Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Nothing to see here. Move along.

A combination of circumstances have prevented me posting anything on Canada's Home-Grown Terrorist Threat™. That, and the fact that I prefer not to go over the falls without a little more information than was available in the first few days of the event.

The facts as they emerge seem to indicate this is a group of rank amateurs playing at something extremely dangerous. That isn't to suggest that their actions did not constitute a real threat. Indeed, the wild ideas which seem to have emerged would, if carried out, represent a disaster of unbelievable proportions. And there is every reason to believe, particularly since they had acquired the makings for one or more significant sized bombs, that they intended to follow through.

But, their operational security, if they can be accused of having any, was downright crappy.

What has also emerged is a form of hysteria which is out of place when all things are taken into account. Since the al Qaeda attack of 11 Sept. 2001, most western democracies realized that they were under increased threat of more such attacks. It was a wake-up call and whether we want to believe it or not, Canada responded properly. Increased attention was paid to the risk and the government of the day passed legislation to counter and interdict groups who would engage in terrorist activities.

What these arrests constitute is simple: good police work and good intelligence. I'd call that a good thing, since we haven't always had that in the past. Terrorist groups have been among us from the inception of Canada as a state. One could go back to the 19th Century, but in the 20th Century we had the FLQ and then the bombing of Air India flight 182. This time, apparently, the group was stopped dead in its tracks. And, if reports are accurate, the RCMP and CSIS have been keeping on the scent of a lot more.

The hysteria, therefore, seems exaggerated considering Canada has not been immune to previous acts of terrorism. There seems to be a sense of shock that Canada could actually be considered a target of such acts. A belief that our self-proclaimed innocence should have protected us and our institutions from heinous acts of wanton barbarism is slightly delusional. We are, after all, not the United States.

And that's where we'd be wrong. Canadians have a perception of themselves in the world which, while based in some substance, is not shared by as much of the world as we think.

It would be correct to state that as a nation we do not believe in hegemony and we do not assert our national ethos on others. To say that people throughout the world, particularly in less-developed nations, fully understand that would be wrong. Even in the most sophisticated societies Canada and Canadians are viewed as adjunct to the United States and Americans. In western Europe the distinction is often blurred. We are viewed as different, but not that much different. Many times, after revealing my identity as a Canadian, I have been told I come from America. When I argued the point it was shrugged off.

That's understandable when a wider view is taken. Despite occasional disputes, Canada and the United States have some of the strongest voluntary ties of any two nations on Earth. And Canada, at roughly one-tenth the population of the US, is deemed to adhere in many areas, to US foreign and defence policy.

It is only since the rising to power of the neo-cons in the US that Canada has suddenly taken an opposite swing, and in the minds of many, that situation is only temporary.

So, the terrorist threat, against which we felt our identity alone as Canadians would protect us, is as real as it always was. Nothing has really changed, except that this time the possible act of violence was thwarted. No act of terrorism occured. And if a new part of the Canadian identity is to live in fear that one might happen, well, we all might as well turn in our multi-coloured money, our touques and our passion for winter sports for a multi-coloured threat level system, kevlar helmets and unwarranted paranoia.

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