Harper Wants to Reinstate Anti-terror Legislation
The 10th anniversary of 9/11 will understandably feature Americans, but another North American statesman, Canadian Premier Stephen Harper, will be a major participant both in the United States and in practical terms in Canada as well.
The Center for National Policy in Washington is hosting a 9/11 10th anniversary summit that will feature the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins, former 9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean and Prime Minister Harper.
Harper, in a Canadian broadcasting Corporation interview, called Islamic militants Canada's top security threat: "There are a number of threats on a number of levels, but if you are talking about terrorism, it is Islamicism," he said. "That is the one that occupies the security [establishment] most regularly in terms of actual terrorist threats."
In emphasizing the Islamic threat, Stephen Harper has done what according to Senator Lieberman the Obama administration shrinks from doing. He said:
"To call our enemy ‘violent extremism’ is so general and vague that it ultimately has no meaning. The other term used sometimes is ‘Al-Qaeda and its allies.’ Now, that’s better but it still is too narrow, and focuses us on groups as opposed to what I would call an ideology, which is what we’re really fighting, …
"There are many forms of violent extremism, there’s white racist extremism, there’s been some environment eco extremism, there’s been animal rights extremism. You could go on and on. There’s skinhead extremism. But we’re not in a global war with those. We’re in a global war that affects our homeland security with Islamist extremists.
Harper wants to revive the emergency measures taken "immediately after September 11. These emergency laws were allowed to lapse, and as long as Harper presided over a minority government, they were not reinstated.
With the majority that he won last May, Harper wants a provision allowing police to arrest suspects without a warrant and detain them without charge if the authorities believe that a terrorist act is about to be committed. On rare occasions this is necessary, argues Harper.
Harper's statement and his proposed legislation have already embroiled him with the opposition New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party, both of whom are scrambling to find new leaders following the death of NDP head Jack Layton and the yet unresolved Liberal leadership succession following the party's May meltdown.
The opposition charged Harper with displaying more concern for added police powers than for the bread-and-butter issues of pensions, jobs and health care that were important to most Canadians.
NDP foreign affairs spokesperson Paul Dewar argued that instead of singling out Islam and demonizing it, Harper was best advised to build a "more inclusive society to end extremism."
Interim Liberal party leader Bob Rae joined the attack on Harper's proposals:
“The enemy is not Islam…It is the way in which a religion is perverted and hijacked. The common enemy is violent extremism, the deliberate targeting of civilians, and the preaching of hatred. That should be our focus.”
Before Harper revives unnecessary measures, he said, he was best advised to increase the efficiency of existing measures, for example, employing more Arabic speakers.
It is worth noting that Canada under the Liberals adopted a "neutral" policy towards the Middle East, emulating the European Union. This, in practice, meant that Canada was more pro-Arab than the United States.
Harper has reversed this, and Canada under his government is more obviouly pro-Israel than the United States, certainly under Obama.