Tag Archives: Bill C-51

Canada: Alleged ISIS supporter released on bail after lengthy, illegal detention without charge

By Roger Jordan
June 20, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Twenty-three-year-old  was quietly released on bail late last week by a Manitoba court, after being detained since his arrest by police on June 4.

Despite holding Driver for eight days, police are yet to charge him with any crime. Police allege he supports the Islamic State (ISIS) and defended last October’s fatal attacks on Canadian Armed Forces personnel in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, pointing to postings he made on a Twitter account under the alias Harun Abdurahman. However, the court has imposed a ban on reporting evidence in the case, so it is not yet known if prosecutors have any evidence linking Driver to an actual crime under Canadian law.

The length of Driver’s detention without charge has been described by legal observers as unprecedented and a clear violation of his constitutional rights. For days, the authorities offered no public justification for their detention of Driver without charge past the 48 hours currently legally permitted. Now they are attempting to do so by citing Section 810 of Canada’s Criminal Code, which provides for the imposition of a peace bond or recognizance on an individual where there exists “reasonable grounds” to believe he or she will commit an act causing injury to someone or damage to property.

Under Section 810, someone who has not been charged, let alone convicted of a crime, can be jailed for up to a year if they refuse to sign a peace bond or fail to comply with its terms after it has been signed.

Originally introduced into the Criminal Code in 1985 as a means of dealing with cases of family breakdown and abuse of children, the government is increasingly using section 810 to restrict the movements and place onerous conditions on the activities of alleged terrorist suspects against whom the state has insufficient evidence to lay criminal charges.

Evidence suggests that Canada’s national security apparatus is now routinely intimidating people with threats of criminal charges and incarceration without bail so as to get them to “voluntarily” agree to sign a peace bond.

Driver’s case, however, appears to have set a chilling new precedent in that police continued to detain him beyond the legal limit of 48 hours, because he refused to agree to the peace bond process.

The police are now asking the courts to impose a peace bond on Driver, with a hearing scheduled for July 9.

Pending that hearing, Driver has been released from bail but under harsh and illegal conditions. Among other things, Driver must wear a GPS tracker at all times, engage in “religious counselling” and forward the counsellor’s name to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), follow a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, give up his passport, give up any computer of any kind, submit his telephone number to the police, give police the password to access his phone, avoid social media websites, and refrain from communicating with any ISIS or Al Qaida member. This latter condition appears deliberately aimed at presenting Driver to the public as a hardened terrorist, given that not a shred of evidence has thus far been presented to suggest that he has had any contact with these or any other terrorist group.

Driver’s restrictive bail terms were sharply criticized by the Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties (MARL), the group that first drew attention to the Driver case. “This is a person, a Canadian citizen, who has not been charged with a crime and yet he’s going to be subject to 24/7 GPS monitoring,” said MARL President Corey Shefman. He added, “He could go to jail for failing to undertake religious activity. That doesn’t sound like Canada to me. That sounds like a theocracy.”

Driver’s treatment marks a further step in the direction of police state measures. While he was behind bars, Canada’s Senate gave final approval to the Conservative government’s new Anti-Terrorism Act (Bill C-51). It vastly expands the powers of the national security apparatus, including giving the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) the power to break the law in disrupting reputed threats to Canada’s economic and national security. (See: “Canada’s police-state bill passes final parliamentary hurdle”)

The new law will also enable the authorities to obtain peace bonds much more easily. The wording in the criminal code is to be replaced, so that it reads “may” commit an offence rather than “will,” thereby significantly lowering the threshold of proof required to impose a peace bond. In addition, the maximum period of detention without charge will be extended to seven days for terrorist suspects.

As the Winnipeg Free Press wrote in an editorial criticizing the treatment of Driver, “If we’re upset with how he’s being treated now, be aware that Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act is going to make this type of treatment easier.”

In another recent case, a Prince Edward Island student who police claim was planning to make bombs was forced to sign a 12-month peace bond which restricts his movements and requires him to report to a probation officer once a week. He has been neither charged nor convicted of any offence. A Montreal man who signed a peace bond earlier this year is currently being criminally prosecuted for breaching its terms and could face a prison term.

It is becoming increasingly clear that this little-known provision is being transformed into an instrument to be used to target anyone the government likes, even if there is no evidence of criminal activity having been committed. The catch-all definitions of terrorism and national security threats now written into law provide the basis for peace bonds to be used in the future against working-class and left-wing opponents of the government.

Unsurprisingly, there have been no statements from any of the mainstream political parties raising concerns about the Driver case. In a statement released shortly after Driver’s detention, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Stephen Blainey merely noted that the government had to keep fighting terrorism.

With its draconian assault on basic democratic rights and legal principles, Canada’s Conservative government is pursuing the twin aims of establishing mechanisms to suppress all public opposition to its reactionary policies, as well as seeking to whip up a climate of fear and hysteria to justify its military aggression abroad.

To this latter end, government representatives portray the entire Muslim population as a menace to society. In a recent interview, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander effectively accused any Muslim woman wearing the burka or niqab of being a terrorist suspect. Commenting on the federal Conservative government’s plans to outlaw Muslim women wearing these face-covering garments from taking an oath of citizenship and the Quebec Liberal government’s bill preventing them from receiving health care and other public services, Alexander said, “We’ve done a lot in the past year to strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship. People take pride in that. They don’t want their co-citizens to be terrorists. They don’t want people to become citizens who haven’t respected the rules.”

Such fear-mongering aims to legitimize the vast authoritarian state apparatus which will be turned against the working class at the first sign of the emergence of opposition to the ruling elite.

Canada: Alleged ISIS supporter detained without charge for over a week

By Roger Jordan and Felix Gauthier
June 13, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Aaron Driver, a 24-year-old Winnipeg resident, has been held in police custody since June 4 without charge. He was arrested by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers, who also searched his home, on allegations that he is an Islamic State (ISIS) supporter.

Authorities have not charged Driver with any crime. Under Canadian law, a terrorism suspect can be detained for a maximum of 48 hours without charge. This is to be extended to seven days under the recently adopted anti-democratic Bill C-51, but its provisions have yet to come into force.

“It should shock every Canadian citizen that this is possible or” that it “is being done,” Corey Shefman, head of the Manitoba Association of Rights and Liberties, told CBC. He continued, “I cannot comment on what he might or might not do, or what he has or hasn’t done. But I do know he hasn’t been charged with a crime and yet he finds himself behind bars without his freedom and no reason he has officially been presented with.”

Driver is said to have posted messages on Twitter defending ISIS and promoting extremist and reactionary views. In one post, he allegedly accused the Jews of plotting a war against Islam, and in another he defended ISIS’s use of terrorist methods.

However, authorities have presented no evidence, let alone charged Driver, with having or having had ties to a terrorist group. The only item the media report police having found during a raid of his Winnipeg home was an “Arabic for Dummies” book. They also seized his computer.

Reports indicate that Driver was an isolated individual who was trying to complete his high school diploma by attending adult education classes. He converted to Islam some time during the past two years, but according to teachers interviewed by the CBC, did not try to convert others. He allegedly used the alias Harun Abdurahman on Twitter to post pro-ISIS material.

No legal justification has thus far been given for Driver’s continued detention without charge.

Jeff Gindin, a defence lawyer with over 40 years of experience, drew attention to the unprecedented character of the Driver case. “So far there’s no real law that I’m aware of that when you think someone might commit an offence that you would then have the right to arrest them prior to that,” he told CBC.

Police plan to apply for a peace bond (or restriction order) at Driver’s next court hearing, scheduled for June 24. By then, he will have been held for almost three weeks without charge.

Peace bonds enable a judge to impose conditions on an individual whom the authorities suspect will commit a terrorist offence, but it is not necessary for the individual in question to have been charged, let alone convicted, of any crime.

Harper_HitlerThe detention of Driver without charge and in apparent violation of Canadian law is merely the latest indication of the Canadian elite’s turn towards openly authoritarian forms of rule. Earlier this week, the Senate, Canada’s upper house of parliament, gave its approval to the draconian Bill C-51. It grants the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) the power to “disrupt” the activities of groups and individuals deemed to threaten national security, establishes an all-embracing speech-crime offence of “promoting” terrorism, virtually abolishes privacy rights, and provides for the confiscation or deletion of “terrorist propaganda.”

The fact that the ruling elite plans to use such measures against working class and left-wing opposition is confirmed by the vague definitions of potential threats in the legislation, which allow the security services to target any group deemed to be a threat to the economic or national security of Canada, and its diplomatic interests or constitutional order.

Bill C-51 will also make it easier for police to obtain peace bonds from a judge. Authorities will only be required to prove that an individual “may” facilitate a terrorist attack. This is a significant reduction of the evidentiary standard, meaning that the use of peace bonds will become much more routine.

Even without these powers, police forces across Canada have dramatically stepped up the use of peace bonds against alleged terrorist suspects in recent months.

A 20-year-old Stratford, Prince Edward Island resident signed a one-year peace bond on May 22 after the RCMP alleged that he possessed 50-60 castor beans, with which it is possible to produce the ricin toxin.

Amir Raisolsadat, a chemistry student at the University of Prince Edward Island, had been arrested in March after the RCMP told a judge it feared “on reasonable grounds” that he would commit a terrorist act. As his lawyer Brandon Forbes pointed out, Raisolsadat essentially faced the choice to “take on the combined efforts of the state in a prolonged hearing at great expense” or sign a peace bond.

Associates of Raisolsadat, including neighbours and professors, described him as a good student who likes chemistry. Raisolsadat himself denies intending harm to anyone.

In addition to restricting his movements to the island, the peace bond requires Raisolsadat to report to a probation officer and the police once a week. The peace bond also forbids him from owning castor beans, ricin, or any weapons, ammunition or explosives.

Before allegedly finding the castor beans in an iPhone case at his home in April last year, the RCMP claim to have uncovered instructions to make calcium phosphide and a diagram of a rocket with a section labelled “warhead” in Raisolsadat’s garbage. The RCMP also allegedly seized castor bean plants, computer equipment, and journals with drawings of bombs, explosions and chemical formulae.

While the RCMP won’t release further details, on the grounds of an ongoing criminal investigation, none of the published allegations indicate that Raisolsadat was a threat to anyone at the time of his arrest. According to Forbes, the rocket depicted in the diagram is “a foot-high piece of cardboard with glue and balsa wood. It’s meant to put a little GI Joe up in the air and it parachutes down” and can be bought in a toyshop. The RCMP claim Raisolsadat bought it with a fake name, whereas Forbes indicates it was bought by somebody else.

Raisolsadat wasn’t charged with any crime, nor have any of the allegations used to compel him to sign the peace bond been proven in court. However, if he violates the conditions he agreed to, he could face criminal charges leading to up to three years of probation and a two-year prison sentence. A Montreal man who recently signed a peace bond currently faces just such charges.

A series of terrorism suspects have been targeted by the RCMP through novel legal concepts, such as preventive arrest and peace bonds. Since the Ottawa shooting last October, the use of such techniques has increased markedly. Meanwhile, the Harper government has stepped up its campaign to portray Canada as a country under siege from terrorists, so as to both justify the adoption of Bill C-51 and Canada’s expanded role in the US-led war in the Middle East.

Ten young people accused of being on their way to join Jihadist groups abroad were arrested in May. In April, the 18-year-olds El Mahdi Jamali and Sabrine Djermane pled not guilty to charges related to terrorism. Two men from Montreal were arrested in March and April and compelled to sign peace bonds.

While the current targets of the state’s expanding authoritarian powers are reputed supporters of Islamic extremism, no one should be in any doubt as to the ultimate purpose of these measures. As the Canadian ruling elite intensifies its policies of aggressive militarism abroad and attacks on social and democratic rights at home, it is preparing for mass repression of a wave of working class opposition.

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Canada’s police-state bill passes final parliamentary hurdle

By Roger Jordan and Keith Jones
June 10, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Harper_HitlerWith yesterday’s ratification of Bill C-51 by the Senate, the Conservative government’s police-state legislation requires only royal assent in the form of the Governor-General’s signature to become law.

Framed by Stephen Harper and his Conservative government as an anti-terrorist measure, Bill C-51 dramatically expands the powers of the national security apparatus to spy on and suppress opposition to the ruling elite’s agenda of austerity and imperialist aggression.

Bill C-51 will empower Canada’s Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) to break the law and violate the Canadian constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms in “disrupting” what it deems to be threats to Canada’s economic and national security, territorial integrity or constitutional order.

Under this “disruption power,” CSIS could break into properties, seize documents and other materials, tamper with bank accounts, press employers to fire “national security” suspects, forcibly detain them, or subject them to psychological torture. The only “dirty tricks” CSIS is expressly banned from mounting are those that would cause someone bodily harm, kill them, or impugn their “sexual integrity.”

In response to a public outcry, the government passed a minor amendment to this part of the law during parliamentary hearings, stipulating that all protests, not just “lawful” protests, would be exempt from CSIS disruption. This is no more than a fig leaf. CSIS can and will justify its use of “dirty tricks” against strikes in defiance of anti-worker laws and other mass social protests by claiming they are threatening economic or national security. Already, CSIS and the RCMP carry out blanket surveillance of protest movements on the grounds that some of their participants might engage in vandalism or otherwise break the law.

The requirement that CSIS obtain the permission of a judge, in a secret court hearing, before breaking the law represents no significant impediment to its targeting government opponents en masse. Those targeted will have no knowledge of the proceedings, let alone the opportunity to challenge CSIS’s designation of them as threats to Canada’s security. Moreover, the proceedings will remain secret, giving rise to a secret jurisprudence, where the security agencies working in concert with a handful of carefully vetted judges will decide which groups and individuals Canada’s premier spy agency can use criminal means to “disrupt.”

Bill C-51 also guts Canadians’ privacy rights. It eliminates virtually any restrictions on the sharing of information between government agencies and departments in “national security” investigations.

The legislation also creates a “speech crime” of promoting terrorism “in general,” not tied to the incitement of any specific terrorist act. Persons will be liable to a five-year prison term for anything they say or write, in public or private, that the state deems promotes terrorism. Combined with new powers permitting the courts to remove websites and ban other publications judged to contain terrorist “propaganda,” this will be used to target critics of government policy, such as Canada’s staunch support for Israel.

Under Bill C-51, the state is arrogating new powers to restrict the movements and activities of alleged terrorist suspects—persons who have not been charged, let alone convicted of any crime.

It is also significantly expanding its powers of preventive detention. Instead of the upper limit of 72 hours, police will now be able detain terrorism suspects for seven days and on a lower evidentiary basis.

In keeping with the bill’s antidemocratic character, the Conservative government steamrolled it through parliament. Debate was kept to a minimum at all stages, with many prominent critics of the bill denied the right to appear before the House of Commons committee tasked with studying it. Even the Conservative government-appointed Privacy Commissioner was excluded.

At the same time, the government stepped up its campaign of lies and disinformation, portraying Canada as under terrorist siege. Harper seized on the twin attacks by disoriented individuals last October to portray Canada as a country under threat from Islamic extremists so as to justify both the strengthening of the national security apparatus and the expansion of Canada’s role in the new US-led war in the Middle East. It was thus no coincidence that as Bill C-51 was being rushed through the House of Commons, the government pushed through a parliamentary motion extending the Canadian military intervention till April 2016 and expanded it to include Syria.

If the Conservatives have proceeded so ruthlessly, it is because the assault on democratic rights has the support of ruling circles around the globe and domestically.

In recent months, Britain and France have passed or announced new legislation that in the name of combating terrorism and extremism gives vast new powers to their national security apparatuses. US President Barack Obama, who presides over far and away the world’s largest spy network and who has baldly asserted the right to order the summary execution of US citizens considered terrorists, explicitly called for Washington’s allies to strengthen their coercive powers at an “anti-terrorism” conference in February.

This is only the latest stage in a systematic drive, initiated over a decade ago under George W. Bush, to gut basic democratic rights and erect the scaffolding of a police state under conditions of deepening social inequality and growing popular alienation in every major capitalist country.

Canada’s ruling elite is also fully on board with the project of expanding the already existing authoritarian state structures. The opposition Liberals joined with the government in voting Bill C-51 into law. While they claimed to oppose certain aspects of the bill, Justin Trudeau and his Liberals said its passage was necessary to protect Canadians from terrorism.

The Globe and Mail, Canada’s “newspaper of record,” emerged as a prominent opponent of the bill. But its criticisms said nothing about the comprehensive spying network already in place in Canada, nor the fact that the Globe has stood firmly behind Harper over the past nine years, including backing his antidemocratic constitutional coup in 2008 and his campaign for a parliamentary majority in 2011. The Harper government has used this majority not only to attack democratic rights and expand Canada’s participation in imperialist wars, but also to effectively outlaw strikes in the federal-regulated sector, slash unemployment insurance, raise the retirement age, and cut tens of billions in social spending.

The Globe was subsequently joined in its opposition to Bill C-51 by four former Prime Ministers and various retried Supreme Court Justices and Solicitors-General. This opposition, as exemplified by the focus on the Conservatives’ refusal to provide for greater “oversight” of the national-security apparatus—was motivated by the fear that under conditions of mounting class tensions and social anger, such an outright break with traditional bourgeois-democratic norms would discredit parliament and the other key institutions of bourgeois rule.

The official opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) delayed taking a clear stance on Bill C-51 for almost a month. When it became clear that a section of the ruling elite felt that Harper was going too far, the NDP belatedly declared that it would oppose the bill in parliament. However, its opposition was purely on tactical grounds, as shown by the fact that it focused the majority of its attacks on the lack of “oversight,” whether by a vetted parliamentary committee or some third-party body of trusted ruling-class representatives, like the existing Security and Intelligence Review Committee.

The NDP proposed a series of amendments to the bill in parliament. But it made no appeal to the growing popular opposition, which has found limited expression in a series of demonstrations nationwide. Nor did the NDP use the debate over Bill C-51 to draw attention to the systematic spying on Canadians’ electronic communications being carried out by the Communications Security Establishment (CSE).

With public hostility to the Harper government’s sweeping attack on democratic rights mounting and the Liberals increasingly under fire for their support for Bill C-51, the NDP has cynically shifted its position in the expectation it will bring electoral dividends. Initially, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said an NDP government would not repeal Bill C-51, only amend it. But last month he changed his tune and vowed the NDP would scrap Bill C-51.

Such rhetoric is being employed even as the NDP persists in making overtures to the Liberals to form a coalition government after October’s federal election. Not only did the Liberals vote for Bill C-51, they implemented Canada’s first post-9/11 anti-terrorist legislation and subsequently authorized the CSE to collect and sift through the metadata of Canadians’ electronic communications.

The lesson to be drawn from the passage of Bill C-51 is that the defence of basic democratic rights falls to the working class. It is the only social force which has no interest in the maintenance of the vast national security apparatus built up to spy on the entire population, or the use of authoritarian state powers to suppress opposition to militarism and war. Only through the emergence of a mass working-class political party committed to a socialist and internationalist program can the unending destruction of social and democratic rights by the ruling elite be halted.

 

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Britain’s anti-terror law and the global assault on democratic rights

By Jordan Shilton
May 21, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

In the year marking 800 years since England’s Magna Carta, which asserted that kings could not simply impose their will without oversight and freemen could not be punished unless they violated the law of the land, Britain’s new Conservative government is preparing a massive assault on civil liberties.

The Tories are set to enact new legislation targeting “extremists” that poses a fundamental threat to political opponents of the government and to the working class. The claim that the new law is aimed simply or primarily at Islamic terrorists is a lie.

Under the legislation’s provisions, the authorities will be able to punish anyone engaged in “harmful” behaviour, ranging from public disorder to threatening the functioning of democracy. Individuals or groups subject to “extremist disruption orders” and “banning orders” will be compelled to submit to the police all material they intend to publish, including on social media. Individuals may also be prohibited from attending public gatherings and speaking at demonstrations or protests.

Prime Minister David Cameron indicated the sweep of the government’s intentions when he proclaimed that Britain has been a “passively tolerant society for too long, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.” Freedom from persecution by the state will no longer be guaranteed, even to those who obey the law.

The British government’s proposal is only the latest in a raft of anti-democratic measures adopted internationally in recent months. The new push for police state powers was initiated by the United States.

In a speech at the United Nations last September, President Barack Obama called on Washington’s allies to step up efforts to combat Islamic extremism. The call came shortly after the US initiated its latest war of aggression in the Middle East with the bombardment of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) positions in Iraq and Syria.

In February, Obama hosted a terrorism summit in Washington involving 65 states. The US president remarked in a speech that both domestic and foreign policies had to target not only “terrorists who are killing innocent people,” but also the “ideologies, the infrastructure of extremists—the propagandists, recruiters, the funders who radicalize and recruit or incite people to violence.”

The World Socialist Web Site warned at the time that such all-embracing formulations could “potentially include virtually anyone who condemns the supposedly ‘moderate’ policies of US imperialism.”

Within weeks of this summit, draconian measures have been imposed in a number of countries.

Last month, the French parliament adopted a new anti-terror law allowing for a vast expansion of state surveillance. Seizing on January’s attack on the offices of the publication Charlie Hebdo, the Socialist Party government of François Hollande included in the law an increase in military and intelligence service positions so as to expand monitoring of the Internet and social networking sites. Intelligence agents will be authorized to read documents of individuals under surveillance and a new database for air travel is to be established.

In Canada, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper is rushing a law through parliament that hands draconian new powers to the intelligence services. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) will now be empowered to actively “disrupt” groups considered to threaten economic or national security or the country’s territorial integrity. The CSIS will be given a green light to violate the Canadian Constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and break virtually any law in so doing.

As in the case of Cameron’s forthcoming legislation, the definition of national security threats in Canada’s Bill C-51 is so broad and elastic as to cover political opponents of the government’s militarist foreign policy and striking workers.

Bill C-51 also provides for the prosecution of individuals accused of “promoting terrorism,” in line with similar provisions passed in Australia last year targeting free speech.

A significant feature of the new “anti-terrorism” and “anti-extremist” laws is the rapidity with which they are being implemented. Over the course of a few months, legislation has been enacted in France and rammed through Canada’s House of Commons that undermines long-standing democratic norms. The British law is due to be included in the May 27 Queen’s Speech, which outlines the government’s legislative priorities, and will be implemented within months.

There is no serious opposition within the ruling elite internationally to the abandonment of democratic procedures and implementation of police state measures. The Cameron government’s new law was presented at the end of an election campaign in which all of the major parties upheld the right of the intelligence services to continue their mass surveillance of the population, supported Britain’s aggressive militarist foreign policy abroad, and advocated fresh attacks on the social rights of workers at home.

The British Labour Party, during its thirteen years in power, oversaw the strengthening of police powers to detain suspects, codified in the 2001 Terrorism Act, the criminalisation of the “encouragement” and “incitement” of terrorism in 2006, and Britain’s leading role in the operation of a global spying network in alliance with the US National Security Agency (NSA).

The US led the way in the initial assault on democratic rights in the aftermath of 9/11, with the passage of the Patriot Act, the opening of the gulag at Guantanamo, the policies of rendition and torture, and the vast expansion of the NSA’s spying programme.

Edward Snowden’s revelations brought to light the fact that all of the major imperialist powers are complicit in the mass surveillance of their own populations.

The claim that these governments are pursuing a crusade for democracy in the supposed “war on terror” has been exposed as a fraud. This was most recently illustrated by the revelation that the 2011 assassination of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden came after US intelligence had been aware for a year that he was being sheltered by Pakistani intelligence.

In pursuit of their imperialist interests around the globe, the US and its allies have been more than willing to collaborate with the same Islamic extremist groups they cite to justify attacks on democratic rights domestically. In both Libya and Syria, the Western powers backed forces loyal to Al Qaeda, some of which went on to form ISIS. So brazen was the support for jihadist forces in Libya that, as revealed recently by the Ottawa Citizen, Canadian military officials joked in 2011 that NATO warplanes were operating as “Al Qaeda’s air force.”

There are two interconnected reasons for the establishment of the infrastructure for dictatorship. First, as the danger mounts of a global conflagration between the imperialist powers, fears grow within the bourgeoisie of the potential for a mass movement in opposition to militarism.

Second, the same limitless self-enrichment by the financial oligarchy that animates the turn to militarism and colonial-style wars of conquest underlies the assault on jobs, wages and essential services that Cameron has declared the new “age of austerity.”

The prevailing level of social inequality—the ever greater concentration of wealth at the very top of society alongside the impoverishment of the vast majority—is incompatible with democratic forms of rule. The preservation of such a social order demands coercion and state violence.

 

 

Canada’s parliament adopts bill to greatly expand intelligence agencies’ powers

By Roger Jordan
May 8, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Canada’s House of Commons voted late Wednesday to adopt the Conservative government’s Bill C-51, which, in the name of combatting terrorism, overturns core democratic rights and legal principles

In its third reading, the House voted by 183 to 96 in favour of the legislation. It will now be sent to the Senate for final approval, with the government pressing for Bill C-51 to be proclaimed law before the month’s end.

Bill C-51 authorizes the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to break the law and violate the Canadian constitution’s “Charter of Rights and Freedoms” in disrupting groups or individuals the state deems to pose a threat to the country’s national security.

While the government has presented CSIS’s new “disruption” powers as directed at terrorist plots, the legislation defines national security in sweeping terms so as to include purported threats to the country’s economic security, territorial integrity, diplomatic interests or constitutional order. The activities CSIS will be permitted to undertake could include everything from breaking into homes and offices to steal computers and seizing bank accounts, to pressing employers to fire national security suspects or mounting smear campaigns against them.

The legislation’s sweeping definition of national-security threats means that CSIS can and will target dissident political groups and protesting workers. Both CSIS and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have a notorious record of targeting leftwing and working-class organizations stretching back decades.

Not insignificantly, some of the language Bill C-51 uses in describing national security threats echoes that which the Harper government has employed in justifying illegalizing strikes, including by Canada Post, Air Canada and CP Rail workers.

Bill C-51 would also create a new “speech-crime” under which persons could be jailed for up to five years for the promotion of terrorism “in general.” The speech in question need not have been tied to any actual or planned terrorist attack, nor made in public. As legal experts and even sections of the corporate media have observed, this new criminal offense is so vaguely and broadly defined that it could readily be used to target those who express sympathy with groups like Hamas (officially designated a terrorist organization under Canada’s Anti-Terroism Law) or the pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine, or who oppose Canada’s participation in imperialist wars in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Bill C-51 will also expand the police’s power to detain terrorist suspects without charge and empower the courts to remove “terrorist propaganda” from the internet. The state’s ability to impose travel bans and other restrictions on individuals who have never been charged let alone convicted of a crime is also being greatly expanded.

Bill C-51 guts Canadians’ privacy rights, giving the various national security agencies virtually unfettered access to all government information about individuals who become the subject of a national security investigation. Such investigations, as the Conservative government-appointed Privacy Commissioner noted, can be triggered by simply visiting a country like Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iran.

Harper’s Conservative government is ramming Bill C-51through parliament at breakneck speed, while whipping up a climate of fear so as to intimidate all opposition to its draconian measures. Since last October’s killings of two Canadian Armed Forces personnel by two disturbed individuals, Harper and his government have systematically portrayed Canada as a country under siege by terrorists, so as to provide justification for the shredding of democratic rights at home and a policy of aggressive war abroad. Just last weekend, Harper seized on his visit to Canadian military personnel in Kuwait involved in the US-led bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria to promote Bill C-51.

In parliament, the government ensured that the bill was subjected to only the most perfunctory scrutiny. The time allowed for consideration of its provisions at the committee stage was extremely curtailed. Only a small number of witnesses were permitted to make brief appearances and those who questioned the bill’s provisions—the vast majority—were routinely derided by government MPs as enablers of terrorism.

The handful of amendments the Conservatives subsequently made to the bill will have virtually no impact on its scope. The attempt to reassure critics that those engaging in civil disobedience and other “unlawful” protests will be exempt from CSIS disruption campaigns is worthless given the ease with which the state can designate such protests as national security threats, if not acts of terrorism.

Despite expressing concerns with certain aspects of the bill, the Liberals voted in favour of it Wednesday evening as they did in the bill’s first and second reading. Party leader Justin Trudeau has claimed that if the Liberals form the government after the upcoming federal election, they will make amendments, but they have conspicuously joined with the government in asserting that the powers of the national-security apparatus must be massively expanded.

Responding to NDP MP Wayne Marsden’s criticism of the Liberals’ stand on Bill C-51, Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray stated, “I would ask the member whether he would want it on his conscience should there be an attack that leads to deaths of Canadians because of the loopholes that the bill is attempting to fix?”

Like the Official Opposition NDP, the Liberals’ main objection to the bill has been the lack of oversight of the intelligence agencies by vetted representatives of the ruling elite.

While the NDP did vote against Bill C-51, its opposition is of a thoroughly unprincipled character. For nearly three weeks after Harper’s late January unveiling of the legislation, the NDP remained almost completely silent, issuing no substantive critique of the bill’s numerous anti-democratic measures. Only after a significant section of Canada’s ruling elite, led by the Globe and Mail, had sharply criticized the bill, warning that so blatant a break with democratic forms of rule could undermine the legitimacy of the government and state, did NDP leaders Thomas Mulcair belatedly announce that his party would oppose Bill C-51.

The NDP never sought to mobilize Canadians in opposition to Bill C-51 and draw the connection between it and the broader assault on democratic rights, whether in the form of the criminalizing of strikes or the Communications Security Establishment’s (CSE) systematic spying on the metadata of Canadian electronic communications

Instead, the social-democrats did everything to reassure the ruling class that they have no fundamental disagreement over maintaining in place the vast array of anti-democratic, police-state measures implemented since 2001. Mulcair even went so far as to say that if the NDP forms the government after the election, it will not seek to repeal Bill C-51, only, like the Liberals, amend it.

The complicity of the opposition parties has exposed the bankruptcy of the perspective advanced by various protest groups like Openmedia and Protest Canada that have organized “Stop Bill C-51” rallies in recent weeks. While providing an indication of the growing popular hostility to the attack on democratic rights being mounted in the name of combating terrorism, the rallies have been orientated toward pressuring the big business political establishment through a “non-partisan” protest campaign.

This is spelled out on the “StopBillC-51” website. “The silver lining,” it declares, “is that this is an election year and public opposition and support are particularly important to MPs this year. The Bill can be shut down in one of two ways: 1. By having it voted down. If the Liberal MPs can be pressured to change their stance on the bill and every other MP voted against the bill, it would only take seven Tory MPs to break ranks to vote the bill down… 2. By delaying the third vote until parliament breaks for election.”

Nothing could be more bankrupt than seeking to rely on the Liberals and the other parties of the establishment to stand up for democratic rights. It was a Liberal government that began the onslaught on basic rights in the aftermath of 9/11, enshrining a catch-all definition of terrorism in the Criminal Code and vastly expanding the powers of the police and intelligence agencies, including sanctioning CSE’s spying on Canadians’ electronic communications.

The Chretien Liberal government’s break with long-standing democratic and legal norms, together with the construction of a mass surveillance apparatus, was part of an international process which saw the ruling class around the globe turn decisively towards authoritarian forms of rule. In all of the major imperialist powers, the purported threat of terrorism has been used to develop and enforce a vast array of repressive measures that have as their ultimate target the broad masses of working people.

The backdrop to this turn toward authoritarian forms of rule in Canada, as around the world, is an unprecedented growth in social inequality and the ruling elite’s pursuit of an agenda of austerity and war that is inimical to the interests of the vast majority. These processes have intensified since the 2008 global economic meltdown, as the bourgeoisie steps up its class war assault on public services and worker rights. Growing working class opposition has been met with increasing state violence, including the illegalization of virtually all strikes in the federally-regulated sector, the suppression of the 2010 anti-G-20 protests in Toronto, and the Quebec Liberal government’s use of police violence and emergency legislation against the 2012 Quebec students strike.

The imminent adoption of Bill C-51 has illustrated once again that no section of the political establishment can be relied upon to conduct a genuine struggle against the assault on democratic rights. All of the parliamentary parties are complicit in the building up of a vast national security apparatus whose foremost and true target is the growing popular opposition to big business and it agenda of austerity and war.

To stop the authoritarian Bill C-51 and dismantle the reactionary police-state apparatus built up over the past decade and more requires the mobilization of the working class on the basis of a socialist and internationalist programme as fought for by the Socialist Equality Party.

This author also recommends:

Canada’s Bill C-51: A sweeping assault on democratic rights and legal principles—Part 1
[6 March 2015]

Canada’s Bill C-51: A sweeping assault on democratic rights and legal principles—Part 2
[7 March 2015]

Canada’s NDP belatedly opposes Conservatives’ draconian “anti-terror” bill
[23 February 2015]

Canada: Why is the Globe and Mail denouncing Harper’s latest “anti-terrorism” bill?
[18 February 2015]

Canada’s Fascist Shift

By Mark Taliano
May 1, 2015
Global Research

 

Bill-C51-Canada-Police-StateThe “fascist shift”, as described by author Naomi Wolf in The End Of America/ Letter Of Warning To A Young Patriot, is accelerating in Canada with the tabling of (“State Terror”) Bill C-51.

Though universally condemned by experts, and increasingly unpopular amongst Canadians, the Bill will almost certainly pass, as common sense and public opinion become the first casualties of Canada’s fascistic governance.

The following overlapping and intersecting fascistic strategies, as enumerated by Wolf, are being entrenched in Canada, all to the detriment of civil society, and to the benefit of a predatory system of top down governance and control:

Invoke an external and internal threat

The Harper government has manipulatively invoked the threat of ISIS to create unreasonable societal fear, so that it can advance an imperial agenda beneath the cover of lies and deceptions.

There are simply too many holes in the official ISIS narrative to accept it at face value.  There exists too much contradictory evidence of the West supplying ISIS with weapons and foodstuffs, and of the West not being “serious” about destroying ISIS  — in addition to the fact that the West and ISIS share common goals: namely, the conquest of Syria and further destabilization of the Middle East – to unquestionably believe the official government narrative.

As professor Michel Chossudovsky explains in, “America’s ‘Global War On Terror’, Al Qaeda And The Islamic State”:

“The Global War on Terrorism has become a consensus. It is part of war propaganda. It is also used by Western governments to justify and implement ‘anti-terrorist’ legislation. It is the cornerstone of the West’s demonization campaign directed against Muslims.

It should also be understood that the ‘Global War on Terrorism’ supports a process of ‘economic conquest’, whereby countries forego their sovereignty.”

But the unreasonable fear creates the pre-conditions for the government to impose Police State legislation on a compliant public that seeks “protection”.

Surveil ordinary citizens and target key individuals

Peaceful human rights advocates such as Drs. Pam Palmater and Cindy Blackstock are already being targeted and surveilled, at considerable expense, and for no legitimate reason, yet Bill C-51 promises to become even more intrusive and repressive.

Blackstock is an activist for child welfare as well as Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.  Palmater is a lawyer and university professor who is an  activist for First Nations causes.

Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, for his part, argued that, Bill C-51 “would potentially lead to disproportionately large amounts of personal information of ordinary, law-abiding citizens being collected and shared,” and that, “this sets up the prospect of profiling and Big Data analytics on all Canadians.”

Surveillance of law-abiding citizens, under the watchful eye of “Thought Police” has the effect of putting a “chill” on freedoms of expression and assembly as guaranteed by Canada’s Charter of Rights.
It is not consistent with free and democratic societies, but it is yet another hallmark of Police State repression.

Subvert Rule of law:

Bill C-51 violates Section 35 of Canada’s Constitution by negating and denying rather than recognizing and affirming aboriginal and treaty rights.  First Nations have not been adequately consulted according to Canadian law.

Additionally, Bill C-51 derogates international rights.  According to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), issues that impact First Nations (such as Bill C-51) require the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of the impacted communities.

Cast criticism as ‘espionage’ and dissent as ‘treason’

Bill C-51 also subverts the rule of law by using poorly defined words that could be interpreted in a myriad of ways.  Megan Drysdale explains in “The Top 6 ways You Will Be Affected By Bill C-51”  that “innocent words” could be “interpreted as terrorism”:

“Innocent words can be interpreted as terrorism
Bill C-51 broadens the scope of propagation crimes to include advocating or promoting ‘terrorism offences in general.’ The wording of the bill is broad enough that a terrorist purpose is not required. Speaking privately about solutions to controversial conflicts or debating an academic opinion that ‘may’ cause a listener to commit a terrorist offence could count as an indictable offence for you, regardless of your own intentions. ‘Being reckless,’ as the bill describes it, can lead to up to five years in prison.”

Theoretically, then, an individual who exercises his/her freedom of dissent, and freedom to resist could be falsely branded in catch-all terms such as “terrorism”, or “espionage”, or even “treason”.
Government intentions revealed themselves in November, 2011 when NDP MPs Megan Leslie and Claude Gravelle were accused of treachery for travelling to Washington to communicate the NDP position regarding the tar sands. Leslie explained that they went “to propose a sustainable jobs strategy under a long term green energy future and to let her American interlocutors know there are Canadians who want tougher regulation of the tar sands.”

Restrict The Press:

The press has long been compromised by corporate monopoly ownership, but now public media is increasingly compromised as well, so much so that media has basically become an “arm of the government”.

A December 11, 2014 article entitled “The Conservative Broadcasting Corporation” , for example, shows that membership of the government-appointed Board Of Directors for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), is dominated by people who are, or have been, financial contributors to the reigning Conservative Party of Canada.

The messaging is further compromised by the government’s restriction of information sources.  The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), yet another “arm of the government”, is being used to audit “radical” charities.  Elizabeth Renzetti explains in “Silence of the Charities” that

“If you look at the 52 groups that have been targeted for audits since the Harper government’s 2012 crackdown on political activity by charities, it’s not hard to see what joins them: advocacy of causes that the Conservative government thinks are, by its own admission, “radical.” I don’t actually know the full list, because it’s not been revealed, but last year the CBC revealed the names of seven environmental charities, including the David Suzuki Foundation and Tides Canada. The free-speech group PEN Canada and human-rights advocates Amnesty International were also targeted. Some 400 academics signed a letter denouncing the audit into the political activities of the progressive think tank Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.”

Each of these “covert” strategies pollutes the collective mindset of the population in favour of the state, and makes a mockery of the notion of “freedom of the press”.

Arbitrarily detain and release citizens

Vague definitions of “terrorism” coupled with lowered standards for legitimate detention as outlined in Bill C-51 means that seemingly “one-off” debacles such as the mass arrests of demonstrators during the G-20 protests, described by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) as “unprecedented, disproportionate, and, at times unconstitutional”, could theoretically be “normalized”.
The threat of arbitrary detention and release is an impediment to freedoms of peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression, and another sign of a closing society.

Infiltrate citizen groups

The threat of agents provocateurs who infiltrate citizen groups also serves to stifle people from exercising their rights, as it puts a chill on peaceful demonstrations.

Maude Barlow, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, explains in an Action Alert, that “three undercover police officers attempted to incite violence in 2007 at the Montebello protest against the Security and Prosperity Partnership,” and that,  “the proof of their actions was caught on film.”

Such actions, closely related to false flag operations, also serve to deny citizens of their rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly – two enemies of closing societies.

Develop a paramilitary force

Private, para-military agencies are making inroads into Canada’s military and security apparatuses. According to a National Post article, “Notorious security contractor Blackwater trained Canadian troops without U.S. permission: court documents”, dated August 8, 2012, Blackwater/Academi has had an untendered contract with Canada since 2006 for training to Special Operations troops and some police.

More recently, a Blackwater/Academi employee informed me, (in person), that his company will be providing security for the 2015 Pan Am Games in Ontario, Canada.

On the surface, what we know about the integration of para-military forces such as Academi into Canada’s military/security apparatuses seems fairly innocuous, however, para-military forces such as Blackwater/Academi have a huge presence overseas, and their covert operations, often with little oversight, and considerable immunity from prosecution, are increasingly involved in assignments that, until recently, would have fallen under the exclusive domain of the military.

Fascistic governments typically employ para military forces to create a buffer (of plausible deniability) to compromise transparency and accountability.

For example, Dawn Paley, author of Drug War Capitalism, explains in a research piece that,

“Through the 1980s, the Colombian state became increasingly paramilitarized, a process which ‘manifested itself as threats, bombings, and selective assassinations or collective massacres of government officials (principally but not exclusively from the left), and of popular political leaders, workers, peasants, professors, human rights activists, and members of nongovernmental organizations.’ “

Such is the danger when countries hire covert para-military forces, often beneath the radar, to advance their agendas.

Establish secret prisons

One final hallmark of the fascist shift as identified by Naomi Wolf, is the establishment of secret prisons.  Since the U.S has “black sites” throughout the world, Canada’s increasing “harmonization” with her ally, in terms of cross border policing and military operations abroad, raises red flags.  If our closest allies use gulags/black sites, are we not at least indirectly implicated?

Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin explains in, “Canada complicit in torture of innocent Afghans, diplomat says”, that “we detained, and handed over for severe torture, a lot of innocent people.”

While we may not yet have our own secret prisons, it would seem that we have used “secret prisons” abroad, to detain and torture innocent civilians.

Clearly, Canada’s fascist shift is in high gear, and Bill C-51, once passed, will put us in overdrive.

How will we ever be able to pull ourselves free of the mess that we’ve made?

Mark Taliano is Citizen Editor at Daily Clout.

Published first on Whatsupic

Canada: Conservatives fast-tracking Bill C-51 into law

By Roger Jordan
April 11, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Canada’s Conservative government is determined to quickly ram into law Bill C-5—legislation that in the name of fighting terrorism attacks core democratic rights and legal principles and will vastly strengthen the powers of the national-security apparatus.

Bill C-51 has been sharply criticized by the Canadian Bar Association, numerous civil rights’ advocates, and much of the corporate media. Yet the House of Commons’ Public Safety Committee approved it last week after introducing only four minor, government-authored amendments.

This approval in hand, the government now intends to push for Bill C-51 to be rapidly passed into law, likely before the end of this month.

The vast majority of the 49 witnesses heard by the Public Safety Committee spoke out against various aspects of the bill’s draconian measures. Holding a majority on the committee, as they do in parliament, the Conservatives responded with parliamentary maneuvers to restrict debate and by repeatedly accusing the bill’s opponents of being apologists for terrorism.

Under Bill C-51, Canada’s premier spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), will be granted the power to disrupt activity, including by illegal means, that it deems endangers Canada’s national security, economic stability, territorial integrity, diplomatic interests or constitutional order. The legislation creates a new criminal offense of encouraging terrorism “in general,” gives the police expanded powers of preventive arrest and detention without charge, vastly widens provisions for the sharing of private data between government departments, and provides for no additional oversight of the police and intelligence agencies. (See: Canada’s Bill C-51: A sweeping assault on democratic rights and legal principles—Part 1)

The first government-authored amendment struck the word “lawful” out of a clause referring to activities that cannot be disrupted by CSIS. The impact of this change is that “protests” as opposed to “lawful protests” are now excluded from disruption by the intelligence services.

Some commentators cited this as a significant improvement, since it is now clear that even protests outside of the law, i.e. acts of civil disobedience, should not be interfered with by the intelligence agencies.

The reality is that the change will have almost no practical impact on the scope of the new CSIS power. The bill continues to provide for disruption powers to be employed by CSIS to deal with activity deemed to be a threat to Canada’s national security, a sweeping formulation that encompasses much anti-government or anti-corporate political activity.

The Harper government has repeatedly denounced strikes and other protest actions, such as the 2010 anti-G 20 protest in Toronto, as threats to Canada’s economic stability or national security. On numerous occasions it has illegalized or threatened to criminalize strikes on the grounds they were threatening “economic stability.” As recently as February, striking CP Rail workers were the targets of such action.

CSIS is already working closely with the government to track protests across the country and make plans for how to deal with them. The latest evidence of this came in a secret memo obtained via a freedom of information request revealing that CSIS was involved in consultations with the government on how to deal with protests last summer against the construction of the Northern Gateway oil pipeline in British Columbia.

The Conservatives’ second amendment restricts the government from distributing personal information on persons involved in national security investigations beyond federal agencies. Originally the bill allowed the government to share details with absolutely anyone it chose.

This amendment will do nothing to change the fact that Bill C-51 guts Canadians’ privacy rights, by authorizing the sharing of personal information between seventeen government departments and agencies with a national security role.

Moreover, as a leaked document revealed last weekend, CSIS is already going much further than was previously realized in sharing intelligence with allied spy agencies around the world. While the close ties between CSIS, Canada’s electronic spy service (the Communications Security Establishment), and its partners in the “five eyes”—the intelligence services in the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand—are well known, the report revealed that intelligence has been regularly passed to other countries referred to as “trusted partners” of CSIS.

The document, obtained by the Canadian Press, was heavily censored and did not indicate which countries are considered “trusted partners.” But the despicable role of Canadian intelligence in providing detailed information to some of the most brutal regimes in the Middle East, in what amounted to Canada’s own rendition program, has been well documented. The most notorious example of this was the case of Maher Arar, where CSIS supplied Syrian security forces with information to be used in his year-long torture and interrogation on bogus terrorist charges.

The amendments proposed by all of the opposition parties illustrated their lack of concern with the broad assault on democratic rights being carried out in the name of the struggle against terrorism. While the New Democrats (NDP) and Greens voted against the bill at committee stage, the Liberals are backing it.

Liberal public safety spokesman Wayne Easter sought to secure an amendment that would provide for limited parliamentary oversight for CSIS, while defending the expanded powers Bill C-51 would give the agency. Easter’s committee would have been comprised of six members from the House of Commons and three senators—all of them carefully vetted and sworn to secrecy.

Even this was too much for the Conservatives, who have ruled out any parliamentary oversight of CSIS’s activities or any additional oversight of any part of Canada’s national-security apparatus.

In so doing, the government has drawn criticism from significant sections of the ruling elite. Such mechanisms exist in the US, Britain, and Canada’s other “five eyes” allies and they have done nothing to prevent these countries from establishing vast intelligence-gathering apparatuses which spy on millions.

The criticism of the government’s refusal to bow to calls for greater oversight is part of wider concerns within important sections of Canada’s ruling elite about the extent to which Bill C-51 breaks with traditional bourgeois-democratic norms and the political consequences of such a break. Under conditions where class tensions are rapidly reaching the boiling point, with mounting opposition to the Conservatives’ assault on public services and pensions and other social rights at home and aggressive militarism abroad, layers within the bourgeoisie worry that such an authoritarian turn could seriously undermine the popular legitimacy of parliament and the other state institutions they depend upon to uphold their class rule.

This is above all what is motivating the stance taken by the NDP and Greens, who have sought numerous changes to the bill while refusing to reject its fundamentals. Green Party leader Elizabeth May, for example, proposed an alteration to the new criminal offence of promoting terrorism “in general” so as to explicitly exclude private speech. Even if implemented, this would leave otherwise untouched a new, undefined “speech crime” that will give the government a means to silence critics of both its foreign and domestic policy. As it stands, the provision does not require any link to an actual terrorist attack or even a plan for such an attack and makes use of an all-embracing definition of terrorism such that someone who even expresses support or sympathy for a group like Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by Canada’s government, could potentially be charged with promoting terrorism and liable to a five-year prison term.

The NDP, which waited nearly a month after Bill C-51’s release before announcing its opposition, tabled around 40 amendments to the bill. NDP public safety spokesman Randal Garrison emphasized the party’s demand for some of the bill’s provisions to be subject to “sunset clauses,” i.e. regular parliamentary re-approval to remain in force.

In a statement meant to underline the NDP’s support for a dramatic strengthening of the coercive powers of the state, party leader Thomas Mulcair has stated that if the NDP forms the government after the coming federal election it will not repeal Bill C-51, only amend it.

The NDP has also hailed the signing of a letter by four former Canadian Prime Ministers opposing the bill. The signatories include Jean Chretien, who was Liberal Prime Minister in 2001 when the first anti-terrorism law was adopted in the wake of 9/11, and his successor Paul Martin. The law was a major assault on democratic rights, introducing into the criminal code a broad definition of terrorism and handing unprecedented powers of preventive detention to the police.

The NDP’s hailing of such figures’ limited opposition to Bill C-51 exposes the utterly fraudulent character of its claim to be an indefatigable defender of Canadians’ democratic rights.

This author also recommends:

Canada’s NDP belatedly opposes Conservatives’ draconian “anti-terror” bill
[23 February 2015]

Canada: Why is the Globe and Mail denouncing Harper’s latest “anti-terrorism” bill?
[18 February 2015]

Canada’s Political Mainstream Backs War in Ukraine

The Threats Against Russia

By Roger Annis
March 31, 2015
Counter Punch

 

Canadians will go to the polls next October in the first national election since the Conservative Party won a majority government in 2011. There is intense concern among progressive people in the country about the prospects of the Conservatives winning another term in office.

The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is moving further and further to the right. It has aligned itself tightly with U.S. foreign policy, including being ‘holier than thou’ in its unconditional support of Israel. It joined the U.S.-led air war in Iraq six months ago and now it is joining the U.S. in expanding that to Syria. It has cemented Canada’s role as a leading climate vandal in the world. It has attacked civil and social rights across the board and is now deepening that attack with the proposed, ‘police-state Canada’ Bill C-51.

This leaves many Canadians favorable to the idea of an electoral and governing alliance between the two, large opposition parties in Parliament—the Liberal and New Democratic parties—in order to defeat the Conservatives. NDP leader Tom Mulcair says he is open to a governing coalition with the Liberals if neither party wins an electoral majority.

But on the increasingly dangerous issue in world politics—the war in eastern Ukraine and accompanying military threats and expansion of NATO in eastern Europe—there is an astonishing unanimity in the Canadian political and media establishment. NATO is embarked on a drive to weaken Russia, with all the risk and folly that entails—including a nuclear danger. The people and territory of Ukraine are being used as war proxies to get at Russia. Yet, there is nary a peep of disagreement in the Parliament in Ottawa.

Liberals in lock-step with Conservatives over Ukraine/Russia

Is it possible for opposition parties in Ottawa to promise big change from Conservative rule when they share the Conservative–and NATO–ambition for a ‘long war’ with Russia? It is not. Canadians are seriously mistaken if we believe that a country embarked on confrontation with the peoples of Russia and elsewhere in eastern Europe can simultaneously tackle the important issues of our times such as climate change, political rights and social justice (particularly as concerns Indigenous peoples).

The website The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond is writing and publishing extensively about the ‘blame Russia’ group think in government and mainstream media in Canada and other NATO countries over the war in Ukraine. With few exceptions, mainstream media in the NATO countries is acting as an echo chamber of government policy. The ‘blame Russia’ narrative says that the governing coalition in Ukraine of billionaire neo-conservatives and right-wing extremists are brave defenders of Ukraine worthy of support against ‘Russian aggression’, end of discussion.

It gets worse in Canada. Two of the country’s leading newspapers—the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail—have been publishing articles promoting the fundraising efforts in Canada of Ukraine’s extreme-right paramilitaries for the purchase of weapons and other military equipment.

The Liberal Party, supposedly a party of the mainstream center, is proving every bit as hawkish and warlike as the Conservatives. A key voice of the party on Ukraine and Russia is Chrystia Freeland. She is an author, former editor of the Globe and Mail, and the star candidate of the Liberals who won the hotly contested by-election race in 2013 for the Parliamentary seat of Toronto Centre , narrowly defeating the candidate of the NDP, Linda McQuaig, a left-wing journalist.

One of Freeland’s parents was Ukrainian and she is fluent in the language.

Freeland spoke bluntly to a gathering of Ukrainian Canadian women on March 8 at an event in Toronto marking International Womens Day. A brief portion of her remarks (in English) was broadcast in a Ukrainian language news program here (at the 7′ mark).

She told the gathering, “This conflict with Russia is not going to end in one day. Our community, our country, the entire Western world needs to really be prepared for a new environment. This is not something that can end quickly, and we need to adjust the way we think. We need to understand this is a very profound ideological battle going on.

She went on, “It’s actually a conflict even bigger than Ukraine. This is about the rule of law and democracy in Europe and the Western world. That’s why it is being fought so fiercely.”

She gave an interview to a Ukrainian-Canadian publication at the same event in which she said, “Having said that [the West has been valiantly aiding Ukraine], I think we need to be prepared that right now this Minsk-2 [ceasefire] moment is a pause, not the end. And we need to be prepared for this conflict to be a very, very long conflict.”

Yvan Baker, the Liberal member for Etobicoke Center (Toronto) in the Ontario Legislature (an electoral district with a large number of Ukrainian-Canadians), is another of the Liberal hawks on Ukraine. He gave a statement to the Legislature on March 11 in which he said, “Today, Ukraine is at war and the situation is dire. Russian-backed forces have occupied part of Eastern Ukraine and continue to advance. The soldiers I met [while visiting Ukraine in November 2014] are fighting against state-of-the-art equipment with outdated weapons, some from World War II.”

“The invasion is a global threat. It is a violation of international law and order established at such great cost during WWII.”

“Efforts at peace have failed. For months, Ukraine’s president has been asking for defensive [sic] weapons so that his nation stands a chance against the larger and more advanced Russian military. Others such as [U.S. Senator] John McCain and John Boehner [Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives] have echoed his call and the U.S. Congress has passed authorization for the U.S. to arm Ukraine.

“I urge our federal government to act on the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’s Feb. 21st statement which calls for Canada to, and I quote: ‘dramatically increase sectoral sanctions’, ‘increase the provision of communications and intelligence capabilities’ and ‘provide Ukraine with the defensive weapons, equipment and training it needs to defend its territorial integrity’.”

Liberal Party Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne joined the pro-war chorus last August when she appeared at a Ukraine Independence Day event in Toronto. It was organized by the extremist Ukrainian Canadian Congress and it featured a fundraising booth of the fascist Right Sector party of Ukraine. Funds were directed to the purchase of military equipment.

Wynne’s speech was a vigorous call to continue Kyiv’s war in eastern Ukraine. At the time, the war was at one of its bloodiest stages. Rockets and mortars were raining down relentlessly on civilian targets, including school and hospitals, while residents, including children, were living months on end in makeshift bomb shelters.

Wynne told the gathering that Ukraine armed forces “are defending the very independence that we are here to commemorate”. She declined to speak to journalists afterward.

It is unusual, to say the least, for a provincial premier in Canada to pronounce vigorously on a foreign policy issue, particularly so when it concerns a brutal war against a civilian population. But such is the group-think support for Kyiv’s war that Wynne’s call to arms raised little attention or controversy.

A Liberal member of Parliament in Montreal, Irwin Cotler, succeeded on March 25 in gaining unanimous support for a motion in Parliament to extend sanctions against Russian officials deemed to be involved in the death in prison custody of a Russia lawyer more than five years ago.

The official opposition party, the NDP, has not been as vigorously outspoken as the Liberals (excepting an appearance by MP Peggy Nash at an event in Toronto last November where she shared a stage with a Right Sector guest speaker). But it supports the government/NATO drive.

The one Green Party member in Parliament has been in lock-step on Ukraine, notwithstanding her divergence from the government on the bombings in Iraq and on civil liberties issues. Elizabeth May put an innocuous question to the government in the House of Commons on March 25 in which she assured, “We all join the Prime Minister in condemning Putin’s aggression [sic]…”

Police-state laws

Ironically, the opposition parties in Ottawa are voicing discomfort and even some opposition to a new set of police-state laws in Canada which resemble an awful lot those which have come into force in Ukraine during the past year. Bill C-51 contains several new “national security” provisions which will make it easier for Canada’s political police and other police agencies to spy on, disrupt and pre-emptively arrest people deemed to be a threat to vaguely denied “national interests” and “national security” in Canada. The bill has been condemned by human rights lawyers and advocates, environmentalists and trade union leaders, among many others, who say its provisions are aimed squarely at critics of government and industry such as them. (See a full explanation of Bill C-51 here.)

Indeed, the political policing to which Bill C-51 gives further legitimacy has been on full display in the streets of Montreal and Quebec City in the past ten days as tens of thousands of post-secondary students have gone on strike in Quebec against hikes to tuition fees and other antisocial, austerity policies. Last week, police in Montreal and Quebec City assaulted several large student demonstrations and arrested hundreds. In Quebec City on March 24, 274 protesters were arrested and detained by police during an evening protest and street march. Two days later during another evening march, some students were shot point-blank in the face by Quebec City police with tear gas canisters.

The police actions in Quebec should concern every Canadian and they raise the obvious spectre of the cruel, war policies in Ukraine coming home to roost in Canada. And in an eerie replication of the pattern of mainstream news reporting of Ukraine, the news of police actions in Quebec has largely gone unreported elsewhere in the country.

Illegal war in the Middle East

Another taste of the new, Ukraine-inspired law and order in Canada is the federal government’s decision to extend to Syria the aerial bombing campaign it has been conducting in Iraq alongside its U.S. big brother. The bombings are purportedly targeting “terrorists”. On what legal basis is Canada going to war in Syrian territory? Roughly the same as in Iraq, namely, ‘the U.S. is doing it, so we should join them’.

Harper told Parliament that Canada is “pursuing this action on exactly the same legal basis as its allies”. But he did not answer what, exactly, is that basis.

Foreign affairs minister Rob Nicholson told the chamber, “The Americans have operated in there [Syria] for six months without resistance from the Syrian government.”

Minister of Defense Jason Kenny says Canada is acting at the behest of the discredited and U.S. puppet government in Iraq. He said, Iraq has asked Canada and allied countries to help them defend their innocent civilians from terror attacks being launched out of eastern Syria in a part of that country the Syrian government either is unwilling or unable to control.”

When pressed by opposition parties and journalists, the Conservatives agreed to send a letter to the United Nations to inform it of its plans.

The Liberals and the NDP agreed to the bombings in Iraq when they were launched six months ago but are uneasy over extending this to Syria. Both voted against the Syria adventure, though a section of the Liberals disagrees with party leader Justin Trudeau.

There is an atmosphere of intellectual intimidation prevailing in Canada whereby criticism of the war and of NATO is said to amount to uncritical support of the Russian government (or what they call “Putin’s regime”). As a consequence, some alternative media is silent. Academia and antiwar groups are largely quiescent. In 2003, the advocates of war against Iraq did not get very far with accusations against antiwar forces of “appeasing” Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein. Today, a parallel argument against Russia has been effective in quieting voices that would otherwise be expected to be critical.

The NATO confrontation with Russia is a reckless and dangerous course that is corroding politics in Canada. It threatens the capacity to forge a progressive alternative to the governing warmakers if it is not challenged. That’s why it is important to speak and act against the war in Ukraine and its wider implications.

Roger Annis is an editor of the website The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond.

 

Canadian Secret Police and Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act: State-Sanctioned Black Ops and Cover-Ups

By Puline Easton and Anna Di Carlo
Global Research, March 25, 2015
Tony Seed’s Weblog

 

bill-c-51-ingrid-rice

Cartoon by Ingrid Rice

According to official and media accounts of crimes committed against Canadians, Quebeckers and Indigenous peoples by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), some crimes never took place and others were unacceptable aberrations. They say that, in any event, the door for such things to be repeated was closed in 1984, when the Canadian Security Intelligence Review Service (CSIS) was created to collect intelligence but not pass to action. In this context, concern is expressed about Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 extending powers to CSIS to allow it to conduct activities that resemble those of the RCMP prior to 1984. Of course, it is not true that after 1984 the security services stopped violating the rights of the people.Far from it, another national inquiry is required to reveal what the spy agencies have been up to since then, up to and including their cover-up of their involvement in the 1985 Air India disaster. Nonetheless, it is instructive to review the official story and what the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) had to say about this at the time the events were taking place. The aim of the review is to sum up this experience so that people can provide themselves with a suitable guide to action which serves the present and opens a path to a safe and bright future.

As the official story goes, the RCMP carried out illegal activities until approximately 1977 as part of its work to safeguard Canadian “national security,” but all of this was cleaned up in the period from 1978 through 1984, culminating in the separation of the RCMP’s intelligence and enforcement wings, as recommended by the Commission of Inquiry Concerning Certain Activities of the RCMP (the McDonald Commission). From 1977 through to 1981 was the period of investigation into RCMP wrongdoings, while 1981 through 1984 was the period of reorganization of the security forces. The new regime was put in place in November 1984 with the appointment of the first Security Intelligence Review Committee.

Reviewing the incidents that led to the creation of the McDonald Commission

On July 26, 1974, Robert Samson a former RCMP constable and member of the Combined Anti-Terrorist Squad of Quebec who had gone into the RCMP-Security Service (RCMP-SS) was injured by a bomb explosion in front of the Mount Royal home of Melvyn Dobrin, president of the Steinberg supermarket chain. Samson said he was meeting an informant at the location when he spotted and picked up a parcel, which exploded in his face. The RCMP officially disavowed any link to Samson’s activity and reported him to the Montreal police. The Quebec fire commissioner, who interrogated Samson. did not buy his story and he was charged with planting the bomb. During his court case, held in 1976, Samson spilled information about what he referred to as Operation Bricole. In exchange for immunity he explained that Operation Bricole involved a break-in at the Montreal office of Agence de Presse Libre du Québec (APLQ) “to take documents which were files of the most militant members as well as pertinent documents.” He explained that the APLQ “always had a fairly big list of Quebec leftists.” To this day, what Samson was actually doing on July 26, 1974 remains a mystery.

Shortly after the conclusion of Samson’s trial, then-Solicitor General Warren Allmand told the House of Commons that the APLQ raid was an isolated incident “organized by either the Quebec provincial police or the Montreal police, and the RCMP assumed an assisting role.”

At the same time, in June 1977, the Quebec government, headed by the Parti Québécois, decided to launch its own inquiry into the police activities, the Commission d’enquête sur des opérations policières en territoire québécois (also known as the Keable Commission). Every step of the way, the Commission met with resistance and obstruction from both the RCMP and the federal government who challenged the Commission’s jurisdiction to examine the affairs of a federal agency, arguing that it was invading the prerogatives of the federal government. The Trudeau government succeeded in having Canadian courts declare the investigation unconstitutional, even though a large number of the dirty operations were directed against the people of Quebec. It charged that the Keable Commission would be violating the Official Secrets Act. Solicitor General Francis Fox, who succeeded Allmand, refused to hand over subpoenaed documents, using the “absolute privilege” accorded to the Solicitor General under Canada’s Federal Courts Act, a privilege without any recourse to appeal.

The Keable Commission nevertheless gathered enough proof to establish that the RCMP had taken part in a number of illegal activities as part of its surveillance operations after the October Crisis of 1970, including the following:

  • A burglary at the offices of Agence de Presse Libre du Québec (ALPQ);
  • The burning of a barn in 1971 called La Ferme du Québec Libre in the Eastern Townships where members of the FLQ and the U.S. Black Panthers and various protest groups met;
  • The issuing of 13 false FLQ press releases in 1971 from a dummy FLQ cell called André Ouimet, which claimed responsibility for the firebombing of the Brinks Company office in Montreal in January of the same year. The purpose of the communiqués was to create the impression that the FLQ was still active after the October Crisis of 1970. Some of them threatened the life of Minister of Justice Jérôme Choquette and claimed responsibility for firebombings that never took place. The media, especially the Journal de Montréal, published stories on the basis of those communiqués with titles such as “The FLQ Is Not Dead” and “Have We Underestimated the Strength of the FLQ?” The FLQ which for all intents and purposes was decimated during the October Crisis, was now presented as a powerful organization with numerous cells whose frequent actions “represent an active threat to the security of the person and to civil liberties in Quebec.” The Keable Commission dedicated a chapter to the role of the media in these intrigues.
  • The theft of dynamite on the night of April 26 to 27, 1972 from Richelieu Explosives in Rougemont by policeman Rick Daigle assisted by corporals Bernard Chamberland and Normand Dubuc;
  • The kidnapping of André Chamard, a law intern involved in the defence of the accused FLQ members on June 7, 1972. The RCMP first attempted to recruit Chamard as an informer using a drug case he was involved in as blackmail and subjected him to beatings and death threats.
  • The theft of Parti Québécois membership lists in January 1973 during “Operation Ham,” as part of a burglary of the courier company “Courier Dynamics Inc,” an operation involving 66 RCMP officers.[1]
  • RCMP Officer Donald Cobb, Inspector Jean Coutellier of the Sûreté du Québec and Inspector Roger Cormier of the Montreal police were eventually charged with authorizing a search without a warrant in relation to the APLQ break-in. The proceedings carried on until June 1977 when they pleaded guilty, eliminating public hearing of evidence. Their lawyer argued that they were outstanding citizens, that they had a momentary lapse when they failed to obtain a warrant and that they had done it with the best of motives – to defend national security. They were granted unconditional discharges and returned to active duty.

On July 6, 1977, Solicitor General Fox acknowledged in the House of Commons that the APLQ break-in was not an “exceptional and isolated” case and announced that a Commission of Inquiry would be launched.

The McDonald Commission hearings

The McDonald Commission began its hearings on October 18, 1977. All told there were 169 hearings, 144 of them held in camera. It heard evidence from 149 witnesses about RCMP activities and the extent of knowledge about them by Ministers and senior officials.

The major topics it dealt with were summarized by the Commission:

  • “Operation Bricole – the A.P.L.Q. Incident;
  • Operation Ham – the removal and copying of Parti Québécois tapes;
  • Surreptitious Entries (generally);
  • Certain cases of attempted recruitment of Human Sources;
  • Mail Checks;
  • Burning of a Barn; Removal of Dynamite;
  • Access to information in the possession of the Department of National Revenue, the Unemployment Insurance Commission and other government departments;
  • Operation Checkmate – countermeasures and disruptive tactics;
  • Miscellaneous topics relating to the accountability of the R.C.M.P. to Government; the Relationship between the Security Service and its Human Sources.”

The Commission promised that, subject to “the restrictions imposed upon us by our mandate as to matters related to ‘national security,’ ‘public interest,’ or ‘the interest of the privacy of individuals,’” it would make what it heard “public as much as possible.”

Fifty-two volumes of transcripts heard in camera were released as 45 volumes of redacted material. Some of this is now in the National Archives, which can be accessed with CSIS approval. Once cleared for access, documents can be viewed by others. Much, if not most, of the evidence pertaining to this period right through to 1988 has been destroyed.

RCMP destruction of Operation Checkmate files

During the McDonald Commission’s hearings in November 1979 and February 1980, it was revealed that the RCMP-SS destroyed files, particularly those related to Operation Checkmate. They destroyed files containing details about actual operations conducted, and others that were proposals for “unexecuted operations.”

According to what the RCMP-SS told the Commission, the files were destroyed after two internal reviews, one in 1974-75, referred to as “Phase One” involving “mere proposals for operations” – and the remainder in 1977. There were “approximately 25 volumes” related to Operation Checkmate in total.

The Commission was told that Deputy Director (Operations) Howard Draper and Staff Sergeant Ron Yaworski and Superintendent Gustav Begalki, who was in charge of “D” Operations – the Counter-Subversion Branch that oversaw the Special Operations group supervising Operation Checkmate, recommended the destruction of files. The Commission reported: “[B]y November 1974, [Yaworski] believed that many of the operations which had been carried out under the code name ‘Checkmate’ were ‘wrong.’ He came to this conclusion because of his ‘increasing awareness of mounting public criticism in the United States of comparable programmes which had been carried out by the F.B.I.’”

The Commission reported that Yaworksi was concerned about “leakage of government documents” and the “possibility of the disclosure of what he considered to be ‘very sensitive’ and ‘very explosive’ information and about probable consequent embarrassment to the Security Service as a whole.” He wanted to “lessen the possibilities of exposure of Operation Checkmate.”

The Commission reported that the officers involved in the destruction of files discussed “the potentially ‘very explosive’ nature of what little material was still on the files.” The Commission said no explanation was given as to what “very explosive” meant, or whether the “problems involved possible illegalities.” No list of the materials destroyed was kept.

Begalki said that his reasoning for destroying the files was the “winding down” of the operation. The Commission reported: “Mr. Begalki says that the possible embarrassment to the Security Service in the event of the disclosure of any of the contents of the Checkmate files did not ‘separately’ have a bearing on his decision that the files should be destroyed. He later explained that that was not his reason, and that he did not know the contents of any of the files or that there were any illegalities described in them. He maintains that the lack of intelligence value was the criterion he applied in authorizing this destruction of the files, and which he expected Staff Sergeant Pethic to apply as he went through the files.”

Individuals who participated in the destruction of the files, such as Staff Sergeant Pethic, told the Commission they had vague recollections of the files. Pethic said he “vaguely remembered a file on an individual.” He said that “he retained only three documents: (1) an outline of the finances of either the Communist Party of Canada or a communist front organization, (2) a description of an individual’s departure from a suspected communist front organization and (3) a document from an agency outside the Security Service.”

The Commission concluded: “In our opinion the explanation given by Mr. Yaworski for recommending in 1974 the destruction of the Checkmate files, when analyzed, amounts to nothing less than an intention to reduce the possibility of the Government of Canada learning of acts which he himself had come to consider to have been ‘wrong.’ Standard criteria for the destruction of files were deliberately disregarded by him and Mr. Draper.

“We cannot ignore the fact that more than three years earlier, on June 30, 1971, in a memorandum prepared by Mr. Yaworski (although signed by Sergeant Pethic), it was said that ‘containment measures being considered or attempted’ might be ‘of such a sensitive nature that they are not to be committed to paper.’ Mr. Yaworski told us that by ‘sensitive’ he did not mean ‘illegal’ but rather the fact that the Security Service was using information from a source which might put the source in jeopardy, and to the fact that the Security Service was itself taking action rather than simply reporting its information to some other branch of government.

“We find this explanation unconvincing and we believe that Mr. Yaworski, drafting the memorandum for Sergeant Pethic’s signature, was referring to a willingness to use deterrent methods, including illegal ones if necessary, to achieve what he described in the memorandum as a ‘more aggressive and positive approach’ to operations which would ‘impede, deter or undermine’ target groups.”

No charges were laid for this deliberate destruction of evidence about the crimes committed against the peoples of Canada and Quebec. At some point, Ron Yaworski became a “Security Consultant” who, as late as 2002, appeared before a Senate committee as an expert witness during its in camera budgetary considerations on security matters. (The position of deputy director of operations for CSIS is held by a Jeff Yaworski. TML could not establish if they are related.)

Aside from the destruction of files in the 1974-77 period, in the transition of the RCMP-SS to CSIS, one of the issues was what to do with the files accumulated over more than fifty years of subversive activities. One scholar who has investigated the fate of the files writes:

“The Security Service, with the federal government’s permission had already destroyed 208,481 of its files between July 1983 and May 1984. With the appearance of the new spy agency, a decision was made to transfer some of the records to the National Archives of Canada. In 1987 CSIS created the National Archives Requirements Unit to review the documents in consultation with archivists. Out of nearly 500,000 records, 440,000 were destroyed. Twenty-nine thousand documents made the trip to the archives and 28,000 were retained at CSIS because of continuing value. The embarrassment factor was considered in at least one case when the records were being reviewed. After assessing a single volume in the collection relating to McGill University, an employee of CSIS was sure that the file deserved to be destroyed, since Canada’s new spy service had ‘no need for a file to be specifically opened on a university, [deleted] Keeping such a file can only bring us problems.”[2]

The deliberations of CPC(M-L) on the McDonald Commission and the creation of CSIS

On February 19, 1975, the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) convened a press conference in Toronto to repudiate a sensationalist news item in the Toronto Star claiming that an FBI agent named Joseph Burton had infiltrated the Party and gathered internal information. In a statement issued at the time, the Party said: “This manoeuver on the part of the capitalist press was so clumsy that it showed their sinister motive to discredit the Party by raising doubts about [its] operations and causing suspicion in the minds of the people about [its] integrity.” The alleged infiltrator claimed that he knew that “Hardial Bains walked out of the North Korean embassy in Paris with $30,000” when such an embassy did not even exist.

This activity was one of many carried out against CPC(M-L). It was neither the first dirty operation carried out against the Party by the RCMP-SS nor was it the last. The day will certainly come when the peoples of Canada will reconstruct the truth about the sordid treacherous activities carried out against them in the period that has supposedly been investigated and dealt with. But the biggest fraud of all is that CSIS gave rise to a “new” civilian agency to take care of national security intelligence. In fact, any RCMP-SS members who wished to do so were welcomed to join CSIS. It is said that many even kept their desks and that the new spy agency primarily consisted of former RCMP-SS members.

In the period of transition to CSIS, on August 12, 1984, the British Columbia Headquarters of CPC(M-L) was burned to the ground along with surrounding businesses, with total damages estimated at $3 million. It was as though CSIS was sending a message that nothing was going to change. A 22-year-old American citizen named Rolland Degroot was detained in connection with the fire, but the police and the media refused to properly investigate the matter so that nobody would be charged and there was to be no redress. In the days and weeks prior to the razing of the Party’s BC Headquarters, various other attacks were carried out, not only on the BC Headquarters, but in Montreal as well.

Degroot was a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi, who the police never charged or brought to justice. The attack was part of the state’s racist offensive against the people of British Columbia and across the country to terrorize immigrants and get them to stop fighting for their rights. The state floated Nazi and white supremacist organizations which it used to launch racist attacks. It tried to blame the people for being racist, as it does today in the case of accusations that Quebeckers are Islamophobic or that Canadians demand that Muslims be “moderate” and swear loyalty to what are called Canadian values. All of this propaganda served to justify using state intervention against the people in both Canada and India just as today it is used in a similar manner at home and abroad.

During the period when these attacks were being launched, CPC(M-L) and its leader Hardial Bains raised the slogan to blame the state and not the people for racist attacks and fascist violence and called on the people to organize their own defence, since clearly the police were not going to defend them. The East Indian Defence Committee was founded in 1975 and then, in November 1980, the People’s Front Against Racist and Fascist Violence was founded. Both organizations developed their work under the leadership of the Party and Hardial Bains. It brought organized form to work that had been carried out from early 1973 to unite the people of all walks of life and backgrounds in action to oppose the racist and fascist violence and make sure it would not take hold in Canada. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians joined in mass opposition to the racist and fascist violence, including to the racist Green Paper on Immigration released by the Liberal government in 1975, a struggle the Party also led. The Green Paper divided Canadians between whites and “people of colour with novel and distinctive features” and enshrined the category Aboriginal to make sure all the Indigenous nations were lumped together on a racist basis. Following the Green Paper, as the recognition of state-organized racism took hold in the Canadian consciousness, Ontario issued the Walter Pitman Report which declared that there was no evidence of state-organized racism and that Canadians “are all a little bit racist.” This entire period laid bare the hand of the state behind racist and fascist violence. It clearly established the truth of what CPC(M-L) was saying. Because of this, the state did everything possible to isolate CPC(M-L), including staging attacks against it by police agents within the people’s movement and then blaming CPC(M-L) for instigating violence when it defended itself against these assaults. CPC(M-L) was vindicated in court where the preponderance of evidence showed that it was the target of assaults and that it assaulted no one even when it defended itself against assault.

Later, the Canadian state stepped up its use of state terrorism against the people. Amongst other things, it concocted the theory of “Sikh fundamentalism” and “extremists” to justify the state attacks against those who were opposing injustice in Canada and in India, taking a stand against the Indira Gandhi regime, especially those from the Punjab nation seeking independence from India. Criminal attacks were also launched against the people of Kashmir and the other nations and tribal peoples in India fighting for emancipation and the brutal oppression and exploitation at the hands of the industrialists, landlords and their state.

The Air India bombing took place under these conditions and no amount of attempts to blame it on “Sikh extremists” could hide the hand of the Canadian spy agencies in creating these “extremists” and putting together this conspiracy. Under these conditions, thousands of Punjabi youth were slaughtered in Punjab, while black laws and black ops were used to suppress the opposition. Finally, the floodgates to the perpetuation of anarchy and violence in India saw Operation Blue Star in 1984 when the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, was invaded by the Indian army which caused many people to be slaughtered. This opened the floodgates of state intervention in religious affairs where it dictates the conscience of the people and what they can and cannot do as a way of life. The policy of individual acts of terrorism and targeted assassinations became commonplace with the aim of keeping people out of politics. Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi themselves fell victim to this policy.

Thus the Canadian state erected the bogeyman of “Sikh fundamentalism.” Following the 9/11 attacks against the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., this turned out to be yeoman’s service for the imperialist system of states. This “Sikh fundamentalism” served as a model for the CIA as it erected the spectre of “Islamic fundamentalism” as the extreme which poses the gravest danger to society. On this basis, once again, it is the people who are blamed for the terrorist attacks while state terrorism in the name of combatting terror is erected as the solution. All of it reveals the modus operandi of the so-called intelligence services and their “strategy of tension” which, in turn, has the aim of making sure economic, social and other problems are not provided with political solutions.

Throughout all this period, the work to unite the people in action against the state-organized racist and fascist attacks proved the revolutionary character and mettle of CPC(M-L).

The response of CPC(M-L) to the arson attack

After the arson attack on its BC Headquarters, on August 20-21, 1983, the Party convened an Enlarged Plenum of the Central Committee where a report was presented entitled “The Arson Attack Against the Headquarters of CPC(M-L) in BC – A Senseless Act of Individual Violence or a State-Inspired Crime Against the Party and the People?” The Party put the arson attack in the context of the long line of attacks of various forms that were launched against the Party, its members, supporters and offices from 1970 through to the arson attack.

The report to the Party’s Central Committee drew the conclusion that the arson attack and the response of the police and the media had the aim of:

  1. convincing public opinion that the arson attack was insignificant and hence that it is fine and normal to have such attacks on the Party;
  2. sowing confusion in the minds of the people to downplay and negate the danger of fascism;
  3. to create public opinion that such attacks are provoked by the target itself;and
  4. to promote the bankrupt anti-communist theory of “two extremes,” according to which the Marxist-Leninists and the fascists are fighting each other while the government and state agencies are the middle-ground opposed to each.

Within this context, the Plenum analyzed that the measures were being put in place to strengthen the repressive state apparatus as part of the all-round fascization of life, the suppression of the Marxist-Leninists and other progressive forces and “to incite crimes of so-called senseless violence” such as the arson attack in BC.

The report to the Central Committee addressed the McDonald Commission’s report noting the similarity between the arson attack in Quebec in 1974 and the burning of the bookstore. It stated: “Far from condemning such crimes, the McDonald Royal Commission … sought to justify these crimes and to elaborate a framework to legalize the crimes carried out by the RCMP against the struggles of the people and the interests of the nation and to legalize the operation of the foreign espionage agencies of U.S. imperialism, the FBI and the CIA, and the direct intervention in Canadian affairs by the highest echelons of the United States government […].” It pointed out that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service “will be legally empowered to carry out all the illegal and hooligan activities which the RCMP, the CIA and the FBI have carried out in the past, in the name of defending democracy and the interests of the nation against subversion.”

The Central Committee posed the question: “Who are the terrorists and who is carrying out acts of political violence in Canada?” To answer the question, it looked to the McDonald Commission’s report.

“The McDonald Commission openly admits the fact that the bourgeoisie and its RCMP and other police forces and spies, as well as fascist gangs, have been the source of terrorism, barn-burnings, kidnappings, torture and blackmail in the recruitment of informants, of racist and fascist hate messages on telephones and violent attacks against the national minority communities, workers’ struggles and against the progressive and democratic forces and the Marxist-Leninists, attempted assassinations, and so on. The report also admits that the police and government authorities have fully cooperated with the American spy agencies and police forces in bringing spies to Canada to sabotage CPC(M-L), and the struggle of the Native people and other groups in Canada. Significantly, however, some sections of the McDonald Commission Report, such as the section on ‘Operation Checkmate,’ which deal specifically with how CPC(M-L) and its leadership, Comrade Hardial Bains, have been the targets of such terrorist attacks were never released for publication. This too serves the tactic of the bourgeoisie of slandering the Marxist-Leninists as the source of crime and violence by comparing them to the fascists and terrorists, while in fact remaining silent about their true activities and progressive stands.”

“The McDonald Commission report also served to justify the fascization of the state and strengthening of the apparatus of repression, including the operation of the civilian spy agency, CSIS, under the guise that it is necessary to make illegal activities legal in the name of the interests of national security, in the name that Canada’s interests are inseparable from those of U.S. imperialism and that those who fight for the democratic rights of the people and the interests of the nation … are the ‘enemies’ of the interests of the people and the nation and are the source of the danger to peace and security in Canada and to democracy.

“Thus, the McDonald Commission declared that the principal threats to Canadian security ‘arise from the clandestine activities of agents of foreign powers in Canada, terrorist organizations and groups working actively to overthrow the foundation of parliamentary democracy.’”

The Report to the Plenum pointed out that “In the category of ‘groups working actively to overthrow the foundation of parliamentary democracy’ the Commission lumps the Marxist-Leninists together with the fascists so as to create maximum confusion, and then declares that the fascists are inactive and do not pose a threat.” The report pointed out that it was not accidental that the Commission did not make more specific the category of “terrorist organizations.” It was already documented that the RCMP and other police forces were behind all the terrorist activities they blamed on the FLQ, to say nothing about the “Western Guard” and other neo-Nazi, white supremacist organizations that had committed terrorist attacks. “The McDonald Commission even records certain of these attacks, as well as the work of the U.S. police agents operating in Canada, and condones these nefarious activities,” the Report pointed out.

The Central Committee’s report noted the admission of the McDonald Commission of the police-nature of the Canadian state and “that the activities of CPC(M-L) ‘have been under intensive investigation in the 1970s. Its leader has been the object of both close surveillance and certain of the disruptive tactics which were carried out under the Operation Checkmate umbrella.’ The Commission also confesses that ‘Widespread harassment at every possible opportunity’ was carried out against the Party members and supporters, including dismissal from jobs and deportations as well as attempts to kill members and supporters. Many of these activities were foiled by the vigilance of the Party, which condemned them and fought against them, right when they were perpetrated.”

 

The Report warned that the “McDonald Commission speaks as if it were opposed to these activities, but this is deception to fool the gullible, to whitewash its own role and the fascization of the state and to prepare for further attacks. In fact, its own mission was to directly attack the Marxist-Leninists using the disguise of upholding the ‘rule of law.’ While the McDonald Commission was scribbling its justifications for ‘law and order,’ the attacks were still going on against the Marxist-Leninists and progressive forces across the country, as is still the case today, for these attacks never stopped for a single day.”

The Report concluded that the creation of CSIS “… is a further step in the fascization of the state within the framework of the so-called parliamentary process and through ‘constitutional means’ and it poses a real threat to the lives and liberties of the people.” Amongst other things it noted that the legislation would grant immunity for security service operatives and make it a criminal offense for anyone to reveal their identity.

The Report also identified the alleged fight against terrorism as “an important propaganda weapon for the ideo-political deception” of the people with the aim of liquidating and diverting their struggles.

To come: A summary of the proceedings of the August 1983 Enlarged Plenum of the Central Committee of CPC(M-L) which enumerated many of the black ops against the Party and analyzed important national and international developments at the time that are important to revisit as the Harper government pushes Canada further along a retrogressive and dangerous course.

Notes

  1. Report of the Keable Commission, Wikipedia.
  2. Spying 101: the RCMP’s Secret Activities at Canadian Universities, 1917-1997, Steve Hewitt, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, c2002).

References

Third Report: Certain R.C.M.P. Activities and the Question of Governmental Knowledge (1981).Commission of Inquiry Concerning Certain Activities of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Chair, Mr. Justice D.C. McDonald.

The Arson Attack Against the Headquarters of CPC(M-L) in B.C. – A Senseless Act of Individual Violence or a State-Inspired Crime Against the Party and the People, Report Delivered to the Enlarged Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), August 20-21, 1983, (MELS 1983).

Secret Service: Political Policing in Canada from the Fenians to Fortress America. Reg Whitaker, Gregory S. Kealey, and Andrew Parnaby (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012).

Terrorizing Canada With Stephen Harper

Civic Literacy and the Assault on Canadian Democracy

By Murray Dobbin
March 23, 2015
Counter Punch

 

Stephen-HarperPowell River, British Columbia.

The Harper government’s pursuit of its odious Secret Police Act (C51) is just another chapter in the most through-going, and massive social engineering project in the history of the country. Social engineering used to be one of the favourite phrases of the right in its attack on social programs – accusing both liberal-minded politicians and meddling bureaucrats with manufacturing the welfare state. They conveniently ignored the fact that there was huge popular demand and support for activist government.

That was the so-called golden age of capitalism and it wasn’t just because of expanding government services. It was so-called because of a much broader and well-informed citizen engagement – both through social movements and as individual citizens. The level of trust in government was much higher than it is today. And absent from the picture were the factors that today dominate the political conversation: fear and economic insecurity.

Exactly how historians will describe this period in Canadian history is anyone’s guess but one approach could be to look upon the Harper era as an experiment in revealing how vulnerable democracies are to political sociopaths bold enough and ruthless enough to bend or break every rule and tradition on which democracy’s foundation rests.

It’s not just the institutions that are vulnerable though they certainly are. It’s a familiar list including Harper’s bullying of Governor General Michaelle Jean to force the proroguing of the House, his guide book on how to make parliamentary committees ineffective, the use of robo-calls and other election dirty tricks, his attempt to break the rules in appointing a Supreme Court Judge and his neutering the House of Commons question period through a deliberate strategy of refusing to answer questions – a practice that institutionalizes a contempt for Parliament that spreads outward to the general public. At a certain point it doesn’t matter who is responsible – the institution itself becomes risible and irrelevant to ordinary citizens. Which is, of course, exactly what Harper intends.

And that brings us to the other element of democratic politics – the actual citizens who are supposed to be the raw material of democracy. The whole institutional edifice theoretically rests on the foundation of the voting public. The extent to which the institutions of democracy can be assaulted and eroded with impunity is directly proportional to the level of civic literacy. The lower it is, the easier it is for malevolent autocrats like Harper to abuse his power.

In terms of civic literacy we are somewhere between Europe where it is relatively high and the US where it is frighteningly low. While the question is obviously more complicated than this, it’s not far-fetched to suggest that there is a continuum – with consumerism at one end and highly engaged citizenship at the other. We live in a hyper-consumer society – not a citizen-society characterized by the oft-repeated disclaimer “I’m not interested in politics.”  The growing basis for our culture is not community or cooperation but conspicuous consumption and possessive individualism.

So long as the political elite accepted the basic premises of modern democracy and activist government, so long as the institutions they controlled functioned more or less within their defined mandates (that is, they were only occasionally abused) society could function with a minimal level of civic literacy. We could all go shopping more or less assured that the stuff of government (in substance and process) would continue undisturbed. If all political parties accepted the precepts of civil liberties, for example, it didn’t matter that much if there was a low degree of public awareness of the importance of civil liberties to our daily lives.

But when a politician suddenly their appears on the scene willing to systematically violate democratic principles as if they simply don’t apply to him then the demand for increased civic literacy is just as suddenly urgent and critical. Yet it is not something can be accomplished easily or quickly. Three sources come to mind: schools, the media and civil society organizations and activity.

Despite the best efforts of teachers and their unions over the decades civic literacy is extremely low on the curriculum totem pole in Canadian schools. Provincial governments have resisted such pressures which should hardly come as a surprise. There is a built in bias in a hierarchical, capitalist society against critical thinking – precisely because in liberal democracies the over-arching role of government is to manage capitalism with a view to maintaining it along with all its inherent inequalities. Too many critical thinkers is not helpful.

The media, of course, are largely responsible for helping put Stephen Harper in power. Ever since the Machiavellian Conrad Black bought up most of Canada’s dailies they have been used (by him and his successors) as an explicit propaganda tool for the dismantling of the post-war democratic consensus. While there are some tentative signs that they now recognize they’ve created a monster (Globe editorials criticizing the PM on a number of issues like C51) it’s a little late. Twenty-five years of telling people there is no alternative to unfettered capitalism has had a pernicious effect on both democracy and civic literacy.

That leaves voluntary (for the most part) civil society organizations. Yet, despite their objective of informing people about the myriad issues we face, here, too, the model falls short of significantly expanding the base of engaged, informed citizens. Ironically, much of the defensive politics of the left are the mirror image of Harper’s reliance on fear (of Muslims, criminals, niqabs, terrorists, environmentalists, unions, the CBC) to energize his base. We peddle more mundane but substantive fears – of losing Medicare, of climate change, of higher tuition fees, of unprotected rivers and streams and dirty oil.

If Canadians are scared silly, it’s no wonder given the mode of politics directed at them.

Regrettably there is no model from Canadian history that points us in the direction of serious commitment to civic literacy. We have to look to the Scandinavian countries. According to Canadian author Henry Milner  “Swedish prime minister Olof Palme once said that he preferred to think of Sweden not as a social democracy but as a ‘study-circle democracy.’ The idea …is associated most of all with the efforts of the ABF (the Workers’ Educational Association). …The ABF offers courses in organizing groups and co-operatives, understanding media, and a broad range of contemporary issues, as well as languages, computers, art, music, and nature appreciation.” There were ten other groups doing study circles – many of them subsidized by the government. Half of all Swedish adults were involved in them

Even in Sweden the model is no longer as robust as it was when Milner wrote this assessment (2002). But even after the defeat of Social Democratic governments, no party has dared undermine Swedish social programs or run roughshod over its democracy. That’s because informed citizens are not easily manipulated by fear and their level of trust in government remains high.

Given our shamefully biased media Canadians still manage to resist Harper’s continued assault on our political sensibility. The first polls on the Secret Police Act (don’t call it by any other name) were alarming with upwards of 80% agreeing with the need for tougher anti-terror laws. But things are changing very quickly as the result of a determined fight-back by civil society groups, a phalanx of heavy-hitting experts and the NDP. A Form Research poll   this week showed support for the Act was down to 38% with those disapproving at 51% – an amazing turn around. The highest levels of disapproval were amongst “…the youngest (64%),  New Democrats (77%), the best educated (65%) and the non-religious (70%).”

Yet the Forum results are decidedly mixed and demonstrate how much work there is yet to be done to neutralize the fear campaign. When respondents were presented with specific parts of the bill the percentage disapproving actually decreased and supporters increased.

The polling will no doubt continue to demonstrate confusion, a desire to deal with the real problem of terrorism and condemnation of the attempt to at the idea of labelling environmentalists and First Nations as terror suspects.

Yet a huge effort will be needed to completely immunize Canadians against the next wave of Harper fear-mongering. Imagine if all these efforts and similar warning campaigns had instead been put into creating something similar to the Swedish “study circle democracy.” That’s the only lasting solution to voter manipulation and a healthy democracy. Until we realize that, progressive politics will remain crisis management and we will continue to pin our desperate hopes on coalitions and proportional representation. But without a high degree of civic literacy these institutional fixes will be ultimately dissatisfying.

Murray Dobbin is a writer living in Powell River, British Columbia.