Earlier this year I wrote an article attempting to cut through tired, rhetorical pandering in order to shed some much-needed light on the ways in which the Harper government has been overseeing The Slow and Painful Death of Freedom in Canada
Since then, there have been many more reasons to fear that our Prime Minister is doing everything in his power—and some things outside of it—to twist this country into a true north suppressed and disparate. And in an attempt to keep the discourses of discontent going strong into 2014 and beyond, I’ve put together an introductory list of what I see to be the 9 Reasons Why 2013 Was A Slow and Painful Year For Freedom in Canada.
1. Bill C-13, ‘Cyberbulling’ Legislation. Introduced under the thinly disguised banner of anti-cyberbulling measures, the new bill will amend key parts of the criminal code in order to extend police power—streamlining the process of obtaining warrants to intercept private communications, enabling the tracking of individuals if a crime is suspected, and expanding wiretapping from telephone data to any digital activity. In short, bullying tragedies are being exploited to push through previously struck down legislation (such as Bill-30), that will force Internet Service Providers to surrender our personal information to government agencies with absolutely no civilian oversight.
2. Bill C-56, The Combating Counterfeit Products Act. Championed as a measure to protect intellectual property, closer scrutiny reveals that the bill is but an attempt to push the extensively discredited Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)—an agreement rejected by EU member countries for its invasiveness—in through the backdoor. Attempting to cover everything from pharmaceuticals to art, the bill would legislate new invasive border measures including seizure powers without court oversight in instances where a government official ‘reasonably’ believes there may be some risk to a dangerously flexible conceptualisation of ‘public safety.’
4. The Trans-Pacific Partnership comes to light.
The TPP is a proposed and all-encompassing trade deal being discussed between over a dozen countries including Canada. And while negotiated in total secrecy, Wikileaks has recently released a leaked version of the intellectual property chapter
, which confirms the US is using the agreement to export extreme monitoring legislations much more oppressive than international norms. If our government bends to US pressure, we will see a complete surrendering of control over intellectual property, and this will intensify Internet regulation, expand border seizures, increase healthcare costs and introduce criminal liability for non-copyright infringement—all our fears rolled into a single agreement.
5. Putting a muzzle on science.
According to a 2013 report, Muzzling Civil Servants: A Threat to Democracy
, the government is making a concerted effort to “prevent the media—and through them, the general public—from speaking to government scientists, and this, in turn, impoverishes the pubic debate on issues of significant national concern.” Beyond tight communication controls, the Harper Administration has also eliminated high-profile research labs, scientific institutions, and other data gathering organisations
, and as such, when taxpayer-funded scientists are permitted to address the general populous, they are forced to follow pre-approved talking points regardless of what their research and expert opinions may be telling them.
6. Snowden shows us our surveillance state.
While Snowden’s PRISM revelations rattled the foundations of American democracy to its core, in Canada they revealed that the Harper government has implemented a surveillance program of their own modeled after the NSA
. The CSEC (Communications Security Establishment Canada), a secretive government agency that employs 2000 people, has an annual operating budget of half a billion dollars, operates under almost no judicial oversight and is armed with enough raw computing power to shift through all our metadata—essentially a record of who we know and how well—allowing the government to map our social networks
, patterns of mobility, professional relationships and even our personal interests.
7. Fracking ignores Indigenous land claims.
From Enbridge's Northern Gateway Pipeine to the Keystone XL it has been a tumultuous year for the Idle No More movement, yet it has been protests in New Brunswick that embody what has been at the heart of many resource development battles across Canada—the Harper government’s unwillingness to honour legally-binding First Nations legislation
. As such, demonstrations against highly destructive fracking practices continue to be brutally quashed, even though according to leading constitutional experts, under Canadian law aboriginal peoples must be consulted and accommodated when resources are extracted from ancestral lands.
Extensive top-secret surveillance systems compromised our trust and democracy as repressive policymaking muzzled scientists and crushed Indigenous land claims. Bills C-13, C-56, and C-309 exploited our fears as the TPP chipped away at our freedoms. A culture of corruption unravelled as marginalised Canadians were systematically stripped of reliable Internet access. All things considered, 2013 turned out to be what I think we can safely call a slow and painful year for freedom in Canada and around the world.
Yet thanks to these same events, we’ve also got a better idea what our government is up to. It’s important to remind ourselves that power only rests with a corrupt and exploitative administration only as long as Canadians allow it to.