Parliamentary oversight…

    May 19, 2015

 Toronto Star:  Grant Mitchell, Roméo Dallaire and Hugh Segal
Canada’s national security agencies need parliamentary oversight – In this era of enormous complexity and ambiguity, the need for oversight on intelligence agencies should be a national priority.

The authors are all senators or former senators, all involved with the security of Canada and significant positions within significant committees around security.  “Both our history and law reflect the lessons that we have learned from the past, that a democratic society cannot take for granted our fundamental rights and freedoms, and that we cannot allow excess or abuse in the name of national security.”    Related article: Toronto Star – Editorial (May 17, 2015) Good news out of the Senate, for a change

The Independent (UK) – Robert Fisk
Canada’s plan to make boycotting Israel a ‘hate crime’ is stupid and counterproductive – The new law would put Jews and civil society groups on trial for anti-Semitism

Sometimes it may be refreshing to get a view apart from the normal stream of media and talking points.  Here’s such a case and point.  The article looks at the suggestion that the federal government will make boycott of Israel into a hate crime.  Fisk reminds us that former Foreign Minister John Baird actually signed an agreement with Israel to fight the boycott movement known as BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) and called the tactic of boycott “the face of a new anti-Semitism.”     Sounds more silly than serious if not for the possible consequences.  Related article – Globe and Mail – Elizabeth Renzetti   Why are we trading liberty for security?   Related article: Globe and Mail Editorial (May 17, 2015)   The twilight of ‘bulk surveillance’

Toronto Star – Donovan Vincent
Critics say Fraser Institute letter highlights ‘enormous lack of clarity’ in charity-audit rules

For quite a while now Canada Revenue Agency has been shrouded in suspicion that its practices around charities are dictated by behind the scene political efforts to silence critics of the federal government.  This latest exposé seems to boost the view that there are several standards applied to what and how the degree of political activity is determined and censured.  Charities are allowed to spend 10% maximum of the funds on political ends.  The Fraser Institute, for the last three years, has claimed that none of its activities are political.

Globe and Mail – Ivan Semeniuk
 Federal scientists push for protection from political interference

Canada’s Public Service unions are looking to enshrine the independence and integrity of federal scientists to publicize their research and to engage others outside of government.   At times, the feds have refused to allow individual scientists even to speak in a personal capacity with media.  “The end result, said Katie Gibbs, the group’s executive director (Science for Democracy) , is a culture of message control in which government scientists – including those involved in environmental monitoring or health and safety – are increasingly inclined to avoid contact with the public or the media out of fear of reprisals if they are quoted on their areas of expertise.”

Toronto Star – Wendy Gillis
Police bodycams hit Toronto streets Monday – Cameras will be activated every time an officer responds to a call for service or is investigating an individual during the course of their duties.

Bodycams are perhaps a surrender to the omnipresent cell phone cam that catches many encounters between police and citizens.  The Toronto police are doing a year’s experiment involving a 100 front line officers while they sort out privacy issues.  The cameras will be turned on and off as circumstances dictate and will include the practice known as carding.  There are similar experiments underway in Vancouver, Edmonton, Thunder Bay, and London.   Related article:  Globe and Mail – Editorial (May 15, 2015)  How to ensure police obey the law, rather than become it

Toronto Star – Editorial, May 18, 2015
Harper is hyping the threat we face from the Islamic State – Any threat Canada faces from the Islamic State falls well below the global scourge the Conservative government is fond of invoking.

Using a new report from the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute the Star says that “the threat Canada truly faces falls well below the global scourge Harper is fond of invoking.”  The report author, Thomas Juneau of the University of Ottawa, actually supports a limited engagement in Iraq and Syria but is critical of the lack of engagement on other fronts by the Canadian government.  The 14 page report is available as a downloadable pdf at the report link.   Full report link: