Out of morbid curiosity I made a Freedom of Information request to the government spy agency, CSIS. I asked them if I had ever been subject to surveillance. To help with their inquiry, I gave them my name, and a brief description of my activities over the past five years – writing, environmental and social activism, and working for the Vancouver Observer and Adbusters magazine.
What I received in reply scared the shit out of me. It said:
Pursuant to subsection 10(2) of the Act, we neither confirm nor deny that the records you requested exist. We are, however, advising you, as required by paragraph 10(1)(b) of the Act that such records, if they existed, could reasonably be expected to be exempted under one or more of sections 15(1) (as it relates to the efforts of Canada towards detecting, preventing or suppressing subversive or hostile activities), 16(1)(a), and ©, of the Act.
[…] What I’m about to write could get me imprisoned, once the bill passes.
Consider the language Minister Blaney used in his sales pitch to the Canadian Senate. Things like “no prosperity without security” and “pre-criminalization.”
If we can learn anything from the current state of global affairs, it is that increasing security without addressing the underlying causes of conflict only hastens the downfall of oppressive regimes. In fact, increased security is often the last step an unpopular government ever makes before they’re tossed out the door. […]
Bill C-51 gives our government more power to … attack symptoms [and not problems]. That is why Bill C-51 won’t make Canada safer. Canada is safe. It won’t be after Bill C-51.
And let’s not forget to mention this strange term that Blaney used: “pre-criminalization.” What does that even mean? “Thought crime” is the more accurate term. And that’s what most average politically engaged Canadians ought to be extremely wary of.
Thought crimes like those committed by First Nations’ social worker Cindy Blackstock, whose surveillance by the federal government shocked the nation.
Her pre-crime: advocating on behalf of First Nations’ youth and running a charity called the Have a Heart campaign.
That was before Bill C-51.
And then there’s this: “We will be able to shut down websites because, why, because we are talking of radicalization,” Steven Blaney told the Senate.
Here I must speak directly to the honourable minister. If you want to know what makes people sympathetic to jihadist appeals, it isn’t the websites. It’s the cluster bombs and drone strikes.
It’s the foreign occupations. It’s nearly 25 years of American, and now Canadian, war and intervention in Iraq, twice as long as the American troop presence in Vietnam. Remember Vietnam, that tidy little “police action?”
Let me repeat that. T-w-i-c-e a-s l-o-n-g a-s V-i-e-t-n-a-m.
You can add those two-and-a-half decades of intervention to the long list of fundamental causes making jihadism attractive to desperate and alienated people: global inequality, structural racism, climate change impacts on food and water (especially in the Syrian conflict), and hypocritical foreign policies on the part of major world powers— like selling $15-billion in arms to Saudi Arabia, as Canada just did. […]
Offering the illusion of protection by imposing censorship and repression.
It’s a handy excuse to not deal with the real radicalizing force – blowback. […]