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“It is very important that Canadians remain vigilant” – Part 1 of A Lot

Vig-i-lant [vijuh-luh nt]: 1 – “keenly watchful to detect danger; wary”; 2 – “ever awake and alert”.

Vig-i-lan-te [vij-uhlan-tee]: noun “any person who takes the law into his or her own hands, as by avenging a crime”; adjective “done violently and summarily, without recourse to lawful procedures”.

Tomorrow, on July 9, a man and a woman will sit or stand or swear to remain silent in front of a provincial court as they face their charges. According to the July 2 RCMP report, these charges are as follows:

“[C]onspiring to place an explosive in or against a place of public use, a government or public facility, with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, for the benefit of, at the direction or in association with a terrorist group.” These fall under Sections 431.2(2), 83.19 and 81(1)(d) of the Criminal Code of Canada.

But you don’t know what those are, do you?

Because you, along with pretty much everybody else, have not memorized the Criminal Code. Or read it. Or even really care. 

But I’m going to tell you why you should care. It’s simple, it’s numberless, and it’s this: Because if you care, you’ll realize that you don’t have to. Well, not about the things you are supposed to be vigilant about. “Terrorist plot”; “Al Qaeda ideology”; Satanic music; radicalization; methadone; pellet guns; loud yelling; unpaid rent; burqas; writing on the wall; The Lust Boys; neighbours; a television with holes in it; brainwashing; a cat in police custody; cookers; cars; a black truck; a street; a flustered landlady; that same cat’s urine; piles of laundry; a basement suite in Surrey… This mumble-jumble could pass as a college frat party gone only slightly wrong, so let’s get a grip: Half of this list shouldn’t be very applicable to the story I’m trying to tell – and the half that is is not comprised of the terms you think.

So to start, how about we “remain vigilant” about not buying into things without some understanding.

– – –

81(1)(d) 

“(1) Every one commits an offence who […]

(d) makes or has in his possession or has under his care or control any explosive substance with intent thereby

(i) to endanger life or to cause serious damage to property, or

(ii) to enable another person to endanger life or to cause serious damage to property.”

83.19 

“(1) Every one who knowingly facilitates a terrorist activity is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.

Facilitation

(2) For the purposes of this Part, a terrorist activity is facilitated whether or not

  • (a) the facilitator knows that a particular terrorist activity is facilitated;
  • (b) any particular terrorist activity was foreseen or planned at the time it was facilitated; or
  • (c) any terrorist activity was actually carried out.”

431.2(2) 

“(2) Every one who delivers, places, discharges or detonantes an explosive or other lethal device to, into, in or against a place of public use, a government or public facility, a public transportation system or an infrastructure facility, either with intent to cause death or serious bodily injury or with intent to cause extensive destruction of such a place, system or facility that results in or is likely to result in major economic loss, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for life.”

– – –

Before moving on to the elephant in the room, I would like to reiterate that the court hearing for these charges is tomorrow. Which would probably make it inappropriate to speculate about intent, motive, and reasoning, given that the two individuals in question have only been charged with allegedly committing these crimes. Did we have a trial? Did these people confess that yes, they were inspired by al-Qaeda? Is it legal to charge that someone was “for sure” motivated towards this thing they’re not yet convicted of?

I’m calling it out as inappropriate, but I won’t say the hype and speculation are wrong. And that’s only because I don’t know where to draw the moral line that separates the bad sins from the socially acceptable ones. (But I’ll describe this elusive line for you and you can tell me when you see it – it’s fat and grey and relative, and most likely on your left ’cause we all like to be “right”.)

Speaking of fat and grey, this elephant…

I’d like to see a data visualization of how, and in what contexts, the words “terrorism,” “terrorist,” and “terrorist plot” have been used over the course of the past week. Without any definition of what specifically is meant. I mean, not only is it being used left, right, and centre, but both arrested individuals are charged with “knowingly facilitat[ing] a terrorist activity”, so we should probably know what it means.

Oh, but everybody knows what terrorism is. Really, is that so. If it’s so simple, go ahead and define it. On your own. Try it. Try coming up with an all-encompassing definition that can be used to describe 9/11 and global embassy bombings and suicide bombings in the Middle East that doesn’t also include a mass-shooting. Or would you consider that terrorism as well? Can you explain why? What’s the difference between a crime, and an act of terrorism? Is it scale? Is it motive? Is it religion? 

Only innocent people get hurt? You better qualify innocent. Only perpetrated by guerilla groups, by fringe groups, by radicals and vigilantes? So a state can’t commit terrorist acts? Think about that one carefully.

Is your head spinning yet?

Let’s go to the Code. “Terrorist act” is defined as follows:

  • (b) an act or omission, in or outside Canada,

    • (i) that is committed

      • (A) in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause, and

      • (B) in whole or in part with the intention of intimidating the public, or a segment of the public, with regard to its security, including its economic security, or compelling a person, a government or a domestic or an international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act, whether the public or the person, government or organization is inside or outside Canada, and

    • (ii) that intentionally

      • (A) causes death or serious bodily harm to a person by the use of violence,

      • (B) endangers a person’s life,

      • (C) causes a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or any segment of the public,

      • (D) causes substantial property damage, whether to public or private property, if causing such damage is likely to result in the conduct or harm referred to in any of clauses (A) to (C), or

      • (E) causes serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system, whether public or private, other than as a result of advocacy, protest, dissent or stoppage of work that is not intended to result in the conduct or harm referred to in any of clauses (A) to (C),

and includes a conspiracy, attempt or threat to commit any such act or omission, or being an accessory after the fact or counselling in relation to any such act or omission, but, for greater certainty, does not include an act or omission that is committed during an armed conflict and that, at the time and in the place of its commission, is in accordance with customary international law or conventional international law applicable to the conflict, or the activities undertaken by military forces of a state in the exercise of their official duties, to the extent that those activities are governed by other rules of international law.”

– – –

Slightly less “glorified” and “sensationalized” when written in bureaucratic jargon, right? It’s in reference to this – if you’re still here caring with me – that John Nuttall and Amanda Korody will be judged.

We’ve learned something about the law. Wonderful. But what’s the point?

Aside from trying to emphasize that in general, it’s good to look things up, one observation that can be made is that when media uses the word “terrorist” or “terrorist act,” it usually has a way of sounding much more dramatic than the above definition. Another, is that this definition is pretty damn vague. (Be vigilant about that.

The question on my mind, though, is whether or not this attempted act, in and of itself, was really, by definition, an attempted terrorist act.

But that’s another post.

Stay vigilant, my friends.

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