I think the prime minister is doing a great job of creating some serious wedge issues in the run up to the October federal election. Bill C51 and the new extension of time till some convicted of life imprisonment can apply for parole are both changes that will no measurable impact on crime and policing in Canada but will resonate on a populist level with a large part of the population.
A lot of time will be spent talk about these issues that are marginally relevant to Canada which means much more important issues will be pushed off of the stage. It will take time away from
The simple reality with terrorism and Canada is that there has been very little of it over the last 25 years, a lot less than from 1966 to 1989. This is the case not only in Canada but in western Europe as well. The early 90s IRA bombing campaign in London was intense and ongoing for three years. The 1970s in Germany and Italy there were the Red Brigades and Baader-Meinhof. Nothing in the last 15 years compares to these acts. C51 exists for political purposes only. It is intended to appeal to a populist irrational fear of Islamic terrorists to get support for the current government. It is also intended to make the NDP and Liberals look like they like terrorists. Thankfully the NDP has come out against C51, but the Liberals intend to vote for it and amend it if they form government.
The issue is an utter non-issue in Canada and could not do anything to stop the most common quasi political acts of violence, those by crazy lone gunmen like the two last October. C51 is egregious enough that I suspect the majority of Canadians will see it as unfair. This should benefit the NDP over the Liberals. Even if a majority thinks it is wrong, enough people have an irrational fear of terrorism that it will help the Conservatives
The other wedge issue is increasing the length of time before someone convicted of first degree murder could apply for parole and the option to allow for consecutive sentences. Once again, this is not something that there is any need for in Canada and it is only being done for political purposes. Making these changes could actually end up with more murders getting earlier parole.
An unintended consequence which could happen is that fewer first degree murder charges may be laid because of the change and there is Canadian data to back this up.. From 1965 to 1971, when Canada still had the death penalty on the books but was not using it, only 6% of people where charged with first degree, 28% second and 65% manslaughter. From 1977 to 1988 the stats are 38% first, 52% second and only 9% manslaughter. Assuming the population was acting dramatically different, some of the people charged with manslaughter from 1965 to 1971 had committed crimes that should have warranted first degree charges.
The changes will be popular among many people. It will push the NDP and Liberals to either agree with the government or look like they are pandering to the worst criminal element of Canada. It is a lose/lose situation for both parties. It is the sort of issue that could get the Conservative base more motivated to get out and vote. The positions taken by the NDP and Liberals will be used as fundraising appeals by the Conservatives.
Canada does not have a problem with terrorism in Canada. Canada does not have a problem with people convicted of life sentences being released on parole too early. Canada only has a government playing politics with issues in hopes that the public will be diverted from the much more important bigger issues.
My Experience with Terrorism
I lived in London for three years in the early 1990s. I worked in office off of Oxford Street not far from Tottenham Court Road during a three year long IRA bombing campaign.
I was impacted by a terrorist bombing about once every two weeks. The main impact was that the Underground was shut down for several hours after most attacks. When this happened I could not go home because there was no space at all on the buses. Central London pubs benefited from extra drinking because of commuters were stranded by the IRA.
The bombings were also at times very real. I did see the police tape for about half a dozen bombings and heard a number more. The April 10th 1992 bombing of the Baltic Exchange was loud enough that three and half kilometers away we heard it very clearly. Some hours later that night the A406 Flyover at Staples Corner was bombed. That bomb was large enough that even 6 kilometers away the window in our bedroom rattled seriously enough to wake us up.
For three years the IRA managed a terrorist act in London almost weekly and the UK government was helpless to stop it.
I raise my experience because the UK has very draconian anti-terrorism laws that did nothing to stop the IRA from this ongoing and serious bombing campaign lasting several years. You learned to live with bombings unless you were a Catholic from Northern Ireland. The authorities used the act to specifically target Northern Irish Catholics for harrasment. I worked with some Catholics and because I was a Canadian after several years they started to tell me the stories of what had happened to their friends and relatives. All of the stories were of people being arrested and held without access to counsel for days at a time. They were also not allowed to sleep or eat. None of them were ever charged for anything.
What the UK showed very well was that restricting freedom not only foes do nothing to combat terrorism, it made the oppressed group more sympathetic towards the terrorists.