THE SECURITY OF FREEDOM: ESSAYS ON CANADA’S ANTI-TERRORISM BILL by Ronald J. Daniels, Patrick Macklem
and Kent Roach (Editors). Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2001, 499 pp. Paper $24.95. ISBN: 0-8020-8519-9.
Reviewed by Alain-G. Gagnon, Quebec Studies Programme and Department of Political Science, McGill University,
This book is the result of an impressive concerted effort to bring together several law experts and a few international relations specialists to assess with unprecedented diligence the possible repercussions of Canada’s security bill, C-36, adopted in a hurry in the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11.
This edited collection of over twenty-five essays treats major issues confronting Canadians at that particular juncture in a balanced manner. Among the central themes being addressed, the reader finds issues of the permanence of the terrorist threat, democratic accountability, governance, policing, maintenance of the constitutional order, national sovereignty, networking of terrorist activities, international responses to terrorism and Canada’s role in them, restrictions to civil
liberties, and the dangers of leaning toward racial profiling in a country more and more characterised by its multicultural composition.
Several authors paid close attention to the capacity of the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a major nationalist instrument intended to give Canadians a sense of togetherness, to protect Canadians from all walks of life and distinct ethnic backgrounds from potential excesses of Bill C-36. In other words, to what extent are the new powers monopolised by the federal government compatible with fundamental democratic values and the rule of law in a federal democracy? Other authors were more concerned with the federal government’s capabilities to achieve its vast objectives of protecting Canadians domestically and internationally.
Throughout the book one finds deep concerns about the potential danger of moving toward a police state if nothing is done to secure the role of elected representatives, federally and provincially, and actors from civil society. This position is particularly well-documented in the chapters respectively written by David Schneiderman, Mariana Valverde and Lorraine Weinrib.
In a major contribution, Kent Roach takes issue with Bill C-36, arguing that nothing that took place on September 11th, in terms of enforcement, was outside the bounds of the current Criminal Code. Murder, assault and hijacking all fall under the Criminal Code. Roach argues that people’s money would have been better invested by ameliorating intelligence gathering and allowing existing institutions to fulfil their roles.
Throughout the book the authors all agreed, with one exception, with the importance of making Bill C-36 a temporary measure so that existing institutions can be
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fully made to contribute to the betterment of our democratic traditions. Major contributions are made by Kent Roach, David Schneiderman and Brenda Cossman, as well as by Martha Shaffer. Each confirms its opposition to making Bill C-36 a permanent feature in the political system and are disturbed by the encompassing nature of the bill, especially with the definition of terrorist activities found in article 83.01 (1) (b), which includes activity “committed in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, contributing to reduce the public sphere in a major way. For them the Bill is simply inefficient, and they argue that terrorist activities can be addressed through existing policies to eradicate criminal actions. In sharp contract with those scholars who call for the removal of the Bill, Irwin Cotler, a lawyer by profession and now a federal politician identified with a pro-Israel lobby in Ottawa, is of the view that Bill C-36 is a “legacy legislation” that is there to stay.
Among the many remaining chapters, since it is now one of the country’s defining characteristics, the reader is quickly attracted by the political implications of Bill C-36 on the politics of multiculturalism in Canada. Sujit Choudhry raises major issues with respect to racial profiling and is concerned by the absence of public
attention on this issue. He suggests that people of Muslim, Arab and Middle Eastern appearance will capture the attention of security forces like never before. This raises concerns, considering that with the implementation of Bill C-36 people can now be put on a list of suspected terrorists simply following the recommendation of the Solicitor General and without the necessity to provide any hearings or evidence. A case was recently documented in Canada in which one of the persons listed was removed from the list. In the meantime, he has lost his reputation, friends took their distance, and his small company went bankrupt.
In a project such as this one, organised so quickly and efficiently, it is only normal that a few things escape the organisers of the conference at the origin of this outstanding book. I will mention three. First, the contribution of so many legal experts leads to some repetitious arguments. It would have been useful to bring
sociologists, economists, and more political scientists to reflect on the issues at stake. Second, since Canada is a multinational country it is noteworthy to mention that this dimension is totally ignored throughout the book. Instead one is presented with a view of Canada depicted simply a multicultural society. Third, as if the question is no longer pertinent the place of Quebec in the Canadian federation is largely ignored throughout the book. With Quebec playing a key role in
the area of immigration policy, and forming a region state that attracts fifty percent of all refugees coming to Canada, this oversight is surprising. In addition, with Quebec having experienced limitations to its civil rights in 1970, following the imposition of the WAR MEASURES ACT, it would have been useful to include a full assessment of this traumatic event to measure the extent to which the federal government’s interventions in the province led to a series of excesses by security forces as hundred of citizens were thrown in jail without due process.
Finally, it is important to mention the extent to which scholars can exercise their professional work while being engaged as citizens who want to review the democratic nature of their political system. This book will be used in years to come as the Western world in entering a period of intense debates about how to better secure our democracies against terrorism as well as how to maintain
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our democratic practices in view of policies being implemented to respond to this new threat.
Copyright 2002 by the author, Alain-G. Gagnon.