Friday, February 15, 2013

Canada steps off the deep end

Care about the environment? Oppose fracking, deep sea drilling, or mining in national parks? In Canada, you'd be officially viewed as a terrorist:

Monitoring of environmental activists in Canada by the country's police and security agencies has become the "new normal", according to a researcher who has analysed security documents released under freedom of information laws.

Security and police agencies have been increasingly conflating terrorism and extremism with peaceful citizens exercising their democratic rights to organise petitions, protest and question government policies, said Jeffrey Monaghan of the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.

The RCMP, Canada's national police force, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) view activist activities such as blocking access to roads or buildings as "forms of attack" and depict those involved as national security threats, according to the documents.

Protests and opposition to Canada's resource-based economy, especially oil and gas production, are now viewed as threats to national security, Monaghan said.

And as a result, environmentalists get monitored, infiltrated, spied on and harassed.

This is not how a democracy is supposed to operate. People are supposed to be free to speak, organise, and protest. Instead, they're being spied on as if they are criminals. Its a nasty example of what happens when government, police and intelligence agencies are in the pockets of the resource industry. But its also an example of how America's "war on terror" has undermined democracy worldwide. Democratic governments shovelled money at "counter-terrorism" without actually stopping to think if they faced any real threats. The result was bloated, overfunded agencies without any real work to do desperately looking for someone to target to justify those massive budgets.

If we want our democracy back, we need to cut the spies' budgets back to a level commensurate with the actual threats they face. But advocating that probably gets you labelled a threat to "national security"...