Every time I run into a Progressive Conservative, I am impressed. Long ago, a (pre-Harper) Conservative wmtc reader, explaining it meant to be a Canadian Conservatives, said, "Bill Clinton could be the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada." Ah, for those days. How can we get them back?
Thank you, Randy Hillier. We need more people like you in every party.
Update: Montreal Simon, in an inexplicably rude comment, tells me that Randy Hillier is not who I supposed him to be based on this piece. I still thank Hillier for this essay, and still wonder why more progressive people can't be a little more polite.
It has been said that in war, truth is the first casualty. Yet in the wake of the Toronto G20 summit, it is clear that truth is an unwelcome intruder within the realm of politics as well. Call it my inherent cynicism about politics or maybe put it down to my observation and experience, but the discussion and media coverage surrounding the G20 summit has been ignorant at best, or deliberately misleading at worst.
The facts are clear when the political spin is replaced by reasoned evaluation. The truth is that Dalton McGuinty arbitrarily suspended and abrogated our most sacred civil liberties — our freedoms and privacy — without discussion, debate or public awareness. The premier then justified this abuse of power by asserting that we needed law and order instead.
Instead of a choosing a more controlled and less populated location that would not be such a powerful magnet for the few juvenile anarchists, Stephen Harper agreed to host the G20 in a location that he had to have known would draw the greatest opposition and most violent response, therefore justifying an outrageous expenditure of public dollars and creating an army of police equipped with a siege mentality.
Both the provincial and federal governments now attempt to shirk responsibility for their actions by shifting blame to one another and to the police, who were acting under political orders. McGuinty refuses to apologize or call for an independent public inquiry. Harper hides behind the provincial jurisdiction of policing, even though it was his government that contracted their services on behalf of all Canadians.
They both use the common theme that upholding law and order required usurping our civil liberties. Any elementary school student knows these are not mutually exclusive — in fact, they are wholly interdependent. As numerous failed dictatorships have proven, you cannot have law and order without civil liberties.
Can you imagine a society of law and order that does not respect the inherent civil liberties and freedom of mobility, association and assembly? What is law and order if you can be arrested and detained arbitrarily without reasonable and probable grounds? This is what happened on a large scale in Toronto. Stalin and Mao most assuredly would have agreed with McGuinty's vision and views, that due process and evidentiary rules are optional. But law and order without civil liberties is the hallmark of despotism and tyranny, and are the stock in trade of injustice and evil.
Although there have been times of national crisis when civil liberties have been suspended, it has only ever occurred after a full and thoughtful debate — never in secrecy. It has happened when our country has been at war and our way of life under real threat. It has happened when civil unrest in Quebec led to bombings and the kidnapping and murder of public leaders; however, it was debated and voted upon with the public's full knowledge of the War Measures Act.
The G20 has resulted in the largest mass arrest in our history of more than 1,000 Canadian citizens. But according to McGuinty, this startling fact does not justify or merit an inquiry. Over 700 of these people were detained, their freedom removed, and eventually released without charge, but this does not warrant public scrutiny either. The largest ever mobilization of Canadian police in our history does not even deserve an open public review. More than $1 billion spent and we are supposed to be accepting and grateful.
Freedom is secondary only to the very life we breathe, freedom is the most essential ingredient of humanity — to deprive one of his freedom is to suffocate our soul and nature. This must never be done arbitrary and only in times of great crisis.
McGuinty and Harper set the stage, created the environment and controlled the unfolding of these events, and together they have lowered the threshold of protecting our civil liberties. No longer are our freedoms and liberties only in peril during times of war or a direct threat upon our democratic institutions. They are now in peril every day we have political leaders such as this.
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