Thursday, March 5, 2015

It's Official: Trying To Protect Your Privacy Can Lead To Criminal Charges

Are Canadians really okay with this?
A Quebec man charged with obstructing border officials by refusing to give up his smartphone password says he will fight the charge.

The case has raised a new legal question in Canada, a law professor says.

Alain Philippon, 38, of Ste-Anne-des-Plaines, Que., refused to divulge his cellphone password to Canada Border Services Agency during a customs search Monday night at Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

Philippon had arrived in Halifax on a flight from Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. He's been charged under section 153.1 (b) of the Customs Act for hindering or preventing border officers from performing their role under the act.

According to the CBSA, the minimum fine for the offence is $1,000, with a maximum fine of $25,000 and the possibility of a year in jail.
And the most chilling aspect of this, perhaps, is that it is entirely unrelated to the massive abrogation of privacy and citizen rights that Bill C-51 will make possible.

UPDATED: A Comforting Illusion Shattered

When it comes to massive intrusions by the state, the kind reflected in legislation like Bill C-51, people frequently rationalize their acceptance and passivity by this comforting fiction: "I don't have anything to hide; I'm not a terrorist, so why should I worry?"

A story of one family's unpleasant experience may prove instructional in challenging that complacence.
Firas Al-Rawi, an emergency room doctor at Toronto General Hospital, said he booked the Family Day holiday trip [to Disney World] in early December so his wife and children could join him at a professional conference in Orlando that week. The family had taken numerous trips to the United States by air and car without incident.

"My kids were so excited, and they were counting down the days for the trip,” said Al-Rawi, 48, an Iraqi who immigrated to Canada with his family in 2006 via Qatar, where he and his wife, Asmaa Ahmed, both worked as physicians. They and their children are all citizens who hold Canadian passports.
Alas, the trip was not to be:
The Al-Rawis became part of the 330 or more travellers a day who are refused entry to the United States under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, which gives border officials the right to refuse admission of non-Americans — including Canadian citizens.
The apparent grounds for their inadmissibility appears to be that they are Muslims:
According to the National Council of Canadian Muslims, 14 per cent of the 182 human rights complaints it received between 2011 and 2013 involved travel restrictions to the U.S.
After being fingerprinted and photographed at the check-in counter, Al-Rawi said, they were asked to go for a secondary inspection.

As his family waited in a public area, Al-Rawi said he was questioned about the purpose of his visit, his employment and his family trips in 2014 to Qatar and Dubai.

“We didn’t really mind if it was a random check, given the typical screening with what’s happening with ISIS (the terrorist Islamic State group). We had nothing to hide,” he said. “But we were not prepared for the rest of it. We were stressed, not knowing what was going on.”

After a 10-minute interview, Al-Rawi said he and his family were fingerprinted and photographed again before uniformed officers came to inspect their suitcases.

During the inspection, the family said, their electronics — one iPhone, two MacBooks and three iPads — were confiscated, and they were ordered to provide passwords so officials could unlock the devices.
The reason given to the family for refusal was that U.S. officials did not think they would return to Canada, despite the fact that Al-Rawi spent more than five years working to earn an Ontario medical licence and restart his stalled practice in Canada.

Of course, entry to another country is not an automatic right, but the fact that the refusal amounts to a denial of natural justice is disconcerting:
United States Customs and Border Protection refused to comment on the Al-Rawi incident, but said travellers are responsible for proving their innocence.
Think about that - guilty unless proven innocent.

So what does any of this have to do with legislation that curtails one's civil liberties? It is, I suspect, a peek at what may be ahead for anyone who takes his or her citizenship responsibilities seriously and holds to them tenaciously, despite the kind of conformity that Bill C-51 will promote.

Of course, there will be other comforting illusions we can fall back on to discount the experiences of the Al-Rawi family: I'm a citizen (but isn't the entire Al-Rawi family as well?), I'm not a Muslim (Should that be a barrier?) I don't have a foreign-sounding name (Congrats! You won the birth lottery there).

But how long will it be before we have to come up with additional disclaimers, such as I have never joined an environmental protest, I have never stood up for any cause, I have never written a letter of criticism of my government, etc. etc.

Congratulations, Unknown Citizen, for living what will have been a wholly unexamined life.

UPDATE: if you think Canadian Border Services is more respectful of privacy, think again and click here.

A Little Perspective, Please

Are we losing all perspective on the threats posed by terrorism? While there is no doubt that all perils to public safety need to be taken seriously (yes, even those posed by pipeline ruptures that Enbridge seems to treat as state secrets), one cannot escape the conclusion that the Harper regime sees it in their best electoral interests to convince us that we cannot go about our daily lives without a massive surrending of freedoms, à la Bill C-51.

Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who leaked classified information, suggests we need to get a little perspective.

In an online chat with Ryerson students yesterday, he had this to say about the Harper bill:
The former National Security Agency employee said only Canadians can decide on whether C-51 is a good or bad bill, but “Canadian intelligence has one of the weakest oversight frameworks out of any western intelligence agency.”

In Canada, terrorism kills fewer people than lightning strikes and it is extraordinarily rare, Snowden said.

“No matter what we do, no matter what laws we pass, we cannot throw away all of our rights, all of our liberties, all of our traditional freedoms because we are afraid of rare instances of criminal activity,” he said.
Snowden sees Canada going down the same pernicious route as the United States, asserting that C-51 is
just like the U.S. Patriot Act, the law passed following the 9-11 terrorist attacks to bolster the powers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Under Bill C-51, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service would gain police-like powers to “disrupt” threats to Canada — including, but not limited to, terrorist threats.
Despite the fact that most people are innocent,
the freedoms and liberties people enjoy are being changed without their consent, Snowden added.
I think we can all rest assured that Snowden's warnings will go completely unheeded by the Harper regime.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Salamander Has Some Questions

The Salamander has been doing a lot of thinking, and has some questions. Read his post, and feel free to weigh in:

.. the other day, I was thinking about 'the Base' ..
that unusual group of committed voters for Stephen Harper..
plus truly fervent media.. Lilley, Levant et al
wondering what caused their odd shrill partisan malady

And I was also thing about the Harper apparatus - Party & Government
and the retinue of PMO, lawyers, RoboCall vendors, pollsters etc etc
and beyond belief wealthy corporate partners & think tanks
you know, the folks that truly benefit from their complicity

And then I thought about the rest of Canada.. voters, people, kids, elders etc
and within that group I guess falls Trudeau & Mulcair, May et al
all with some sort of perspective or belief in what exactly Canada stands for
province to province, urban rural, young old, employed or unemployed etc

I can't claim any blinding insight came from that particular thinking session
it was really just musing to myself on how laughable or insane the reality is..

I asked myself some simple questions though.. about what defines Canadians
now.. like right now.. A majority of Canadians.. and to a certain extent..
eligible voter Canadians.. When they vote.. what drives that decision?
Or even if not voting, what drives their perception of Canada
and their perception of the politics or politicians currently serving Canadians..
You know.. as elected public servants.. or paid public servants ?

I plan to write a 'rant' .. like the 'I am Joe' kind of rant..
and I want to write it correctly.. because I'm not Joe.. I'm me
and I want the rant to speak to and speak for current Canadians

And if I can't exactly put my thumb on what describes all Canadians
or what the particular dreams, needs or wishes of each or all Canadians are ..
I certainly want to identify what I'm certain they do not want or believe in..
as well as the issues or action or realities that give them pause, fear & doubts

I get that Canadians may not support Trudeau, Mulcair, Ms May etc
as being a clear improvement over Mr Harper & his record or promises
and that bothers me.. It really truly scares me, as a Canadian..
That we have no obvious and clear alternative to a despicable flailing government

How can this be? That we must even contemplate such a catastrophic failure?

I'll think on this some more.. work on my rant..
and hope Duffy & Harper's key associates' testimonies
at the very least send the toxic government, party and apparatus packing

Details. Mere Details

H/t We Don't Want This

The most egregious, anti-democratic elements of Harper's terror Bill C-51 are the following:

-jail for 5 years if someone posts anything counter to the government and that could be interpreted as a terrorist posting in general;

-secret trials;

-indefinite detention without charge;

-sharing of information between all departments of government without concern for privacy;

-secret police;

-no civilian oversight;

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I see that the Commons anti-terror committee, a majority of whom are Conservatives, will not be permitting testimony from Joe Clark, John Turner, Jean Chrétien or Paul Martin, all four former prime ministers who have publicly criticized Bill C-51. Some things (actually, many things) are unforgivable in Harperland, I guess.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

And Speaking Of Profound Stupidity

...not to mention rabid partisanship, watch another Harper MP disgrace herself:

I wonder how well any of this sits with Cheryl Gallant's riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. Don't those constituents, like the ones living in James Lunney's riding, deserve better?

Could It Be A Virus?

Stupidity, it has been said, is contagious, and one has to wonder whether a particularly virulent virus is running through the Conservative tent these days. First there was Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP Rick Nicholls suggesting that evolution shouldn't be taught in schools, as he doesn't believe in it. Now comes word of similar sentiments on the part of one of his federal cousins, B.C. Conservative MP James Lunney.

Coming to the defense of his fellow fundamentalist, Lunney tweeted:
"[Just] stop calling #evolution fact!" tweeted Lunney, who said he had no problem calling it a "theory."
A man clearly comfortable in his own skin and not afraid to parade his profound ignorance, Lunney made this statement to the House in 2009:
"Any scientist who declares that the theory of evolution is a fact has already abandoned the foundations of science. For science establishes fact through the study of things observable and reproducible. Since origins can neither be reproduced nor observed, they remain the realm of hypothesis," he said then.

"The evolutionist may disagree, but neither can produce Darwin as a witness to prove his point. The evolutionist may genuinely see his ancestor in a monkey, but many modern scientists interpret the same evidence in favour of creation and a Creator."
Like many of his benighted ilk, Lunney is also deeply suspicious of claims made about climate change:
Last year he tweeted "Science settled? Think again!" and posted a link to an article by a University of Guelph economist who is one of the signatories of a declaration disputing climate change.
But wait! As they say, there's more!

As reported last year in The Huffington Post, Linney signed An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming:
"We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history."
The declaration went on to say,
We deny that carbon dioxide—essential to all plant growth—is a pollutant. Reducing greenhouse gases cannot achieve significant reductions in future global temperatures, and the costs of the policies would far exceed the benefits."
Oh, and one more thing. Lunney's disdain for science extends to vaccines with this discredited notion:
In a 2004 speech in the House of Commons, Lunney cited figures he said showed a tenfold increase in the incidence of autism and said Canada should explore a link to vaccines.
It is said that people get the government they deserve. Somehow, I can't help but think that the residents of Nanaimo—Alberni deserve much, much better than what this man has to offer.