Watch the watchmen

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Last week, Canadian soil became the grounds for two repugnant lone wolf attacks against servicemen.

The events gave way to discussion on security measures to identify and monitor threats of homegrown radicalization. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called for the expedition of plans that would bolster laws and police powers in “surveillance, detention and arrest” protocols.

Harper’s opportunistic push for broader intelligence gathering should be met with vigilance.

While his statements are deeply troubling for Canadians who place a high value on civil liberty, they should come as no surprise. Increased surveillance has been a priority for the Harper administration for some time.

In 2012, his Conservative Party put forth Bill C-30, which would have allowed authorities to track an individual’s electronic information without a warrant. The bill was heavily criticized for its title — “Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act” — as no reference to children or internet predators could be found within the document.

Masquerading the bill as something it wasn't transcended dishonesty. It opened the door for emotionally charged statements intended to cover up the bill’s true objective.

In the case of Bill C-30, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the opposition could “either stand with us or with the child pornographers.” Toews’ statement was a ridiculous attempt to discredit criticism and skepticism of widespread government surveillance.

Passing policies that infringe on the Canadian citizen’s right to privacy shouldn’t be done on sentimental whims, but through rational discussion and debate.

It would be ludicrous to suggest that the government has no right to surveil citizens under any circumstance. There can be a balance between government surveillance and personal freedoms, but it’s an equilibrium we need to discover carefully.

Authorities already have tools in place to scout and prevent potential threats. Before Martin Couture-Rouleau ran over two soldiers in Quebec last Monday, the RCMP had revoked his passport, preventing him from flying out of the country.

The government’s unwillingness to act further and apply existing emergency detention measures at this juncture has drawn criticism from the Liberal camp.

It raises the question — why is the government pushing for increased security measures when they already have ample jurisdiction that they’re failing to implement?

Given the deeply emotional impact of recent events, it’s far too easy to fall sympathetic to Conservative plans for increased surveillance. Instead, Canadians should harness that very emotion to stand up for their own civil liberties.

If Canada truly wants to show that it’ll never be intimidated, it must withstand measures to constrict personal freedoms in the face of perceived danger.

Alex is one the Journal's Photo Editors. He’s a fourth-year economics and history medial.

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