In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Canada, like her neighbour to the south, created a slew of new laws specific to the detention of people as related to terrorist activities. These laws gave the government the power to detain people not just for committing terrorist acts, but also for their potential to commit said acts.
While that's all very well and good and maybe even necessary, the difficulty lies in defining exactly what a terrorist act is. Part of Canada's law defining a terrorist act was struck down as being unconstitutional the other day by Superior Court judge on the grounds that it impinged upon the right to freedom of religion.
In his ruling he said that defining terrorist activities as criminal acts motivated by religion is a serious infringement on religious freedom. While some are dismissing this action as not really being that big a deal, because it doesn't add anything to the already nebulous definition of what actually is a terrorist act, the fact of the matter is that it does eliminate the possibility that anybody is going to be picked up as a potential terrorist based on their religion.
It seems that Canada is using a process of elimination in an attempt to define what exactly constitutes terrorism and an act of terror. As it stands now, our attempts are in line with pretty much the rest of world and the United Nations. But the problem is nobody has actually defined what exactly terrorism is. U.N. Resolution 1566 might say things like attacks on civilians to coerce a government into doing or not doing something are acts of terrorism, but there is no definitive definition as to what makes a person a terrorist.
The problem is there is a certain amount of moral ambiguity about some of the ways we would define terrorism. One person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter is one of the most often repeated paradoxes of the twentieth century when people are talking about geo-political realities. If we have to start with that as an accepted reality are we ever going to be able to come up with a definitive definition of terrorism?