Saturday, October 16, 2010

PROFUNC shouldn't surprise any Canadian

The entire shock over the Canadian government's secret plan (so secret it was kept from the Attorney General) to arrest and detain indefinitely Communist sympathizers is completely unwarranted in my mind. The PROFUNC program (standing for PROminent FUNCtionaries of the Communist Party) indeed represents the attitude of Western democracies of the time.

Not unwarranted because of the nature of the program, as most people in this day and age usually cringe at the thought of secret programs arresting Canadian citizens based on their political views. The shock over that aspect is very warranted, though keep in mind the fears of the time. But the shock over the existence of the program has no justification, because we've seen very clearly the willingness of the Canadian government to commit one of the highest sins of a democratic state, in order to take out what it perceives are domestic threats. The question, really, is how didn't we assume this program existed?

At the time when PROFUNC was running, basically all NATO and US-allied countries had similar programs aimed at disrupting communist operations and sympathizers, including Great Britain, West Germany, Australia, and so on. At this period of time, anti-Communism was the ascending ideology of all mainstream groups, and governments were pressured by the US and even domestic forces to implement these programs for fear of Communist agents starting an uprising among portions of the civilian population. The idea was to stop any such idea of a new revolution (and this was actively sought by the Soviet Union, to be sure at the very beginning, if not so much after Stalin's reign) before it could happen, thus saving the governments a heck of a mess to deal with. One thing that democratic states do not like is instability, and will usually try and cap anything that may cause it.

So the idea that peaceful little Canada, who elected socialist governments provincially and essentially ran the only Communist Member of Parliament out of the country, could never have such a program is being naive about the nature of our state. As a Western liberal democracy, we were apart of the entire Cold War paranoia just as much as anyone else. The governments of the period faced two choices with that: either we set up a program in order to deal with a perceived uprising that is relatively non-violent and can prevent any future violence (but infringes on civil liberty); or we don't have this contingency program, and end up dealing with it sort of on-the-fly, and could possibly lead to violence escalating.

What people should think of when they look at PROFUNC is the October Crisis. Violence already occurred, and the federal, provincial, and municipal governments took action to try and round up any of the perceived leaders of the movement that was causing the violence. The idea was that cutting off the head would stop the body, and with the FLQ, it did work. Certainly, and especially on the part of Jean Drapeau, there were abuses of the round-up law. And when we look back on it now, a lot of us cringe at the idea of all these people with a certain political persuasion. But because it was a successful operation, most of us look at it and say, it might've infringed on our civil liberties, but we it prevented violence and brought perpetrators to justice.

What if PROFUNC had to come in use because there really was a severe threat poised by Communists in Canada? If we rounded up those known sympathizers with this cause, it would certainly infringe on the rights we have as citizens - but if it prevented violence and instability, would most people be as shocked and ashamed at the program as they appear to be now?

Kudos to the Fifth Estate to breaking the story. But Canadians shouldn't be shocked to find it out. If anything, this should be old news.

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