It would seem that no other issue has turned the country’s interest towards Parliament Hill of late as much as Bill C-51 (save, of course, what bold tie choices Peter MacKay may make this month). As (nominal) democracies so often do, Parliament and the flabby, middle-aged men who sometimes frequent it (to whom I shall henceforth refer as “our esteemed politicians”) have sparked a great deal of discussion about which direction the Dominion ought to take in light of a certain pesky, terrorist-y situation brewing somewhere east of Labrador.
But to call it a “discussion” that our esteemed politicians have sparked is to put it mildly: the anti-terrorism legislation that the oxymoronically named Conservative Party proposed in January of this year has produced more discord among Canadians than any of Peter MacKay’s necktie decisions to date. We’ve all by now heard – or, more likely, contributed to – the rhetoric on both sides of the debate — either Harper and his cronies want to extend their brand of authoritarianism to rival that of the biblical Pharaohs, or Honest Steve and Co. want nothing more than to protect us from a few off-white miscreants with rocket launchers across the way.
This discussion highlights some important issues of national security and the question of the sacrifice of freedoms for its alleged sake. However, more alarming in another light are the questions it raises concerning the discussion of politics in general and where we sit as a democracy. The very nature of the public debate at hand takes for granted a certain view of Canada’s leadership as something distinct from Canada altogether, and this is worrying. On the news as much as on Facebook, talk of Bill C-51 begins from the premise that whatever conclusions the public comes to, it presents them to the decision-makers in Ottawa to virtually no effect, that is, for their mere consideration. On this view, Parliament and the esteemed imbeciles who run it have an agenda that is more or less deterministic and discrete in relation to the rest of Canada, and so their actions can only be affected by their public in the narrowest and most indirect of ways once every five years or so. Fascism or not, totalitarian mind control or concern for national security, whatever way it’s perceived, the fact remains that of all the scary aspects of Bill C-51, the volumes it speaks about the nature of democracy in Canada and what we can do about it is perhaps the most deep-seated cause for alarm to be found in it.