Tuesday, February 14, 2012

That the police want more power and less oversight is a given

Of course they do, and who can blame them? After all their jobs would be a lot easier without all the pesky rules about having to show cause and needing warrants, legal search and seizure procedures, unlawful detention, and so on. But in a democracy one of the fundamental roles of government is to balance the legitimate needs of those we charge with the responsibility to protect us, and the rights of its citizens to not be subject to the sometimes overzealous actions of those same protectors.

There is no shortage of examples in this world where governments have either abdicated that role or worse, encouraged their police forces to ignore the rights of its citizens. Nothing good ever results from that – the police become all powerful, the public becomes cowed and intimidated (if not imprisoned), and a police state ensues.

Is Canada on the cusp of becoming a police state? Of course not; there are still many checks and balances in the legal system to prevent excessive abuse (although abuses still do occur – the G8 being a prime example). But as the G8 experience also showed us, if we relax government controls on the police, they will take advantage at the expense of the civilian population.

Those controls are like a rope of many strands. Each strand in and of itself doesn’t offer adequate protection, but taken all together they do offer a degree of comfort that the state, through any of its agencies, cannot arbitrarily attack and persecute its citizens. But every time Vic Toews or Rob Nicholson cuts one of those strands the rope weakens just a little bit and we, as a society, become the poorer for it. That’s why this is worth fighting over.

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