The Don Dunphy Inquiry is important to all Canadians

Watching the live stream of the Commission of Inquiry Respecting the Death of Donald Dunphy is, well, disconcerting.

Check the Whoa!Canada calendar for the Don Dunphy Inquiry schedule https://whoacanada.wordpress.com/calendar/
Check the Whoa!Canada calendar for the Don Dunphy Inquiry schedule
https://whoacanada.wordpress.com/calendar/

Today RNC Constable Smyth told the Inquiry he spent an hour scanning a years worth of Don Dunphy’s twitter stream before going to see Don Dunphy.  Of course we can’t actually see Don Dunphy’s twitter stream because it’s been taken down.  But the tweets still exist (there was a time when Twitter said all tweets would eventually end up in the Libary of Congress).  We are talking about *thousands* of tweets, here, tweets that law enforcement and lawyers have access to.

The Inquiry is told Don Dunphy tweeted an a wide variety of subjects across many issues, including human rights and social justice. Don Dunphy routinely tweeted or retweeted inspirational quotations from the likes of the Dali Lama and Albert Einstein.  Mr. Dunphy also talked about issues that directly concerned him.  An injured worker who felt ill served by government, with particular grievances with the Workplace Health, Safety & Compensation Commission of Newfoundland and Labradorhe talked about government failure.

Dunphy, 59, was a former truck driver who battled for years with workers’ compensation after being crushed at 28 by a backhoe on a construction site. The frequent Twitter user called himself “a crucified injured worker from NL Canada where employers treat (the) injured like criminals.”
Inquiry to ask: Why did Newfoundland police officer shoot Don Dunphy?

When apprised of a “disconcerting” tweet, Constable Joe Smyth, a member of the RNC protective detail for then Premier Davis, today told the Inquiry he made an assumption  Don Dunphy would react badly if he had he had gone to Mr. Dunphy’s house accompanied by a uniformed RNC officer.  Instead Constable Smyth went alone, driving an unmarked vehicle, dressed in plainclothes.  And when he got there, it seems he was deliberately cagey about why he was there.  And Don Dunphy ended up dead.

Today, Dunphy family lawyer, Bob Simmonds tried to find out the basis for the officer’s assumption, since Smyth agreed Don Dunphy had neither advocated or promoted violence in his tweets. In answer, Constable Smyth characterized Don Dunphy’s stated belief — that death of his wife and others were due to institutional failure — as “ideation”

One Wikipedia definition is:

“Ideation is the creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas, where an idea is understood as a basic element of thought that can be either visual, concrete, or abstract.[1] Ideation comprises all stages of a thought cycle, from innovation, to development, to actualization.[2] As such, it is an essential part of the design process, both in education and practice.[3]

But clearly that is not the definition Constable Smyth intended.  “Ideation” is his reason for believing Don Dunphy needed “threat assessment” ASAP.  Which indicates his meaning is more likely “Paranoid Ideation.”

As Mr. Simmonds questions the officer about the urgency or appropriateness of interrupting Don Dunphy in his home, unannounced, at meal time on Easter Sunday:

“There is a duty and an expectation when you identify certain behaviours and follow up on those behaviors… an unresolved grievance that may or may not be grounded in reality.”

— Constable Smyth

When the officer says “may or may not be grounded in reality,” he implies Mr. Dunphy may suffer an inability to differentiate between reality and unreality.

This sounds to me as though the entire series of events culminating in this tragic death of Don Dunphy was built on the RNC Officer’s mistaken belief he was somehow competent to render a medical diagnosis of Mr. Dunphy based entirely on a superficial reading of the dead man’s Twitter feed.  What a frightening assumption for a law officer to make.  While I imagine there are folks at Workplace NL or elected officials in the government of Newfoundland and Labrador who might have disliked or disagreed with him, it seems the only person insinuating Don Dunphy was imagining things is the RNC Officer who shot and killed him on that Easter Sunday afternoon.

Constable Smyth’s subsequent ill advised email takes this hubris even further, as he wrote about being “too late” to “help” Mr Dunphy, or that the tragedy is “an opportunity to educate” the public about proactive “Intelligence based policing,” Constable Smyth even drew an outrageous comparison to the Ottawa shooting, explaining public officials need protection from “individuals and groups who will be disgruntled, and when desperation and instability is added to the mix you will have security concerns.”  Perhaps the worst of it was in the closing paragraph:

“Although I cannot regret my actions last Sunday, I unequivocally wish I could have visited Mr. Dunphy at a point in his life where another level of intervention may have been possible. Our lives can change or end in the blink of an eye. Please seize any opportunity to help those who need it.”

CBC: RNC officer who shot Don Dunphy wishes better intervention possible

Mr. Dunphy’s “behavior” had been exclusively verbal.  And the only evidence of”escalation” seems to be in Constable Smyth’s perceptions.  Yet even he admits that, before he himself went out to Mitchells Brook, N.L., there was no foundation to suggest Don Dunphy posed an imminent threat.   Constable Smyth says he went to Don Dunphy’s home as part of his “threat assessment” process, to afford Mr. Dunphy an opportunity to explain his Twitter comments.

As Mr. Simmonds points out, Mr. Dunphy was simply exercising his right to free speech.  His right to express his dissatisfaction with government.  Why should Mr. Dunphy have to account to law enforcement for free speech in a free country?

And yet Constable Smyth goes on to describe Don Dunphy’s Twitter feed as “following a pathway to violence.”

As it happens, Constable Smyth is not a psychiatrist or even a psychologist, but a police officer who has taken some courses.  A police officer who continues to believe himself competent to unilaterally make such assessments of citizens.  This is seriously problematic.

Bob Simmonds
Bob Simmonds, lawyer for Meghan Dunphy, cross examines RNC Constable Smyth

After establishing Constable Smyth had no legal right to be in Don Dunphy’s home without Mr. Dunphy’s permission, Mr. Simmonds asked the constable why, when it became clear Don Dunphy no longer wanted him there — when Mr. Dunphy was, according to Constable Smyth’s words, “frothing at the mouth” — why didn’t the officer just leave?

Constable Smyth explained he didn’t leave because Don Dunphy didn’t explicitly tell him to leave.  And Don Dunphy died.

Even if you are willing to assume everything Constable Smyth believes everything he has testified to be true, how can any officer incapable of recognizing when an interview subject wants him to leave possibly be competent to make mental assessments of citizens?

Civil Rights Exist To Protect Citizens

The Don Dunphy Inquiry is bigger than Newfoundland and Labrador; this tragedy shines a light on a danger facing all of Canada.

When people are afraid someone is listening, free speech is no longer a right, but a dangerous practice.  When law enforcement monitors innocent law abiding citizens on social media platforms like Twitter, citizens whose only “crime” is the exercise our Charter rights to free speech, our Charter rights are under attack.

Constable Joe Smyth answers questions at the Commission of Inquiry Respecting the Death of Donald Dunphy
Constable Joe Smyth answers questions at the Commission of Inquiry Respecting the Death of Donald Dunphy today.

Tom Mahoney, Executive Director, WorkplaceNL told police Constable Smyth said:

The worst thing about these situations is these guys you know tend to be in their house, they tend to feel free to say what they like, but they don’t realize there are consequences.

Mr. Simmonds questioned Constable Smyth as to the “consequences for free speech.”  He also wanted to know why, absent any other evidence, did he decide Don Dunphy was a person of interest requiring ASAP investigation based solely on the fact he spoke his mind about politics and politicians online.  But Constable Smyth repeatedly denied infringing Don Dunphy’s right to free speech.  But what else can you call it when an agent of law enforcement takes what you say on social media and uses it to unilaterally judge you?

Privacy– freedom from having to worry that the government is not watching and listening to us without good reason (what the law calls probable cause) is an important part of how citizens stay safe from government over reach and injustice in a democracy.  That’s why an Injured workers group asks why WorkplaceNL gave Don Dunphy information to police. Injured citizens are among society’s most vulnerable, so when injured workers are obliged to turn over personal information to government agencies that are supposed to help them, they don’t expect that information to be handed over to police at the drop of a hat.  And they are right to be concerned, as the Don Dunphy tragedy clearly illustrates.  Surely Don Dunphy isn’t the only injured worker venting about their frustrations on social media.  Social media networks exist because human beings create community, not to make it easier for police to judge our every word.  Apparently Constable Smyth failed to learn that in his social media course.

If Canadians are not free to say what we like in our house, even if we are talking online, where do we have free speech?  Canadian democracy is Built on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Now I’m not a lawyer, but it certainly seems to me as if Don Dunphy’s Charter rights were breached twice:

Fundamental Freedoms

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

… (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

~ and ~

Legal Rights
Life, liberty and security of person

7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

On the national front, the Federal Government’s failure to amend or repeal the law that gives federal law enforcement “lawful access” to monitor innocent Canadians online (formerly known as Bill C-51) is a virtual guarantee that such miscarriages of justice, and indeed similar tragedies, will undoubtedly happen again as a matter of course.  Is this acceptable to you? It isn’t to me.

Don Dunphy spoke up for what he believed is right, but the man was silenced forever.  Perhaps even worse, to me, as both a writer and a believer in free speech, is that the words he wrote on Twitter have been silenced as well.

All Canadians need the full protection of the Charter.  Otherwise the Charter isn’t worth the paper its written on.

 


The Inquiry continues tomorrow ~ January 24th, 2017 ~ with what will probably be the final cross-examination of Constable Smyth.   

Commission of Inquiry Respecting the Death of Donald Dunphy Livestream:
http://www.ciddd.ca/
Watch Live:
http://video.isilive.ca/nfld/remote.html

Bill C-51 – The Antiterrorism Act 2015

Repeal Bill C-51 banner

 

Bill C-51, now known as the Anti-terrorism Act, allows Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, to disrupt real and perceived terrorist threats. It allows intelligence agencies to share Canadians’ personal information more widely. Authorities can detain someone for up to seven days if it’s believed a terrorist event may occur.

And the exercise of these new powers can take place without meaningful parliamentary oversight.

Promised changes to anti-terrorism law C-51 still months away: Liberals want to consult with Canadians over the summer to see what changes they want to C-51

CSIS was supposed to prevent the RCMP security service from engaging in unlawful activity.

 

In 1984, CSIS was created as a response to the McDonald Commission, which recommended a separation between national security policing and intelligence functions. National security intelligence would be limited to information gathering, and CSIS’ performance of its duties and functions would be subject to the review of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC). Unlawful disruption tactics, including barn burnings, property destruction, break-ins, thefts, and abusive investigation techniques by the RCMP were strongly condemned. In the aftermath of the McDonald Commission Report, the government created CSIS as a legally more constrained, domestic, civilian intelligence collection service. Indeed, later in that decade, an important reform removed the controversial area of “subversion” from the RCMP’s mandate.

– Voices-Voix update on Bill C-51: Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015

RCMP Musical Ride

The idea was to separate the intelligence gathering and security operations into two discrete branches of the service.   Giving CSIS the power to act on the intelligence it gathers, to make the sort of disruptions it was created to prevent the RCMP from undertaking makes no sense at all.   From all reports, Canadian security ~ and Canadians ~ have suffered serious consequences because the two branches of the service don’t communicate with each other.  Instead of rectifying such  serious problems that have come to light through the Air India Inquiry (2010) and the Arar Inquiry (2006), C-51 compounds them by granting the security service unprecedented “lawful access” to the personal information of all Canadian citizens.  What it does *not* do is compell CSIS to share information about imminent attacks.  This does not make Canadians safer.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has produced a wonderful primer:
UNDERSTANDING BILL C-51: THE ANTI-TERRORISM ACT, 2016

Although I am no lawyer, my understanding is that C-51 legalized a host of activities that were formerly illegal under Canadian law because they jeopardize or contravene the civil rights Canadians are supposed to be guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  As near as I can tell, nothing at all is being done to end CSE’s bulk data collection — effectively spying on the digital activities of all Canadians 24/7.

Currently the only supervision of the activities of the security services are after-the-fact reviews, which means any and all improper Charter breaches will only come to light long after they have occurred, which is like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped.

Perhaps the most chilling part of all of this is the incredible lack of oversight to the services that have been given these incredible powers over our lives.  At least in the early part of the 21st Century the CSIS Inspector General provided actual supervision, to ensure Canadian spies don’t break the law.

Unfortunately that was one of the many non-budgetary items bundled into the Harper Government’s Omnibus “Black Mark Budget” in 2012; a few quiet strokes of a pen abolished the IG’s office, leaving only the SIRC review process, a part time agency that looks at only a tiny percentage of what CSIS actually does.

I wrote about this all in March of last year, before C-51 became law, in Liberal Leader Gets Bill C-51 Wrong.  Unfortunately it looks as though our Liberal Government has no intention of dismantling this dreadful law.  It seems the best we can hope for is some sort of parliamentary oversight.

Unfortunately that is more likely to end up being a rubber stamp than anything else.

What Canadians Can Do

Before Bill C-51 became law, there were protests across Canada, including three in Waterloo Region, on a very cold March day, on a much nicer day in April, and another in May.

NDP MP Randall Garrison Moves To Repeal Anti-Terror Bill C-51

CCLA AND CJFE MOUNT CHARTER CHALLENGE AGAINST BILL C-51

Today is the last day for Canadians to make submissions to the Federal Government’s National Security Consultation.  Although there was a component of This is an online consultation, and they’ve provided plenty of reading material, which naturally supports the idea this legislation is a good thing. It’s not. At least not if you think the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is important.     Privacy Is Not A Crime

The government has broken the consultation down into categories spread out over multiple web pages, asking for our input on any or all of the 10 topic areas for the consultation. Each page also asks us to identify ourselves, although, unlike the electoral reform consultation, it is not explicitly necessary.

Online Consultation on National Security

We also have the option of making an Email submission: ps.nsconsultation-consultationsn.sp@canada.ca

I’ll say it again: Today ~ December 15th, 2016 ~ is the LAST DAY to participate in the consultation.  Please do.  Even if all you do is go to any or all of the Consultation web pages and comment “Repeal C-51” you will help.  Anonymous comments won’t be taken as seriously as comments connected with our real names, so I strongly recommend filling in the contact info.  The reality is that, so long as C-51 is in place, there is no way for Canadians to enjoy online anonymity.  (Even encrypted activity is being recorded and stored against the day the security services can break the encryption.)

Even if you read this after the consultation deadline, you can still call your MP to account for this.  Canadians used to have civil rights.  We used to have privacy.  Law enforcement agents were required to produce some evidence of probable cause that would convince a judge to issue a warrant before our Charter protections of our privacy could be legally breached.   Privacy is the citizen’s only protection from potential over-reach of the powerful state.  This is why the UHDR and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms seek to protect our privacy.  Sacrificing citizen privacy does not make us safer, it puts us at risk.

C-51 ushered in a powers and laws that threaten Canadian privacy, freedom of speech and other Charter protections without actually substantively dealing with problems of prosecution of terrorism, and without any meaningful oversight of Canada’s booming national security industry.

After you make your submission, you can Sign the Petition:

 

We are at a disheartening moment in federal politics. Despite all the powerful and thoughtful critiques of the government’s anti-terrorism bill, it has now become law.”
– Ed Broadbent

Repeal Bill C-51

If you buy only one book this year, don’t buy my novel, get yourself a copy of False Security: The Radicalization of Canadian Anti-terrorism, by By Craig Forcese and Kent Roach. Better yet, get copies for all your family and friends.  Because this must change if we don’t want our lives, and our kids and our grandkids lives to be lived in an Orwellian dystopia. This is the stuff of fiction, this is reality.

Bill C-51 has been Canadian law for...
click to go to the live clock

Bill C-51 Needs to be Scrapped, Not Amended

Privacy Is Not A Crime - Protest Sign Remix No Canadian Police Force asked for the expanded powers in Bill C-51.

Not local police.  Not Provincial Police.

Not RCMP.

Not even CSIS.

In fact, Canadian Law enforcement “already has many powers to target terrorism and terrorist activities in Canada.”

So why did the federal government put forth Bill C-51?

Oversight vs Auditing

In 2012 Eva Plunkett, the Inspector General of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service retired.  The role of the Inspector General was the CSIS Watchdog, and provided the only independent oversight for the CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service).

Rather than replacing her with a new Inspector General, the Harper Government took the unusual step of dismantling the position of Inspector General of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.  This was quietly accomplished with the controversial Omnibus Budget Bill C-38.

Division 15 of Part 4 amends the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act to
(a) remove the office of the Inspector General;
(b) require the Security Intelligence Review Committee to submit to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness a certificate on the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s annual report; and
(c) increase the information on the Service’s activities to be provided by that Committee to that Minister.”

— Omnibus Budget Bill C-38.

Black Mark Budget Demonstration, Waterloo, Ontario

The Harper Government has taken the position that SIRC (the Security Intelligence Review Committee) provides oversight, but in fact, SIRC does not ensure CSIS does not stray over the line into illegal behaviour (such as actions which would infringe on the civil rights Canadians are guaranteed by The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms).

While SIRC does perform an important function, the reality is that it is a committee of part timers with limited resources that only finds out what CSIS has done after it has done it.  If then.  While CSIS itself has become a massive bureaucracy, apparently the most lavishly funded of all government agencies; SIRC only has the resources to investigate a small fraction of CSIS actions.   Rather than providing sufficient oversight, SIRC doesn’t provide oversight at all, it simply audits and recommends CSIS improvements after the fact.

SIRC is a public forum for people to complain. It’s also a forum to make the public aware of problems,” Plunkett said. “The [Inspector General’s] office was, get in there and identify the problems and point them out to the minister and say, ‘You have to fix this before it becomes an issue for the public.’

“There’s no minister that’s going to be able to know everything about everything. And I can guarantee you that no director (of CSIS) will point out the flaws.”

— Eva Plunkett, retired Inspector General, CBC: CSIS watchdog to be cut in budget

Legality

 Yes, we know that this government is extremely thin-skinned. But the inspector-general for CSIS isn’t an office that criticizes government. It critiques CSIS behaviour on behalf of the government. Its role is to ensure that the government doesn’t get blindsided by shady behaviour on the part of its intelligence agents.

Or, in the words of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, spoken in 2010, “The inspector-general performs an important review function that supports me in my role as minister and ensures that CSIS is operating within the law and complying with current policies.”

— Colin Kenny, Globe and Mail: “Dismantling the CSIS inspector-general’s office is dumb”

So why would the government eliminate the Office of the Inspector General?So why did the federal government put forth Bill C-51?

Even before the Office of Inspector General was eliminated, despite limited resources for both the IG’s oversight and SIRC’s review, the IG raised serious questions about CSIS activity.

The inspector general’s key function was to produce an annual certificate stating whether CSIS had strayed outside the law, contravened ministerial direction or exercised its powers unreasonably. In her final certificate, Plunkett found CSIS continued to flout policy and made a serious number of reporting errors. She warned that CSIS’s reputation and effectiveness would suffer if the problems weren’t addressed.”

— CBC: CSIS watchdog to be cut in budget

Following the abolition of the Office of Inspector General, it’s website was taken down, so only IG certificates up to 2010 are posted online by way of the Centre for International Policy Studies archive of CSIS Inspector General Certificate Reports.  Plunkett’s final certificate does not appear to be online.

Colin Kenny, the former Chair of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence argued that instead of eliminating the IG, Canada would be much better served by significantly expanding its scope:

If Mr. Toews had wanted to do something useful, he would have expanded the concept of inspector-general of CSIS to other federal intelligence-gatherers, of which there are roughly a dozen, including the RCMP. Most of these intelligence operations are inadequately scrutinized. Setting up an inspector-general-type of agency to oversee all of them would have been a great move. It would have reassured the public that while this government is serious about law and order, it is also serious about maintaining the legality and integrity of the federal institutions involved in law and order. Instead, it is neutering its only oversight structure that works well.”

— Colin Kenny, Globe and Mail: “Dismantling the CSIS inspector-general’s office is dumb”

The word "Court" intertwined in the fascia above the side entrance to Toronto's Old City Hall from the day

Since then, there have been serious questions raised about the appalling lack of oversight over Canadian intelligence services.

Eroding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The breaches of civil rights around the Toronto G20 were my wake up call.  An unreasonable quantity of Canadian tax dollars were employed in a widespread supression of Canadian civil rights, resulting in mass arrests, none of which justified such repression.  The case of Byron Sonne, a young man whose Charter Rights were breached from the beginning demonstrates the ease with which law can and will be abused.

Even though Mr. Sonne was acquitted, an intelligence agency witness said Mr. Sonne will always be a “person of interest.”

Not because there was probable cause.  Not because there was evidence.

The reason Mr. Sonne will spend the remainder of his life under surveillance is solely because, after almost two years of trying, they were unable to break the encryption on one of Mr. Sonne’s impounded computers.  Canada’s intelligence apparatus exhibits a frightening sense of entitlement exhibited after having been allowed to act as if mass surveillance on all Canadians all the time is within its mandate.

In contravention of the Charter.

Legal Candour

In 2013 Judge Richard Mosley Canadian found that CSIS deliberately breached its “duty of candour” to the courts by withholding information to get warrants with “a deliberate decision to keep the court in the dark about the scope and extent of the foreign collection efforts that would flow from the court’s issuance of a warrant.” [Toronto Star: Spy Agency Withheld Information from Court to Get Warrants, Judge Says]

In spite of this, the Harper Government fast tracked Bill C-51s sister bill, Bill C-44: An Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other Acts .

It is imperative that the Canadian public trust that CSIS is not acting in a lawless manner. And while improving how SIRC functions, or adding Parliamentary review, could regain or maintain that trust, a more cost-sensitive approach could involve statutory reporting. Regardless, something must be done to ensure that CSIS’ actions remain fully accountable to the public, especially given the new powers the Service may soon enjoy. Doing anything less would irresponsibly expand the state’s surveillance capabilities and threaten to dilute the public’s trust in its intelligence and security service.”

— Christopher Parsons, CSIS’s New Powers Demand New Accountability Mechanisms

WiFi Surveillance

"WIFI Internet Access Here" sign at The Working CentreThe Edward Snowden revelations have shown our intelligence agencies have exhibited serious legal deficiencies.  The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was shown to have been breached through mass surveillance of WiFi:

The thought that everything you’re doing is being monitored when there’s no need for it, when there’s no reason to believe you’ve done anything wrong, it completely goes against everything we’ve built our criminal justice system on,” said Borg in a telephone interview with Metro in March. “If you think that we’re just spying on everyone, well maybe it takes away that platform of being able to discuss social issues because you’re scared of what the repercussions might be and I think that’s very worrisome.”

— Charmaine Borg, Opposition Digital Issues Critic Metro: Canadians ‘should be outraged’ by WiFi spy allegations: Borg

Who is Watching The Watchers?

Christopher Parsons discusses the ramifications of these intelligence agency actions in depth in Accountability and Government Surveillance.  Before any new laws expanding the powers of the Canadian intelligence apparatus at the expense of Canadian civil rights, Mr. Parsons poses some questions that need to be addressed:

In turning to CSIS, we see that the Service has a highly specific understanding of what laws compel it to disclose information about its practices and collection of Canadians’ personal information. The Service failed to provide a rationale to MP Borg as to why, specifically, questions placed on the Parliamentary Order Paper are insufficient to compel a meaningful response: to whom, specifically, would CSIS provide this information? And under what laws? If the Service is unaccountable to Parliamentarians then who, specifically, does it hold itself genuinely accountable to?”

— Christopher Parsons, Accountability and Government Surveillance.

Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law wrote,

The deliberate attempt to mislead the key oversight body by omitting relevant information should anger more than just Mosley, who clearly felt that he was duped by CSIS. In response, the government should commission an independent review thttps://www.christopher-parsons.com/accountability-and-government-surveillance/o examine current oversight mechanisms, identify shortcomings on both oversight and the law, and recommend potential reforms to salvage a system that is under increasing public scrutiny and criticism.”

— CSIS should be subject of independent investigation: Geist

CBC reported New Snowden docs show U.S. spied during G20 in Toronto, the Globe and Mail reported, Ottawa allowed U.S. to spy on G20 summit in Toronto, Snowden leak reveals.

The Intercept reported on the tactics and tools developed within the Five Eyes Framework that can be (are ?) used by our intelligence services in “disruption”:

The aspywarepparent involvement of CSE in using the deception tactics suggests it is operating in the same area as a secretive British unit known as JTRIG, a division of the country’s eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. Last year, The Intercept published documents from Snowden showing that the JTRIG unit uses a range of effects operations to manipulate information online, such as by rigging the outcome of online polls, sending out fake messages on Facebook across entire countries, and posting negative information about targets online to damage their reputations.”

— The Intercept: Documents Reveal Canada’s Secret Hacking Tactics

Do Canadians want government agencies to employ such powers against citizens?  Particularly without meaningful oversight?

Absent proper oversight or scrutiny, Canadians would ordinarily have been unaware of much our intelligence agencies can do and have done.  Which is why we owe a great debt to Edward Snowden.

The worrisome bit is that the intelligence breaches that have become public are very probably only the tip of the iceberg.

There is more than enough credible information floating around the internet to indicate the Charter has been breached over and over again by CSIS/CSEC/RCMP/FiveEyes.   Even before they pass Bill C-51 I am apalled at what the Harper Government has allowed to happen on its watch.

When we talk about this in the context of Canada and why it’s relevant to your particular conversations today, we’ve got the C-51 bill being bandied about. I’m not going to weigh in on whether this is a good bill or a bad bill, because that’s a conversation for Canadians to have. But something that we can see when we look at all of the conversations happening around the world today is that Canadian intelligence has one of the weakest oversight frameworks out of any western intelligence agency in the world. And when they’re trying to expand their powers, it’s pretty amazing that we have the Canadian government trying to block the testimony of former prime ministers who’ve had access to classified information, who understand the value of these programs, and who are warning the public broadly and saying this is something we really need to talk about, this is something we really need to debate, this is something we really need to be careful about.”

— Edward Snowden, The Tyee: Edward Snowden’s Warning to Canada

Ed Snowden and Laurel RusswurmWhile Mr. Snowden doesn’t presume to decide whether the proposed Bill C-51 is good or bad law for Canada, as a Canadian I feel qualified to say that Bill C-51 is indeed a bad law.  As one of the Canadians obliged to live in a regime of legally approved mass surveillance even more extensive than what George Orwell envisioned in Nineteen Eight-Four, I do presume to say Bill C-51 is wrong.

I am not a legal scholar, I’m just an ordinary Canadian.

We are fortunate to live in the Internet age and have access to so much important information.  Information that can be found in all the links I have shared here.  Information like the analysis offered by legal scholars Craig Forcese and Kent Roach.

As a writer, the threats to free speech that comes with mass surveillance chills me to the bone.

As a citizen, the suppression of dissent Bill C-51 allows will emulate secret police activities practised by repressive regimes throughout history.

As a parent, the idea of leaving future generations a Canada so much worse than the one in which I was born is simply unacceptable.

What is a DISRUPTION WARRANT ? In a secret hearing a judge will grant CSIS blanket permission to violate the Charter Rights of targetted Canadians.   The “Disruption” can mean (but is not limited to) • undercover infiltration of a group • psychological manipulation of group members • planting evidence • destroying evidence • falsification of information online to • deliberately destroy the reputations of targeted Canadian citizens.   The Government will need no evidence of criminal activity, merely the argument a Canadian Citizen MAY pose a danger. The judge won’t even know what form the “disruption” will take. Canadians will not know they have been targeted so they will have no defense or appeal. .   Bill C-51 will allow CSIS agents to engage in these activities with less oversight than than any other “Five Eyes” nation.   Can you trust a government that does such things?   Bill C-51 will make a mockery of our “free country.”

What Canada really needs is law that implements reasonable oversight of CSIS, CSEC, and the RCMP.  A law that ensures Canadians continue to enjoy the protection of the Canadian Charter.  Oversight to protect Canadians from the kind of Charter breaches and prosecutorial overreach Mr. Sonne was subjected to.  The fundamental flaws in C-51 need more than the cosmetic amendments the Harper Government says it will be putting forward.

Bill C-51 needs to be scrapped.

The preservation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is imperative.

Rick Mercer elaborated on Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist Glenn Greenwald’s suggestion that Canadians are in more danger of being harmed by bathroom accidents than by terrorists.    Leadnow advised Canadians to #RejectFear and tell the Harper Government to stop Bill C-51 because in Canada, we’re way more likely to be killed by a moose than by a terror plot.

Privacy is essential to civil rights.  That’s why it is protected bt the Charter.  And the reason personal privacy is such an important human right is because privacy is necessary for our protection.  The greatest danger posed to citizens is posed by government, because government has access to the resources of the entire country.  And without civil rights, we have no defence against government.

So why did the federal government put forth Bill C-51?

From the information that has come out, I suspect many of the worst excesses in Bill C-51 that we qare warned against are already the norm in our intelligence agencies.  Such practices are inevitable because there really isn’t anyone watching the watchers.  Bill C-51 seeks to make these excesses legal, which will strip us all of any legal recourse or self defence.  And that just isn’t right.

Not in a democracy.

Not in a free country.

Not in Canada.

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Image Credit
Photos by Laurel L. Russwurm

“Privacy is Not A Crime” is a remix of a protest sign seen at the Kitchener-Waterloo Day of Action Against bill C-51

The Onion Router #Privacy Matters

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Privacy is an important part of personal protection.  That’s why it’s protected in the UDHR and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Without the ability to speak anonymously, free speech isn’t actually possible.

Even if corporations and governments are not going to respect our privacy, there are tools we can use to protect ourselves when we use the Internet.    And if they actually pass Bill C-51 we will certainly need to use tools like TOR even more than we do now.

One of the best tools out there is the excellent TOR, not to be confused with the science fiction publishing imprint, the TOR I’m talking about is “The Onion Router.”  Here’s a video they’ve recently released that does a nice job of explaining how it works and why we should use it.  I am pleased to present it in both of Canada’s official languages: