VIEW: Canadians must not trade freedom for the illusion of security

By Tom Henheffer, The Tyee, 29 October 2014

The potential destruction of terrorism is infinitesimally smaller than the damage done to our rights by a disproportionate attempt to prevent it.

Please, please remember this. It's even more important now, when that fact is so easily forgotten in the wake of the attack on our Parliament and the tragic deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. 
 We cannot allow the extreme actions of a few to strip us of the freedoms those soldiers worked so hard to protect. But the Canadian government continues to roll back our rights in the name of "security." (...)

There are two glaring problems in using security as a justification for rolling back rights. First, this widespread government surveillance doesn't work. As is so often the case with our completely dysfunctional Access to Information system, we have very little data about this in Canada. But a U.S. study shows that out of 225 indictments, convictions, or kills for terrorism-related activity since 9-11, only four cases (less than two per cent) were influenced by metadata collection. What worked in the other 98.3 per cent of cases? Standard police practices -- speaking with community groups, families, and confidential informants -- practices that don't violate the rights of every citizen in the country.

This leads to the second problem. These kinds of powers do enormous, irreparable harm to our society. Terrorism, really, is a relatively small threat. How small? According to the U.S. State Department, only 17 non-combatant Americans were killed worldwide in terror attacks in 2011. There were more in 2010, 25 to be exact. That may sound high, but it's four fewer than the 29 people killed by lightning strikes in the U.S. that year. It's also far below the 33,561 people killed in car crashes in the country in 2012. And we must remember that the lone-wolf attacks we endured last week are, although terrifying, extremely rare. (...)

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Image: Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

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