National security threats are changing, but Canada is mired in conventional thinking

Valid arguments:

An invisible virus borne on the air and reaching across continents and oceans, moving freely among people, disrespecting borders and ideas of state sovereignty, will mark the most profound shake-up of thinking about national security since the beginning of the atomic age in 1945.

We have entered an era in which national security is not just about protecting the state against adversaries, but also against dangers that have a direct impact on the daily lives of people.

The vectors of these threats are new and different — they don’t present the menacing face of armies and war, the shadowy artifice of the traditional spy, or the low-tech threat of terrorism. The new threats come at us straight out of our digital environment and are unleashed out of the natural world.

Digitally enabled threats take aim at precious resources — our data, our economy, our research — and the fundamentals of our democracy. They rob us and bend the truth, and as more of our economy is digitally enabled it is capable of being digitally disabled.

Natural hazards from climate change and the globalized spread of serious infectious diseases threaten livelihoods and lives across the country.

Thinking about national security in Canada has long been the preserve of small cadres of federal government officials and even smaller elements of civil society, each profoundly disconnected from the other. It’s not a subject taught much at our colleges and universities, from which future generations of leaders emerge as innocents. National security has rarely penetrated public debate, hardly ever featured in election campaigns, and only spasmodically seized the headlines — usually in moments of scandal.

In the new environment in which we live, that must change.

Government, political parties, and civil society must all pivot to a new understanding of what national security means and how threats are expected to be met.

We have, in Canada, a long way to go to embrace this new and disquieting understanding of national security, yet our collective future depends on it.

The distance we have to go was on display recently in two reports tabled in Parliament.

One was presented by the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP), a cornerstone of the Liberal government’s efforts to create a much stronger system of review for our security agencies. NSICOP devoted the entirety of its 2020 annual report to an analysis of the national security threats facing Canada.

This was a laudable endeavour, but one mired in conventional thinking. It failed to be sufficiently forward looking, and the committee limited itself to a discussion of five threats:

  1. Terrorism
  2. Espionage and foreign interference
  3. Malicious cyber activities
  4. Major organized crime
  5. Weapons of mass destruction

All of these are undoubtedly threats, but look hard at this list and you see the conceptual problems.

To give priority of place to terrorism threats is legacy thinking. Espionage and foreign interference are distinct problems, not to be mashed together. Organized crime comes into the national security picture only in very specific manifestations.

More problematic by far is what is missing: pandemic and biosecurity threats, climate change security impacts, and economic security. Precisely the issues that matter most to Canadians, the ones that have the greatest impact on their daily lives, were absent from the frame.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), in its annual public report for 2020, did better. It is clear from the report that CSIS is seized by threats to Canada’s economic security, including those that emerged to the bio-pharma sector during the early months of COVID-19.

Likewise, troubling state-sponsored disinformation campaigns are now on the CSIS radar. Counterintelligence, long a pillar of CSIS operations, is now focused beyond espionage on foreign interference operations.

The CSIS mandate places it squarely in the fight against violent extremism, but unlike the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, CSIS does not make this the top item in its picture of the threat environment.

And CSIS is working alongside the Communications Security Establishment in trying to understand and counter cyber threats.

However, the CSIS picture of the threat environment is necessarily geared to its lawful mandate. It doesn’t have a pandemic security mission writ large, or a climate change security mandate.

To embrace those missions properly will require new thinking and new ways of organizing our national security apparatus.

When it comes to national security, the past is not prologue. The present is moving fast and the future is hard to get a grip on. But here is a prediction: the comfortable and time-honoured habit of treating national security as far-removed from the general public discourse, of erasing it from politics, is over.

The 2015 federal election in which the Conservatives stumbled over opposition to their anti-terrorism legislation was but a small foreshadowing of a much larger debate over how to live safely, prosperously and democratically in a new age.

The next federal election campaign will be one in which all parties will have to prepare coherent and plausible visions of national security, and argue them in public in the interests of all Canadians.

Source: National security threats are changing, but Canada is mired in conventional thinking

Case of woman wrongly accused of spying for Russia requires ministerial review, intelligence expert says

Pretty fundamental mix-up along with unwillingness to consider an error, until forced by the courts. Wark’s point regarding the systemic weaknesses sting:

Most Canadians seem to have an extraordinary — sometimes naive — faith that if they tell the truth, their government will do the right thing, come to the right conclusion, or make the right decision.

It is one of those charming, but also maybe alarming aspects of our character.

David and Elena Crenna certainly fell into that category at the beginning of their bizarre six-year legal odyssey that saw the Canada Border Services Agency’s war crimes investigation unit accuse Elena, a former Russian translator, of being a post-Cold War spy.

The Liberal government quietly abandoned its case against her last month after a Federal Court judge essentially challenged justice department lawyers and border agency officials to read the legal and dictionary definition of espionage.

“I am unable to reasonably find any reason to believe the applicant was engaged in anything secret, clandestine, surreptitious or covert,” Federal Court Justice Henry Brown ruled in April.

Crenna had previously been deemed inadmissible to Canada by an immigration adjudicator who sided with a Canadian Border Agency assessment that concluded she helped the Russian security service spy.

Governments talk a lot today fighting disinformation, particularly Russian and Chinese online attacks and smears, but abjectly fail to appreciate that lying to sow discord and lying to save one’s skin is a time-honoured, well-honed tradition of spies, according to one of Canada’s leading intelligence experts.

More that, there is a dearth of institutional knowledge, understanding and significantly an appreciation of recent history within federal officialdom, said Wesley Wark, a professor at the University of Ottawa.

He is withering in his criticism of Crenna’s case, and frightened by its implications.

‘A ruthless waste of time’

“This isn’t just a minor case of bureaucracy gone slightly astray,” Wark said in an interview. “I think it is a major case of a bureaucracy that just didn’t know how to operate in the face of these kinds of threats. We need to be able to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not.”

The federal case against Elena Crenna — which Wark described as “a ruthless waste of time” — rested on the dubious word of a now-dead Russian defector.

While doing translation and marketing for a humanitarian housing project in Tver, Russia, the former Elena Filatova said she was approached by an agent of SVR (formerly known as the KGB and later the FSB) who wanted to know what the Canadians were doing.

It is a major case of a bureaucracy that just didn’t know how to operate in the face of these kinds of threats. We need to be able to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not.– Wesley Wark, one of Canada’s top intelligence experts

She did, with the full knowledge and support of her boss, now husband, David Crenna, who said he and Elena were obliged to be transparent with Russian authorities to avoid having the translation project shut down. The pair eventually married in 2012.

Elena Crenna told CBC News in the spring that she never passed along secret information about project she was working on, and did not covertly gather intelligence.

Years later, a FSB defector wrote a tell-all book that alleged a Canadian disarmament program in the 1990s had been penetrated by Russian intelligence.

Without naming either David or Elena Crenna, Sergei Tretyakov claimed Russian intelligence had set a “honey trap” to collect information about the project, referring to the relationship that developed between the Crennas.(In intelligence circles, a honey trap is an operation that uses sex or romantic entanglements to trick or blackmail targets into giving up information.)

Canadian and American intelligence officials, including CSIS and the FBI, interviewed the couple and found their version of events credible.

It was only when Canadian immigration officials were about to allow Elena to stay permanently in the country that border services objected using the information the Crennas had truthfully offered up to the agency in interviews.

It was “Kafkaesque,” said Wark, who believes it is imperative that the agency not be allowed to simply walk away from the case without some kind of introspection and review.

“This is more than just a human tragedy because I think the case reveals a lack of expertise within CBSA, which is troubling given that CBSA is responsible for border security risk management, and responsible for administration of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,” he said. “I think it reveals some considerable dysfunction among the elements of the Canadian government.”

Wark said it demonstrates “a very significant lack of understanding about the nature of espionage threats” and complete “lack of understanding of the historical context that they were looking at in this particular case.”The threats in today’s world are too serious and complex for border services to make mistakes of this kind in the future, he said.

Wark is calling on Public Safety Minister Bill Blair to institute a review of how the case was handled. Failing that, he is recommending that the National Security Intelligence Review Agency or even the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians look at what happened.

Canada Border Services has routinely declined comment on the case, citing privacy.

For his part, David Crenna doesn’t want to see all of the agency turned upside down — just the war crimes unit that initiated the case against his wife.

The federal government must ensure that section of the agency is “equipped and trained and capable of doing the kind of national security job” that is expected of it, he said.

Federal officials fell for allegations ‘hook, line and sinker’

To watch federal officials “swallow hook, line and sinker” the narrative of a Russian defector trained in disinformation was disheartening and somewhat frightening, he said.

“Essentially, we thought this being Canada that if we told the truth and co-operated, they would eventually come to the conclusion that we were telling the truth,” said David Crenna, who must now go through all of the federal paperwork for his wife to be readmitted to Canada.

She has been stuck in the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic where she had been awaiting the results of the court case.

There is no indication when Elena Crenna will be allowed to return.


Ransomware threat

Just to let you know that I have been subject to a ransomware threat. I inadvertently clicked too quickly on a link before ascertaining it was legitimate and since then have had some questionable pop-ups despite my pop-up blocker.

The attacker threatened to send compromising emails to my email contacts. As there is no such material, I assume this is more of threat to try to extort $1,000.

I have reported this attempt to Canadian Centre for Cyber Security.

So if you receive any emails that don’t sound like me, they are most likely not.

And this a reminder to us all to be careful and vigilant and change our passwords routinely and use a password manager to general more difficult ones.

Refugee board set to finally hear ‘legacy’ asylum claims

To note – these kinds of backlogs should not happen:

The Immigration and Refugee Board is finally taking action to process asylum claims languishing in the system under pre-2012 rules, some of which have been waiting to be heard for more than six years.

There are about 5,500 so-called “legacy” claims filed before December 15, 2012, when the former Conservative government overhauled the asylum system by introducing statutory timelines to hear new claims and expedite removals of failed claimants — leaving the old cases on the back burner.

All legacy claimants are being asked to immediately contact the board and make any needed updates to their applications, so the board can start scheduling their hearings for September. Those who are ready have been asked to fill out an “intention to proceed form” online.

“We understand how difficult it is for the people to have been waiting for a minimum of four years in the legacy backlog,” said Mario Dion, chair of the refugee board. “Their lives and well-being are at stake and we are committed to start scheduling these cases as soon as possible.”

This spring the board launched a legacy task force and dedicated $3 million yearly to address the legacy backlog by hiring more than 20 retired refugee judges to focus on these drawn-out cases, the majority of them filed in 2011 and 2012. It also released a YouTube video to advertise the effort.

Although most post-2012 claims are generally heard by adjudicators within 60 days, the board is facing tremendous pressure at its refugee protection tribunal with a backlog of pending asylum claims that is expected to exceed 37,000 by the end of the year, partially due to the surge in claims at border entry points from the United States since President Donald Trump was elected.

For years, the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers have called on the federal government to introduce some form of amnesty to legacy claimants to allow them to move on with their lives, but the plea has been ignored.

They said the longer people wait for a refugee hearing, the less chance they have of being accepted as refugees as memories fade and country conditions change with the processing delay.

“Fairness requires that we give them the opportunity to regularize their status in Canada without delay,” said Loly Rico, chair of the refugee council.

Source: Refugee board set to finally hear ‘legacy’ asylum claims | Toronto Star

How the word ‘terrorism’ lost its meaning: Neil Macdonald

More good commentary from Macdonald:

What appears to have qualified those attacks for inclusion on the Trump list was the fact that the attackers, Martin Couture-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, had converted from their birth religion to Islam.

Similarly, Trump’s list did not include Dylann Roof, the young white supremacist who, in the summer of 2015, pulled out a gun in a black church in Atlanta and began killing. Roof was a practising Christian, a member of an evangelical Lutheran congregation. Reportedly, he sat and argued about scriptural issues with congregants at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church before murdering nine of them.

Still, like Bissonnette, Roof was not labelled a terrorist by law enforcement authorities, or charged as such. He was certainly not called a “radical Christian terrorist” or “white supremacist terrorist.” Those are phrases the mainstream media rarely find pronounceable.

The FBI even went to far as to say Roof’s killings were “not a political act.”

If that sounds outrageously hypocritical, that’s because it is. (Go ahead and imagine the official reaction had Roof or Bissonnette been Muslims).

Western concept of ‘terrorism’

But it’s perfectly consonant with the Western concept of “terrorism,” which is itself a form of hypocrisy deeply embedded in the American and Canadian psyches.

Terrorism is political invective, nothing more. It’s a great favourite of demagogues, widely accepted by audiences, and is almost always applied exclusively to the other, never to ourselves.

Take the Irish Republican Army. The IRA was an exclusively Roman Catholic organization, and had no problem killing civilians to advance its agenda. The British government characterized the IRA and all its offshoots as terrorists, but did not for decades apply the label to the equally murderous Protestant “loyalist” paramilitaries.

IRA flag Irish Republican Army Gerry Adams

The State Department’s list of designated terrorist groups has never included the IRA. (Paul McErlane/Reuters)

Some Irish Catholics in Canada and the United States, though, tended to regard the IRA’s behaviour as understandable, if not excusable. They preferred not to label it as terrorism, never mind “Christian terrorism,” even though the Troubles were all about a schism in Christianity, something like the violent Sunni/Shia fissure in the Middle East. Almost certainly because of domestic American sentiment, the U.S. State Department’s long list of designated terrorist groups has never named the IRA

Because the terrorist is always the other.

While working for CBC in Israel, I once searched the database of the Jerusalem Post for uses of the word “terror,” “terrorist” and “terrorism.”

There were thousands over the course of several years, all of them relating to Palestinians or other Arabs.

The newspaper had another term for Jewish settlers who targeted and killed Palestinian civilians: “Jewish extremists.”  Most mainstream Israeli journalists have just as hard a time with the phrase “Jewish terrorist” as Western media do with “Christian terrorist.”

Those two words simply seem a contradiction in terms to many Jews, although, to give the Israeli justice system credit for at least some consistency, authorities there have charged Jewish Israelis with terrorism-related offences.

Until the 9/11 attacks, there was at least an attempt in the West to define terrorism: the deliberate targeting of civilians by non-government players to advance a political agenda.

By that definition, of course, Alexandre Bissonnette, if convicted, and Dylann Roof would qualify.

War on Terror

But once America began its “War on Terror,” the word was stretched and adapted to mean anything Washington wanted it to mean, and the U.S. media fell obediently into line.

Any attack on any U.S. soldier anywhere became terror, even attacks by people whose country had been invaded.

Groups such as the Shining Path in Peru, or Kurdish ultranationalist groups, or fringe Irish diehards, or Tamil extremists, are relegated to trivial regional annoyances. The predations of militants or governments America approves of are overlooked or ignored.

Today, the word terrorism is so objectively meaningless that the only sensible definition is: “Violence we disapprove of.”

Source: How the word ‘terrorism’ lost its meaning: Neil Macdonald – CBC News | Opinion

Pre-clearance bill would give U.S. border agents in Canada new powers

Signed and agreed to under different times. Concerns under Trump administration valid but unlikely to impede implementation. However, ongoing monitoring needed:

U.S. border guards would get new powers to question, search and even detain Canadian citizens on Canadian soil under a bill proposed by the Liberal government.

Legal experts say Bill C-23, introduced by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, and likely to pass in the current sitting of Parliament, could also erode the standing of Canadian permanent residents by threatening their automatic right to enter Canada.

The bill would enshrine in law a reciprocal agreement for customs and immigration pre-clearance signed by the governments of Stephen Harper and Barack Obama in 2015. Both houses of Congress passed the U.S. version of the bill in December.

Michael Greene, an immigration lawyer in Calgary, says C-23 takes away an important right found in the existing law.

“A Canadian going to the U.S. through a pre-clearance area [on Canadian soil] can say: ‘I don’t like the way [an interview is] going and I’ve chosen not to visit your country.’ And they can just turn around and walk out.

“Under the new proposed bill, they wouldn’t be able to walk out. They can be held and forced to answer questions, first to identify themselves, which is not so offensive, but secondly, to explain the reasons for leaving, and to explain their reasons for wanting to withdraw,” said Greene, who is national chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s citizenship and immigration section.

“And that’s the part we think could be really offensive and goes too far.”

Pre-clearance allows Canadian visitors to the U.S. to clear U.S. Customs and Immigration while still in Canada at a Canadian port of departure.

Eight Canadian airports offer pre-clearance, and it will expand to two more later this year. They also exist at the Port of Vancouver, at Vancouver’s train station and on some B.C.-Washington ferry routes. Later this year, pre-clearance is expected to be introduced at Montreal’s train station for Amtrak’s Montreal-New York City route.

Howard Greenberg, a Toronto immigration lawyer who has chaired the immigration law committees at the Canadian Bar Association and the International Bar Association, says the law raises the prospect of a Canadian being arrested simply for deciding he or she has had enough with a certain line of questioning.

“At some point, it may change from a situation where you’re simply responding to a question, to a situation where you’re failing to respond to a direction of an officer. So the ambiguity is somewhat dangerous for the traveller.”

Unreasonable delay

A spokesman for Public Safety Canada said C-23 limits how far a U.S. agent can go in questioning a traveller.

“The change is that once a traveller indicates their wish to withdraw, pre-clearance officers would be authorized to exercise certain authorities, such as question the traveller as to their identity and reason for withdrawing,” Scott Bardsley told CBC News.

“This authority is provided in order protect the integrity of the border but can only be exercised to the extent that doing so would not unreasonably delay the traveller.”

But Greene said the bill fails to define what constitutes an “unreasonable delay.”

“What’s reasonable for them may be a very long interrogation. Whereas for the individual it may be, ‘I’ll tell you why I don’t want to answer any more questions and then I’m leaving.’ Well, the problem is, if that person tries to leave, then they can be charged with failing to co-operate, which under this bill is an offence they can be arrested for, and then charged and given a federal record.”

Physical searches

Under the existing law, a strip search can only be conducted by a Canadian officer, though a U.S. officer can be present. Greene points out C-23 says if a Canadian officer is unavailable or unwilling, the U.S. officer can conduct the search.

“So you could have a circumstance where the Canadian officer says, ‘No I don’t think a search is warranted here. I’m not willing to do it.’ But the U.S. officer just says, ‘Fine, we’re going to do it anyway.'”

Thousands of alleged fugitives nabbed at Canadian borders in wake of CBC Toronto investigation

Hard to understand why this took so long:

Canada’s borders have become less porous in the wake of a CBC News investigation that revealed a major security gap in the way passengers were being screened before being allowed into Canada.

In the past 12 months since new screening measures came into effect on Nov. 21, 2015, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) apprehended 3,067 people with outstanding criminal arrest warrants at border crossings.

In the previous 12 months, before the changes came into effect, the CBSA caught just 556 alleged fugitives.

The almost fivefold increase is in large part due to the efforts of a southwestern Ontario woman who demanded answers after being sexually assaulted — allegedly by a Nigerian man who was able to get back into Canada despite having warrants out for his arrest.

“Knowing that potentially some other person’s rapist has been caught at the border, or somebody that’s done something terrible to someone else, gives me some comfort,” she said.

CBC News is not identifying her because she is a victim of sexual assault.

The changes to national border security came last November after CBC News looked into her case and discovered front-line border agents at primary inspection points did not have access to the Canadian Police Information Centre.

CPIC is a database detailing criminal records, individuals with outstanding arrest warrants and other information outlining who might be a risk to Canadians. Only travellers deemed suspicious and sent for more secondary checks were being screened through CPIC at border crossings. Now CBSA agents at all inspection points screen every passenger arriving in Canada through CPIC.

Jean Pierre Fortin, the head of the union representing Canada’s border and immigration agents, says the changes have boosted national security.

Border picture

Canadian governments had quietly been aware of the loophole in border security since at least 2002. Yet giving all front-line CBSA agents access to a database was considered too costly. (Sarah Bridge/CBC)

“It’s sad that this only came because of a terrible situation … but we got a better tool through CPIC to our front-line officers to be able to intervene right away.”

Source: Thousands of alleged fugitives nabbed at Canadian borders in wake of CBC Toronto investigation – Toronto – CBC News

Canadian officials preparing for potential flood of Mexican migrants after Trump wins presidency – Politics – CBC News

Appropriate analysis and preparations, along with the note by Lorne Waldman of the need to see exactly what policies a Trump administration enacts (assume this kind of policy work is a focus across government these days):

The federal government is preparing for a potential surge in Mexican migrants coming to Canada after Donald Trump’s election victory, CBC News has learned.

Sources confirm high level meetings took place this week with officials at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and in other departments.

The news comes as Canada prepares to loosen rules for Mexicans to enter the country by lifting a visa requirement on Dec. 1. That restriction has been in place since 2009.

Talks on a plan to cope with a possible spike in asylum-seekers have been ongoing for some time, but were accelerated this week after Trump’s surprise win.

Trump campaigned on promises to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and to swiftly deport undocumented workers and illegal residents.

Lawyer predicts ‘significant impact’

Toronto-based immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman expects an increase in refugee claims from Mexicans once the visa requirement is lifted. He also predicts a “significant impact” from Trump’s election.

“The government was very concerned about the potential for a large number of new claims coming from Mexico, and that’s why they hesitated for so long before announcing that they were going to remove the visa,” he said.

“And that announcement was made before anyone knew that Donald Trump, with his very different immigration policies from those of the current administration, won the election.”

But Waldman cautioned it’s too early to tell exactly how the situation may unfold, saying it will depend on whether Trump follows through on his campaign pledges.

Source: Canadian officials preparing for potential flood of Mexican migrants after Trump wins presidency – Politics – CBC News

Members of dormant national security roundtable seeking answers [CCRS]

Always found the CCRS a useful forum during my time working on multiculturalism issues, where we would bring the “soft side” of counter-radicalization approaches to the table.

While it is normal for a new government to review the mandate and the membership, and whether or not it duplicates other consultative bodies (I think not), pleased that the Liberal government has signalled its intent to maintain the CCRS:

A group of Canadians who advise the federal government on national security issues are in the dark about the future of a 16-member roundtable they were appointed to.

Members of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security are supposed to meet in-camera at least twice a year, yet the group hasn’t met since October 2014.

The roundtable was set up in 2005 to act as a sounding board for cabinet ministers and other high-ranking federal executives on how security matters and government policies affect different ethnic communities. Over the years, it has covered topics such as countering violent extremism, migration and cyber-security.

“I feel I’m in limbo,” said Farzana Hassan, a newspaper columnist and past-president of the Canadian Muslim Congress who was appointed to the roundtable in June 2015.

“It seemed like a very good fit and I jumped on the idea and I accepted the appointment, but I have not heard anything,” she told CBC News.

This past spring, Hassan and several other members contacted by CBC received a letter informing them that the government is re-thinking the roundtable’s activities and composition.

“I get the sense that they would want us to resign because we were appointed by the previous government and, you know, this government’s policies and outlines on certain issues is very different from the previous government,” said Hassan.

“I feel I can do more. I can share my ideas, but I have not been given the opportunity to do so,” she said.

Chair sees lack of communication

Myrna Lashley, a psychologist, was appointed to the roundtable in 2005 and has been the group’s chairperson since 2007. But after receiving the letter in March, Lashley suspects her involvement has come to an end.

“Effectively when you get that letter, you have been told ‘thank you,'” Lashley said.

In the meantime, Lashley is concerned the federal government is not communicating as effectively on national security issues with Canada’s ethnically diverse communities, such as Syrian refugees.

In the past, Lashley says the group met with and advised ministers of public safety and justice as well as senior executives from the RCMP, CSIS and Canada Border Services Agency on all sorts of issues that could or would affect an array of cultural groups.

“We could give them an idea of how different communities might react to something so that they could formulate it in a way that would be acceptable to all Canadians,” said Lashley.

Lashley points to the creation of the special advocate program, which provided independent, top-secret, security-cleared lawyers to represent people subject to a security certificate or immigration proceedings.

“We were the ones that said ‘let’s try a special advocate,’ that came from us,” Lashley said.

The Department of Public Safety refused CBC’s request for an interview. But in an email, a spokesperson said, “While the government is currently reviewing the membership of the table, it looks forward to resuming CCRS meetings in the near future.

Source: Members of dormant national security roundtable seeking answers – Politics – CBC News

Australia: Federal police commissioner warns MPs ‘words matter’ in debate on Islam

Wise words. The presence of One Nation in the Australian elected Senate highlights some of the political differences between Canada and Australia:

The Australian federal police commissioner, Andrew Colvin, has warned federal parliamentarians that words matter, emphasising that police rely on good relationships with the Muslim community to keep Australians safe.

Colvin was asked during an appearance on Sky News on Monday about whether he had any concerns about the newly elected One Nation MPs calling for a ban on Muslim immigration, or a royal commission into Islam.

The police commissioner was reminded about previous interventions by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio) warning Coalition MPs to tone down florid rhetoric about Islam because the contributions were considered unhelpful to agencies trying to maintain public safety.

Colvin said he didn’t want to intervene in any political debates but he emphasised that people needed to be careful about their public interventions. “What I have been on the record saying and I will say it again, words do matter,” Colvin said on Monday.

“It’s very important to me that I maintain good relationships with the community. Words do matter. They listen very carefully to what’s said,” Colvin said.

Newly elected senators will come to Canberra on Tuesday for orientation ahead of the resumption of parliament next week. One Nation emerged from the recent poll with a Senate bloc of four.

One Nation’s policy on Islam states that the religion sees itself “as a theocracy, not a democracy.”

“Islam does not believe in democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the press or freedom or assembly,” the policy says.

“It does not separate religion and politics. Many believe that it is solely a religion, but the reality is that it is much more, for it has a political agenda that goes far outside the realm of religion.”

“Its religious aspect is fraud; it is rather a totalitarian political system, including legal, economic, social and military components, masquerading as a religion.”