Thursday, July 22, 2010

So the Census is Invasive Huh? But what do You Call This?

The Reformers are sticking to their tired line that the census is too invasive and they don't want to intrude on our lives like that. Oh, really?

How about Canadians being reported if they appear at all suspicious when they're at the bank?
Imagine you are an ordinary Canadian. Like most ordinary Canadians, you have a bank account. Sometimes you go into the bank. And conduct various financial transactions. And the whole time, you are being monitored. By the government. Didn't know that? Of course not. It's secret. The law specifically says you must not be told when a report about you is filed.

The monitoring is conducted by the employees of the bank, not government officials. They have no choice. If they find your behaviour in any way "suspicious" — a term deliberately left vague — they must file a "suspicious transactions report" with a government agency, and they must not tell you they did so. If they fail to comply, they can be punished with up to $2 million in fines and/or five years in prison.
That sounds pretty invasive.

Or how about the Reformers keeping a database with all personal information on their constituents. Harper used it to create a Jewish mailing list.
The federal Conservative party's central database is set up to track the confidential concerns of individual constituents without their knowledge or consent, says a former Tory MP. The issue spilled onto the floor of the House of Commons on Thursday when Garth Turner, the expelled Tory-turned-Liberal MP, accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of an "unethical invasion of Canadians' privacy." Privacy experts agree the practice is a clear breach of standard privacy ethics - but probably not the law, because federal political parties fall into a legislative grey area. A recent mailing by the prime minister to some Jewish households, and households with Jewish-sounding names, highlighted the micro targeting that sophisticated modern databases now facilitate.

The Rosh Hashanah greeting from Harper prompted several recipients to complain to the federal privacy commissioner, who has begun a preliminary inquiry. It's cast a light on the 21st century art of political communication that may make some Canadians uneasy.
That sounds pretty invasive.

Or how about Harper MP Cheryl Gallant using personal information from passport applications?

In 2005 she sent out birthday cards to some of her constituents. The cards featured a picture of Gallant, with the words "May all your birthday wishes come true," and... were sent to residents who had unsuspectingly submitted passport applications at her Pembroke office.Several constituents accused Cheryl of obtaining birth-date information from a passport application during the 2006 campaign. One affected resident told the Ottawa Citizen "The principle is really bothering me: that my information has been gathered without my knowledge. I don't know how it's going to be used." Two families who received cards have sent letters to the privacy Commissioner of Canada, asking confirmation the MP won't use the collected personal information. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has no jurisdiction in investigating such matters.
That sounds pretty invasive.

Or Stephen Harper paying $ 75,000.00 a pop to spy on us when we're debating politics online?
The Harper government has been monitoring political messages online, and even correcting what it considers misinformation. One local expert says the government is taking things too far.Under the pilot program the Harper government paid a media company $75,000 to monitor and respond to online postings about the east coast seal hunt. UBC Computer Science professor and President of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, Richard Rosenberg, says it seems unnecessary for the government to be going this far.
That sounds pretty invasive.

Their decision has absolutely nothing to do with wanting to protect our privacy. They just don't want a report card on how poorly they are doing, but more importantly they don't want stats that provide arguments against their bad decisions.

Opposition parties are calling for the Conservative government to reverse its "ideological" decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census, saying it has thrown Statistics Canada into "chaos." The calls by Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale and NDP MP Charlie Angus come a day after Munir Sheikh, the head of Canada's national statistical agency, resigned in protest over Industry Minister Tony Clement's decision to end the mandatory census.

Goodale told reporters in Ottawa on Thursday that the reputation of the internationally renowned agency is "hanging by a thread at the hand of a bumbling minister and a Conservative government that simply doesn't believe in fact-based decision-making." " 'Don't bother us with facts,' they say," Goodale said. "The result is a general dumbing down of government ...
James Travers agrees in his piece: Forget the beaver, dumber Canada needs the ostrich
Conservatives are going soft. Instead of stopping the dumbing-down of Canada at abolishing the mandatory long-form census, Stephen Harper should take the bolder step of dumping the eager beaver for the foolish ostrich. Even if its head-in-sand defence is a myth, the ostrich has other metaphorical merits as a fitting new national symbol. It’s been known to deliver devastating kicks to onrushing locomotives and isn’t naturally found in this northern habitat.

Conservatives share those characteristics. They resent the relentless march of progress and resist it with alien ideas imported from other places. Opting to know less about ourselves is about as smart as flying without instruments. Reliable information opens the decision-making conduit that carries us safely from present to future.
And as Jeffrey Simpson Says"
There is only one reason this census situation is so senselessly white-hot: the government's position. Its radical ideology and stunning stubbornness have raised the stakes alarmingly high. There must be plenty of Conservatives who are recoiling at the shenanigans of these so-called Conservatives.

Every time Industry Minister Tony Clement and the prime minister's spokesthingy says "coercive" and "intrusive" without bidding, my mind flashes up pictures of our own police in riot gear at the G20 protests and hundreds of people being filed into and out of detention centres for public disturbances like blowing bubbles. Is this my Canada?
Yes I would say getting the crap kicked out of you for peacefully protesting, and allowing male police officers to strip search women is pretty bloody invasive.

No, Mr. Simpson. This is not your Canada, or my Canada, it is his Canada. But not for long.


  1. Everything I needed to know, in one excellent blog -- thanks! If people can read this and still buy the Conservative talking points, they are probably still proud members of the Flat Earth Society.