Sunday, November 30, 2008

...and the cons : (

Okay, so we think our idea of getting rid of security certificates and relying on the criminal justice system to deal with all people accused of terrorism makes sense. It makes a lot more sense than the current system. However, this recommendation doesn’t address all the issues involved. (I don’t know that any policy could). I’m going to talk about the limits to our policy in this post.

Making these changes is only the first step. The macro national security framework would stay as is other than this minor change. There are issues with the macro system also that need to be addressed. We only took on one tiny piece of the puzzle because it’s just so overwhelming. But this little piece is indicative of the rest of the system.

There is no guarantee that either policy will work 100%. There may be unforeseen gaps that this policy doesn’t address, and so revisions will need to be made along the way as necessary. Gaps in security or gaps in human rights or due process can be looked at and addressed as needed.

In addition, making these changes doesn’t touch the social construction of security, terrorism, etc. that we have discussed so much on this blog. It leaves those concepts enact and unquestioned. In some ways, it reinforces those concepts as being real, necessary and true as popularly defined. Terrorism and security are socially constructed ideas that are thus understood to mean very particular things. Making this policy change doesn’t facilitate deconstructing meaning around these concepts, or look at how fear plays out. We struggled with this but decided that it was important to have something in place to deal with the potentially ‘real’ while also addressing in discourse the constructions.

The Challenge to Public Engagement
“... most Canadians will not be terribly inconvenienced by [Bill C-36]. Instead, the costs will be borne by people who find themselves targets of police suspicion because of their ethnic background, radical political views or association with immigrant communities that have ties with groups deemed to be terrorist fronts.”
- Audrey Macklin, U of T Faculty of Law (

It could be difficult to promote this policy. Unfortunately, because there is such a culture of fear currently, it is difficult to look at what underlies the issues. Dissent is seen as unpatriotic and divisive. Naomi Klein talks about Milton Friedman’s shock doctrine – that the time to push through really oppressive policies is when people are scared. After Sept. 11, 2001, there was a huge increase in such policies, which are still being maintained. Many people were suddenly okay with giving up their rights because they were so scared. Since most people will not be directly affected by security certificates, they are content to let a few people have their rights violated as a tradeoff for feeling more secure. We are locked into this false dichotomy that rights must be violated to ensure security. We can have both, but making the public understand this and be comfortable with it is difficult. The government has embraced the opportunity to bring in oppressive policies, and is being ‘encouraged’ to do so by other countries, such as the United States and Britain. That will be a huge barrier to overcome. Remember all the talk about Canada being a training ground for terrorists? It’s difficult to make your policies more lenient while having to defend oneself against such accusations.

Although, the policies won’t really be more lenient. I’m sure that’s how the Conservatives will see these changes, but it’s really just about making the processes transparent and fair. Another concern about these changes is that it does nothing to address the problems of the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system does not operate equitably. Racial profiling continues to be a problem, and a person of colour is much more likely to get a worse deal at each step of the process. Much more likely to be stopped by police, to be charged, to be sentenced to jail time if convicted, to be denied parole and so on. The criminal justice system may still be used to target certain groups, but at least it will be possible to integrate the process, and to appeal more readily inequities that do happen.

These are some of the potential cons we considered regarding our proposed policy change. I think the pros outweigh the cons, and many of the latter are implementation problems or larger issues, as opposed to actual problems with the policy change. Any thoughts?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i think talking about the pros and cons together is easier, and it's kind of what you ended up doing anyway. there aren't just lists of bad and good that can be weighed against each other. each point is something that needs to be negotiated and explored, and will involved pluses and minuses.

i think you're right that neither policy can totally address all the issues. the criminal system needs a lot of work. but i agree that dealing with one system rather than two makes more sense. it'll be easier to fix that way too.