particular honour to be giving a lecture named after the legendary son of Cape Breton, Allan J. MacEachen. I never had the good fortune of meeting Mr. MacEachen before today but I heard many stories about him from my mentor and very good friend, Senator Lowell Murray. And while Lowell and Allan J., as Lowell always referred to him, stood on different sides of a partisan divide, I was always struck when Lowell spoke of Allan J. with not just great respect but something that border-lined almost on awe. He always referred to Allan J. as a most worthy opponent, referred to as brilliant, time and time again. And sometimes he warned me that he could be very wily and crafty. But the most common refrain I heard when Lowell spoke of him is that Allan J. is a man of great principle, who entered public life for all the right reasons and throughout a long and distinguished career, never lost sight of those reasons. It is my hope then that these remarks find favour in that tradition of Allan J. MacEachen.

Having said this, I recognize that by temperament and whatever little talent I may possess, I am nothing more than a researcher. Given the vagaries of the polling industry these days and the fact that we have just gone through one of the most interesting and competitive federal elections in Canadian history, it might seem natural that I would talk about the polls and polling. Instead, I have chosen to swim in deeper water tonight and address the subject of reason, freedom and the war on terrorism. And I chose this subject for two reasons. First, because I believe this is the single most important challenge to democracy in modern times. And second, because of what drove me to become a pollster in the first place, an abiding fascination with and devotion to civic life. There was little in my upbringing that would have suggested any interest in politics or civics. Growing up on the Canadian prairies, in a good United Church family, there wasn't much talk of politics around the dinner table. And like most kids in my neighbourhood just outside of Edmonton, I was more interested in hockey than healthcare reform.

That all changed forever one uncommonly winter morning in October 1970. I was 18, I was in my second year of a combined B.A.L & B.A. program at the University of Alberta, with every intension of becoming a lawyer. As was my habit, I swung by to pick up one of my classmates for a 9 am Canadian Politics course. Without even a greeting, he slammed the door shut and asked, “so, how do you like living in a country with no civil rights?” I'll admit, October 1970, I was mystified and a little miffed that he hadn't even said good morning. Sensing my confusion, he explained that the Prime Minister, another Prime Minister Trudeau in fact, had just introduced the War Measures Act, functionally putting the country under martial law and legally removing the right of habeas corpus. Now I had been vaguely aware of tensions that had been developing in Quebec over a political kidnapping. I knew about that, but I had no idea that things had gone or could even go that far in politics. But even with that vague understanding, with memories also of Kent State still in my mind as a teenager of the 70s, it did seem outrageous to me that it was in the power of anyone to take away my rights. When we got to class, everyone was abuzz. Most of my colleagues, my contemporaries, spoke enthusiastically about the move, endorsing the resurrected law because it was necessary to, as they say, 'catch the frogs who did this.' And also, to restore order before things got even more out of control. Now for those of you too young to remember how bigoted our language and attitudes used to be, ‘frogs’, somehow, came to be the derogative term for French.

The class was taught by a young graduate from Simon Fraser University named Thelma Oliver. She was a self-professed Socialist, who drove an e-type jag without a hint of irony. She was lively, sharp, inspiring and she proceeded to give a lecture that resonates with me to this day. She affirmed my friends assessment that we were now living under martiall law and that any of us could be detained without charge. Rather than explaining this development however, in terms of the need to catch ‘the frogs’ or to restore order as my colleagues had suggested, she made the case that this was occurring because it was a fundamental part of the bargain of entering into civic society and allowing ourselves to be governed. Drawing on classical political theory, Professor Oliver made the point that as part of the social contract between the individual and the state, we implicitly give up our right to unbridled absolute individual freedom in exchange for collective stability and safety. It may be quicker to go through the stop light to get to where you want to go but we don't, we stop. We constrain our latitude to do what we want to do in order to protect stability and social safety. But to ensure, she warned us, that the balance of that relationship was never tilted dangerously against certain fundamental rights that we were guaranteed by the state, it was necessary for citizens to be very vigilant and prepared to remove those who abrogated rights, preferably by ballot, but if necessary by rebellion. She explained that the scheme that wraps the social contract and makes it function is the political process. And that the political process, in turn, confers upon those who run it a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.

I thought, “a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence,” now that is a very heavy and scary concept. And so I asked, how can individuals rebel if we give those who run the political process a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence (according to Professor Oliver)? That, my friends, is the conundrum of democracy. Because when you give up some of your unfettered rights, you run the risk of losing more. And there is a very bloody history of those who have fought for the retrieval of lost rights. That, she went on to tell us, is why the foundation of democracy must be trust. Citizens must trust their leaders to not misuse the power granted to them by the electorate, and leaders must trust citizens to deal with them by casting a ballot rather than shooting a bullet. It took a while for the full implications of Thelma Oliver's lecture to sink in, and arguably, a lifetime in politics to learn. But that very day one thing did dawn on me: that government wasn't them, it was us. That for good or ill, this is the way as a society we have chosen to organize and manage our collective affairs, through government. And that government has the capacity for infinite good but also for infinite evil in equal measure. And because of that capacity government can never be considered irrelevant and trust can never be taken for granted. The stakes are simply too high.

Today, we are waging a very very different kind of war than that posed by the FLQ in October 1970. An asymmetrical war where the normal rules of engagement do not apply, where traditional laws and traditional procedures are deemed insufficient to deal with the nature of the enemy. I believe it is a war without end, a war we are losing, and a war that is unwinnable. But perhaps most disturbing of all, it is a war that can cause more threats to our freedoms than benefits to our society, simply in the process of waging it. Former Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie offered a similar caution in 2004 when he declared that 'the danger in the war on terrorism lies not only in the actual damage the terrorists can do to us, but we can do to our own legal and political institutions by way of shock, anticipation, opportunism, or overreaction.' What makes terrorism unique is that the threat is not simply against the person but the social and physical infrastructure that makes up society and the state. For this reason, terrorism is not viewed as a mere criminal problem to be dealt with by using conventional law-enforcement, but an issue of national security where the full force of the state is exerted against the threat.

The United Nations Convention for the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism provides this definition of terrorism: Any act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities of the situation of armed conflict when the purpose of such act by nature or context is to intimidate a population or to compel a government or international organization to do or abstain from doing any act. So the purpose is clearly not just to kill people. It is to compel a government or international organization to do or abstain from doing any act. To do or not to do something that a state or international organization, left to their own devices, would not do. While this convention was adopted in 1999, the modern tools, procedures, and laws we use to fight terrorism today were largely adopted only after and in response to the attacks that took place on September 11th 14 years ago. In fact, while terrorism acts obviously took place before 9-11, Canada had no specific terrorism legislation on the books before that fateful day.

We now, of course, have a myriad of acts that deal with terrorism as well as immigration, including no less than 8 pieces of legislation that were passed in the last parliament alone. Three, however, stand out and form the framework of our legislative response to the terrorist threat: Bill C36, the original Anti-terrorism Act passed immediately following the Twin Tower's attack of 2001; Bill S7, the Combating Terrorism Attacks passed two days after the Boston Marathon attack in 2013; and Bill C51, also unimaginatively called the Anti-terrorism Act 2015, passed immediately on the heels of the Parliament Hill attack of last year. There is clearly a pattern of action and response to this legislation. The original 2001 legislation - introduced by the Liberals by the way - amended numerous sections of the Criminal Code but also curiously other acts including the Access to Information Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. It has been referred to as the most massive, complex, and controversial legislation ever enacted in Canada. It allows Cabinet to bypass the courts and unilaterally list terrorist organizations, strip them of their charitable status if they have it, and seize their assets. It also calls for the courts to imprison terrorists and their facilitators for life and provides a definition of terrorism that includes a motives clause for actions that derive specifically from religious, ideological or political beliefs. More controversially, Bill C65 - this original piece of legislation - also provided for something called preventative arrest that allows individuals to be arrested and held without warrants or charges on the belief that the arrest can be, reasonably expected to prevent a terrorist activity. It also introduced the notion of investigative judicial hearings that allow police and prosecutors to bring a person before a secret court and compel them to disclose information about a suspected or known forthcoming attack.

Because these two provisions were so controversial at the time, and were opposed by among others the Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, they were subject to a sunset clause where they would end. Originally and supposedly they did lapse in 2007, only to be resurrected again through Bill S7, the second major piece of legislation, with a new sunset clause that is now set for 2018. Under the terms of Bill S7, it became a crime to leave the country for terrorist purposes and since then has been updated to include a prohibition on traveling to identified terrorist territories. You can't go to certain parts of the world, it is against the law. The most recent legislation, Bill C15, which is facing a Charter challenge by the Canadian Civil Liberaties Association and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, has been criticized from quarters as varied as former prime ministers, academics, the federal privacy commissioner, lowers the bar even further on the exercise of preventative detention (meaning that it is not just reasonable expectation that someone might perform a terrorist act) and investigative hearings, and adds new weapons in the arsenal to be used in the war of terror. Under this law, this most recent law, threatening national security will now include, I quote, "interfering with the economic or financial stability of Canada," a provision that some believe threatens legitimate protest. If for example, First Nations want to protest against a pipeline being built, there's probably a pretty good argument they're interfering with the economic stability of Canada. It also criminalizes speech that glorifies or promotes terrorism, very specifically, a provision that some believe poses a direct threat to free speech.

Even more troubling perhaps, the new anti-terrorism legislation amends the CSIS acts, changing the scope and purpose of the spy agency's activities and facilitating information-sharing among 17 federal institutions. Critics start with the irony that CSIS was originally created, originally, by taking powers away from the RCMP and creating CSIS as a passive intelligence gathering agency in order to separate the information gathering and the law enforcement powers of the RCMP. They did this because at the time because there was ample evidence that the combination of these two things, information gathering and law enforcement together, was leading to all kinds of human rights violations, like the RCMP burning down property owned by suspected extremists. Bill C15 undoes this separation and converts CSIS from an intelligence service into more of a law enforcement agency with so called kinetic powers, including arrest and physical interventions. Moreover, federal courts can now issue warrants and bless CSIS activity that explicitly violates the law and the Charter - they can basically get a free pass on violations of the law and Charter if they go to a court. All of which takes place in secret and only in the presence of the judge and government representative seeking this exemption, denying the person suspected of the illegal activity to be present or defend him- or herself.

Now between 2001 and this year, at least three big tent poles have interwoven between these three big anti-terrorism bills. The government also introduced other legislation or amended existing laws. Here's a list of some of them: laws that would give Cabinet the power to create 'No fly lists' with little possibility of appeal or review by those who found themselves on the list; issuing security certificates that could lead to the deportation of permanent resident foreign nationals to their country of origin; allowing victims of terrorism to sue terrorists and those who support them including states; creating an individual indictable offence for possessing, using or disposing of nuclear radioactive material or committing an act against a nuclear facility; giving the Minister the right to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of terrorism, high treason or spying; forcing internet service providers to preserve and produce subscriber metadata to police while shielding them from any criminal liability if they surrender these data absent of warrant; and, just in case there was any doubt whatsoever, making explicit that suicide bombing falls within the ambit of terrorist activity.

Now reviewing this legislative tsunami, it is pretty clear that a pattern exists. New legislation invariably is rushed to passage to respond to each new different form of terrorist event that we've experienced over the last 14 years. Furthermore, the assumption is that each new variant of legislation accompanying this is that the nature of the last attack will become the norm going forward. Whatever happened before we need this legislation for, and that's exactly what's going to happen in the future? So, in 2001, we acquired new laws to prevent attacks from a foreign threat. This is what we were focused on, a foreign threat. These laws focused on security specifically related to transportation systems and infrastructure. Consequently, grandmothers are now herded like livestock into insufferably long lines waiting to remove their shoes and be wanded by airport security; borders thicken, impairing commerce; and, public spaces are closed off and monitored like prisons. In this way, the other victim of this first wave of terrorism became our freedom of movement. After a decade without any hint of a repeat foreign attack within American borders, save for the rather pathetic attempts of the so-called 'Underwear' and 'Shoe’ bombers, the focus shifted. Now, not to the foreign terrorist, but to the homegrown terrorist like those who attacked the London subway in 2007, the Toronto 18 arrested the year before 2006, or the American brothers who planted a bomb at the Boston Marathon in 2013. In this phase, this second phase, it was determined that fending off the homegrown terrorist requires not just security measures, as it is with the foreign terrorist, but now more and tighter surveillance of one's own citizens and the concomitant loss of privacy and the freedom of association that is associated with that increased surveillance.

Last year the preoccupation turned once again, this time to the lone wolf gunman like the Charlie Hebdo or Parliament Hill shooters, inspired by but normally unaffiliated with terrorists, who now it seems are far more preoccupied with foreign conflicts than any attacks on the West. A further layer to the lone wolf threat is the possibility of domestic jihadists who have joined these foreign terrorist forces and threat to return and wreak havoc at home. While certainly not capable of the same magnitude of damage as the 9-11 hijackers, these types of so-called terrorists may prove to be the most problematic, both in terms of preventing their attacks and also the kind of legislation envisioned for that purpose. First, surveillance alone does not seem to be sufficient to anticipate and stop radicalized lone wolf extremists. The brothers who killed the 12 journalists at Charlie Hebdo were all known to the police, having been convicted of terrorist charges in 2008. They were both on 'no fly lists' and refused entry into Britain. One brother had publically admitted to links to Al-Qaeda in Yemen and neighbours were aware that they had been stockpiling weapons for two months before the attacks. All that surveillance, all that knowledge, to no end. The Parliament Hill shooter, who killed Nathan Cirillo, had had his passport renewel denied just weeks before and was a known extremist with serial convictions for larceny, drug possession and parole violations. Martin Couture-Rouleau, who ran over two Canadian soldiers two days before the Parliament Hill shootings, killing one, at the time was being monitored by the RCMP as one of the estimated 90 suspected extremists who intended to join militants fighting abroad, had his passport pulled previously and had told friends he self-identified with ISIL and dreamed of dying a martyr. All of this was known, on the record.

To the extent that they are all typical, surveillance clearly did nothing to stop attacks for this new breed of terrorists. To prevent the lone wolf or jihad-inspired attacks requires the ability to anticipate not just their actions but their intent. And to anticipate criminal activity before it happens and then stop it from happening requires the actual realization of the rule of law, not just more surveillance, and not simply the generally accepted trade-off between limiting individual rights for collective security. And this is precisely what the most recent spate of legislation and C51 sets out to do. Preventative detention allows police to arrest and detain suspects or their facilitators for up to three days if they believe they might be preparing a terrorist attack. If the authority still has no evidence upon which to lay a charge after those three days, they can then go before a judge and ask for something that's called recognizance with conditions, essentially the equivalent of a peace bond. Basically it would remain in effect for a year, and can include restrictions on your movement, who you're allowed to associate with, and what you're allowed to communicate or say. Similarly, anyone summoned to appear before an investigative hearing cannot contest the summons; you can't say “it is not fair - I don't want to go,” and if they refuse to answer any question put to them, can be imprisoned for up to a year, this again is without charge. After being jailed for a year, the individual could be brought again before the investigative hearing and if they again refuse the line of questioning, be promptly imprisoned for another year. In short, it is possible under this legislation that a citizen could be jailed indefinitely without ever being charged or convicted based solely on the suspicion that they - not reasonably - might, know or carry out an act of terrorism. The possibility, in turn, presents a direct affront to the notion of due process and the rule of law.

So if we're now armed with this broad array of legislative weapons to fight the war on terror, it might be worthy to take a closer look at the enemy - what are they doing? Now, according to the US State Department's country reports on terrorism, the number of terrorist-related attacks in 2014 increased 35% to 13,463 events and the number of fatalities increased by 81% to 32,700 fatalities compared to the year before. Big increases. Approximately 25% of these attacks were aimed at military targets and 20% of the fatalities involved the perpetrators of the attacks themselves. These incidents involved no less than 250 known terrorist organizations including 33 that had never before been identified as perpetrators by the Global Terrorism Database. Thirty-three new organizations that people have never even heard of before, participated in these 13,000 incidents. So, we know the problem isn't going away or getting smaller. In fact, every year since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the problem has actually gotten bigger. But the same database also indicates something very important - that 60% of the attacks and 78% of the fatalities took place in 5 distant countries: Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. In addition, if you do the math, the number of incidents versus the number of fatalities, it is clear that the average attack killed only 2.5 people. So, we also know that terrorism is being played out predominately in areas of serious civil conflict and almost exclusively in Muslim countries. We also know that with few exceptions, these incidents take place on a small scale and pose no immediate or consequential threat to the West. In fact, in 2013, only 24 US citizens were killed in terrorist incidents - 24, all of them overseas.

So if this is the case, why is Homeland Security spending $70 billion dollars per year, combating terrorism within its borders? Now, one possible answer is that all of these efforts by Homeland Security are actually making us safer and preventing terrorist attacks on US soil. Luckily for those who care, all foreign attacks are on the public record so we actually have some indication of whether this thesis is plausible. In fact, Professor John Mueller of Ohio State University compiled a report that includes all known causes of extremism targeted against the United States since 9-11. Over those 14 years, his research shows that 53 such instances occurred. Now that sounds like a big number, 53 foreign attacks and that we should probably be pretty grateful for all the money and effort spent by Homeland Security. Until you start digging a little deeper into Professor Mueller's report. In three of these cases, no plot whatsoever had been hatched but authorities were worried that one might. According to the report, 27 or slightly over half of these incidents were essentially created or fabricated by the authorities themselves, who provided the coaxing and resources needed to carry out an attack and then arrested the so-called perpetrators once there was sufficient evidence that one might actually happen. The report also notes that within this category of those being coxed and given the resources to do this, many of the accused displayed signs of mental illness. No plots involved weapons of mass destruction capable of doing major damage, only 4 of the 53 had a plan and the capacity to set off conventional explosions, and of these, only one actually succeeded in detonating a bomb, the Boston massacre.

Even in the case of this evidence, a different kind of study carried out at the same time indicated that Americans are more frequently worried about the possibility of a terrorist attack on US soil than they are worried about the prospect of their own hospitalization: clearly, a massive miscalculation of the actual possibility and risk presented by those two scenarios. This form of so-called irrational risk assessment has long been understood by psychologists and behavioural economists. Basically, the presence of fear heightens people’s estimation of all other potential hazards. When you're afraid, your sense of risk goes up no matter what you see. Consequently, people will consistently rank threats like airplane crashes and nuclear accidents higher than dangers like car accidents or smoking. The threat of terrorism particularly fits this paradigm. As Dr. Paul Slovic of the University of Oregon points out, threats posed by terrorism contain a trifecta of fear because they are first, horrific to contemplate, second, seem relatively uncontrollable and beyond the pale of the individual to do anything about, and third, are catastrophic. Now while considered normal, the over estimation of the risk of terrorism and harbouring a fear of something that is 100 times less likely to occur than drowning in your bathtub, that's right, you're 100 times more likely to drown in your bathtub than to be killed by a terrorist, that kind of irrational fear creates a climate of hysteria that breeds calls for equally irrational response, ones that are completely out of proportion to the actual size of the threat.

I think a big part of this fear is driven by a shift in how we see ourselves and others and how this has changed politics today. For decades following the Second World War, a progress ethos dominated North American political culture. We believed that the next car was going to be faster, the next pay check was going to be fatter, and the next house was bigger. This notion that progress was both normal and limitless generated a series of beliefs that were universally embraced throughout the 70s, parts of the 80s. Anyone of my generation will remember being told 'you my child deserve more than I had when I was growing up;' 'if you work hard and put your mind to it, you can be anything you want;' and, 'a good education is the key to success in the future.' This value system and the experience that closely corresponded to it, that progress is normal and I am progressive, created not only a sense of wellbeing (I feel good), but also a sense of good will (I feel well towards others). If the prospect of progress and opportunity were limitless, then whatever success you enjoyed in no way threatened the amount of success that might be available to me, because it was limitless. Today, in sharp contrast, we seem to be living in a zero-sum society, where the prevailing wisdom is that the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer. That whatever prosperity might be available is being unequally shared. And for many, that opportunity is actually shrinking. In the same way that feelings of wellbeing can generate good will, feelings of threat spawn fear, envy and recrimination. This not only explains the anger of organizations like Occupy or Idle No More, but also - on the other side of the ledger - the disdain the middle class has for pampered public service employees or the excessive obsession the rich seem to have about the poor ripping off the system. It also explains why Canadians ignore all the expert evidence, all the data that suggests, for example, crime is on the decline and demand more prisons to be built.

But it doesn't explain, however, why governments will play into this irrational fear by similarly ignoring the evidence and advocating for solutions like building more prisons that actually run contrary to the evidence and the reason that is available. This occurs because once the population starts to segment itself into us versus them. As we see today, anyone with a vested interest in exacerbating this rift, can easily till that soil. This is clearly what is happening all too often in our political process today. On the one hand, political parties no longer see the need to reach out and expand their base beyond their core constituency because their core constituency is often at odds with the very voters whom they otherwise might like to attract. To the contrary, most often it makes more sense to vilify the voters you don't have as a way to motivate your own core. A vicious cultural wheel therefore is turned by a political one. A fearful divided citizenry fights off uncertainty by protecting its own turf, politicians exploit this division by choosing sides and offering simplistic solutions to address those fears, and the population seek solace in the simplistic solutions. So instead of trying to bridge these differences, these cultural differences through consensus and finding compromise based on reason, what we see all too often today is the politics of polarization, over-torqued partisanship and dogma.

We saw this toxic mix of a zero-sum society, irrational fear, and the upshot of the war on terrorism in the federal election campaign that just took place. Introducing issues like wearing a niqab at citizenship ceremonies, removing Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who in fact are probably serving life sentences in prison or setting up barbaric cultural practice tip-lines are designed to divide the population and play on fear, nothing more. And while this odious tactic ultimately failed to produce the desired political outcome, there is no question that these kind of measures and moves affect public opinion. In fact, a post-election exit poll conducted by Innovative Research Strategies indicated that the only initiative that benefitted the Conservative campaign was the niqab ban. And the only factor that hurt the NDP campaign was that they fell behind in the polls. It is a consequence of the niqab ban issue being raised. This type of politics works in this environment because irrational fear of threat also leads to an irrational fear of the possible perpetrator, and from there, the demonization of the 'other.'

Our efforts to curtail acts of terrorism are no longer aimed at any old generic terrorist, but are now directed squarely at Islamic jihadists. The sponsor of Bill C51, Public Minister Steven Blaney, made this quite explicit when he declared that the new measures were aimed at "jihadist terrorists who have 'declared war on Canada simply because these terrorists hate our society and they hate our values.'" To understand the effect of this, the narrowing of the focus of terrorism exclusively to Muslims and on Islam, contrasts the case of Justin Bourque, who fatally shot three RCMP officers in Moncton compared to the Parliament Hill shooter, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. Both young men, had recently been rejected by the state and their social circle. Bourque from Moncton, had been refused entrance to the military twice and had been kicked out of the family home for continuingly stockpiling firearms. Zehaf-Bibeau had had his passport rejected just previously, and was living in a homeless shelter the day of the shooting. Both harboured great hostility towards authority and choose a symbol of the state as the target of their murderous intent. One was a convert to Islam and therefore considered a terrorist, while the other came from an evangelical home and is considered a mere criminal. When in fact their targets, their intent, and their crime were virtually identical.

Now those who defend that distinction - one is a terrorist and one isn't - of course would cite the religious, political and ideological motivation of the Parliament Hill shooter. Where on the other hand, they would say that Bourque's motivation could be depicted as incoherent and rooted mainly just in rage, not ideology or in any form or kind of extremism. Now there's no question that Zehaf-Bibeau exposed extremist views and offered a political explanation for his rampage in a video recorded before the shooting. But here too it’s worth pausing and considering, how do Muslim-Canadians become radicalized and declare war on their own country? After all, as one skeptic noted, these people just don't fall out of the sky, they don't come fully hatched as terrorists. The Montreal University students who recently left Canada to join ISIL had families, teachers, neighbours, who knew them well but were either unwilling or unable to do anything about their radicalization. And why would Muslims be more likely to be inculcated and accept extremist ideologies more readily than non-Muslims? Surely it can't be because their minds are more pliant and susceptible to extremism simply because of their belief in Islam?

I would contend, that adopting extremist ideology that includes the advocacy of violence towards one’s own state, requires two fundamental pre-conditions to take root. First, isolation within and secondly, a deep sense of alienation from the state. Isolation - not having any encounters with other groups in society - creates an echo chamber effect, where conflicting views are shut out and exposure to alternative ways of viewing the world is absent. Conversely, if you want to look at any research on tolerance and the acceptance of diversity, be it religious, ethnic or ideological, all of this research indicates that those attributes, the acceptance of differentness, flow directly from interaction with, not isolation from alternative ways of life and thinking. Put another way, it is far easier to vilify and hate someone you don't know than someone you do.

Yet in Canada, we might live in a multicultural society but very few of us actually live in multicultural communities. To the contrary, we're witnessing an increasing ghettoization of new Canadians in this country and especially visible minority Canadians. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that the members of the so-called ‘Toronto 18’ did not intimately know and possibly had never had any meaningful relationships with non-Muslims in their life. Alienation, not just isolation but alienation, in turn flows from a deep sense of grievance and wrongdoing. Michael Zehaf-Bibeau's father was from Libya, a country that had just been devastated by NATO bombing and descended into chaos in the aftermath. His extremism - probably much like Bourque's - was clearly rooted in anger. He was angry. Similarly, Canada's listing of terrorist identities and their territories, virtually all of which now are associated with Arab and Muslims worlds, can't help but put pressure on Arab and Muslim communities here at home. Do they feel like enemies from within? Most likely. Is that useful for democracy? Not likely. Coming from countries that have been invaded by western forces or knowing friends and relatives who've been part of the collateral damage of drone strikes on wedding parties or bombing of hospitals, can only add to that sense of grievance and alienation.

Now, I know, it is considered to be soft on terrorism to suggest any root causes; there aren't any root causes to this kind of radicalization and unjustified terrorism. But without any sense of hypocrisy, here is the advice and warning that the US State Department has for its allies in the war on terrorism. This is what they told their allies, officially, in a document. "We remain concerned about counterproductive actions some other governments have taken in addressing terrorism. Actions such as political repression and human rights violations including extra judicial killings which would heighten political grievances and exacerbate the terrorist threat. These actions could become conditions that terrorists themselves exploit for recruitment." Essentially saying that there are root causes to this kind of activity, if unreasonable measures are aimed against the larger community from which these individuals come.

Reason and freedom present the most direct challenge to the battle against terrorism. And that is not whether to respond but how we respond. This calibration must begin with the recognition that this is a battle without end. Does anyone in this room reasonably expect that a single terrorist organization, let alone all of them, is going to surrender? Or sign an armistice agreement with Canada? Is that going to happen? The threat of terrorism and possibility of terrorist attacks are now part of our lives, and they are a product of the world we live it. That is a fact. It isn't going to change, it is not going to go away any more than people are not going to have drunk drivers on the highway. Accepting this reality is the first step in grappling with the terrorist problem without creating an even bigger problem for democracy and freedom.

Second, we have to recognize we are not winning this war. Terrorism is spreading to parts of the world where it never existed before. It is getting more complex but also, more decentralized and less lethal. The fact that it is not going away suggests that we are doing something wrong. For all our might, all our force, all our legislation, it is not working. In fact, there is ample evidence that the tactics being employed are making matters worse, both in the Middle East but also with a domestic population that feels they are being unfairly identified and victimized by these efforts. Against this, it is unlikely that terrorism any longer poses any existential threat to the West. We should celebrate this and measure our response in proportion to the size of the real danger of the threat, not the imagined danger of the threat.

Finally, if we truly embrace freedom, we must heed the words of old Professor Thelma Oliver and be forever vigilant of and prepared to rebel against a state that will use its legislative and political power to advance its own opportunistic interests at the expense of rights and freedom. The swearing in of a new government tomorrow presents the opportunity for a fundamental reset in our war on terrorism. To amend the excesses of legislation that is on the books by making due process, the rule of law, and the Charter the test to which all measures must adhere. To provide all parties elected nationally oversight of our intelligence services. To consider the impact, to think about the impact that waging what has become basically a foreign war might have on the sense of belonging and citizenship among Canadian Muslims. And when we do respond to real threats, to use reason instead of fear to guide that response.

Now, are these changes necessary because I am concerned that personally I might be preventatively detained or summoned to a secret investigative hearing, only to be detained indefinitely without charge? Is that why I am talking about this, advocating this? No. But let me tell you, reason also tells me that given I am 4 times more likely to be killed by a dog than a terrorist - that's right, 4 times more likely to be killed by a dog than a terrorist - I should also be not too prepared to give up too much of my freedom to prevent this most unlikely of eventualities from happening. Am I concerned that legislation that weakens the rule of law is so easily passed in our parliaments? Or that Canadians would welcome limitations on the freedoms of others because they have been persuaded that this will protect them from an unlikely threat? Absolutely, that is my concern. And, it is a concern that we should all share. Thank you very much.


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