While the recent arrests of two individuals in connection with a terror plot on Canadian soil shakes our collective sense of security, we must remain committed to ensuring that we are doing everything in our power, both as individual citizens and as a government, to prevent violent extremism.
We can do this by remaining true to Canadian values.
By values, I mean that a nation's foreign policy -- which can be a socio-political driver of terrorist activity -- must convey the principles of nation-building, cooperation and peace to other nations. While we may not know the motives for the attacks on Boston or the foiled attack on Canadian soil, the way to address terrorism has changed drastically over the past decade.
Following the 9/11 attacks, Prime Minister Chretien came under heavy fire for comments made in a CBC interview that pointed to a cause and effect relationship between "Western arrogance" and terrorism:
"It is one of the problems. You know, you cannot exercise your powers to the point of humiliation for the others. And that is what the Western world -- not only the Americans, the Western world -- has to realize, because they are human beings too, and there are long-term consequences, if you don't look hard at the reality, in 10 or 20 or 30 years from now."
Although accused of it, Chretien wasn't justifying terrorism -- he was elaborating on the consequences that foreign policy could have if it's seen to be exploitative or oppressive of other nations. This by no means implies justification.
The fact of the matter is that no one, not even bleeding-heart leftists, are denying the importance of intelligence-gathering and in some cases military intervention. However, what they are saying is that the strong condemnation of terrorist activity by violence and use of force -- with no other manner of addressing the causes that bred the cowardly behavior in the first place -- is a zero-sum game.
Even though the methods terrorists employ seem to be purely mad, there is an unfortunate, sick and twisted method to that madness. The overall aim of terrorism is to threaten, intimidate and coerce through violence for political means, especially when it comes to group-affiliated terrorism. Lone-wolf attacks, those carried out by individuals who are not connected to formal terrorist organizations, are much harder to address and prevent due to their spontaneity.
Last year I had the chance to work with the Department of Public Safety on National Security Policy, and if there's one thing that you need to focus on in preventing any kind of violence from happening -- whether it be localized gun violence or terrorism -- it's the root cause. Mind you, gun violence and extremism are two very different animals, but what they do share in common is an immature and ridiculous sense of expression through violence.
Personal learnings from the Countering Violent Extremism portfolio echoed the sentiments that Justin Trudeau expressed following the Boston Bombings -- to get to the root cause to prevent future attacks. Trudeau's comment elicited unfounded criticism from Prime Minister Harper and fellow Conservatives, but history shows that violence begets violence.
In the 1967 publication, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it." The attacks on Boston and the thwarted attack on Canada are stark reminders of the post 9/11 world we live in. Violence has been a part of the human story from time immemorial, what hasn't been, is peace. While it may seem impossible to prevent future terror attacks, it is possible to try. We already know that pointing to various ethnic communities, declaring war on other countries and oppressive foreign policies are the antithesis to peace and security.
What we need to do is focus on what works, and stop doing what doesn't. So let's do this the Canadian way -- with a strong intelligence gathering and policing, a national security policy that seeks to assist vulnerable Canadian communities, enhancing social-cohesion and introducing a stronger foreign policy that conveys strength through its commitment to peace, and power, in its commitment to development.