In the wake of the attack on Canada’s Parliament Hill, there’s been a lot of commentary on not overreacting, on not letting terrorists degrade our democracy. Elizabeth May, still in lockdown, (why did it last all day?) referenced Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: “The shootings on Parliament Hill do not change everything. It is up to all of us to ensure that, to the extent we encounter demands for change, we keep in the forefront of our minds that once we surrender any rights it is very difficult to restore them.”
The Tyee’s Crawford Kilian: “For our present government, this is an opportunity beyond hoping for: a chance to stampede Canada as George W. Bush did the U.S. in 2001, to turn us into a garrison state where we all cower in our homes while the government protects us from harm with the media as cheerleaders.”
And there were others. Good for us. Maybe we won’t be bamboozled and made fools of, after all. Maybe we will emerge stronger and wiser. I certainly hope so. But History is not on our side. Elizabeth May’s worry that rights once surrendered are almost never given back is especially worthy of note because this discussion has raised the issue of government control and Passports. It’s worthy of note that they were first introduced almost exactly 100 years ago. Yes, folks, before the Great War, nobody needed one to travel freely wherever he or she desired. The world truly was your oyster, nobody had the right to question you, detain you, hassle you or demand ‘identification’. Nobody was watching you. But the Great War changed all that. Passports, governments soon realized, were handy instruments of control, and of course, they were never rescinded.
Imagine if we all demanded our passports back. Imagine a world without government surveillance. Yes, inconceivable in today’s paranoid, secretive and ‘safety first’ world.
So. Since Passports and all the paraphernalia of ‘ state security’ is here to stay and likely to ramp up, it seems to me that taking passports away from people who have murder in their hearts is just a wee bit shortsighted. Why do we want to keep these people here when they so clearly want to engage in shooting and getting shot? If Canada had not taken away the passport of the guy who stormed Parliament yesterday, he might have gone off to Iraq and worked out his problems there, likely never to be seen again. Instead of taking their passports away, we should encourage these madmen to leave, and once left, never let them into the country again. After all, that’s what passports are for: to control the comings and goings of the population. We’re just doing it backwards.