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February 23, 2015

Harper's Canada: Big Brother at it again

Reuel S. Amdur

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Stephen Harper is seeking legislative authority to give more power to CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) in order to fight terrorism. At least that is the cover story.

One of these powers is the ability to disrupt persons or organizations representing that threat.  Perhaps now is a good time to look at past instances of disruptive tactics used by the government.

Perhaps the most notorious RCMP disruptive activity occurred in 1972.  That is when they got wind of a plan by the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) to hold a meeting with Black Panthers from the United States.  The meeting was planned for a barn in Quebec.  When a judge turned down their request for permission to bug the barn, they simply burned it down.

The following year, the RCMP, in cooperation with Montreal and provincial police, stole a massive quantity of documents and equipment from Agence Presse de Libération du Québec and the Movement for the Defence of Quebec Political Prisoners, to gather information, to create internal suspicion and dissension, and to destroy the organizations. 

The RCMP was aware that another group wanted to borrow the Agence Presse’s contact list.  The group was turned down, and the RCMP hoped that the Agence Presse would blame that group.  The RCMP also stole Parti Québécois membership lists.

Returning to 1972, the RCMP decided to disrupt the League for Socialist Action and its affiliated youth group Young Socialists, Trotskyite organizations.  Somehow the RCMP obtained health records of John Riddell, a leader in the League, who had had psychiatric treatment.  They forged a letter “outing” Riddell and distributed it widely at a youth conference.  It would be useful to know how they got their hands on medical records. 

Why was the RCMP so interested in such small groups, groups in no way a threat of terrorism or violence?  They were afraid, it appears, that the Trotskyites might gain influence in the NDP.  So?

The United States experienced similar shenanigans.  Riddell’s psychiatric records were pilfered in 1972.  Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers which embarrassed the U.S. government with its details about the Vietnam adventure, had his psychiatrist’s office invaded by White House burglars the previous year.  RCMP and White House burglars—great minds think alike.

Remarkably, Trotskyites in the United States (the Socialist Workers Party) were also the target of dirty tricks.  These activities go back at least to 1945 and involve theft of documents.  Party leaders were prosecuted in 1941 under the Smith Act on a charge of wanting to overthrow the government.  After the war, the FBI also manufactured stories about the party, which they fed to the media.  As with the RCMP, they also produced false leaflets.  They smashed a storefront window in Seattle, of a party office and meeting place.

U.S. Federal District Court Judge Thomas Griesa, a Nixon appointee, awarded the party $240,000 in damages.  By contrast, efforts to hold the Canadian government and the RCMP to account have resulted in zilch.

Now the Harper government wants more powers to pursue . . . terrorists?  Whom else? 

The Canadian government and the RCMP have a list of spooking misbehavior as long as your arm.  Do they need more power?  And if they were out to disrupt and destroy small Trotskyite groups, what other people will they target with the fresh powers that they seek?  Harper and company spent many tens of thousands of dollars spying on Cindy Blackstock because she and her organization are demanding better services for Aboriginal children.  Could she and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society be subject to disruptive dirty tricks under the proposed legislation?  How about those “radical” environmentalists who are the bane of Cabinet Minister Joe Oliver?

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