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

Stop Bill C-51 the Musical (updated)

The Harper Government has fast tracked Bill C-51 in another dramatic demonstration of how little scrutiny the Harper Government is willing to accord Bill C-51.

The same can’t be said for the rest of us, because Bill C-51 is actually getting a great deal of scrutiny outside the Parliament Buildings. There are a lot of terrible things in this draft legislation, but as a writer I am especially concerned about its assault on Free Speech.  

Ordinarily I only blog about Canadian Politics sporadically, but this incredible danger Bill C-51 poses to Canadian culture and freedoms,  I have been doing everything I can think of to try to stop this assault on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


Okay, well, I have to admit  there isn’t really a musical… not yet, anyway.   Maybe that will be James Gordon’s next project?

But in the mean time, concerned Canadians across this wonderful land have been engaging in peaceful protest in many ways, including the making of Stop Bill C-51 protest songs.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

The Raging Grannies

SolidariGLEE

Canadians at the First Stop Bill C-51 Day of Action Sing “Oh Canada”

Bill C-51 Song (Dennis Jones 2015)

Bill C-51 a song by Ian Patton

This last one isn’t really a protest song, but it beautifully demonstrates why Bill C-51 must be withdrawn.

‘Choosing Love Over Fear’ ~ London Stop Bill C-51 Demonstration

Please share!


BONUS TRACK:

Stevie and the Conservicats: A Little Help from Big Fear

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Our Kids Deserve to Have Civil Rights

Canada Flag Banner

New Brunswick native John Peters Humphrey was the principal drafter of the United Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Adopted unanimously by the General Assembly on December 10, 1948, this document established the importance of Human Rights through out the world.

On March 16, 1950, Conservative Saskatchewan MP John Diefenbaker proposed a National Bill of Rights for Canada. This law protects freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and the freedoms of speech and association. The Conservative Government adopted Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s final version of The Canadian Bill of Rights in 1960.
The Canadian Bill of Rights

Children holding a No C-51 sign
Imagine growing up in a world without civil rights.

In 1982 the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms forms the first part of the Constitution Act passed in 1982. The Charter incorporated many elements of the Bill of Rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to equality, life, liberty and the security of the person, as well as the right to counsel. In spite of incorporation of the Charter into the Canadian Constitution, The Bill of Rights is still in force and continues to protect the right of enjoyment of property, something that did not become part of the Charter.

Why We Need Civil Rights

The state is big and powerful with the deepest of pockets; you and I are small and weak and our pockets are shallow in comparison.  Most of us never even think about civil rights, unless we’re tweeting on MLK Day.  Some think only criminals need civil rights, but nothing could be further from the truth.

People don’t need privacy and human rights because we’re criminals, we need privacy and human rights because we are innocent.  We need to be legally innocent until proven guilty because the immensely powerful government has all the resources while we puny citizens have few.  This is why democratic nations place the burden of proof on the state before granting it the power to deprive us of our liberty.

Without civil rights, most people still won’t come under the direct scrutiny of the state;  none of us will know if we are next, so we will all live in fear.  We will all need to watch what we say anywhere we go.  At work.  At home.  On social media.  In our living rooms. And even our bed rooms.  Today’s technology makes it possible for all of us to be monitored by the government 24/7.  They can monitor us through our cell phones (unless we remove the battery), and our television sets, tablets and computers (unless they are firewalled) and our email (unless it is encrypted).

The most incredible thing is that Vic Toews famously lumped people who want privacy with child pornographers.  I always thought that ridiculous… giving the government the power to watch us all anywhere gives the government the power to watch and record our children in their bedrooms.  What guarantee is there that there are no child pornographers in CSIS?  You’ll never know, even if your kids appear on some porn site somewhere.

CSIS has no oversight

They tell us that it does, but the reality is that all there is is SIRC — the Security Intelligence Review Committee.

There is is a review board that looks at what CSIS has done after it has done it.  But it’s an underfunded part time review board, that only looks at a tiny fraction of what CSIS has done.  Even if SIRC was properly funded and expanded enough that it could examine every operation CSIS took, it still wouldn’t be oversight, it would be after thought.

Oversight is supervision.  It’s there before and during to make it possible to stop bad things before they happen.

All a review board can do is determine that bad things have already happened, tsk, tsk.

Former Security Information Review Committee (SIRC) chair Ron Atkey warned MPs that the provision to allow CSIS agents to apply for federal court authorization for measures that could potentially contravene a charter right is a “major flaw” in the proposed legislation.

“That provision, in my view, is clearly unconstitutional, and will be struck down by the courts,” he told the committee.

Ron Atkey, former MP who served as the first Chairman of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, says Bill C-51 is unconstitutional and should be amended.

CSIS used to have oversight in the form of the office of the Inspector General, but that was dismantled as part of the Bill C-38 Ominbudget (The “Black Mark Budget”).

Inspector General of CSIS

Created by the CSIS Act, the Office of the Inspector General of CSIS is independent of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and, for administrative purposes, is part of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC). The Inspector General, who is appointed by the Governor in Council, is responsible to the Deputy Minister of PSEPC.

The Inspector General serves as the Minister’s internal auditor for CSIS, and supplements the Deputy Minister’s advice with an independent means to monitor CSIS compliance with its operational policies, review CSIS operational activities, and conduct reviews of specific CSIS activities as directed by the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC).

Click here to visit the Inspector General of CSIS official website.

Canadian Intelligence Resource Centre

The Inspector General was eliminated before Edward Snowden revealed the reality of government surveillance of citizens to the world.  We now know our own government intelligence services have been spying on us.  And worse, when such surveillance was known to infringe our Charter Rights, they got around that pesky detail by getting the Five Eyes allies to spy on us for them. Surveillance of blameless Canadian citizens has happened and is most likely ongoing (hence Bill C-51 to make it all legal after the fact.)

Even when there was oversight, there were egregious breaches of Canadian civil liberties.  Under Bill C-51 Maher Arar would likely still be locked up.  Or dead.  Byron Sonne’s Charter rights were breached when there was oversight.  Miscarriages of justice happen, even with the best of intentions and oversight.    This is why we need the rule of law.

All of which tells me that if such abuses can occur when we are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, what will it be like when we are not?

photographer

Bill C-51 will deprive all Canadians of privacy and free speech protections, it will put all Canadians at risk of unreasonable search and seizure, it will make all Canadians guilty unless proven innocent.   When all it takes is an accusation, any of us can lose our liberty, and there is no defence.   Any of us might find ourselves facing Madame Guillotine.

Although I’m one of the radicals who thinks free speech and free association and freedom of choice and freedom to protest peacefully are necessary for a free country, all the experts agree there will be problems even without deliberate bad actions from the Government.

Without oversight, accountability or restraint, citizens will be abused in error.  Blameless citizens.

people dancing

Not terrorists.

Not criminals.

Not rabble rousers.

Not even protesters.

The ones who keep their noses down.  The ones who are doing everything right.  People who even the government would agree are ideal citizens, those who don’t make waves and follow all the rules.  Even these people are at risk if they are unprotected by civil rights. All it takes is a typo on an arrest warrant.  The terrorist next door could get away clean while the perfect citizen is whisked away in a secret arrest and locked away indefinitely.  When people can be imprisoned without charge, when trials are secret, when evidence is secret — even from the accused — how is it possible for even a perfect citizen to defend their liberty from a typo?  The Security Certificate regime is like a pilot project that demonstrates what might happen to any of us under Bill C-51.

The essential reason that no one should trust the government is that the government is made of people, and people are not perfect.  The James Moore sexting scandal that broke this weekend is simply another in a long line of goverment scandals that has occurred throughout history.  It is precisely because people are not perfect that Canadians can’t afford to give any goverment a blank check.  This is why we need our Charter of Rights and Freedoms intact.

Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker gave Canada our Canadian Bill of Rights.

Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau gave Canada the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Why are the Conservative and Liberal Parties willing to sacrifice them today?

Bill C-51 isn’t a partisan issue, it’s a Canadian Issue.  It must not pass.

SAVE THE CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

Call or write or tweet your MP, Justin Trudeau and Prime Minister Harper to tell them #StopBillC51

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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.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

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

anonymity

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:

 

 

Liberal Leader Gets Bill C-51 Wrong

In spite of the fact the Harper Government fast tracked Bill C-51, the Parliamentary Committee won’t re-convene until next week. When you consider the Harper Government’s vow to have this legislation rushed through so it can be passed by the end of the month, this is a dramatic demonstration of how little scrutiny the Harper Government is willing to accord Bill C-51. The same can’t be said for the rest of us, because Bill C-51 is actually getting a great deal of scrutiny outside the Parliament Buildings. There are a lot of terrible things in this draft legislation, but as a writer I am especially concerned about it’s assault on Free Speech.   Ordinarily I only blog about Canadian Politics sporadically, but this week I hope to post daily.   Previous posts include: David Weber warns Bill C-51 will lead to a Police State #RejectTerror #StopBillC51 the film I’ll be seeing tonight, The Secret Trial 5 ~ Screening Tour,  Learned at the KW Stop C-51 Day of Action, and Thursday’s Stop Bill C-51 the Musical.  Better late than never, here is #5.


Not long ago I joined the local Liberal Party in hopes of making a difference for the 2015 federal election.  Over the years I’ve got to know some LPC folks through events like the Electoral Reform debate local MP Candidate Bardish Chagger hosted a few years back.

I made a point of notifying the local Liberal Candidate Nominees and Candidates about last week’s National Day of Action.  A week ago today a great many concerned citizens across Canada held more than 70 events to protest the fatally flawed Bill C-51 the Harper Government has been trying to sell as an “anti terrorism” measure.

Mr. Trudeau's idea of a National Day of ActionI was aware of Justin Trudeau’s promised support of Bill C-51 but expected the Liberals to come anyway, maybe to hear the other side so they might make informed choices when the time came to vote, or at least to take the opportunity to explain the Liberal stance to an audience of people who will certainly vote in the next election.   So you can imagine my surprise when not a single LPC Candidate showed up at the Kitchener rally.  Worse, I heard a rumour that the Liberal Party had ordered its candidates to avoid the Day of Action.   I was stunned.   I was going to bring the matter up with the local Electoral District Association before making a decision about whether to remain a Party member.

And then I got another ridiculous email from the LPC inviting me to a “Day of Action.”   I had previously explained the absurdity of calling a party fund raising or volunteer training or t-shirt designing gathering for the Liberal Youth Movement a “Day of Action” and yet here they are doing it again.

Particularly after ordering Party members to avoid a real Day of Action.

Since the local Liberal Candidates are not allowed to explain the LPC position on Bill C-51, I realized I had to find out just why Mr. Trudeau believes supporting it is a good thing.

Liberals: newly minted Kitchener Centre MP Candidate Bardish Chagger moderates an LPC panel on Electoral Reform.

Apparently, Justin Trudeau’s primary reasons for supporting C-51 are:

  • Expanded powers related to preventive arrest which make it easier for police to detain someone, and to hold them in custody without a charge or a warrant for longer
  • Strengthening of the no-fly list
  • Increased information sharing between government departments and agencies

“[These] are significant improvements that will keep Canadians safer,” he told the crowd.

Liberals Are Supporting Bill C-51 So Tories Can’t Make ‘Political Hay,’ Trudeau Says

Preventative Arrest

That means Canadians would be liable for arrest because we might do something.  Think about that, now. What does that mean, exactly?  Not because you have done a criminal act, and not because you planned to engage in a criminal act.   The laws we have now give law enforcement ample provision to prosecute anyone for crimes committed, and even for crimes that have only been planned, as we know from the prosecution of the VIA Terrorist Plot.  Canadian law allows such prosecutions because, when there is a real crime, there is real evidence.  Under Bill C-51 you could go to jail  because someone thinks you might do something.

I expect most people have been misjudged at least once in our lives.  Imagine if someone in law enforcement decided you were a potential terrorist because you attended a Day of Action.

Very few of us have been personally connected with criminal activity; even fewer have had any actual contact with terrorists. So let’s think about this one in more human terms.

Let’s say you are married, and you and your spouse go to a party. As often happens, the two of you end up in different corners socializing with different people. It’s a good party, you’ve had fun, but when you get home you discover your spouse is angry and wants a divorce — because you might have an affair with someone you had an animated conversation with at the party.

Or say you’re in your final year of university. It’s been a tough year, you’ve had to take on a part time job to make ends meet. So your studies have been extra difficult, and your work isn’t up to your usual standards. When it’s time to take the final exam, your professor doesn’t believe you are capable of passing the exam, so she refuses to allow you to take the exam since she thinks you might cheat.

Or maybe you’re going through a messy divorce. Imagine how you might feel if, instead of the shared custody you had been working toward, the judge awards sole custody of your children to the other parent and you are now limited to state supervised visitation twice a month. Because the judge thinks you might take off with the child.

This law won’t make Canadians safer, it will strip us of our Charter Rights.  It is unconstitutional.

If you want an idea how these things might play out, you should watch the powerful documentary “The Secret Trial 5.”

The No Fly List

I have to wonder if the No Fly list is constitutional in and of itself.   If all it takes is an allegation to abrogate our Charter rights, the Charter doesn’t offer us much protection at all.   People used to be innocent until proven guilty.

Increased information sharing between government departments and agencies

Such irresponsible flagrant invasion of privacy is certainly unconstitutional.

I understand Mr. Trudeau might wish to get out from under his famous father’s shadow, but throwing the Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms under the bus is not the way to do this.

Imagine a World With No Privacy....

The Secret Trial 5 ~ Screening Tour

The Parliamentary Committee on Bill C-51 won’t re-convene until next week.  When you consider the Harper Government’s vow to have this legislation rushed through so it can be passed by the end of the month, this is a dramatic demonstration of how little scrutiny the Harper Government is willing to accord Bill C-51.

The same can’t be said for the rest of us, because Bill C-51 is actually getting a great deal of scrutiny outside the Parliament Buildings.

There are a lot of terrible things in this draft legislation, but as a writer I am especially concerned about its assault on Free Speech.   Ordinarily I only blog about Canadian Politics sporadically, but this week I hope to post daily.   I began yesterday with David Weber warns Bill C-51 will lead to a Police State #RejectTerror #StopBillC51

But today I want to say a few words about our Day of Action.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Day of Action Against Bill C-51 wasn’t just a rally, it wasn’t just a protest,  and it wasn’t just a group of disturbed citizens demonstrating our opposition to Bill C-51 to the Harper Government.   What it was was a community meeting.  The event at Kitchener City Hall proved to be both interactive and a valuable learning experience.

Only 2 speakers were officially scheduled to make short speeches, and from there on out it was opened up to anyone who wanted to speak via an open mic.  It is winter in Canada, and the event organizers understood that Canadians (especially with small children) wouldn’t want to be outside for long, so the whole thing was optimistically intended to go for an hour.

But it went for two.

There was certainly a good bit of audience churn… not everyone arrived at the start and not all those who did stuck it out for the duration.

And I learned some things.  One thing I learned was about this independent feature length Documentary called “The Secret Trial 5.”  I had never even heard of the project, and the only reason I have now is because a brave young woman got up on stage in front of hundreds of people at Kitchener City Hall and told us about it.  The thing is, this young woman (the one in the picture, whose name I don’t even know) isn’t even one of the filmmakers.  The reason she knows about the movie is because her friend did research for it.  She didn’t claim to be an expert, but she was clearly moved by the project, and she thinks, as I do, that Canadians need to see this film.

The Secret Trial 5

The Secret Trial 5 looks at the “Security Certificates” the Canadian Government started using in the wake of 9/11.

While most of us have heard these words, “Security Certificates,” if you’re like me, you never really understood what these are, exactly. Although I haven’t yet seen the film, I have watched the trailer.  This was powerful enough to ensure I will be one of the people at the Screening at the Original Princess in Waterloo on Thursday night.

Bill C-51 is starting to wake Canadians up to the fact the Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms is in jeopardy.  The Charter is part of the Canadian Constitution, and it forms the legal basis for Canadian civil rights in Canadian Law.  The Charter is also the foundation of the democratic freedom that ensures Canada is a free county.

To me the single most important message of this film is that the rights in our Charter are standing on quicksand, and may have already been breached.   Bill C-51 will just finish them off.

There will be a screening in Waterloo on Thursday night.  As part of the program I understand the film makers will there to host a Q & A and discuss the serious issues their film broaches with the audience.  You can get a jump on things by reading the interview Documentary director Amar Wala on ‘The Secret Trial 5’, Bill C51, and the stigma of terror suspicion.

I realize this is short notice, so you might be busy that night, or maybe you can’t get to Waterloo, or they might be sold out, or the venue itself might not be doable since its an old building that isn’t accessible.  But all is not lost.  I expect there will be other screenings in other places, but the film is also conveniently available for screening or download online.

The Secret Trial 5 Screening Tour – KITCHENER / WATERLOO – Filmmakers in Attendance

Thursday at 6:30pm

Princess Cinemas, Original Theatre, 6 Princess Street West, Waterloo, ON

To make sure you get a seat, order your tickets in advance http://secrettrial5-waterloo.eventbrite.com/?aff=efbevent

https://www.facebook.com/events/948195911892117/


My Photos from the National Day of Action to Stop Bill C-51 ~ March 14th, 2015 can be found in my Flickr Album

NOTE: My Original Mini Poster for the Screening had the date wrong; it has now been corrected.