Former Prime Minister Joe Clark talks about the September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States and how these events will impact Canada and Canadian foreign policy.
re:politics (formerly, Maple Leaf Web).com: Should Canada offer military support in addition to Operation Apollo? Why?
Joe Clark: Canada must be ready to do all that we can to support our allies, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with them in the fight against international terrorism. Unfortunately, this government has done little to ensure that the Canadian Forces are equipped with the tools that they require to do their job. On the contrary, under the watch of this government, the defence budget has been repeatedly cut. Neglect and under-funding are indisputably eroding Canada’s ability to fulfill its defence commitments.
The Progressive Conservative Party has called upon the current government to increase funding to the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces immediately in order to maintain current capabilities and implement proposed long-term capital programs. We are committed to providing funding to maintain adequate strength levels, quality of life initiatives and the procurement of much needed new equipment. These are the keys to a reasonable defence policy.
The Liberal government proclaims proudly that they have cut the fat from government spending. However, it seems clear, that the federal government has cut at the underlying muscle and bone. At the same time, the Liberals have increased commitments, opening up a larger and larger ‘commitment-capability gap’. The divorce between policy and economic realities creates a dangerous situation for the men and women of the Canadian Forces.
MLW: Does Operation Apollo conflict with our perception of Canada as an international peacekeeper? Why?
Joe Clark: There can be little doubt that the events of September 11th are going to have a lasting and profound effect on how we live our lives. In many ways we in North America lost our innocence. We have always felt safe in our country; for the most part we have not had to witness the horrors of war, famine and epidemics on our soil, and we have been able to offer hope to people wanting to start new lives away from fear and violence.
As I am sure you will agree, Canadians do not want to live in fear. We need to stand together to defeat terrorism and we must have a focussed public debate on what steps we as a country have to take to counter the fear that terrorists have sewn. This is not a job for the governing party alone, nor is it a job for those closest to the Prime Minister. To this end, I have encouraged the Prime Minister to fully engage Parliament in finding Canadian made solutions to the challenges facing our nation.
Canada has a proud tradition of being peacekeepers and peacemakers and without a doubt we all would have liked to have seen a peaceful or diplomatic solution in bringing the person or persons responsible for the terrorist attacks to justice. Unfortunately, to date, diplomatic efforts have failed; and as of Thanksgiving Sunday Canada has joined in military strikes against strategic targets in Afghanistan. The Progressive Conservative Party and I fully support Canada’s strong and active role in the International Coalition and wish to extend our high regard for the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces who will take part in this common front in the fight for freedom and democracy.
There can be no doubt that we are living in dangerous and troubling times and now more than ever we must ensure that the needs and voices of all Canadians are not only being heard but listened to as well. The fight against terrorism will not be won unless all Canadians regardless of race, colour or religion are united in this resolve. Only by working together can we ensure our safety and security.
MLW: Besides military support, what else can Canada offer to the international conflict over terrorism?
Joe Clark: Canada must stand ready to offer whatever support that it can in the fight against international terrorism. This includes diplomatic support, sharing of intelligence, and legislative changes to ensure that Canada does not become a haven for international terrorists. Canada is in a unique position to be able to offer many things that neither the United States nor the United Kingdom, with their past and international perception, can. This includes diplomatic links, through the Commonwealth and La Françophonie for example, that give us ties that can be used to build diplomatic support.
MLW: How should the persons responsible for the September 11th terrorist attacks be prosecuted and punished?
Joe Clark: Those responsible for organizing and supporting the terrorist attacks of September 11th need to be brought to justice, held accountable under the rule of law. Since these crimes were against the United States, on American soil, then logically American law should apply. Perhaps the precedent of the Lockerbie tragedy can be utilized if necessary – with the suspects being tried in a third country under American law.
MLW: Does the proposed Ant-Terrorism legislation go far enough to protect Canadians and discourage terrorist activities in Canada? If so, why? If not, what else needs to be done?
Joe Clark: Bill C-36 represents in many ways a good first step in making some much needed changes to address the needs that September 11th made all too evident.
After the tragic events of September 11th, all security procedures will need to be reviewed and new ideas fully considered. Suggestions to curtail air travel and improve security checks will have to be examined. The needs of security have become increasingly important in the wake of these attacks.
The federal government has to look at everything from Canada’s immigration laws to airport security. If there are gaps in our system we should find them quickly and fill them quickly. It is our responsibility and our duty. We need to stand beside our allies, beside the United States and Europe and others, in this fight. Canada can do much to tighten airport security, border controls, and immigration screening procedures, as well as increase the budget of the RCMP, the Canadian Forces, and its intelligence-gathering agency, CSIS, which is responsible for counter-terrorism.
Bill C-36 is a very comprehensive, if somewhat complicated, extremely important piece of legislation. I will be looking forward to reviewing this legislation at the committee level, where we will hear from experts and from those who may very well raise concerns about civil liberties. However, I believe an initial reading of the bill indicates that it has sought to strike a careful balance between civil liberties and the protection of Canadian citizens.
There are concerns with respect in particular to the preventive arrest provisions of the legislation. These provisions will have to be coupled with training and with follow up from municipal, RCMP and military police to ensure that there is no abuse of this element of the legislation. As well, there must be resources attached to this type of legislation, if it is to be made effective. Clearly there has been an indication on the part of the government that this is forthcoming.
My colleagues and I are tentatively supporting the legislation. We look forward to participating at the committee level to look at some of the gaps that the legislation seeks to fill. Other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia and the European Union, have taken steps in this direction to comply with international conventions and to comply with this new threat that came to fruition on September 11th, but has been with us for a long time.
Obviously this type of legislation goes a long way toward giving our law enforcement community, our defence and internal security the tools they will require to embark on this lengthy and in many cases extremely dangerous venture to combat international terrorism.
The bill itself has safeguards for parliamentary review. Some have suggested that a sunset clause of sorts might have been preferable. However, a parliamentary review in three years certainly gives parliamentarians and Canadians an opportunity to experience the full effects of the legislation.
We share the sentiment of all Canadians that the preservation of peace, order and good government is the primary objective behind this type of legislation.
We look forward to reviewing, as I said, elements of the arrest provision. Investigative hearings are another element that is some cause for concern. We will look at the investigative tools themselves to see how far they will go and how far they might be carried out in the pursuit of curtailing terrorism in this country.
We look forward to working with the government and with all members of the opposition in the pursuit of this very lofty but extremely important activity which we are undertaking at this time to combat terrorism in this country and abroad.
MLW: Should Canadians worry about their rights and freedoms if the proposed Anti-Terrorism legislation becomes law? If not, why? If so, what should we be concerned about in particular?
Joe Clark: We do indeed have some concerns with the legislation as it is currently written. The concerns raised by the Privacy Commissioner and the Information Commissioner should be heeded. Although I support the need for strengthened legislation to combat terrorism and I understand the need for certain government secrecy in matters of national security, Canadians should be concerned with the loss of the right to information affecting their lives, which is held by the government. Both Mr. Reid and Mr. Radwanski have indicated that Bill C-36 goes too far in excluding disclosure of information to Canadians. They were clear in condemning the attempts at secrecy by this government. The proposed amendments to Section 70 of the Privacy Act and Section 87 of the Access to Information Act would give the government over reaching powers to refuse disclosure of information. This power could easily be abused by a Liberal government that does not have a good track record for openness and accountability.
They now seem to be using the threat to public security to justify a Cabinet clamp down on the free flow of information. A permanent removal of the powers vested in these two officers of Parliament – these two officers who challenge the government’s use of information — is not necessary given the safeguards that are already in place. Other countries such as the U.K., the U.S.A. and Australia are not taking such extreme acts of secrecy, nor are they requesting Canada do the same — contrary to the Justice Department’s assertions. The privacy aspects of Bill C-36 will nullify the powers of these independent officers of Parliament. As a result, future public attempts to attain government information and accountability could be rejected and hidden behind the broad language of these amendments.
MLW: What other initiatives should governments and citizens take to discourage hate crimes against Arab or Muslim Canadians?
Joe Clark: I want to echo very strongly the sentiment that has been expressed by many Canadians; that an essential element of our free society is that we judge people on their character and accomplishments, not upon where they come from, not upon their colour and not upon their faith.
The people who committed this atrocity are extremists. That is who they are. We must be very careful that in responding to this crisis that we do not create new victims or blame whole communities for the acts of people who in any society would be judged extremists. To be clear and for the record; all of us know that no one is more shocked or more offended by this atrocity in the United States than members of the Canadian Arab and Muslim communities. No one is more offended than they are. They are Canadians.
I have been extremely troubled by the reports of anti-Muslim activities in Canada and the United States. I believe that it is our duty to make it abundantly clear that this is unacceptable. Canada should not and will not tolerate these actions. Canadians, no matter their origin, are all members of our society, and as such they are equally outraged by the tragic events of September 11th.
MLW: Should Canada harmonize its immigration and customs policies and systems? Why?
Joe Clark: Canada must take steps to ensure that its laws do not allow the country to become a weak link on the North American continent. We must ensure that we take steps to address the security concerns of the United States in the wake September 11th. Otherwise, the United States may take it upon itself to address its security needs at the Canada-U.S. border, which will in turn fundamentally affect the $1.5 billion worth of trade that traverses the border every day. The Canadian economy could become another victim of September 11th if we do not take action.
However, it is important to remember that security and sovereignty are not mutually exclusive qualities. Rather, without security, sovereignty cannot exist. Canada should take steps, of course, to address the concerns of the United States, but we must do so in a way that reflects the needs, interests and values that are important to Canadians. Adopting American policies wholesale is not necessarily the only solution available. We must be ready to explore all of the available options and alternatives.
MLW: In this time of crisis, what would you like to say to the people of Canada?
Joe Clark: It is not often that we recognize a turning point in history. But we are a different world than we were before September 11th, when hijacked planes were flown deliberately into crowded buildings, at the throbbing heart of a superpower, with the explicit purpose of killing innocent people, and breaking the confidence of societies built upon freedom and order.
Our hearts go out to the individuals and families – including far too many Canadians – who have been struck directly by this terrorist tragedy. The direct victims started their day on that Tuesday, as we all did, expecting the ordinary. And suddenly, without warning, without reason, they became the innocent victims of a terrible, premeditated strike against order and humanity.
We have all suffered personal losses, but this goes beyond the experience of most civilized societies, and we can only offer our deepest sympathy, our prayers, and our determination to ensure that, while terrorists can take lives, they cannot destroy free societies, or our faith in our ability to prevail over the most brutal instincts of human kind.
This is a challenge in which Canada must play a leading role. Our sons and daughters died in these tragedies too. But even more than that, at our best, Canada’s role in the world has been to ensure that order prevails. Canadians have done that in war – in Europe, and Korea, in the Gulf. We have done it in peacekeeping, and in diplomacy. We have been leaders in establishing rules of orderly trade, and high standards of human rights. We have earned a reputation as a nation that stands in the front line of defending and advancing free societies.
Canada must exert that leadership now. We must look honestly at home at weaknesses in our own arrangements – whether at our borders, or in our airports, or anywhere else – and we must act urgently to correct them.
And we must stand firmly with the United States, and with Europe, and with other nations who are organizing now international responses to this provocation.
Canada is not and cannot be neutral on these issues. They reach to the heart and core of our history and our nature as a nation. As leader of my national party – as leader of a coalition in Parliament – I assure the government of our full support, if they act boldly.
Sometimes events present nations with opportunities, which we can accept or put aside. But this is more than that – this is an obligation, which Canada must grasp.
The technology of terror didn’t change. What changed was the understanding of what terrorists will do – and where they will do it. Their target was not the thousands of people who died – except that they chose deliberately institutions that symbolize the vigour and self-confidence of modern Western economic and defence systems. And they chose deliberately the kind of trained and accomplished individuals whom the world would never otherwise consider victims.
But the real target of these terrorists – as it usually is — was the sense of security that is essential to any successful society. The purpose of terrorism is, quite precisely, to show that no one is safe. It seeks to explode the order and the confidence that are the basis on which most of us live our lives, and take our risks, and make our assumptions about what a civilized society offers and requires of us. In striking that target, the attacks both succeeded, and they failed.
They succeeded in creating a shock felt round the world, and in stimulating an immediate panic, and a lingering doubt, about the individual security of each of us and each of our families and friends. Each of us does feel less safe, more exposed, than when we woke on that Tuesday morning.
Less safe – but more determined.
And that is where the terrorists failed. They had hoped to expose the weakness of free and ordered societies, which they believe to be materialist, complacent and selfish. Instead, their terrible attacks have revealed a strength of free societies – a resilience, a rationality, a responsibility.
What we are seeing in the long lines of volunteers at blood banks, and in the people going back to work in places that so recently were targets, is more than just compassion or courage. And it is more than clenched-fist determination – more than just a defiant proof that we cannot be threatened or cowed.
Much more importantly, it reflects the values that we have always claimed free systems nourish — the optimism, the activism, the balance in resisting a rush to judgement and, most of all, the palpable sense of personal and community responsibility. In such a material and self-indulgent world, one sometimes wonders whether those values will erode. Now they have been put to a shocking test, and they seem robust.
But if, ironically, the terrorist attacks have proven the strength of the values they deride, those attacks also demonstrate how much the world has changed, and how urgent it is for us to ask how prepared we are for this new world.
You will know that the Canadian Intelligence and Security Service – CSIS – has a mandate to monitor threats to Canada. Let me quote from their report released June 12, 2001 – less than three months before planes ploughed into the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre Towers:
"Terrorism in the years ahead is expected to become more violent, indiscriminate and unpredictable…. There will likely be terrorist attacks whose sole aim would be to incite terror itself. A hardening attitude, and a willingness on behalf of certain terrorist organizations in North America, reinforce the belief that Canadians, now more than ever, are potential victims, and Canada a potential venue, for terrorists attacks."
The Prime Minister has been too cautious and faint hearted in his remarks. It is still not clear where Canada stands on crucial questions like tighter border controls and what kind of military action the country would be prepared to take.
This was an attack not only upon the United States, but upon all democracies. What other world leaders have made clear, and what the Prime Minister should have made clear to all – is that in the wake of these attacks, we are all threatened, we are all "Americans" now. Rather than indicate that Canada was not immediately threatened, the Prime Minister’s response should have been – like the Europeans’, especially the British – that this was an attack on all free, democratic countries.
The federal government has to look at everything from Canada’s immigration laws to airport security. If there are gaps in our system we should find them quickly and fill them quickly. It is our responsibility and our duty. We need to stand beside our allies, beside the United States and Europe and others, in this fight. Canada can do much to tighten airport security, border controls, and immigration screening procedures, as well as increase the budget of its intelligence-gathering agency, CSIS, which is responsible for counter-terrorism.