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Terrorism vs. Freedom – Je suis Charlie
G. Shawn Swarts
G. Shawn Swarts
G. Shawn Swarts
Shawn graduated with a law degree from University of Western Ontario. Shawn articled in Ottawa, specializing in criminal defence work. Since his call to the bar in 1991, he continues to practice in this area.

Last week a group of terrorists entered the Paris magazine office “Charlie Hebdo” and killed 12 people and in the end with their own deaths brought the death toll up to 20. Charlie Hebdo is a satirical magazine dating back to 1970 that viciously lambasts politics, celebrities, today’s news and religions. It is in some ways the epitome of free speech - insulting and offending pretty much everybody. It was their satirical cartoons and commentary re: the Muslim faith that brought down the ire of a few extreme and fanatical Muslims who believe anyone who criticizes or depicts the prophet Mohammed must be killed. It turns out this attack and similar attacks in Ottawa, Montreal and other parts of the world were “Lone Wolf” attacks meaning they were not part of a greater organization but instead orchestrated by individuals on their own accord. These are the hardest types of attacks to stop as often the perpetrators are not involved or linked to other organizations that the government watches, they are instead self-motivated often inspired by radical discourse on the internet.
It then raises the question – How can we make our selves safe in the future? On this issue a reality check is needed. Although terrorism is a real and legitimate concern the odds of it affecting the everyday Canadian is astronomical – the reality is you are much more likely to get struck by lightning in Canada then by a terrorist. The knee jerk reaction to these events is fear and that fear is often used by governments to increase police powers and reduce or even eliminate our basic rights. For instance the right to search a person’s home requires the police to have a reasonable belief that things will be found in that home that will be evidence of a criminal offence. They must swear an affidavit setting out the evidence collected and why they need that search warrant before it can be issued by a judge. Why not eliminate that onerous procedure and allow the police to search and seize the homes, computers and persons of anyone even suspected of terrorism without a warrant? If they have nothing to hide what difference does it make?
The reality is it makes a BIG difference. Giving police unlimited powers without judicial authorization is by definition the creation of a police state. Our Rights and Freedoms are what define us as a country and a people and every time we allow those rights to be chiseled away in the name of safety we are letting those same terrorists win.
In recent months the threat of terrorism has been dealt with in 2 very opposite ways, in the US, Sony cancelled the release of the movie The Interview after vague threats were made against any theatre that showed that picture. The US got scared, they caved and the terrorists won. In France, the opposite happened despite vague threats of violence, on Saturday night over 3 ½ million people took to the streets of Paris with people carrying signs saying “Je suis Charlie” to show the terrorists of the world that their acts of violence will not cow their country or their free press, and that the despicable acts of a few does not represent the Muslim faith. In France the terrorists lost.
I truly hope Canada also takes a strong stand and recognizes that our rights are far more important than the illusion of safety that their erosion would create. Je Suis Charlie!

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