The Views of Canadian Scholars on the Impact of the Anti-Terrorism Act


5.5 The Role of Foreign Policy and of the Military

Several participants took the position that Canada's foreign policy should be geared toward the alleviation of conditions (the “root causes”) that contribute to terrorism. According to Farson, these “causes” of terrorism include “ autocratic government, corruption, ethnic strife, poverty, and religious strife in numerous countries abroad…The Canadian Government would be wise to do what it can to ameliorate them through well-crafted foreign policies, carefully and strategically directed foreign aid, and well supported peacekeeping operations. ” Stribopoulos adds that Canada should work toward “reforming the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, supporting debt relief, and increased aid to countries in the developing world.”

Martyn adds that foreign aid should be provided in a manner that is not demeaning and paternalistic. Also, a communications strategy needs to be devised to counter the perception, fostered by certain opinion-makers, that such assistance is being provided to those launching terrorist attacks against us. However, Wark cautions that the idea of “root causes” of terrorism are highly controversial. The Canadian role in Afghanistan is a test case for actions designed to assist failed states that are seen as breeding grounds and havens for terrorism.

While some participants called for greater investments in Canada's military, others cautioned about an over-reliance on military force in dealing with terrorism. Whitaker notes that increased funding for the military would enhance Canadian sovereignty in anti-terrorist policy as Canada could better fulfill a peacekeeping role as part of multilateral anti-terrorist measures. Charters adds that Canada should continue to commit military forces to support operations in Afghanistan against Al-Qaeda and to support stability in that country. Canada, he noted, should also commit other resources to assist Afghanistan in its physical and political reconstruction. Wark takes the view that both our military and developmental aid capacity are under-resourced and require greater focus.

Two of the participants had major reservations about the use of military force. Roach believes that reliance on military force, such as Canada's military operations in Afghanistan, may neutralize state sponsors of terrorism but may also disperse terrorist networks and send them further underground. Other consequences include the loss of human life and Canada's complicity in human rights abuses (e.g., Canada's role in transferring prisoners to Guantanamo Bay). Furthermore, Stribopoulos advises Canada to support the international legal order and to counsel the US against unilateral action: “The global war on terrorism must be completely reconsidered, in light of the lessons learned in Iraq.”

With regard to the harmonization of such things as immigration and refugee policies with the United States, Whitaker notes that while cooperation with the US on security measures is essential, harmonization means that Canada will adopt US policies and standards, even though these may conflict with Canadian values and even with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Also, pressure by the US and from domestic sources to align Canadian foreign policy with the US and Israel conflicts with the Canadian preference for multilateral diplomacy and peace-building. The Bush Administration's failure to differentiate between the threats posed by “ non-negotiable ” and other forms of terrorism, as well as the foray into Iraq, has undermined the “ war on terrorism” and Canada must skillfully navigate a sovereign course while cooperating with the US in areas of agreement. Whitaker concludes that, “It is important that Canada continue to follow its own, more moderate path, especially in light of the greatly troubled relations between the Arab and Muslim communities and the US.”

5.6 Target Hardening and Improved Emergency Response

Several participants emphasized the importance of enhancing critical infrastructure protection (e.g., pipelines), crisis management, and emergency response capabilities to mitigate harms once an attack has occurred. In addition, some call for tighter controls over hazardous materials.

Rudner notes that Canada must harden those assets, in particular, that are closely integrated with the US. The hardening of target countries includes “a well crafted legislative armoury that addresses the scope and extent of the terrorist threat, coupled with a broad spectrum of intelligence and law enforcement capabilities. Counter-terrorism efforts must be backed by political will and a security culture that is aware of the risks posed by terrorism.” It is noteworthy that targeted countries that have undergone a counter-terrorism hardening since September 11th, including the US and UK, have managed, so far, to avert terrorist strikes in their respective jurisdictions.

Wark points out that an optimal response to attacks includes adequate levels of equipment for first responders, as well as medical resources and drug stockpiles, in addition to a coordinated (with all levels of government) national plan. Exercises ought to be conducted to test the capabilities of first responders in a variety of scenarios.

5.7 Accountability Mechanisms and Civil Liberties

Whitaker notes that accountability structures, oversight, and review should be strengthened and expanded in order to balance security and human rights concerns. Farson adds that “there have been a number of instances, especially where joint task forces have been engaged…[that]have revealed both the importance of effective law enforcement oversight where national security affairs are involved and the shortage of it…[The Martin Government's] initiatives to provide a permanent standing committee in the House of Commons on National Security composed of privy councilors and more substantive oversight of national security policing are important initiatives…”

Sossin asserts that, “ Rather than send the message contained in the Anti-Terrorism Act which is that procedural fairness, civil liberties and privacy rights are 'expendable' in the interests of national security…The question ought to be: how best can the exercise of executive authority in the interests of national security be monitored, constrained and supervised to ensure it is carried out according to the rule of law and in a fashion consistent with the fundamental values of Canadian society? ” Sossin maintains that Canada's track record with regard to the use of “unbridled” executive authority is poor as illustrated by the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II.

5.8 Generating The Public's Buy-in and Confidence in Counter-Terrorism Measures

Several participants stressed the importance of the public's approbation with regard to counter-terrorism measures. Martyn notes that the key to any strategy is communicating what is being done to both the domestic and international community, as the public must buy-in, whether in the form of financing measures (e.g., foreign aid) or tolerating enhanced security procedures while traveling. The public must be engaged in the measures taken rather than being presented with them as a fait accompli. Martyn does caution, however, that engaging the public is difficult, due to the confidentiality of intelligence gathered, apathy, and its impatience, as terrorism is a long-term war and “there will be no clear, decisive closure” as in past wars. He therefore urges honest communications, along with “ achievable and justifiable goals. ”

Rudner calls for the government to build public confidence in the ability of the authorities to protect Canadians from terrorism. A confidence-building effort would familiarize Canadians with the terrorist threats facing this country and its interests, promote knowledge about Canada's security and intelligence community, their lawful functions, and review mechanisms, and promote a public discussion about national security issues, human rights, and democracy. Proper oversight of the intelligence function is critical in building such confidence. Building public confidence is important because, “…terrorist asymmetric warfare may call for counter-terrorism actions that could touch on sensitive cultural, social, or human rights concerns…”

Wark adds that popular support is crucial in achieving a sustainable national security strategy. New programs for research, teaching, and publication on the topic of national security are required in Canadian universities. The government must be willing to disseminate information on terrorist and other national security threats. A new standing national security committee will raise public awareness. Attention should also be paid to the issue of how and when to alert the public about changing threat levels.

5.9 The North American Perimeter and Border Security

Whitaker asserts that Canada has an economic stake in an open border and in the sharing of intelligence with the US and requires that we establish the levels of security necessary to reassure the Americans that their northern border is not at risk. An effective North American security perimeter is worth striving for and must be viewed in global terms (e.g., pre-clearance of container traffic from anywhere in the world).

Rudner also advocates careful controls on identity documents and trans-border movements to interrupt the mobilization and deployment of recruits by terror networks. Furthermore, Wark notes that Canada needs to devote attention to maritime security, which includes the physical security, as well as the monitoring and control of traffic, at Canadian ports.

5.10 Concluding Comments

Wark notes that Canada must share burdens, resources, and intelligence with its allies, arguing that we are too dependent and lack informational sovereignty. “New investments in military capabilities, development aid, political reporting and intelligence are required for Canada to serve its own national security interests…”

Rudner provides a sobering concluding comment on the importance of an active role for Canada in counter-terrorism efforts:

Even if Canada sees itself as a follower…in the international counter-terrorism campaign, this country cannot allow itself to be targeted…[nor to] become staging grounds for terror attacks on neighbours, allies, and friends. Surely our neighbours and friends will not simply stand by passively should Canada become a window of vulnerability to their national security and public security interests. They will doubtless act to protect themselves, even if these actions cause collateral damage to a wide spectrum of Canadian interests…we must cope and deal effectively with these threats in the interest of our national security, public safety, and democratic values. Either we do it ourselves, or it will be done to us.