Public Safety

The headline on my free Metro newspaper this morning was dramatic and to the point: “Terrorists threaten Canada.” The story stems from an internet post made by an al Qaeda group that said “cutting oil supplies to the United States, or at least curtailing it, would contribute to the ending of the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan,” and called for attacks on Canadian petroleum facilities as one way of accomplishing that.

Of course, this isn’t really new news. Canada’s been a target of al Qaeda and similar groups since before 9/11. All the same, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day reacted by saying, “we’ve always said that Canada is not immune to threats. We take this threat seriously.” (Between the lines, it sounds like he’s almost excited to get his first real threat as Public Safety Minister, but hopefully that’s just my over-active cynicism.)

Day also added that it’s possible to protect “all of our assets, both human and structural.” (Nice to know that the protection of human life and the protection of oil drilling operations are of equal priority.)

One of the more interesting quotes, however, came from Stephen Harper, who told MPs that “the most important responsibility of government is the preservation of order and the protection of its citizens.” (And its structures. Don’t forget its structures.)

I’m not the first to point this out, but we’re currently facing an even greater threat to order and our protection. We now know that even if Harper and Bush see the light (or, say, a bunch of Green MPs get elected) and start enacting plans to actually reduce our greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, the planet will continue to get hotter for centuries. It’s past time to start thinking not just about preventing further climate change, but about how we’ll manage with the changes we’ve already set in motion.

For example, where, and how, will we grow our food? Where will our water come from? How will we deal with increased pressure from the United States and China for the freshwater in our boarders? How will we prepare against new diseases? What plan do we have for replacing all of the infrastructure we’ve built on the now-melting permafrost? How might rising ocean levels affect our coastal provinces? How can we build secure, local economies as international ones become less stable and viable? How will we keep our national economy strong as more jurisdictions like California refuse to buy our tar-sands oil because it’s too dirty?

There are answers, but there’s also much work to be done. Terrorism is a real threat that needs to be guarded against, but if our government really cares about public safety, order, and the protection of its citizens, there are other threats that deserve more of their attention.

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