Opinion: Suspicion not enough reason to spy on Canadians

Cops and Undercover Investigators

Police and undercover investigators. (Flickr photo by Michael Gil)

The recent debate in 24hrs Vancouver newspaper, by columnists Laila Yuile and Brent Stafford, was on the question, “Is suspicion alone enough reason to allow Canadian law enforcement and  security services the rights to spy on Canadians?”

While Stafford argues that, “It’s OK to bend a little to preserve democracy,” Yuile wrote, “Slope is too slippery to lower threshold for spying.”

The problem with bending democracy is that if we keep that up, what will we have left at the end of the lie. Even though, Stafford agrees with Captain Ramsey from the movie Crimson Tide that “we’re here to preserve democracy, not practice it,” the opposite should work. To preserve democracy, we should practice it. We have fought for our rights, now we should fight to keep them. Allowing Canadian law enforcement and security services too much power could tip the balance of the democratic institutions we have in place.

Suspicion, while tempting, should never be reason enough to spy on Canadians. There should be strong evidence or belief that Canadians have or will commit a crime before there is spying.

Yuile and Staffaord also referred to Bill C-13, the anti-cyberbullying law, and Bill C-44, which will give Canadian law enforcements more spying abilities. These bills are alarming to many people, who realize that they can be tracked anywhere and anytime of the day. They will be tracked on the internet and abroad.

Although many Canadians will say they have nothing to hide, no one likes to be followed on every detail of their lives. It becomes claustrophobic, I would think.  And, there’s social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where people share more than enough. As well, data is already gathered on these platforms: no need of browsing through people’s web history or banking accounts.

Greater attention should be given to how Canadian law enforcements conduct their spying. If we lower the threshold for spying, we risk scaring the public and those institutions that are open now, will become closed.

There’s also the possibility that if Canadians know their being spied on, it could drive them over the edge. In that case, wouldn’t spying by Canadian law enforcement fall under harassment?

In moments like this, where there’s killings done by Canadians to Canadians, it is easy to let ourselves be scared and propose bills that hinder democracy. We need to be rational and not overstep that balance, firstly, by not bending the rights that we have already.

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