The National Post
By Maureen Basnicki
Maureen Basnicki is a founding director of the Canadian Coalition Against Terror (C-CAT). Her husband Ken was murdered on 9/11.
While ordinary Canadians sport red poppies, some MPs pay tribute to the fallen leader of a listed terrorist group
Remembrance Day looms large on the calendar. On Canada Day, we celebrate our independence and freedom. On Remembrance Day, we recognizes their cost.
For my children and me, Remembrance Day is also the third and final marker of the fall season, the first of which is September 11 — the day our lives came crashing down in the wreckage of the World Trade Center, where my husband Ken had been attending a meeting on the 106th floor. For the last six years, I have travelled the route that leads from that day in September to Thanksgiving in October and then Remembrance Day in November. (And yes, despite it all I, am still grateful on Thanksgiving; both for what I have, and also for what I once had, even though it is now gone forever.)
On Remembrance Day, our focus shifts away from personal loss or gain, however significant, to the losses of others. While I believe that Canadians recognize the enormity of the sacrifice of those who have laid down their lives for this country and its principles, I have doubts about our capacity to “remember” in any meaningful way.
For the first time in a generation, many Canadians too young to have had any first-hand connection to the terrible wars of the mid-20th century now have fresh graves to ponder. These are the graves of those who died fighting those whose ambition is the destruction of our society — the same Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists who murdered my husband and have promised to inflict further damage on Canada and other Canadians.
Even so, some of us seem incapable of any meaningful remembrance. How else can we explain the absurdity of lowering our heads in honor of those who have fallen in the fight against terrorism, while tolerating the annual flow of hundreds of millions of dollars to terrorists from Canada? How else to explain that it took almost 20 years for Canada to ban the organization responsible for the Air India bombings? How else can we explain the fact that while ordinary Canadians sport red poppies on our lapels, some Canadian MPs pay tribute to a fallen leader of the Tamil Tigers, a listed terrorist group renowned for its cruelty to children?
To remember our losses without fully appreciating the cause in which they were incurred is to violate the meaning of memory itself, and does no honor to those who fight on our behalf. I once heard it said that “In Remembrance is the seed of salvation.” Remembrance is not just recalling a fact or summoning an emotion from the recesses of our minds. It is the key to our growth. Remembrance is the distinctly human capacity for the organization of our personal and collective histories into patterns of meaning that allow for the possibility of a different future.
Victims of terror, of which I am one, are simply incapable of forgetting the cause for which our soldiers have fought and died so valiantly. And we are determined to do our part to ensure that memory prevails in the building of a better and safer future. The group I helped found, the Canadian Coalition Against Terror, has banded together with MPs and Senators of all parties to pass legislation that would allow Canadian victims of terror to sue local and state sponsors of terrorism in Canadian courts.
To date, no one in Canada has been criminally convicted of financing terrorism, despite the hundreds of millions of terror-related dollars that have been traced to Canada. Our bill will allow for terror sponsors that often evade the criminal justice system to be successfully pursued in a civil court. Many leading counterterrorism experts and jurists agree that civil suits of this sort represent one of the best tools we have in fighting terrorism.
That is not our only consideration in pursuing this legislation. It has symbolic value, as well. Canada’s legal system is the collective reservoir of our moral and judicial culture and history. As such, I can think of no better place for us to insert what amounts to a judicial memory chip, to be utilized as a vehicle to help ensure that Canada always remembers, and to make it clear to terrorists who murder Canadians and others with impunity: We will never forget.