Monday, November 17, 2008

The Loss of Faith

I am writing this post in response to some interesting comments I received on a previous blog I wrote about security certificates and human rights. The authors of the comments wanted to know more about how the security certificates and their inherent violations of human rights effect the Canadian public. I believe that by accepting security certificates and subscribing to the values and ideals they promote, this policy is undermining the public faith in the Canadian government and the democratic system.

A legitimate government has become the hegemonic political ideal in contemporary society. For a country to be seen as such, its government needs to sustain economic growth, promote political participation, and promote respect for the rights of the people in the country. Canada, like many other countries, has only recently begun seeking legitimacy. The reason for this is the shift to democratic rule from that of an authoritative one. Instead of having power based on natural order or a divine grant, the government sought power by appealing to a bottom-up authorization from its people. When we have a democratically elected government and political policies that are recognized by the people, we are provided with a regime which we view as legitimate. Having civil and political rights are key to this because they provide transparency and accountability to the people.

It is clear however, that by having security certificates, this is not happening. It is extremely important for the people to have the ability to see and understand the workings of their government and the policies it chooses to implement. When Canadians see how security certificates are shrouded in secrecy they are forced to understand the lack of transparency in the system. Not only are the individuals who are under suspicion not allowed to view the evidence against them, Canadians are not privileged with this information either.

Citizens also lose faith in their government when they see it violating international agreements. International covenants are often simply agreements between consenting nations that are hard to enforce. Many countries break these agreements and violate the covenants and at times there is little the international community can do to enforce the rules or punish the violators. Some people criticize such international covenants since they are not always enforceable.

However it needs to be realized that countries do not agree to such covenants only as a way of appearing legitimate to the international world. They do so because it also allows them to be legitimate to their own citizens. By consenting to certain agreements they give themselves certain goals they need to achieve and a measure of excellence. Citizens of a country can look to these agreements and hold their governments accountable to the rules to which they agreed. So when Canada sees its government clearly violating these rules and not keeping its word to the international world they lose faith in it. How can the government be expected to keep its word to its own citizens when it apparently lies to the entire world?

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