By Maureen Basnicki
Maureen Basnicki is a founding director of the Canadian Coalition Against Terror (C-CAT). Maureen’s husband Ken was murdered on 9/11. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Indians are calling the co-ordinated attacks in Mumbai last week their 9/11. And as I watched the flames and people coming out of the windows of the hotels in India’s financial capital, it reminded me of my 9/11.
My husband Ken was on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. I watched the towers collapse on television, knowing that my husband was there. He was one of 24 Canadians who lost their lives that day.
Once again we have seen Canadian families watching the images on television and praying that their family members were safe. Canadians in Mumbai went missing, were kidnapped or were injured. One Canadian has died and another Canadian family from Surrey is mourning the loss of a loved one in Mumbai.
We are making an error if we perceive these victims as only stories of personal tragedy, as stories of individuals who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Rather, these are victims of terrorism: a transnational phenomenon which is more than a particularly pernicious form of organized crime. Terrorism is different in its scope, intent, method and impact. Its primary objective is not economic or personal gain in a criminal sense. Most criminals are not intent on destroying themselves or society as a whole.
These attacks must therefore be seen not only as an assault against the individual victims but also against the sovereignty of each and every country whose citizens have been victimized. This reality should be paramount in our deliberations about Canadian counterterrorism policies both domestically and internationally.
We simply cannot see this fight as someone else’s war. How can we not see the carnage in Mumbai in the shadow of the war in Afghanistan? Imagine what might happen if the Taliban and al-Qaeda once again have control of a country from which to co-ordinate these types of attacks? Imagine what we might be watching on a daily basis if we do not prevail.
But I also believe that this war must be fought more effectively here in Canada as well. If we are going to be successful in the fight against terrorism, we must stop the people who pay for the bullets and bombs that kill people in places like Mumbai, New York, London and Baghdad.
While our anti-terrorism laws have been greatly enhanced, our courts have had only limited success in terror-related prosecutions. To date there has only been one criminal conviction for terror financing in Canada even though authorities have identified hundreds of millions of terror-related dollars flowing through this country in recent years.
I have been working for the last five years as a member of C-CAT, the Canadian Coalition Against Terror, to do my part to ensure that others do not end up in my shoes or in the shoes of the victims in Mumbai. We are working to pass legislation in Canada that would make it much easier to hold state and local sponsors of terror responsible for their actions. Victims would be able to sue these terror sponsors, who often evade justice in the criminal courts, and hold them accountable in civil courts and in the court of public opinion.
Civil suits will help deter terrorism by exposing those who sponsor it. The legislation is supported by MPs from across the political spectrum, and the Conservative party pledged in its election platform to introduce similar measures.
I hope that our politicians who are now working to address the economic crisis facing Canadians will pass C-CAT’s legislation quickly. The attacks in Mumbai — like those of 9/11 — were aimed not only at people but at a major financial centre. Whatever economic stimulus packages are passed could be severely compromised by other terror attacks.
We need to protect our citizens and rebuild our economy. But to achieve both of these goals, we also need to be more effective in dismantling the terror economy that supports global terrorism at such a terrible human and financial cost. This terror economy is estimated by some experts to generate about $1.5 trillion a year.
How can we continue to allow money to flow from Canada to terrorists as we watch the blood continue to flow in places such as Mumbai? Those who have perpetrated the horrors in Mumbai and New York City have shown a keen understanding of the interplay between our physical security and economic prosperity. We should show no less conviction, cunning and creativity in protecting both.