'Shady, secretive system': Public Safety green-lit RCMP, CSIS spying devices, documents reveal
Government officials refuse to say exactly what interception devices are being approved in Canada

Public Safety Canada has repeatedly approved CSIS and the RCMP’s use of devices to spy on Canadians’ communications, documents obtained by CBC News reveal.

Canadians have been kept largely in the dark about police and intelligence agencies’ surveillance capabilities. But recent revelations in a Montreal court case that police are using electronic tools to scoop up mobile phone signals have prompted some experts to call for greater transparency in the approval and use of technologies that potentially violate privacy.

The new documents reveal Public Safety Canada approved requests from the RCMP, Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Defence Department granting more than a dozen licences to an unnamed company (or companies) for the purpose of possessing, manufacturing or selling devices “used primarily for the interception of communications.”

The documents, which are heavily redacted and don’t identify the manufacturers or the devices and their capabilities, were shared with CBC News by Ottawa-based investigative researcher Ken Rubin.

“It’s a part of the puzzle,” Rubin said. “There are too many questions there. All I’ve uncovered is a link to how this rather shady, secretive system works, and there’s no public understanding of it.”

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Well today I watched the funeral for the 3 slain RCMP officers.. I’m glad I was home alone because I cried like a baby. Seeing the family members.. 5 little kids and one on the way.. none of them old enough to really know exactly what was going on. Listening to the coworkers and family members of the fallen give their eulogies with their wavering voices just broke my heart. Members of police departments form across North America and even some of Europe were in attendance today.. I think that is amazing, and really shows the brotherhood and sisterhood that this profession creates. Even the non-human brothers.. Constable Dave Ross’ partner Danny, the German Shepard cried and whimpered through parts of the ceremony as he sat by his partners casket and jumped up to smell his hat while they walked in the procession, I think that’s when I lost all composure.

As a first responder, I work with RCMP and City Police on a daily basis, they are professional and we depend on them for a lot of different calls. It sucks that it’s always stuff like this that makes people realize that “cops aren’t just cops”.. they have a life and a family outside the job. Sure, everyone hates to get fined for speeding or ticketed for something.. but reality is that if you aren’t doing something wrong, they will leave you alone.. They’re not out to get you.

I wish the two surviving officers who were also injured all the best in their recovery

Rest in Peace 

Constable Fabrice Gevaudan

Constable Dave Ross

Constable Doug Larche


Abolishing the police is a solution we need to start taking seriously
Why do we need police? It's a provocative question -- but the lies we are told about the threat of racialized bodies are equaled only by the lies we are told about the virtuous role of the police.

This past week, Toronto Police were disinvited from the city’s Pride parade after a brave action from Black Lives Matter; Sheila Fraser was appointed special adviser to address widespread and systemic sexual harassment in the RCMP; and American cops were caught on video executing two Black men – the latest in an endless index of lives lost by a ruthless organization incredulously referred to as our nations’ “finest.”

If the police were a foreign state, we would have invaded and removed its regime. If it were a workplace, we would have busted the union and closed it down. How many Black people need to be murdered, how many Indigenous women need to disappear, how many female cops need to come forward with accusations of endless abuse before we start referring to decent cops as “one good apple”?

I say this as a white man who has never had my life threatened by the police, as a middle-class person who relies on them mostly to protect my private property and as a Canadian citizen who depends on them to patrol the boundaries of my state and preserve my nation’s wealth from scroungers and miscreants.

It is impossible to overstate how dysfunctional our police forces are – even before we add the charge of murderous. Police spending in Vancouver – one-fifth of the entire budget – has been the only municipal core service to see its funding increase every year since 2008. The Toronto Police Department saw its budget pass the $1 billion mark last year and no one seems able to even suggest it might be time to rein it in. Meanwhile, crime rates languish at historic lows.

Rape arrests and conviction rates are a national shame. It should come as no surprise. A class action in which at least 380 women have alleged systemic workplace sexual harassment while working as RCMP officers sought certification last spring. The lead attorney, Sandy Zeitzeff, expects the number of plaintiffs to grow to 1,500. The RCMP tried to fire at least two of the women named in the class action.

The epidemic of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls continues to disgrace an entire country and our Boys in Blue have shown little interest or aptitude to stop it. Aboriginal people are disproportionately incarcerated for minor crimes and the racist practice of carding continues to be defended by Toronto police and its allies.

With this kind of calamity passing for a public service, why aren’t we asking law enforcement to stand up and defend its existence? It’s a question worth asking: what is a police force good for?

The answer is elusive. David Graeber wrote last year that only 10 per cent of the average American police officer’s day is spent pursuing criminal matters “of any kind.” The rest is annoyance: ticketing, infractions, bureaucracy, regulations. “The police,” he writes, “are essentially just bureaucrats with weapons.”

Between 2008 and 2012, the VPD issued 1,448 bylaw infraction tickets in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada, the majority against street vendors. The rest of the city saw just 76, combined, over the same period. One homeless man in Montréal was ticketed over 500 times and accrued a bill of $110,000.

Transit police in Vancouver – the only armed transit cops in the country – apprehended Lucia Vega Jimenez in 2013 for riding the SkyTrain without a ticket and turned her over to the CBSA for deportation. She hanged herself in her cell a few days later. Medical marijuana shops across the country – in the face of the Trudeau government’s promises to legalize the stuff – continue to get raided and shuttered by law enforcement with other ideas.

In his blistering essay in The Nation last year, Mychal Denzel Smith called to abolish the police. It’s an audacious demand to say the least, and one that doubtless invites bafflement, if not hostility. But it is not naive.

When I say, “abolish the police,” I’m usually asked what I would have us replace them with. My answer is always full social, economic, and political equality, but that’s not what’s actually being asked. What people mean is “who is going to protect us?” Who protects us now?

Who indeed. And the answer to that question – if you are Black, Trans, homeless, Indigenous, disabled, female or otherwise vulnerable – rarely wears a uniform.

And while “full social, economic and political equality” would be nice, I’m not sure we have to wait that long. The fact is that most of our communities already function and flourish without police. Most social interactions do not require surveillance and intervention by armed guards of the state. What do police add to these existing relationships of compromise and negotiation?

And besides: it’s been done. Restorative justice models and “no-exit” cultures provide social alternatives to criminalizing and incarcerating difference backed by state-sanctioned violence. The Paris Commune of 1871 stripped the existing police prefecture of its political attributes and turned it into an “agent of the commune,” paid at a labourer’s wage and rendered its privileges revocable at any time. Compare this with the six-figure salaries and latitude to murder Black boys in the street many current officers enjoy.

So why do we need cops? It’s a provocative question, without a doubt – but the lies we are told about the threat of racialized and colonized bodies are equaled only by the lies we are told about the virtuous and noble role of the police.

If it’s a question you can’t answer easily and convincingly, abolishing the police is a solution we need to start taking seriously.

The #RCMP are preparing to carry out a #massarrest operation against the indigenous Unist’ot’en Clan of the #Wetsuweten Nation in northwestern BC under Harper government’s #BillC51 labelling as terrorists #FirstNations #activists exercising their #Aboriginal Title and Rights to protect their lands from oil and gas development, according to a joint statement by the groups supporters.

The #Conservatives’ controversial anti-terror act criminalizes protests that may be seen as interfering with ‘the economic or financial stability of #Canada’ and opponents of the bill had long feared that it would be used to stifle opposition to oil pipelines aggressively promoted by #PrimeMinister #StephenHarper.

The RCMP have made a number of visits to the #Unistoten as well as other First Nations leadership regarding the Unist’ot’en camp, located on the shores of the #WedzinKwah and mouth of the #GosnellCreek, tributaries to the #Skeena, #Bulkley, and #BabineRivers.

The activists have been protesting against the proposed #EnbridgePipeline and #PacificTrailsPipeline (#Chevron), which are planned to cross the river at the exact points of our Pithouse, and Permaculture Garden that was built on the Unist´ot´en Territory of Talbits Kwah.

Today over fifty individuals and organizations have issued a letter to the provincial government, federal government and RCMP to express support for the Unist’ot’en Camp.

“The courageous stand taken by the Unist’ot’en and their supporters must not be criminalized by the RCMP nor targeted by government,” states Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “Through the draconian Bill C51, the federal government is attempting to brand people defending the land and water as ‘security threats.’ The Unist’ot’en are heroes, while the real threat is this government destroying the planet and economy.”

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A leaked RCMP report names “violent aboriginal extremists” with “anti-petroleum ideology” as key threats to Canada’s national security. I spoke to people identified as “violent extremists” in the report, including the Unist'ot'en Camp and people taking action against Enbridge’s Line 9.

They talk about how law enforcement uses racism to justify its mandate and how Harper’s secret police Bill C-51 is unlikely to crush this resistance.

“We already live in the world that people are afraid C-51 is going to create,” said Alex Hundert.

A long-read on VICE.com

Reblog in honour to the 3 police men who have lost their lives in Moncton, New Brunswick last night due to the shooting of a dangerous man who goes by the name Justin Bourque. He has also put two other police men in the hospital. Many provinces have come here to help our community and the town is on lockdown. This one man has affected our lives greatly and we are all at risks not knowing where the man is located. I am proud to be from Moncton, NB because our RCMP is out there trying to find this man, being brave enough to go out there and fight for us. RIP to the men who have lost their lives and sincere thoughts go out to their families and friends! #prayformoncton

Canada’s national police force admits it has been racist towards Indigenous people
Decades after taking Indigenous children from their home, against their will, Canada's national police force is admitting that racism is still a problem — but that they want to fix it.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police will find new ways to strengthen relations with Indigenous communities, the force’s chief vowed on Tuesday, but he faces an uphill climb.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson and Assembly of First Nations’ National Chief Perry Bellegarde signed a memorandum of understanding as part of the Indigenous group’s three-day general assembly.

Paulson, months ago, admitted “there are racists” within the national police force — Bellegarde underscored that when he introduced the chief on Tuesday.

The goal of the agreement, according to Paulson, is to build consent among Indigenous peoples to be policed, as well as to reduce discrimination among officers toward these communities.

The agreement strikes a contrast to the ongoing tension between police and non-white communities in the United States, where many police organizations have resisted the acknowledgement that racism, and racial profiling, may play a role in their policing.

Canada’s indigenous population faces staggering over-representation in the country’s prisons, and at least one local police service found that its own force was 40 percent more likely to pull over an Indigenous driver than a white one.

Paulson used the opportunity to acknowledge the police force’s role in the residential school system — the program whereby the Canadian government arrested Indigenous youth and took them to boarding schools designed to discourage and assimilate their cultural identity.

“As a father I can’t imagine strangers, much less representatives of the state, taking away my children to live somewhere else where their culture is repressed,” Paulson said, adding, “as a police force we have to own up to the roles we played in those dark times.”

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Virtually all mainstream media outlets think Harper's new "anti-terrorism" bill is insane

On 30 January 2015, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced his new “anti-terrorism” bill (C-51), which he claims will keep Canadians safe. The omnibus bill seeks to make sweeping changes to Canadian law, including: extending unprecedented powers to the secretive Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) “to disrupt” activities, lowering the threshold for detaining terror suspects, increasing sharing of private information about Canadians, and criminalizing the speech of anyone who “advocates or promotes” terrorism. On this last point, advocacy and promotion of terrorism are not defined in the legislation so it’s anyone’s guess which speech might be criminalized. What we do know, however, is that the Conservatives have previously labelled Canadians actively advocating for the environment and opposing oil and gas pipeline construction as “eco-terrorists”. So it seems this law could cast a disturbingly wide net; for example, it’s conceivable that an activist advocating direct action to protect the environment could be thrown in jail for five years under C-51. 

Moreover, extending to CSIS the legal mandate to engage in disruptive activities—and allowing these activities to involve breaking the law and even violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedomsrepresents a serious turning away from the conclusions of the McDonald Commission of Inquiry into Certain Activities of the RCMP. The Royal Commission was set up in 1977 to investigate systematic illegal activities carried out by the RCMP, including break-ins, arson and theft, and it recommended in 1981 that the RCMP’s national security functions be separated into a new civilian agency in order to break the vicious cycle of illegality. Hence the birth of CSIS in 1984, and its mandate to collect intelligence and alert police when security threats arise. By giving CSIS itself the power to undertake disruptive activities, though, the Conservatives are essentially recreating the situation that the McDonald Commission and subsequent legislation sought to change.

The bill does all the above without improving oversight mechanisms to ensure CSIS and other security agencies do not abuse their powers. (Indeed, the existing mechanism—the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC)—is suffering a serious crisis of credibility after its Harper-appointed chair, Arthur Porter (pictured above right), was charged with fraud and money laundering as part of a bribery scandal connected to the construction of a new Montreal super-hospital.)

Despite the profound changes contained in Bill C-51, Harper was not in Parliament when the new bill was introduced to face the Members of Parliament who ostensibly represent Canadians; apparently, he thought it was more appropriate to be making a speech in Richmond Hill, just outside of Toronto.  

It didn’t take long, however, for major news outlets in Canada to heavily criticize the proposed legislation. Here’s a sample.

The Globe and Mail editorial board: Parliament should reject the bill

Prime Minister Stephen Harper never tires of telling Canadians that we are at war with the Islamic State. Under the cloud of fear produced by his repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force. Canadians should not be willing to accept such an obvious threat to their basic liberties. Our existing laws and our society are strong enough to stand up to the threat of terrorism without compromising our values.

Link to Globe & Mail editorial (1 February) »

Ottawa Citizen editorial board: The bill is appalling for many reasons

There are many reasons to be appalled by the haphazard, overbearing and ill-defined provisions criminalizing the general promotion of terrorism that were presented by the federal Conservative government on Friday, but worst of all is the potential they have to actually increase the likelihood of radicalization and terrorism in Canada. 

So let’s say the police determine that a young man with a poisoned mind posts a questionable YouTube video. Some antidotes might be community, parental or religious intervention in an effort to present a better path. A good way to further poison that mind, though, might be a short stint in a federal correctional system that has seen, under this government, a drastic reduction in rehabilitation programs and resources. Worse, jails in Canada and around the world have become breeding grounds for radical jihadis, with experts here pointing out that the Correctional Service of Canada doesn’t have appropriate resources to deal with these unique offenders. What prisons do provide, though, is easy access to people who’ve actually tried to carry out terrorists acts.

Link to Ottawa Citizen editorial (30 January) »

National Post editorial board: No reason to further police speech and greater oversight of intelligence agencies is needed

When it comes to provisions banning “promoting” and “advocating” terrorism, furthermore, the threat to civil liberties may well not be minor. Neither term is defined. Where such laws exist, they tend to be abused. In 2001, France prosecuted a cartoonist (ironically enough) for a depiction of the 9/11 attacks with the caption, “We all dreamed it … Hamas did it.” As part of a massive recent speech crackdown, French comedian Dieudonné was arrested for saying he “felt like Charlie Coulibaly” — a cryptic reference to Charlie Hebdo and Amedy Coulibaly, the kosher supermarket attacker. 

Such statements will offend many, but they fall miles short of incitement to violence, which is the proper threshold at which law-enforcement ought to concern itself with people’s freedom of speech. Needless to say, counselling someone to commit terrorism is already a criminal offence in Canada. There seems little justification to go any further than that, and little reason to trust that prosecutions in this country will not go too far as well. Once the horse is out of the barn, it’s awfully difficult to corral — especially without proper democratic oversight.”

Link to National Post editorial (31 January) »

Toronto Star editorial board: We should not surrender our cherished freedoms; opposition MPs need to fight this

The sheer level of public concern that Ottawa may not be getting the balance right between security and civil rights argues for a higher, more sophisticated level of scrutiny than this government is disposed to consider. 

Rather than limply wave these new measures through the Commons for fear of looking “soft” in an election year, the New Democrats and Liberals should press vigorously for the creation of a panel of MPs and senators from across party lines to vet Canada’s security laws and the operations not only of our spy agencies but also of the military, police and other agencies, as the Star has urged before.

Link to Toronto Star editorial (30 January) »

Even the Toronto Sun editorial board was critical and called for changes to the bill

A no-fly list should be reserved for the worst of the lot. Not something used arbitrarily. 

A big concern is freedom of speech. George Orwell noted free speech is meaningless unless it includes the freedom to say things others hate. 

Clean up this language so it’s clear that this is about going after people urging or planning attacks, not just despicable losers tweeting thumbs up to the Islamic State.

Link to Toronto Sun editorial (30 January) »