Accountability Civil liberties Governance Media Privacy

Why census privacy matters

For its 2016 census, the country’s national statistical agency announced changes that would impact citizens’ privacy. For the first time ever, census respondents’ personal information would be retained and linked with other administrative and survey data the agency has access to.

The national media quickly jumped on the story. The country’s public broadcaster wrote “If you’re worried about privacy, you should worry about the 2016 census”. The country’s premiere technology publication wrote “Lost our Census: Why the biggest hit to privacy this year is all about you”.

Once aware of the changes, the public was outraged. Calls for a nationwide census boycott erupted. Academics and former top bureaucrats – including a former federal privacy commissioner and a former chief statistician – publicly voiced their concerns.

No, this isn’t a Bizarro universe scenario of what didn’t happen in Canada following the referenced changes to the 2016 census implemented by Statistics Canada. This is what’s actually happening in Australia, where the Australian Bureau of Statistics has implemented similar changes for its upcoming 2016 census, set to take place next month.

Civil liberties Transparency

95% ‘somewhat’ to ‘very’ proud to be Canadian *

Proud to be Canadian

Editor’d Note: The public-use microdata file (PUMF) will be released shortly; the following will be updated accordingly.

So 95 percent of Canadians are ‘somewhat’ to ‘very’ proud to be Canadian. Or so some segment of 48.1 percent of respondents to Statistics Canada’s 2013 General Social Survey (GSS) – aka Cycle 27, Social Identity – indicated. If you thought the response rate for the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) was bad, at least that survey asked fairly discreet, straight-forward questions. In addition to the arbitrary questions on national pride and patriotism, the 2013 GSS also contained questions that likely discouraged certain individuals from responding, effectively defeating its purpose.

Civil liberties Human rights Justice

The sorry state of Canadian civil liberties: Quebec police hit cyclist, run him over, twice, killing him… for going wrong-way on one-way

Guy Blouin ID’d as cyclist run over by Quebec City police car
Witness says he saw cruiser run over man twice; bicycle and police car moved from scene by officers
CBC News, September 4, 2014

Can’t wait to read about how the officers got away without murder charges, on account they couldn’t reasonably have foreseen that running over a human being, twice, with a police cruiser, could kill them.

You can be sure their union, the Police Brotherhood, will do its utmost to see to it these thugs not only get away with murder, but that they don’t even lose their jobs, if a day’s pay. Remember that the next time you see one of these camo-pantsed fools protesting.

Update 10/09/2014

The story’s made it to VICE magazine

A recent cop-related fatality has revealed the flaws in Quebec’s police review system
Simon Van Vliet, VICE  September 10, 2014

To paraphrase Johnnie Cochrane (of O.J. trial fame): “Who police the police?” As VICE points out, in Quebec, the police police the police. And apparently, they have a hard time finding fault with themselves:

Over the past 15 years, there have been on average 30 people a year who died or were seriously injured in police operations in Quebec. Police-led investigations have resulted in accusations against police officers in less than one percent of cases.

Civil liberties Foreign policy Governance Human rights Media

Foreign policy failure: Canada (once again) isolated in refusal to acknowledge, condemn Israeli war crimes

Israel/Gaza: Attack on UN school in Gaza a potential war crime that must be investigated - Amnesty International July 30, 2014
Israel/Gaza: Attacks on medical facilities and civilians add to war crime allegations - Amnesty International July 21, 2014 Israel/Gaza conflict: Questions and Answers - Amnesty International July 25, 2014
Here at the #RallyForIsrael in Ottawa with my Liberal colleague @MarcGarneau - standing in solidarity w/ Israel. - @HonJohnBaird July 16, 2014

UNRWA Strongly condemns Israeli shelling of its school in Gaza as serious violation of international law

United Nations Relief and Works Agency, July 30, 2014

The precise location of the Jabalia Elementary Girls School and the fact that it was housing thousands of internally displaced people was communicated to the Israeli army seventeen times, to ensure its protection; the last being at ten to nine last night, just hours before the fatal shelling.

I condemn in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces.

This is the sixth time that one of our schools has been struck. Our staff, the very people leading the humanitarian response are being killed.

 For other UNRWA announcements, see the UNRWA Official Statements page. Notably, these latest Israeli war crimes come on the heels of the 10th anniversary of the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The ICJ found Israel’s construction of the Wall contrary to international law, and advised Israel to cease construction and dismantle sections it had already erected.

Israel ignored the ICJ opinion, as it has ignored every UN decision critical of its nearly seven decades of illegal dispossession / subjugation of the Palestinian people and military occupation of their homeland — and there have been many.

Effectively, the current state of Israel persists contrary to international law. That – and not any single recent event – is and continues to be the root cause of the perpetual conflict in the Middle East.

The photo of “Bought and Paid-for” above speaks to the source of Canada’s misguided Middle East policy — and the cynicism of its politicians. Federal MP and supposed Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Marc Garneau makes a point of promoting his involvement with UNICEF Canada and his support of the UN Declaration and Convention on the Rights of the Child. As far as we know, Palestinian children are entitled to the same rights and protections. Hopefully UNICEF takes up the matter with Mr. Garneau and other cynical Canadian politicians who claim to support the organisation and its mission yet have turned a blind eye to the suffering and targeted killing of Palestinian civilians, nearly a quarter of whom were children.

In closing, the linked BBC Channel 4 news clips show reporters asking tough questions of both sides and deflecting spin to get to the facts – a reminder to Canadians of what journalism is supposed to look like (lookin’ at you, The Canadian Press). Also noteworthy are Debunking Israel’s 11 Main Myths About Gaza, Hamas and War Crimes from Huffington Post UK and Terrorism in the Israeli Attack on Gaza by Glenn Greenwald writing for The Intercept.

Aboriginal - First Nations Accountability Civil liberties Justice Race and ethnicity

The sorry state of Canadian civil liberties: Hate crime up, race primary motive


Hate crimes in Canada: Most violent against gays, black people most targeted racial group
Craig Takeuchi, June 27, 2014

The referenced StatsCan release. As the article notes, the majority of all police-reported hate crimes (704 incidents, or 52 percent) were racially or ethnically motivated. Yet, remarkably, the few stories published focused on sexual orientation, a far less frequent motive (185 incidents, or 13%), albeit one involving greater incidence of violence.

Aboriginal - First Nations Accountability Civil liberties Justice Race and ethnicity

The sorry state of Canadian civil liberties: Defining away ‘diversity’


Photo above appears to be from The Canadian Press (original source unknown). The white rubber wristband federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay appears to wear is interesting. It’s popularly associated with the Make Poverty History campaign. Among the issues discussed by the Canadian MPH campaign is homeless veterans – interesting, given the accompanying Support Our Troops lapel pin.

Cynical symbology is a useful segue to the latest scandal Mr. MacKay finds himself facing, over a Mother’s Day greeting / supposedly sexist quip about female judges. Its absurdity was recently highlighted by an exchange of open letters between a columnist and his wife.

What the beleaguered Justice Minister wrote or said is secondary to his (can’t stress this point often enough) as well as previous Canadian governments’ policy decisions and resulting outcomes. And those outcomes are far worse for racial / ethno-cultural minorities than for women. Which begs the question(s): When/why/how did ‘diversity’ in judicial appointments become exclusively associated with female nominees, especially when the imbalance is many times greater for racial and other actual minority groups?

Aboriginal - First Nations Civil liberties Justice Poverty Race and ethnicity

The sorry state of Canadian civil liberties: ‘Hurricane’ passes as his adopted country regresses


 Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter dead at 76: Former professional boxer became an advocate for the wrongly convicted
Mark Gollom, CBC News Apr 20, 2014

The extensive record clearly demonstrates that the petitioners’ convictions were predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure.

Wrongful Convictions in Canada (PDF)
Kent Roach, University of Cincinnati Law Review 2012

… the Canadian experience is of interest because in recent years an increasing number of wrongful convictions arising from guilty pleas have been discovered. This phenomenon suggests that the unknown number of wrongful convictions may be much larger than many have appreciated. In other words, wrongful convictions may result not only from contested trials, but from the majority of cases in which accused plead guilty…

How many wrongful convictions in Canada are never detected? Even if the error rate resulting in wrongful convictions in Canada was exceedingly small, there may be large numbers of undiscovered  wrongful convictions, given that about 90,000 criminal court cases result in a person being sentenced to custody in Canada each year. An error rate of only 0.5% would result in approximately 450 wrongful convictions a year

Two-thirds of cases in adult criminal court result in  convictions on the basis of guilty pleas, but given the recent evidence of  innocent people making both irrational and rational decisions to plead guilty, it cannot be assumed that all those in Canada who plead guilty  actually are guilty. The prosecution terminates most of the remaining third of criminal cases. Only 3% of cases result in an acquittalsuggesting that criminal trials only reject a very small percentage of all prosecutions.

That ‘error’ rate is not only 0.5%. And those ‘errors’ tend to overwhelmingly accrue against socio-economically disadvantaged Canadians: Aboriginal / First Nations, visible minorities and low-income individuals. That they’re also far more likely to be charged and denied due process is just another unfortunate ‘error’. Or not.

It would seem the vast majority (2/3) of criminally accused are pleading guilty as they perceive little chance of receiving a fair trial. That a statistically insignificant (3%) share of Canadian criminal cases result in acquittal underscores that in Canada – despite efforts to portray the country as progressive, governed by the rule of law and due process, without prejudice – an accused is not just de jure ‘guilty until proven innocent’, but de facto guilty.

On the bright side, at least Canada doesn’t have the death penalty… yet.

And the Canadian government wonders why it has no credibility when it criticises other nations’ human rights records…

Civil liberties Foreign policy Governance Transparency

Alternative Christmas Message 2013: Edward Snowden


Hi, and Merry Christmas. I’m honored to have the chance to speak with you and your family this year.

Recently, we learned that our governments, working in concert, have created a system of worldwide mass surveillance, watching everything we do.

Civil liberties Governance Justice Race and ethnicity Transparency

The sorry state of Canadian civil liberties: Fat, white, middle-aged male crackhead? No problem.

Kudos to the Washington Post for pointing out the obvious comparison, albeit pulling its punch a bit. In its time the Marion Barry crack story was also international news and a black eye for Washington, D.C., much as the Rob Ford story is to Toronto today.

What WaPo doesn’t touch on – though it could be excused for not doing so since Barry’s arrest was a well-publicised local story – is how then-mayor Barry was treated relative to how mayor Ford is now being treated by police.

Civil liberties Foreign policy Human rights Justice Media

The sorry state of Canadian civil liberties: Where facts can be disputed as hate crimes, and vice versa – by the same group


The map montage pictured above is a hate crime, according to Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. Why/how you may ask? Apparently it is provocative and incites hatred and contempt (PDF). Four time-lapsed maps, a statistic and a two-word descriptor. Seems fairly innocuous.

If anything, one would think a story accusing another nationality of starting the next Holocaust would be more worthy of being labeled a hate crime, especially if it turned out to be false. But the good people at Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center didn’t denounce that story as a hate crime. That’s because the Simon Wiesenthal Center was busy promoting and perpetuating that possible hate crime.