Saturday, January 22, 2011

Can You Tell Me Where My Country Lies?

Here is the authoritarian mind in action:

1- At the request of a city Chief of police, in anticipation for an international summit in said city where peaceful protesters and demonstrators (and yes, including an inevitable small minority of idiotic individuals bent on causing trouble) are expected to be present in numbers, dust off an obviously unconstitutional law that was originally meant to protect public works during times of war (The Public Works Protection Act) by allowing a guard or police officer to detain, question and arrest without warrant anyone (i.e. enemy spy, saboteur, agent, etc.) "lurking" around and about said public works. As stated (emphasis added):
Powers of guard or peace officer
3.A guard or peace officer,
(a) may require any person entering or attempting to enter any public work or any approach thereto to furnish his or her name and address, to identify himself or herself and to state the purpose for which he or she desires to enter the public work, in writing or otherwise;
(b) may search, without warrant, any person entering or attempting to enter a public work or a vehicle in the charge or under the control of any such person or which has recently been or is suspected of having been in the charge or under the control of any such person or in which any such person is a passenger; and
(c) may refuse permission to any person to enter a public work and use such force as is necessary to prevent any such person from so entering. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.55, s. 3.
With the following consequences (emphasis added):
Refusal to obey guard, etc.
5.(1) Every person who neglects or refuses to comply with a request or direction made under this Act by a guard or peace officer, and every person found upon a public work or any approach thereto without lawful authority, the proof whereof lies on him or her, is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $500 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than two months, or to both.
(2) A guard or peace officer may arrest, without warrant, any person who neglects or refuses to comply with a request or direction of a guard or peace officer, or who is found upon or attempting to enter a public work without lawful authority. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.55, s. 5.
2- Then secretly invoke said law to redefine the security zone around the site of said international summit as "public works", in order to enact said unconstitutional law through writ (i.e. without proper legislative debate and without informing the public) for the duration of the summit.

3- Then give free reign to the police to fully enforce said unconstitutional law via said secret writ (later revealed after the fact as Ontario Regulation 233/10).
Of course, we are now all too familiar with the inevitable consequences, namely:
1- By changing the legal landscape in this underhanded, unconstitutional and illegal way, regulation 233/10 operated as a trap for those (i.e. visitors, peaceful demonstrators, etc.) who relied on their unquestionable, constitutionally-defined civil rights;

2- The police was handed inordinate powers that were unacceptable in a free and democratic society, in addition to without any efforts having been made to ensure that said powers would not be misunderstood and/or abused;

3- The net result was a deliberate infringement on the freedom of expression, rights to privacy and rights of assembly of Canadian citizens that was unjustifiable in a free and democratic society - as attested by numerous acts of police intimidation and brutality, mass arrests and indiscriminate searches and seizures.
Now, here is why I remain not surprised concerning all of this: whenever you give inordinate powers to police and/or security agencies, regardless of whatever paranoid-driven reasons they conjure up to justify their need for such powers, they will invariably abuse such vast, indiscriminate powers.

Because it is in their nature to do so - thanks to their paranoid authoritarian mindset which makes them care only about finding guilt (whether it is truly there or not), not the truth, and regardless of whether you are actually innocent or not.

One more case in point (emphasis added):
G20 officer: 'This ain't Canada right now'
A G20 incident caught on video that shows a York Regional Police officer telling a protester he is no longer in Canada and has no civil rights is under investigation.
The video shows several activists standing outside of the G20 security perimeter at King St. W. and University Ave. on June 27 while their bags are searched by a group of police officers. The mood is pleasant until a young man in a black T-shirt and cap refuses to hand over his backpack.
Just outside the St. Andrew subway station, a male York Regional Police officer wraps one arm around the protester and tells him: “You don’t get a choice, get moving.”
“Why are you grabbing me, man?” says the unidentified protester, who in another G20 video gives a brief monologue about animal rights. “I didn’t do anything.”

(...) In the video, a woman’s voice from behind the camera points out that the protesters are not within 5 metres of the cordoned-off zone — the area in which Torontonians were led to believe, erroneously, that they could legally be searched by police officers at whim.

The male protester insists that, as a Canadian, he has the right to refuse the search. But the officer disagrees.

“This ain’t Canada right now,” he says.

While the crowd laughs in disbelief, the officer continues to tell the protester he has two choices: leave, or open his bag. The protester continues to refuse to do either. “I just don’t like to have my civil rights violated,” he says eventually.

“There is no civil rights here in this area,” the officer replies. “How many times do you gotta be told that?”
This ain't Canada right now.

There is no civil rights here.

Do let these words sink in for one minute ... or one hundred.

Doesn't anyone remember why Canada's War Measures Act was revised in 1985 to become the 1988 Emergencies Act? Here are just two à propos reasons why:
1- A declaration of an emergency by the Cabinet must be reviewed by Parliament;
2- Any temporary laws made under the Act are subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In other words:
(The Preamble to the Act) states that, in taking such temporary measures, the Governor in Council would be subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and must have regard to those rights in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Canada is a signatory and by which it is bound, that are not to be limited even in a time of national emergency. Although not set out in the Preamble, these rights are:
– the right to life;
– the protection against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
– the protection against slavery;
– the protection against imprisonment for debt;
– the protection against acts made retroactively into crimes;
– the right of every individual to be recognized as a person under law;
– the freedoms of thought, conscience and religion.
In short: any attempt by the government to suspend the civil rights of Canadians, even in an emergency, will be subject to the "reasonable and justified" test under section 1 of the Charter.

Hence, the McGuinty Government of Ontario, at the behest of Toronto Chief of police Bill Blair, and with no doubt the prodding of the Harper Government, enacted a secret security measure that actually went beyond the federal Emergencies Act, for something that did not even constitute an emergency as defined by the law (provincial or federal).

And the Constitution? The rule of law, including that regarding human rights? The Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

As it has become all too painfully clear, such quaint notions can, and will be, swiftly cast aside whenever the neverending demands of security require it.

The same thing goes with war prisoners and torture (see here, here and here, for a memory refresher). Here is one more recent development in this regard as a further note added in proof (emphasis added):
CSIS heard of prisoner abuse

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service was aware of allegations that prisoners in Afghanistan were abused, but had no "first-hand knowledge" of torture, says an internal report on the spy agency’s involvement with detainees.

The newly declassified review also says while CSIS "appeared to be tardy in issuing directions and guidelines" on interviewing Afghan detainees, the selection of appropriate personnel and a "common sense approach" to the task ensured the spy service’s "credibility and professional reputation was maintained."

"The service has since formalized appropriate direction to its officers in dealing with issues of detainees in Afghanistan."

Last March, The Canadian Press revealed CSIS’s involvement in interviewing suspected Taliban fighters alongside military intelligence officers.

In response, CSIS director Dick Fadden commissioned the "comprehensive review" of the service’s activities given the "controversial and high-profile nature" of the issue with the Canadian government, the 13-page report says.

A draft version of the secret April report, with several deletions, was obtained this week under the Access to Information Act.

The Canadian army is thought to have captured hundreds of suspected Taliban fighters over the last nine years. Reports indicate that since 2006 almost 500 have been handed over to Afghan authorities.

CSIS questioned Afghan detainees from 2002 through late 2007, when the military began to conduct interrogations without assistance. The report says the shift occurred "as there was a concern with respect to the legalities and procedures in allowing outside agencies to be involved."

For the review, CSIS examined files dating as far back as 2002 and interviewed service employees directly involved in the detainee file.

"CSIS policies/directional statements specific to employees’ involvement in matters of Afghan detainees were not in place at the beginning of the service deployment to Afghanistan," the report says. "This has only recently been rectified."

The review identified two outstanding issues, including an incorrectly worded draft Canadian Forces standing order that indicated "CSIS had the lead" on interrogating detainees.

CSIS spokeswoman Isabelle Scott said the correction has been made. The second, undisclosed issue was also addressed, she said, declining to elaborate.

The review findings are consistent with past CSIS insistence that the Canadian Forces were responsible for deciding whether to transfer prisoners to Afghan custody.

However, the report discloses that CSIS played an occasional "facilitation" role as a "liaison conduit" in transfers between Canadian military and Foreign Affairs officials and the infamous Afghan National Directorate of Security.
In between, never mind Canada's legal obligations under Geneva Convention III and the Convention Against Torture (again, as discussed previously here, here and here)

Hence, the obvious overall question that needs to be asked is how did all of this come about?

The answer is two-fold: A) it is a truism that fear and the need to feel secure and safe always trump unalienable civil rights, let alone humane values normally espoused by the citizens of a given nation; and consequently B) security overrides all other considerations, including human rights, whereby those of us that do give a fuck about stopping the ever increasing erosions of our rights as constitutionally defined are nothing but a bunch of stupid, insouciant, utopian, fringe agitators.

In the meantime, false patriots out there who claim to be champions of freedom and liberty, whether through deluded lunacy or plain hypocrisy, will nonetheless continue to applaud and cheer, as well as crave evermore, each and every step taken by our governments to increase their influence over our private lives, to increase their ability to spy, monitor, survey and control us.

All in the name of Security.

Bob Altemeyer, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Manitoba, wrote a book titled "The Authoritarians" (it is available as a pdf for free download here) (h/t). In the author's own words, this book is "about what's happened to the American government lately. It's about the disastrous decisions that government has made. It's about the corruption that rotted the Congress. It's about how traditional conservatism has nearly been destroyed by authoritarianism. It's about how the "Religious Right" teamed up with amoral authoritarian leaders to push its un-democratic agenda onto the country."

So, what is authoritarianism? According to the author:
Authoritarianism is something authoritarian followers and authoritarian leaders cook up between themselves. It happens when the followers submit too much to the leaders, trust them too much, and give them too much leeway to do whatever they want - which often is something undemocratic, tyrannical and brutal.
And his definition of authoritarian followers is this:
Authoritarian followers usually support the established authorities in their society, such as government officials and traditional religious leaders. Such people have historically been the “proper” authorities in life, the time-honored, entitled, customary leaders, and that means a lot to most authoritarians. Psychologically these followers have personalities featuring:

1) a high degree of submission to the established, legitimate authorities in their society;

2) high levels of aggression in the name of their authorities; and

3) a high level of conventionalism.
Which sounds strangely familiar with what I wrote a while back concerning false patriots:
Yes, we know these people well indeed. They are the boastful defenders of "family and moral values", the loud cheerleaders of war, the relentless defenders of hawkish foreign policies, the resolute "concerned" citizens against terrorism (especially of the radical Islamist kind), the devout and dutiful followers of Christianity, the promulgators and staunch supporters of Authority.

They call themselves "Patriots". "Warriors". "Watchdogs". "Soldiers". "Sentinels". And so on.

For them, supporting the war(s) is supporting the troops - no other way around it.

For them, law enforcement and security agencies can do no wrong.

For them, those elected officials and leaders belonging to the same philosophies as theirs can do no wrong.

For them, only through absolute and unquestioned Authority will our countries be kept safe.

It is indeed these people who crave for strong and manly leaders.

It is indeed these people who keep supporting every new law which erodes that much more our basic human rights, civil rights and civil liberties.

It is indeed these people who applaud each time our constitutions are rendered that much more moot.

All in the sacrosanct name of Security.

Why are these people like that?

Answer: fear.
More than ever, it should be undeniable that the authoritarian sickness has gripped Canada as well, in each and every way - just plow through the numerous posts herein at APOV as testaments to that effect - although I do concede that said sickness has not quite yet reached the near-terminally advanced state as in the case of our southern neighbor.

Yet, this is now who we are, this is now what we are.

Hence, the tragic conclusion becomes obvious: in the end, the above-spotlighted authoritarian G20 police officer did nothing more than speak the plain, harsh truth.

There is no civil rights here.

This ain't Canada.

And I am forced to agree, albeit with great sadness - for I do not recognize the country that I know and love anymore.

What about you?


  1. I share your deep sense of loss. The country in which so many generations of my ancestors call theirs, the land that I knew for the first half century of my life, has been transformed.

    We have discarded so much simply because we came to take rights, freedoms and privileges for granted.

    My late father wasn't much of a philosopher but he did instill in me the understanding that we did not have a single right or freedom that hadn't been paid for in blood, often more than once, and that, if not vigilantly protected, would not be taken from us. He taught me that rights and freedoms have a genuine value both to those who hold them as well as to those who can find a way to usurp them. Once lost, they're very hard to win back.

    At the core of all of our rights and freedoms lies the right to privacy. I am gutted when I see how little that means to my children's generation. They and theirs lay bare the most personal aspects of their lives - their economic particulars, their political activity and opinions, their social relationships, everything - and they don't think twice about it. They are of a generation that swim like herring waiting to be netted.

    As we enter an era of enhanced merger of corporate and political power, vulnerable rights and freedoms don't stand a chance.

    This century (most of which I will be blessedly excused from attending) will be marked by great, potentially existential challenges and threats, many of which will sorely test the validity of our institutions, our freedoms, our very democracy. Judging by what I see today, I don't like the odds.

  2. MoS: "We have discarded so much simply because we came to take rights, freedoms and privileges for granted."

    "As we enter an era of enhanced merger of corporate and political power, vulnerable rights and freedoms don't stand a chance."

    "This century (...) will be marked by great, potentially existential challenges and threats, many of which will sorely test the validity of our institutions, our freedoms, our very democracy. Judging by what I see today, I don't like the odds."

    These three excerpts from your comment summarizes the whole picture - and my thinking as well.

    My sincere and respectful tip of the hat to you, friend.


Please feel free to comment on APOV. However, remember to keep in check your tone and respect for all here. Let rational, reasoning, enthousiastic and passionate conversations and discussions rule first and foremost in our participatory democracy, so as to facilitate the free exchange of reality-based facts and ideas. In between, do not forget to have fun and enjoy yourselves ... in other words: keep on rockin'! - Mentarch