Hello, Internet, it’s Friday, February 17th, and I feel bullied by my government.
POLITICS POLITICS DO NOT CROSS THIS LINE IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT MY POLITICS
So, the other day, I was all nervous and fretting about this job interview I had, and I was sitting at a friend’s kitchen table and he saw a headline that made him visibly angry. And being a good friend, he agreed not to show me the headline until after my interview, lest I become angry as well and bring that energy into my conversation.
That headline, and the column that falls under it, is here.
In short, Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety, introduced a bill to parliament – a bill that would vastly increase the visibility of an individual’s online activity. It would give police access to someone’s email address, mobile phone number, and IP address without a warrant.
People are upset.
And frankly, I get it. My email address and mobile phone number are readily available on this website. But I chose to put them there. I can understand why the average Canadian would be wary about legislation that would allow police to get your cell phone number without a warrant. It seems like a step toward surveillance. And thanks to George Orwell, we are all very wary of being watched.
But it isn’t actually the legislation that makes my stomach turn. It’s the way that Minister Toews reacted to criticism from a Liberal MP in the house.
“He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.”
Does anybody else want to vomit?
This is not the only example of the black-and-white perspective that’s being bandied about by Mr. Toews of late. He presented a report to a group of international terrorism experts a week ago that said:
“Although not of the same scope and scale faced by other countries, low-level violence by domestic issue-based groups remains a reality in Canada. Such extremism tends to be based on grievances—real or perceived—revolving around the promotion of various causes such as animal rights, white supremacy, environmentalism and anti-capitalism.”
Animal rights, white supremacy, environmentalism and anti-capitalism. Ok, guys. If you are going to paint all of those issues with the same “extreme” brush, we might have a problem.
The RCMP and CSIS have had their eye on Greenpeace and PETA for a long time. And let me never, NEVER be seen as a supporter of either organization. But I don’t think I’ve actually seen either of those organizations do anything more dangerous to public safety than pie-ing a politician in the face. This is, of course, unacceptable, but, you know… assault unacceptable. Not TERRORISM unacceptable. There are gradations to this kind of thing. Most of the activities planned by environmental groups are, at most, trespassing unacceptable.
All of this sounds awfully familiar, though. Where have I heard this kind of “you’re with us or against us” talk before?
Oh, right. In grade 6, when a kid pushed me down because I didn’t see homework as an assault against my 11-year-old lifestyle.
“You’re siding with HER?” said the girl in question, referring to our teacher. If she did not actually say “You’re either with us or with the TEACHER,” it was certainly implied. By daring to feel that 20 math problems and the reading of a chapter of Stuart Little was not an excessive amount of work after school, I was alienated as though I had assigned the homework myself.
Only, in grade 6, I was being knocked down by my peers – not by my teachers, who were responsible for my well-being.
And now, I am watching my government – which is, ostensibly, responsible for my well-being and the well-being of all citizens of this country – using the same with-us-or-against-us tactic to alienate those who are guilty of nothing more than disagreeing with them.
The critics of the party in power are left sitting on the ground, mud soaking through the butt of their jeans, watching the government become more and more popular based on how very alone they can make their opposition seem.
Minister Toews, and those like him, are turning Canada into a middle school playground. And let no one tell you otherwise: politics is indeed a popularity contest. The only way to keep the bullies from running the schoolyard is to be bigger than them, stronger than them, more outspoken than them. And for now, this is what we’re left with: be loud, be angry, and be heard, or be attacked, alienated and trivialized.
We are grown ups, and it’s our job to see shades of grey. It is indeed possible to anti-Northern Gateway without being pro-terrorism. It is also possible to be anti-Lawful Access legislation without being pro-child pornography. The sooner Mr. Toews wraps his head around that, the better.