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Alan Levy

 
ALAN LEVY: REFLECTIONS ON THE LATEST TERROR ATTACK IN OTTAWA

by Alan Levy, November 2, 2014

 

 

Thinking about what happened this past month's terror attack in Ottawa takes to me back to my undergraduate days. I went to University in Israel in the mid 1970's when terrorist attacks seem to be occurring daily in Israeli hotels and kibbutzim as well as airports across Europe. Canada was considered a place of calm and stability and we could not even think of terrorist attacks and Canada in the same sentence. Fast forward 40 years and Canada's being hit by terrorism makes every major newspaper and newscasts around the world.  A terrorist, a lone wolf attacked Parliament Hill in Ottawa and the National War Memorial killing a soldier on guard not allowed to have bullets in his gun while standing guard.

 

We in Canada are very naive about how violence in faraway lands can affect us. This month we learnt unfortunately that terrorism lives in our country as it does around the world. Our police forces were shocked and the RCMP did not see this coming. The question that now arises is what will we learn from the events of this week?  Firstly, as citizens we must not be naive and we must understand that the problems of the Middle East are also our problems so there will continue to be a spillover effect in Canada!  

 

The challenge that faces Canada is to ensure we do not over react, by introducing laws that put our democracy as a democracy in doubt, and that we do not allow ignorance against Muslims in Canada to result in any form of discrimination. As Jews we know about discrimination so we should be at the front of the line protecting our Muslim brothers. As well, we must not be so naive and complacent to believe that this is one isolated event never to occur again. We must introduce reasonable security measures in our cities to ensure the safety of all citizens. We must do a better job, assisting young men who are troubled from becoming radicalized toward the evil mission of ISIS. This has been a failure of our mental health system to ensure that those who need mental health care are able to easily obtain it; this required resources to be allocated to those who need care.

 

In Hannah Arendt’s brilliant reporting of the ..”1961 Adolf Eichmann trial for The New Yorker, which evolved into the book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil 1963 she coined the phrase "the banality of evil” to describe the phenomenon of Eichmann. She raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction’. What we saw this past month in Ottawa was an act of the banality of evil!

 

We must not move to become a country obsessed with the surveillance of our citizens because the enemy is now among us. We must show wise moderation ensuring that we take the needed measures to protect our civil society and our democratic values and institutions that we have created so successfully.  We know we are the shining light, an example to the world of hope and freedom today with a quality of life that cannot be matched by another country; the most diverse country in the world where we all live in peace and harmony. Canada is the biblical golden calf!

 

Our government shall attempt to rid us of such extremism, but in doing so to we must ensure we do not harm our society with authoritarian security laws. 

 

Going back to my student days in Israel in a political science course I took at the Tel Aviv University, I wrote a paper on how in time the rest of the western world would have the same fears Israel does with an enemy wanting to destroy your country, having a different notion of the existence of civil society ( civil society and democratic processes are highly complex in pluralist liberal Western Societies, but they do not exist in the authoritarian states of the Middle East) and human rights values. Our political and western values and liberal democratic institutions are in the minds of ISIS and other terrorist groups who want to destroy them by any means. I am extremely sad to say we are now at that point in the World, even in our dear Canada that we all love so very much. Once again, this is not a political opportunity for over the top harsh measures to be introduced and passed into law that shall water down our democracy in the name of security, for that is exactly what the ISIS wants! The government must act with respect for the rule of law and human rights. Human rights are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and protected by mechanisms of accountability. Our civil liberties ought never to be up for sale, even due to terrorist threats.

 

Going back to my student days in Israel in a political science course I took at the Tel Aviv University, I wrote a paper on how in time the rest of the western world would have the same fears Israel does with an enemy wanting to destroy your country, society and values. I am extremely sad to say we are now at that point in the World, even in our dear Canada that we all love so very much. Once again, this is not a political opportunity for over the top harsh measures to be introduced and passed into law that shall water down our democracy in the name of security, for that is exactly what the ISIS wants! The government must act with respect for the rule of law and human rights. Human rights are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and protected by mechanisms of accountability. Our civil liberties ought never to be up for sale, even due to terrorist threats.

 

 Alan Levy BA, MIR,LLM is an Associate Professor of Human Resources, Labour Relations, Leadership & Dispute Resolution Department of Business Administration, Faculty of Arts, Brandon University

 
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