Harper’s anti-terror obsession is un-Canadian

Canadians should be concerned about Ottawa’s increased dictatorial policies and practices.

Canadian PM Harper speaks at a news conference in Richmond Hill
Nader asks if Harper has digested what is happening in Iraq [AFP]

In recent years, Canada’s political leaders have been on an un-Canadian course of militarising its foreign policy – diverting from its long-standing role as an international peacekeeper; militarising its police; and chilling dissent and civil liberties – all in the name of the “war against terrorism”.

The new anti-terrorism act, proposed this month by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is so extreme that it has been described by leading Canadian civil liberties scholars and advocates as hazardous to Canadian democracy. Some of these advocates claim that the bill, added to already strong laws, criminalises free speech and is too vague in its definitions of violations to pass constitutional muster.

Harper appears not to be concerned. For with elections coming up in the fall, he believes that, following two lone-wolf shootings in Ottawa, exaggerating the threat and then over-reacting to it, the politics of fear will win him some votes in a four party race.

Canadian police say slay suspect acted alone

Maybe Harper has adopted Dick Cheney, former vice president and Washington’s chief attack dog, as a role model.

Talks like George W Bush

Harper should not be saying that “Jihadi terrorism is one of the most dangerous enemies our world has ever faced” or claiming that “violent jihadism seeks to destroy” Canadian “rights”. Really? Pray tell, which rights rooted in Canadian law are “jihadis” fighting in the Middle East to obliterate?

Harper talks like George W Bush.

How does jihadism match up with the lives of tens of millions of innocent civilians, destroyed in world and regional wars since 1900 by state terrorism – west and east, north and south – or the continuing efforts seeking to seize or occupy territory? 

Canada was once among the world’s peacekeepers. That noble pursuit is now being replaced by deploying Canadian soldiers in the belligerent service of the American Empire and its boomeranging wars, invasions and attacks that violate our Constitution, statutes and international treaties to which both our countries are signatories.

What has all this post-9/11 loss of American and Canadian life plus injuries and sickness, in addition to trillions of American tax dollars, accomplished? Has it led to the stability of those nations invaded or attacked by the US and its reluctant western “allies”? Just the opposite, the colossal blowback evidenced by the metastasis of al-Qaeda’s offshoots and similar new groups like the self-styled ISIL are now proliferating in and endangering over a dozen countries in Asia and Africa.

Has the prime minister digested what is happening in Iraq and why former Prime Minister Jean Chretien said no to Washington? Or chaotic Libya, which like Iraq never had any presence of al-Qaeda before the US’ destabilising military attacks? (See the New York Times’ editorial on February 15, 2015 titled: “What Libya’s Unravelling Means.”)

Colossal overreach

Perhaps Harper will find a former veteran CIA station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, Robert L Grenier more credible. Writing in his just released book, “88 Days to Kandahar: A CIA Diary”, he sums up US government policy this way: “Our current abandonment of Afghanistan is the product of a … colossal overreach, from 2005 onwards.”

He writes: “In the process we overwhelmed a primitive country, with a largely illiterate population, a tiny agrarian economy, a tribal social structure and nascent national institutions. We triggered massive corruption through our profligacy; convinced a substantial number of Afghans that we were, in fact, occupiers and facilitated the resurgence of the Taliban.” 

It is instructive to recall Bush’s White House counterterrorism czar, Richard Clarke, who wrote in his 2004 book, “Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror – What Really Happened”: “It was as if Osama bin Laden, hidden in some high mountain redoubt, were engaging in long-range mind control of George Bush, chanting, ‘Invade Iraq, you must invade Iraq’.”

If passed, this act, will expand Canada's national security bureaucracy and its overlapping jurisdictional disputes, further encourage dragnet snooping and roundups, fuel fear and suspicion among law-abiding Canadians, stifle free speech and civic action...


Bush committed sociocide against that country’s 27 million people. Over one million innocent Iraqi civilians lost their lives, in addition to millions injured. Refugees have reached five million and growing. He destroyed critical public services and sparked sectarian massacres, massive war crimes which in turn produce ever expanding blowbacks.

Canadians should be concerned about Ottawa’s increased dictatorial policies and practices, as well as this bill’s provision for secret law and courts in the name of fighting terrorism – too vaguely defined. Mass surveillance and the militarisation of law enforcement have no place in a democracy.

Dragnet snooping and roundups

If passed, this act, will expand Canada’s national security bureaucracy and its overlapping jurisdictional disputes, further encourage dragnet snooping and roundups, fuel fear and suspicion among law-abiding Canadians, stifle free speech and civic action and drain billions of dollars from being used for the necessities of Canadian society, including those that advance health and safety. 

If recent history teaches anything, it is that governmental overreaction to overseas-based attacks bring with them invasions, excessive military force, the slaying of many innocent citizens and the smashing of critical civilian public services.

Further consequences are huge drains on taxpayer revenues, a gross distortion of public budgets away from necessary domestic needs, including those that save lives. There is also serious damage to domestic democratic processes, civil liberties and the due process of law.

All this invites the engagement of more Canadians to ask “what is happening to Canada?” The answer may lead them along the path of waging muscular peace instead of perpetual warfare that year after year has been expanding the violent opposition in more and more countries. This is the classic “blowback” phenomenon that national security specialists have described.

Canada should be a model for independence against the backdrop of bankrupt US foreign military adventures steeped in big business profits … a model that might help both nations restore their better angels. 

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate and author of “Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State”.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.