Friday, September 19, 2014

The Surveillance State Under Stephen Harper


Yesterday, Margaret Wente wrote a piece pointing out that in terms of policy, there is no discernible difference between Justin Trudeau and Stephen Harper, and yet people are craving change. In typically lazy manner, she simply cited friends who say “He’s gotta go!”
So what’s the problem with Mr. Harper? Is it the Duffy affair? The militant foreign policy? The highly dubious tough-on-crime agenda?

No, not really. It’s just … him. He’s too controlling, too snarly, too mean. He picked a fight with Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. He sounded callous about murdered native women. It’s not the policies or even the scandals – it’s the tone. They just don’t like the guy.
Such an analysis is surely superficial. There are, indeed, plenty of solid reasons to want this national blight and his minions gone from our lives that have been well-articulated over these past many years by both journalists and bloggers. I will concentrate on just one of them today.

Although I have written on this topic before, now seems a good time to remind ourselves that the Harper government is a vindictive and paranoid regime that sees every criticism, every question about policy, every disagreement and gathering of like minds as potential threats, treating those who hold contrary views as enemies.

The latest verification of this diseased mentality comes in a report that reveals about 800 public demonstrations and events were observed and reported on by government departments and law enforcement agencies since 2006.

Conducted under the auspices of the Government Operations Centre, those surveilled included:
A panel discussion at Concordia University last September, discussing historical colonialism and race relations in Quebec. The RCMP prepared the report.

A rally in Ottawa by the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Canadian Union of Public Employees in May 2012.
Protests against a Canadian mining company in Brazil last September.

A Montreal march and vigil for missing and murdered aboriginal women in September 2013.
A public discussion in Toronto on the oilsands in August 2013.

A workshop in non-violent protest methods in Montreal in October 2013.

Public Safety reported a protest of “lobster fishers” in New Brunswick in May 2013, while a shrimp allocations protest in Newfoundland was reported by Fisheries and Oceans a year later.

Larger events that made national news — the Idle No More movement, Occupy groups, various student protests in Montreal — were also included in the list.
The full list, which runs to 34 pages, can be accessed here.

Most tellingly, the majority of the reports on public events appear to focus on First Nations and environmental movements, including the Idle No More movement and anti-oilsands activism.

While the government insists that this is all in the interests of public safety, not all are convinced.

Take, for example, Halifax professor Darryl Leroux, who found himself in an RCMP report for having organized a panel discussion on alternative concepts of colonialism throughout Quebec’s history.

Perhaps the good professor fell afoul of the Harper demand for conformist thinking because the discussion also touched upon topics like feminism and black activism in Montreal in the 1960s? The lessons of history can be subversive, I suppose.

So yes, despite Margaret Wente's facile claim that people just don't like Harper because of his manner, there are innumerable reasons for millions of Canadians of goodwill to want the political landscape cleansed in 2015.

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