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We Have Met the Enemy, and It Is Us

February 16, 2012

Friends, Canadians, Countrymen,

The news is in: environmentalists and aboriganl groups are extremist threats of which we should be very wary.

While Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, and several Nobel Laureates raise their voices against the tar sands, and Forbes Magazine celebrates the success of American citizens opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are doing their best to paint those who oppose unsustainable oil sands development as unpatriotic extremists.

According to a November, 2008, assessment prepared by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, these kinds of people “demonstrated the intent and the capability to carry out attacks against critical infrastructure in Canada.” Who are they? Where’s the evidence? Who knows, but they are dangerous subversives nonetheless, and we better keep a very close eye on them.

Critics, however, are not convinced. It seems that the Harper government is blurring the lines of counterterrorism to target legitimate opponents of resource developments such as the Northern Gateway pipeline project. “With a lot of the government’s rhetoric around Gateway and the government’s frequent use of ‘radicalism’ and ‘extremism’ to characterize opposition, these kinds of [counterterrorist] categories are used to justify a surveillance campaign,” Jeff Monaghan told the Globe and Mail recently. Monaghan is a Queen’s University sociologist who co-authored a paper on the threat assessment after receiving the documents under the Access to Information Act. “Certainly from what we’ve seen, a lot of political opponents – and vocal political opponents like eco groups – have been classified this way, and it did legitimize surveillance campaigns against them.”

If you care about the kind of Canada you live in, and the future you leave your children, you might want to do something about Prime Minister Harper’s attempt to brand environmentalists and aboriginal groups as dangerous extremists, simply because they use legal methods of dissent and citizenship to oppose unethical and unsustainable industrial development and extremist capitalism.

In a paper for Police and Security Journal, Monaghan and his co-author, Kevin Walby from the University of Victoria, argue Ottawa’s security services have blurred threat categories, “leading to net-widening where a greater diversity of actions are governed through surveillance processes and criminal law.”

If this sounds creepy and a little like fascism, you’re not alone.

When our national security service cites Greenpeace’s attempt to block the gate at the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant, and PETA’s “opposition” to the seal hunt, as evidence of “dangerous extremism” that Canadians need to guard against, well, we’ve got serious problems.

Now we know why Harper is investing so much taxpayer money in expanding the prison system when violent crime has been on the downslide for thirty years. By making peaceful, concerned taxpaying citizens into subversives and criminals, he’ll need more room to store us in order to implement his vision of Canada.

Even if you don’t care about animals or the environment, this a dangerous affront to the integrity of Canadian democracy.

Who are the real extremists? Consider reading my latest column in Fast Forward. Or Murray Dobbin’s recent post.

And then put on your rain slicker and rubber boots and get out in the streets.

(Everyone smile and wave and say hello to CSIS and the RCMP. They’re no doubt watching.)

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