Domestic terrorism matters. It's time to start addressing it
Today Liberal MP Ujal Dosanjh testified before the Air India Inquiry today, and what he had to say spoke volumes about Canada's anti-terrorism record.
During his testimony, Dosanjh noted the response -- or, rather, lack thereof -- by the Canadian officials he addressed his concerns to while he was the subject of a "reign of terror" consisting of arson, various threats, and a 1985 beating. He had previously spoken out against Sikh extremism.
"I believe that the institutions of our society were unable to understand or comprehend it to any great degree at that time and were not able to deal with it," he asserted. "We were left to fend for ourselves."
Dosajh even addressed his concerns to then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and did so two months before the bombing of Air India Flight 182.
Unfortunately, all too many people would probably be as swift as the authorities of the day to dismiss Dosanjh's plight as a problem internal to an immigrant community.
The fact is, that Dosanjh's experiences reveal a much-ignored facet of the war on terror: the war on domestic terror.
Certainly, some may argue, Canada's Sikhs are an immigrant community. But as immigrants, they have, in a sense, petitioned to be included in the Canadian community, and we have accepted them. As such, the ****** directed at Dosanjh, and those Sikhs who shared his sentiments and outspokeness, very much qualify as domestic terrorism.
Many people believe that Canada is demonstrating its support for the war on terror merely by being in Afghanistan, fighting the Taliban, who harboured terrorists and allowed them to plot their attacks with impunity. This may be the case, but the war on terror abroad is only half the battle. We must fight this battle on the home front as well.
We need not necessarily fight the battle on the home front by cracking down on civil liberties (although we will need to decide to what extent -- if any -- we are willing to sacrifice such liberties in exchange for improved security).
We do, however, need to fight this war by cracking down on terror groups within our own borders. Whether or not Stephane Dion sidetracked this process when he defeated the renewal of sunsetting anti-terror legislation is actually largely immaterial. We have various laws on the books that would allow us to investigate and dismantle thesegroups.
Where, for example, are the crackdowns on organizations like the Ku Klux Klan? What have we done about Babba Khalsa? How about Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam?
They were all judged to be active in Canada as recently as 2002, when a CSIS reported stated, "…with the possible exception of the United States, there are more international terrorist organizations active in Canada than anywhere in the world. This situation can be attributed to Canada's proximity to the United States which currently is the principal target of terrorist groups operating internationally; and to the fact that Canada, a country built upon immigration, represents a microcosm of the world. It is therefore not surprising that the world's extremist elements are represented here, along with peace-loving citizens. Terrorist groups are present here whose origins lie in regional, ethnic and nationalist conflicts, including the Israeli Palestinian one, as well as those in Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, the Punjab, Sri Lanka, Turkey and the former Yugoslavia."
Groups like Calgary's Final Solution Skins and Terry Long's Heritage Front must, of course, be given equal attention.
Unfortunately, domestic terrorism is something that has been as ignored north of the 49th parallel as it has been south of it, and often these ignored warning signs have resulted in tragedy -- as was the case with Air India.
"We felt abandoned by the political leaders, by the government," Dosanjh testified. "We felt that nobody really cared very much."
He's entirely justified in feeling this way. Tragedy could have been prevented if the terror campaign propagated against him and those like him had been propery investigated and addressed.
Worse yet, Dosanjh's experiences with domestic terrorism are not yet over. "The fear and the reign of terror is still there," he said, and noted he still recieves threats to this day.
It's time to start addressing domestic terror now.