Much of the establishment media coverage of the public reaction to Bill C-30 — and Vic Toews initial comment on it in Question Period — has been annoying, to say the least. Did you know it's naive of us to be outraged at Toews claim that opposing the bill is the equivalent of supporting child pornography? This isn't the first example of this kind of nasty comment. So has there always been a Best Before date on criticism of gutter politics?
And apparently, unless we line up in order by height and express our outrage only when called upon and in the approved manner, we're an hysterical mob who have worked ourselves up into a frenzy. Good to know.
But in a roundup of some of the punditry on the issue, Chris Selley gets close to something the other columnists have either missed or skipped over. He's responding to Andrew Coyne, who wondered why the reaction to the actual contents of the bill is so much stronger than it was to very similar measures proposed by previous Liberal governments.
Over the seven years since the Liberal bill, police set fire to some of the credibility they had among conservative freedom-lovers: the Robert Dziekanski coverup, the G20 debacle, supporting the long-gun registry, and so on. ... beneath the hysteria is real and growing anger and distrust, which is quite heartening to see.
I could be snarky about this from a number of angles.
I could start by asking why Selley thinks it's only "conservative freedom-lovers" who have developed a distrust of law enforcement. Or maybe I should just ask what the hell took conservative freedom-lovers so long. If you go back through the archives on this site, I'm pretty sure you'll find criticism of the kinds of measures that C-30 and it's previous incarnations, both Conservative and Liberal, propose. I'm also pretty sure you'll find expressions of criticism and distrust aimed at CSIS and the RCMP, dating back to early in the last decade, and the Toronto Police Service and pretty much the entire judicial establishment here in Ontario, as a result of the G20 weekend in 2010 and its fallout.
But I think it's certainly true that the anger and distrust Selley mentions has spread to a larger portion of the population. In addition to the Dziekanski coverup, we know more now about the role that the RCMP and CSIS played in the detention and torture of a number of Canadians who have never been charged with wrongdoing. We now know that the previous Director of CSIS objected to an absolute embargo on information gained from torture because he feared it would undermine the entire Security Certificate regime. And we learned recently that the same Public Safety Minister who has tabled C-30 wrote a memo in 2010 that effectively turned CSIS loose to trade in information resulting from torture. Aside from the moral bankruptcy that represents, Toews is now encouraging our national intelligence agency to deal in, and act on, information that is inherently unreliable.
The common thread in these and other incidents isn't just malfeasance on the part of the security establishment but the lack of transparency and accountability. The agencies responsible for oversight of CSIS and the RCMP are, by all accounts, weaker and less effective than they were ten years ago. All requests for a proper judicial inquiry into what Selley quite rightly called the G20 fiasco were stonewalled at both the federal and provincial levels of government. For all the law enforcement horror stories we've heard over the last decade I've seen nothing to suggest that things aren't going to continue to deteriorate.
It sounds as though police chiefs across the country are getting set to speak up in support of Bill C-30 and an important part of the message will undoubtedly be that they'll treat any new powers they get responsibly; we can trust them.
I don't trust them. Not any more. Not even a little bit. With all due respect, they can put Bill C-30 where the sun don't shine. Sorry for getting all hysterical on you. I'll try to calm down now.