The Harper government is worried about Canadian opposition to its plans to more closely integrate Canadian and U.S. border security efforts (Steven Chase, “Ottawa crafts plan to ward off criticism over U.S. border deal,” Globe and Mail, 10 December 2010).
As the Globe and Mail reports, the Department of Public Safety’s communications strategy for the plan states that “The Canadian public may underestimate the security threat to Canada”:
The strategy predicts that Canadians may fail to see the need for a perimeter security deal to help safeguard cross-border trade through efforts such as a joint cargo screening initiative. …
Former CSIS director Jim Judd made similar comments to a U.S. State Department official in 2008, according to diplomatic cables disclosed last week by WikiLeaks. The ex-spy chief complained about public naiveté about the extent of the terrorism threat this country faces.
And here’s another one.
Maybe panic, paranoia, and intelligence and security powers unfettered by the rule of law (such as the super-secret, imaginary police powers recently on display in Toronto) are what Canadians need to protect our society.
Or maybe the Canadian public is right not to be scared stupid by tiny robot figurines and the like.
Robot toys are not the whole story of course. There is a real possibility of real terrorist attacks in Canada, as anybody who cared to think about these issues knew long before 2001. Remember the Air India attack in 1985? The attacks on Turkish diplomats in Ottawa in 1982-1985? The FLQ bombings and murder of Pierre Laporte from 1963 to 1970?
But our history of dealing with terrorism, although it may demonstrate an occasional need for greater competence on the part of the security authorities, has not demonstrated a need for continuously expanding policing and security powers. If anything, it has demonstrated the danger of over-reacting to the threat of terrorist attacks.
The Harper government, for its part, has its own security blindspots. The government pays lip service to the threat posed to Canadians, and the entire global community, of climate change. But as the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development reported earlier this week, the government still has no strategy to deal with the increasing effects of climate change (Heather Scoffield, “Ottawa lacks info to combat climate change: watchdog,” Toronto Star, 7 December 2010).
Maybe the Canadian public is the group with its security priorities straight.
Photo by RJ Sangosti, Denver Post