Far more disturbing than what’s in Bill C-51 is the fact that most Canadians don’t seem to care about it. I don’t know if they’re scared, or uninformed, or think Earth will soon be knocked off its axis by a rogue planet sending us all hurtling into the sun so nothing matters anyway. In any case, here are a few reminders.
Free speech is important. Once you allow speech you don’t like to be criminalized, you’re allowing the government to create a list of illegal ideas. That list will expand no matter which party is in power. Once a state outlaws a few kinds of speech, it gets all jacked up and has to keep that buzz going and before you know it they’ve snorted up a whole pile of them and have you cornered at a party talking your ear off about politics.
Civil disobedience is important. Some will say if you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to fear from bill C-51, but “wrong” and “illegal” are not the same thing. If they were, when someone guesses incorrectly on Jeopardy Alex Trebek would say “Ohhh, I’m sorry, that answer is illegal. We were looking for Topeka. You are under arrest.” The point is, sometimes things are illegal AND morally right. Most social advancement starts with some kind of civil disobedience.
Intelligence agencies are not your friend. I’m not against them in principle, but if we’re going to allow people to exercise power in secret, we need to give them a laser-like focus and keep them on a short leash. We’re on the cusp of giving them a fog-like focus, and instead of democratic oversight we’re installing an applause sign.
And a final reminder, keeping Canadians safe is not the most important function of government. And if you think it should be, then please lock yourself up in a nice, safe bomb shelter and stop ruining the country for the rest of us.
This video was originally produced for the Toronto Star.