The Chronicle Herald
By Danny Eisen
Danny Eisen is a Toronto-based consultant. He is the cofounder of C-CAT, the Canadian Coalition Against Terror, and lost a family member in the 9-11 attacks on the U.S.
AS CANADA continues to bury its soldiers, it is abundantly clear that sooner or later, regardless of the final outcome of the recent drama in Ottawa, terrorism will again be the focus of Canadian politicians. For unlike Parliament, terrorism has not been prorogued.
Neither the Taliban nor the architects of such horrors as the recent attacks in Mumbai will allow us an indefinite hiatus from dealing with very real issues pertaining to Canadian counter-terrorism policies.
Contentious issues like the mission in Afghanistan and the Anti-Terrorism Act, and controversial names like Khawaja and Khadr continue to be a source of acrimony among lawmakers. But with Michael Igantieff at the helm of the Liberal party, these debates may take on a different hue. The new Liberal leader is a scholar of international renown who has written extensively on these issues and is the author of The Lesser Evil – a seminal work on balancing the need for effective counter-terrorism policies with the values of liberal democracies.
But Mr. Ignatieff and his fellow MPs have constituents who have also done a great deal of thinking about terrorism – not as academics seeking to find the “lesser of evils” in fighting terror, but as victims of the greater evils that terrorism has spawned, including 9-11, the Air India bombing, the Bali bombings and now Mumbai.
One such victim, who lives in Mr. Ignatieff’s riding, is Cindy Barkway. Ms. Barkway was five months pregnant with her second child and was in New York on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, while her husband David attended a meeting on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center. Cindy has banded together with Maureen Basnicki, another 9-11 widow, and other terror victims across Canada to promote an anti-terror legislative initiative that does not require the choosing of a lesser evil – but rather, the creating of a greater good.
These two women and their associates who are members of C-CAT, the Canadian Coalition Against Terror, have taken aim at those who fund and sponsor atrocities like the attacks on Mumbai. The complex and convoluted nature of terrorist financing has made it extremely difficult for our criminal courts to prove the guilt of terror sponsors “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Only one person has ever been convicted of this crime in Canada, even though authorities have identified hundreds of millions of terror-related dollars flowing through this country in recent years.
But the legislative initiative proposed by Ms. Barkway and other Canadian terror victims would change that. It would allow Canadian terror victims to launch civil suits against state and local sponsors of terrorism in Canadian courts. In civil action, only the preponderance of evidence is required to successfully find the purveyors of mass murder liable for their actions, to seize their assets and to expose them to the public for what they are. This bill can succeed in deterring terror sponsorship where the criminal justice system has failed to do so. Yet it violates no one’s rights, does not require the firing of a single bullet and does not need the permission of the Governor General.
Mr. Ignatieff has met with Cindy Barkway and her colleagues and has publicly endorsed this bill, as did former justice minister and attorney general Irwin Cotler and MP Bob Rae. Although the legislation is a Conservative initiative which Stephen Harper committed to in his party’s election platform, this bill’s reintroduction in the next session of Parliament will provide an opportunity for the two leaders to co-operate on an issue of common concern and commitment.
If our parliamentarians can take this step and pass this legislation into law, they will have succeeded not only in impairing the financial engine of the terrorist enterprise, but also in repairing, to some small degree, the legislative integrity of a Parliament that has been bitterly divided on issues related to counter-terrorism.This legislation provides our tarnished political culture with a rare opportunity to achieve the greater good, rather than to settle for the lesser of evils.
It is incumbent upon both the Liberals and the Conservatives who are responsible for our presence in Afghanistan to ensure that this bill is passed without further delay. It is absurd to be sending our troops to fight terrorism abroad while allowing hundreds of millions of terror-related dollars to be flowing through our own backyard. As both these parties have agreed on ending the Canadian mission in Afghanistan in 2011, hopefully they can now agree on beginning to enhance our tools for fighting terror sponsorship right here in Canada in 2009, by stewarding this common-sense bill into law.
Passage of this legislation, soon to be re-introduced in the Senate by Senator David Tkachuk, will be an appropriate complement to our efforts in Afghanistan, that will help to financially impair the terrorist infrastructure that is responsible for so many lowered flags in Canada and shattered families in places like Mumbai, Toronto, London and Madrid. Many Canadians would find such a joint initiative a welcome beginning to a new political year – following one that most of us would rather forget.