Bill C-51 has been getting a lot of press lately for the (many say, including me) draconian policing and surveillance measures the ruling Conservative party seeks to introduce, in the name of saving us all from terrorism. This is one of those many “boiled-frog” moments we’ve had in recent years … the changing of the rules in small ways that are incremental steps to a huge, irreversible change in Canadian culture.
I’m not saying C-51 is a small change, but its direct effect on our daily lives would probably be small. Until it wasn’t, until the police and the watching were everywhere, and then it’d be too late.
I had a small foretaste of where things are headed on Wednesday morning. The Honourable Rob Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs, had tweeted something predictable about Canada standing with #Israel. I replied that that’s all well and good, but maybe we should stand with the horribly oppressed people of #Palestine too?
Those hashtags unleashed a minor onslaught of passionate response, most decrying the terrorist tendencies of Hamas and Palestine in general. In a pique, i typed out these 139 characters:
If foreign powers invaded Canada, killing civilians wholesale and playing politics for decades, then yep, I’d probably be a terrorist too.
I hesitated a few seconds before posting, but then (as is my wont) let ’er fly. It seemed a reasonable capsule summary of the world’s Middle East policy, and its utterly predictable aftermath of “radicalizing” people with no other options to turn to. I went upstairs to boil a pot of oatmeal.
But i didn’t feel right. I began to wonder how that one tweet, bereft of context, might look to some CSIS-hired troll after it was pulled from the twitterstream by some terrorism scan-bot. Might it look enough like “promoting” or “sympathizing with” terrorism to get my name on a watchlist somewhere secret and unaccountable? Could it even lead to a phone call, a knock on the door? A computer seizure, an ineradicable spot on a no-fly list? The more i thought about it, the worse the possible consequences became — especially since my opposition to Harper’s odious agenda is hardly a secret to the Internet.
After 15 minutes, i went back downstairs and deleted the tweet. Nobody had responded or retweeted, so maybe it had gone unnoticed. Whew! And then i realized: I’d been chilled. I had voluntarily suppressed my legitimate opinion because … somebody might be secretly watching.
That’s an unfamiliar feeling, and a dirty feeling. It’s something i might expect in Egypt, in China. But not in Canada. Harper had had his intended effect.
I’m more comfortable posting the tweet here, where i can put some context around it and respond at length to comments. But even so, a small part of me is now looking over my shoulder. I know many concerned people who are doing the same. Eventually you probably will be too — even if you’ve got “nothing to hide.”
Which is exactly the unstated goal of Bill C-51 and the secret surveillance police-state agenda Harper is pushing. A state that, once set up, will be almost impossible to dismantle.
Under neo-conservative rule, we live in increasingly ugly times. Oppose Bill C-51 vigorously!