Words from Professor Jez Littlewood

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Writing in the latest public report of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) the Director of CSIS noted that ‘terrorism is still our greatest preoccupation’ in a world of diverse threats to Canada and Canadians. Similarly, in the 2013 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada terrorism was identified as a global problem and that the ‘threats Canadians face at home are most often connected with and inspired by developments in the terrorist threat abroad.’ According to the data on 2012, terrorist attacks took place in 85 countries and killed over 15,000 people.

The effects of terrorism, however, manifest themselves well beyond any actual attack. The immediate, often tragic, impacts are on individuals and families – the victims of terrorism – as well as their communities, neighbourhoods, and the authorities who must respond to an attack. Incidents also have a ripple effect across a society and across international borders altering the day-to-day life of citizens who might perceive terrorism as something that happens in faraway places. Some of these effects are obvious: airport security and other target hardening measures at facilities, both public and private; legislation drafted and implemented in the aftermath of an attack. Other effects are not so easily identifiable or as tangible, such as mistrust and fear of ‘them’ or the slow erosion of civil liberties that can occur in any democracy countering terrorism.

For Canada, a multicultural democracy where values, interests, and economic well-being are founded on interactions across the world, terrorism somewhere else has multiple implications for the security and safety, as well as interests, of Canada and Canadians. Understanding the threat terrorism poses is therefore essential to a democracy like Canada. The threat, however, cannot be understood only through the lens of an attack. Countering terrorism itself has immediate and longer-term effects on a society. History offers multiple examples of counterterrorism that exacerbated the problem of terrorism rather than reduced and managed it.

A more holistic assessment, appreciation, and awareness of terrorism and counterterrorism and their effect on Canadian security and society are at the heart of the TSAS endeavour. Terrorism remains one of the most enduring, dynamic, and heterogeneous threats to Canada, including its values, interests, and citizens.  There is no easy solution to terrorism and as a phenomenon it cannot be eradicated. As Richard English notes, democratic societies have to learn to live with terrorism, manage it, and ‘persuasively, shrewdly, and effectively’ respond to the problems it poses. In responding, as others have argued, ‘our democratic principles are our strongest weapons’ against terrorism and in counterterrorism ‘our ethics and our interests are clearly aligned.

We initiate our TSAS blog therefore with an invitation to our bloggers to reflect on the ways terrorism and counterterrorism affect Canada, its security, society, values, principles, and bring to a wider audience assessments, viewpoints, analysis and information that will inform the debate on how best to respond to terrorism.

Jez Littlewood 

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Categories: Official Messages

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