Feb. 6 2004
Dear Justice O'Connor,
I was somewhat heartened today to read (Ottawa gives O'Connor wide discretion, deep access in Arar inquiry) that you have been selected to oversee an inquiry into the Arar matter - somewhat heartened because you did such a good job on the Walkerton case, and I do believe you will probably search for the truth of the matter, and not engage in some shameless whitewash such as we have recently seen in Britain with the Hutton inquiry, or many others one could think of from recent history.
I would like to encourage you - beg you, really, if that would help - to include in this inquiry something that the government did not include in your formal terms of reference, but that Canadians have desperately needed for the last 30 months or so - a public look at the entire matter of "terrorism" and the so-called "war on terror". I do believe this would be well within your remit, should you choose to do this, as the RCMP, CSIS, the Canadian Government, or whoever else is involved in this rather disgraceful matter, has been justifying a great deal of behaviour such as was shown in the Arar case by claiming "national security issues", using new laws which were directly enacted in the name of this "terrorism", with somewhere between minimal and no consultation with we ordinary people.
However, if one looks beyond the hysteria of both government and press the last couple of years (you will undoubtedly recall yourself nonsensical stories in the newspapers equating everything from cigarette smuggling through questionable visas to "terrorist activities" - when unidentified bogeymen are running loose in the minds of even journalists who ought to know better, this is what happens....), one rather quickly is struck by the fact that there has NEVER been any examination by a competent Canadian body of this whole "terrorism" situation as it applies to Canada - that is to say, what exactly IS terrorism (as opposed to, for instance, simple if highly deplorable criminal activity that the police ought to be dealing with rather than "secret agents"), exactly what danger are we justified in feeling here in Canada from such 'terrorism", and why we should feel that apprehension, and to whatever extent we determine that to be, what measures then would it appropriate to take to address such danger? Is it appropriate for Canada to follow the American path, which is essentially to say "bring 'em on!" - by golly they are bigger and stronger than anybody who dares attack them, and they will kill and destroy magnitudes more than the "terrorists" ever have or can all around the world, in any country they please, that'll teach ya! - or might it be more appropriate for Canada to say wait - many if not most of these people who are engaging in the violent activities the US is calling 'terrorism" have legitimate grievances, and although we do not condone their violence in the past and will assist in efforts to bring the perpetrators of this violence, whoever they might turn out to be, to justice, after a fair trial, we do recognize that the way to reduce the violence we call "terrorist activity" is not to engage in yet more violence, but to address these grievances? These questions have never been seriously debated here, at least in public, nor has the government of Canada made any effort to find out what Canadians think of it all - all we have seen is a basically mindless acceptance by our Canadian government and media of the hysteria of the American government (which, very notably, has not only not yet undertaken such an inquiry itself, but is indeed, most suspiciously, doing all it possibly can to prevent any such public investigation), promoted greatly through both government and press, and the much too hasty enactment of ill-conceived laws and regulations following the American model which would, in a rather less hysterical time, be greeted with great scepticism and resistance by most citizens, I think.
I believe that the encouragement of this state of affairs is quite intentional by the government, as it is much easier to get people all afraid of some bogeyman, and pass ever more restrictive laws through that strategy, than to shine a great bright light on the whole situation and find out exactly what danger there is here and what an appropriate, carefully formulated response would be - as we all know, when the flashlight is shone under the bed of the terrified 8-year old who has watched the scary show on tv - there is never any bogeyman to be seen, was indeed of course never any bogeyman there to begin with, although the child was mortified with terror, all originating in the terrible things he conjured up in his own imagination. I think, Justice O'Connor, if you are bold enough to shine a bright light equally on this whole "terrorism" thing in Canada (again, interestingly enough, spread primarily by scary bogeyman stories on tv!), you, and we, will find an equal lack of substance to the whole "terrorist" bogeyman story, at least as it applies to Canada, and we can then start taking some steps to return sanity to our country, and repel those who would turn our country into some clone of the American police state.
It is this situation that we desperately need to address in Canada, to stop any further advance down the road we seem to be on to some sort of totalitarian society, where rather than being free to do what they want within the normal bounds of civilised law enacted by a democratic government, citizens are constantly being stopped by the police and forced to identify themselves and prove they are not doing something wrong - a police state, in other words, which the United States has now, to all intents and purposes, become, and which we are in great danger of becoming also, if we do not put a stop to all this secret police activity, in the name of this as yet wholly undefined (and unproven) bogeyman of "terrorism".
You should probably take a close look, while you're looking into these unpleasant areas, at the whole closely related issue of "national security" as well - what exactly is the government or the spy agencies trying to keep secret here, and who would be damaged if we opened some of those doors? How much is it actually necessary to keep secret for truly justifiable reasons (and what exactly are those parameters and reasons), and how much is being kept secret for no other reason than to protect ethically-challenged individuals from the consequences of ill-judged or actually illegal activities? From what I have seen recently, the main thing damaged that is now being protected would be the reputations of some of these people who are spreading around bogeyman stories that later prove to be nonsense (i.e. the great commotion last summer when the police rounded up 20 or so young men with great allegations of "terrorist connections" that soon proved to be totally unfounded - ALL of the people involved with this farcical investigation, with such damaging results to so many people, ought to have their incompetence and/or atrociously poor judgement for "high spies" exposed not protected, likewise the people who conspired with the Americans to send Arar to Syria in breach of many important laws both nationally and internationally - why would we want to protect them, and allow this kind of activity to go on in the future unchecked, even condoned by our failure to act? No democratic, responsible, accountable government could possibly condone this kind of secret behaviour - by their actions recently, they have shown either gross incompetence or, to speak bluntly, a most unsettling inclination to lie to cover up actions they well know most Canadians would not tolerate, and every aspect of this behaviour needs to be brought into full public examination, and all such highly inappropriate activity put to an end.
So I strongly urge you, Justice O'Connor, to embrace this great opportunity you have, to take up the torch for freedom, and shine a bright illuminating light on those forces who would turn our country into some kind of police state, in the name of this bogeyman "terror" - expose their stories for the wildly exaggerated fantasies they are, demand explanations for their extremely undemocratic behaviour, and force the wannabe-Nazis and Gestapo once again back into the black holes where ever they dwell, ready to spring out at times like this in human history when opportunity presents itself - for Canadians, and all citizens of the world, are at this time in our history in a great deal more danger from these ever-lurking forces of fascism than we are from any bogeyman terrorists.