ZYTARUK: Do we own our government, or does it own us?

Tom Zytaruk

So let it be written…

So Stephen Harper wants to build his own Berlin Wall around Canada, figuratively speaking.

He’s running for re-election in 2015 but seems to thinks it’s 1984.

When I was a teenager, back during the Cold War, I was always thankful that we Canadians could travel anywhere we darn well pleased, unlike the people living in the Soviet Union and other Marxist-Leninist countries on the other side of that miserable wall.

It was one of the good things that distinguished us from the evil empire.

Liberty of movement, that is.

Mobility rights were enshrined in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 6 (1) in 1982 and before then, in Section 91 of the Constitution Act of 1867. Can’t get much more Canadian than that.

So when I turned my television on this past weekend I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The current prime minister was saying his government, if re-elected in October, would ban Canadians – on pain of criminal charges, yet – from traveling to countries the federal government deems to be terrorist states.

First off, I get that the Conservatives want a tool to deal with those Canadians who would travel abroad to join up with terrorist groups who intend to wreak harm on other Canadians.

I get it.

But is the answer to put an entire nation on lockdown?

They are opening a Pandora’s box here. Of course there are a lot of ifs at play. First, the Conservatives would have to be re-elected and then carry through on their promise to ban certain travel zones. Then it would have to survive inevitable court challenges and one likes to think the Supreme Court would smite down this nonsense the first chance it got.

But let’s say it did become law.

Which countries would be on the no-go list in five years’ time? In ten?

Eastasia? Eurasia? Airstrip One?

Are we living in a country whose citizens own their government or a country where the government owns its citizens?

Seventeen years ago, I married my wife in her country. The immigration process was under way; we did all we’re were legally supposed to do, like good people.

I remember queuing up at the Citizenship and Immigration office in Vancouver. The woman in line before me, from Vietnam I think, had just been reduced to tears by this clown on the government side of the window.

When it was my turn, this same clerk told me that my wife-to-be and I had to get married in Canada, not abroad. Of course she was wrong. I told her no government is going to tell me where I can get married and then politely suggested she pull her head out from the dark hole in which it was ensconced.

This clerk was but a small cog in a very large machine. She was not a prime minister.

In this country, we don’t operate under the Napoleonic Code. Rather, we operate on the premise that until a judge or jury of one’s peers finds an accused person guilty of a criminal offence, the accused is deemed to be not guilty. Criminalizing someone for merely traveling to a place the government of the day declares to be bad assumes the traveler is up to no good when in fact they might well not be.

It’s been said Harper and his Conservative Party have a considerable support base in evangelical Christians.

Ironically, many of these Christians revere as heroes missionaries who have smuggled Bibles into dangerous countries at great personal risk. You know, into the kind of countries that Harper wants to now ban Canadians from visiting.

Is Harper and his party, if re-elected, prepared to criminalize Christian missionaries who would venture into no-go zones to preach the gospel?

Hmmm?

This banning of foreign travel should not only be brought back to the drawing table; the table should be broken up for kindling.

So let it be done…

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