23 November 2011

First Nations Under Surveillance in Canada

In our continuing coverage of reports of surveillance and domestic forms of counterinsurgency in Canada, we present this material, first aired on the CBC's radio program, The Current, from Thursday, 17 November, 2011. It demonstrates the state's continuing efforts to spy on the public sphere and to treat Aboriginals as if they were a potential insurgent threat, a domestic implementation of espionage techniques that tie in with the "return investment" on Canada's participation in foreign counterinsurgency wars, as first demonstrated by the inclusion of First Nations in the draft counterinsurgency manual of the Canadian Forces. For more background, see the prior reports we published on these topics:

From the CBC:

Why is the govt spying on Cindy Blackstock? Cindy Blackstock is an advocate for First Nations children and youth. She has an email trail that shows bureaucrats from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs are tailing her, showing up at more than 70 speeches and appearances, taking notes, following her Facebook page and sharing what they find with their Dept and the Dept of Justice. She calls the surveillance, chilling and politically motivated.

Canada spends millions of dollars each year monitoring and tracking individuals and groups thought to threaten national security. Law abiding citizens aren't typically under the government's microscope. But when Cindy Blackstock applied for access to government documents, she received a fat folder that showed she was being watched. Cindy Blackstock runs The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.

In 2007, her organization filed a human rights complaint against the federal government, alleging under-funding of child welfare services on reserves. Her Access to Information request revealed, the Federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has amassed a large file on her activities, much of it based on first-hand accounts from government employees who tailed her at public appearances. Cindy Blackstock joined us from our studio in Ottawa.

Martin Papillon is a professor of political science at the University of Ottawa. Among other things, his research focusses on Aboriginal self-determination and he was in our Ottawa studio.

For his take on whether and when the federal government should monitor native groups and why it might be keeping tabs on Cindy Blackstock, we were joined by Tim Powers. He's the Vice President of Summa Communications and a Conservative Party strategist. He also worked in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in the mid 1990s. Tim Powers was in Ottawa.

The Current asked to speak to someone from the Prime Minister's Office. We did not receive a reply. We asked to speak to Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan. Neither he nor anyone else from the department was available this morning, but Minister Duncan's spokesperson did provide us with this statement. It reads:
I can tell you that our government takes Canadians' privacy very seriously. The Minister has asked the Deputy Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to report to him on whether privacy rules were respected.
We also asked to speak to someone from the Department of National Defence. We received no response. The Government's Leader in the Senate, Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton, was not available to speak to us this morning.
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