The Harper regime is notorious for its virtual embargo on information. Muzzling of scientists, heavily-redacted Freedom of Information documents, regular obstruction of Parliamentary officers have become the norm. In light of these profoundly anti-democratic traits, one has to ask whether the paranoid control that obsesses the regime has filtered down to other levels of government and institutions?
'Privacy rights' have become the default position of far too many. The Harper regime uses it regularly whenever it wishes to avoid answering uncomfortable questions. One of the latest examples of this deplorable tactic is to be found in the case of Bashir Makhtal
a 46-year-old who lived and worked in Toronto, [who] has been languishing in an Ethiopian jail in Addis Ababa since he was convicted of terrorism in 2009. He has always denied the charges.
Makhtal was arrested on the border of Kenya and Somalia in 2006 after fleeing Mogadishu and the fall of the Islamic Courts Union.Initially refusing a deal for a prison-transfer back to Canada because he claimed he was innocent, last year he accepted it, but the federal government has done nothing to faciliate that transfer, says his cousin.
The Canadian government response to these allegations?
François Lasalle, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, told the Star that “to protect the privacy of the individual concerned, further details on this case cannot be released.”
Similarly, Zarah Malik, a spokesperson for Public Safety Canada, told the Star that “the Privacy Act prevents federal government officials from discussing the specifics of an offender’s case.”Other institutions inspired by this 'sterling' example include the RCMP, which now is refusing to divulge the identities of car accident victims
and other such tragedies
, even homicides.
Says lawyer David Fraser,
"Not disclosing the information very likely makes their jobs easier, and not having to ask the next of kin or the family to disclose whether they can disclose this information, it's one less thing that they have to do," he said.
"It's always easier — we see this across government — to just point to the privacy legislation as a reason to not do something … to not provide information to the media."
This cone of silence is given critical scrutiny by The Toronto Star
Until this year the RCMP released the names of victims with their consent or the permission of their surviving relatives. Now it says it must comply with Privacy Act, regardless of the wishes of bereaved families.
“I wanted people to know my sons,” said Mary Anne MacIntyre of Judique, a small Cape Breton Community where 19-year-old Morgan MacIntyre and his 17-year-old brother Jordan were killed in a car crash two years ago. “Being Victim A or Victim B is just, to me, feels so cold.”
So even with the family's permission, the RCMP is obdurately hiding behind the privacy justification.
The federal behaviour is now infecting local police forces as well. This past February, two men were shot and killed
by an armed security guard in a Toronto McDonald's restaurant. And that is about all we are ever likely to know, since it was announced this week that the guard will not be charged
“Investigators consulted Senior Crown Attorneys and provided an overview of the circumstances surrounding the deaths,” police said in a statement issued Wednesday. “It was determined that there would be no reasonable prospect of conviction, therefore no criminal charges would be laid.”Here is what columnist Edward Keenan
had to say:
Two men were shot and killed, in public, in February. Police know who did it, but they will not tell us. They say no charges should be laid in the case, but they will not tell us why, or give us the information they uncovered in their investigation. Police have security-camera video of the incident, but they will not show it to us.
Two people are dead, and the Toronto Police Service’s response, after four months of investigation, boils down to: Nothing to see here. Trust us. Move along.This is police state stuff.Make no mistake about it; there are many unanswered question that call into question the administration of justice here:
Was it a clear-cut case of self-defence? I could imagine a hundred scenarios in which that’s possible, but we don’t know.
Why was this security guard armed in a restaurant? We don’t know. What kind of work was he doing nearby? We don’t know. Was his life in danger? Was he being robbed? Was he defending other people?
We don’t know.People who live in dictatorships are used to being kept in the dark. They have very low expectations. We still live in a democracy, albeit one under steady attack by repressive forces from within. As Canadians approach the October election, one of the many questions they will have to ask themselves is whether or not they are comfortable being treated as children excluded from the conversations at the 'adult table'. If they are not, they would be wise to choose a government that sets a tone of transparency, not obfuscation, for its citizens.