Flashback-Canada Destroys a Defender of Freedom
September 3, 2008
(From June 29, 2003. Radwanski seems to have disappeared down the Memory Hole)
Last week, Canada's Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski was hounded from office amid a firestorm of allegations about expense account abuses.
Press hacks and politicians continue to nip at his heels accusing him of misleading parliament and "intimidating" his staff. One Member of Parliament suggested he deserved jail time or even execution.
Why such ferocity?
George Radwanski had been a valiant and eloquent opponent of the Canadian government's new initiatives for repressive public surveillance. His courageous leadership is the reason he has been tarred and feathered. The real scoundrels are the Canadian politicians and press who have abjectly betrayed the public trust.
In January 2003, Radwanski warned Canadians that the government "regrettably has lost its moral compass." Although Canada hasn't had a terrorist attack, planned initiatives will result in the loss "not only of privacy rights that we take for granted but also of ... freedom as we now know it."
He warned "September 11 is being invoked as a kind of magic incantation to stifle debate, disparage critical analysis and persuade us that we suddenly live in a new world where the old rules cannot apply."
"The Government is doing all this in blatant, open and repeated disregard of the concerns that it is my duty to express..." Radwanski said. He revealed that American pressure was to blame, and urged Canadians to assert their sovereignty.
" The right of privacy is at the core of the basic freedoms of our society. Freedom of speech, of thought, of association, to name just a few, are grounded in the idea that we have a private sphere of thought and action that is our business and nobody else's -- not our neighbours', not our employers', not some telemarketer's, and certainly not the state's. In Canada today that fundamental human right is under unprecedented assault."
He foresaw the potential uses of surveillance for political repression. While only thousands march against globalization today, what if millions wanted to demonstrate in the future?
Radwanski compared the "war on terror" to Orwell's 1984, "which takes place against the background of a mysterious chronic war in which it is never clear just who the enemy is or who is winning or losing."
His office was becoming "an international leader in privacy protection" and a thorn in George Bush's side. It focused opposition to the monitoring of communications, biometric passports and identity cards, video surveillance and genetic databases.
"My trips to the US enabled me to raise awareness among American decision-makers about Canada's different approach to privacy rights," Radwanski said in his resignation statement. "Several members of the US Congress expressed an interest in creating an American position of Privacy Commissioner along the Canadian model."
This resignation statement has been removed from the Privacy Commission web site. Soviet-style, Radwanski is already becoming a non-person.
In a supposedly civilized country, George Radwanski was not given a fair and impartial hearing. No one in authority came to his defence. No one made the obvious connection between his sensitive political stand and his removal. This is the state of public discourse today.
The whole episode smacks of a carefully orchestrated operation. Politicians of all stripes and virtually the whole press corps fell into line like geese. Typical of the press' prescience were disingenuous editorials like "Gorg'in George Had to Go" and "Radwanski's Vainglorious Reign Crumbles."
The Toronto Star had an editorial Sunday (June 29) entitled "Good from Radwanski." Did it take note of his warnings? No. The "good" referred to more scrutiny of future appointments like his and protection for the "whistle blowers" who revealed his expense account anomalies.
The vicious "swarming" of a dedicated public defender sets a bad precedent. It suggests the fate of anybody with influence that stands in Big Brother's way.
We may assume that any target of media defamation is a genuine defender of democratic ideals.
In the years prior to the murderous "Reign of Terror" and the French Revolution, the Jacobins used vile and unscrupulous smear campaigns like this one to eliminate opponents. This process was known as "L'infamie."
A former Editor of the Toronto Star, George Radwanski was a speechwriter and consultant to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien who appointed him to the seven-year term as Privacy Commissioner in 2000.
Radwanski made good use of his connections. Prior to accepting his $210,000 per annum job in 2000, he declared bankruptcy and was forgiven 85% of $580,000 in tax arrears.
Although these write-offs are pretty common, this one has suddenly become an issue.
Radwanski also made good use of his government expense account. In 2002-03, he and his (female) Communications Director apparently spent $276,000 on travel, including 10 foreign trips. In one instance, the pair is accused of going to Paris just five days after returning from there. Radwanski is also accused of paying up to $450 for business lunches and trying to mislead a Parliamentary Committee about these excesses.
Radwanski travelled for an average of 30 formal speeches a year and claims his conduct and expenses can be justified. "I have at all times conducted myself with honor and integrity," he said.
He asked for an impartial review by the Auditor General but was denied. I am "unable to properly defend myself and set the record straight because of the process deliberately prevents me from doing so," he said.
The Canadian political class is notorious for feasting at the public trough. Many examples could be cited. The Prime Minister secured a large interest-free loan for a hotel with which he had personal dealings. A former Public Works minister gave $2 million in questionable contracts to an advertising firm with close party ties. He got an ambassadorship.
The cost of Canada's unpopular and unnecessary gun registry was supposed to be $2 million. Instead it has ballooned to $1 billion, mostly boondoggle and patronage. Gary Webster, its former head, piled up more than $209,000 in travel and hotel bills commuting between Edmonton and Ottawa over two years. He still has a senior government position.
Radwanski's excesses, real or imagined, are pretty common. He has been targeted for his political stand. His possible indiscretions pale in comparison to the vital work he was doing. While Canadians focus on lunch money, we are losing our priceless birthright and that of future generations.
DOING HIS JOB TOO WELL
George Radwanski doubtlessly became a marked man in January when he delivered his 2001-2002 Annual Report. Here are some excerpts:
"The fundamental human right of privacy in Canada is under assault as never before. Unless the Government of Canada is quickly dissuaded from its present course by Parliamentary action and public insistence, we are on a path that may well lead to the permanent loss not only of privacy rights but also important elements of freedom as we now know it...
The Government is, quite simply, using September 11 as an excuse for new [surveillance databases] that cannot be justified by the requirements of anti-terrorism and that, indeed, have no place in a free and democratic society...
These are not abstract or theoretical concerns. If these measures are allowed to go forward... there is a very real prospect that before long our lives here in Canada will look like this:
- All our travels outside Canada will be systematically recorded, tracked and analyzed for signs of anything that the Government might find suspicious or undesirable. "Big Brother" dossiers of personal information about every law-abiding Canadian... will be kept by the federal Government and will be available to virtually every federal department and agency...
- Any time we travel within Canada, we will have to identify ourselves to police so that their computers can check whether we are wanted for anything or are otherwise of interest to the state.
- Police and security will be able to access records of every e-mail we send and every cellular phone call we make. Information on what we read on the Internet, every Web site and page we visit, will likewise be readily available to government authorities.
- We will all be fingerprinted or retina-scanned by the Government. This biometric information will be on compulsory national ID cards that will open the way to being stopped in the streets by police and required to identify ourselves on demand.
- Our movements through the public streets will be relentlessly observed through proliferating police video surveillance cameras. Eventually, these cameras will likely be linked to biometric face-recognition technologies that will match our on-screen images to file photos -- from such sources as drivers' licences, passports or ID cards -- and enable the police to identify us by name and address as we go about our law-abiding business in the streets.
Now I am informing Parliament that ... governmental disregard for crucially important privacy rights is moving beyond isolated instances and becoming systematic.
The bottom line is this: If we have to live our lives weighing every action, every communication, every human contact, wondering what agents of the state might find out about it, analyze it, judge it, possibly misconstrue it, and somehow use it to our detriment, we are not truly free.
That sort of life is characteristic of totalitarian countries, not a free and open society like Canada. But that is where we are inexorably headed, if the Government's current initiatives are allowed to proceed."
No one can read this excerpt without being ashamed. As Canadians, we have behaved like little children. We have clapped while our champion has been struck down and humiliated. We will discover that our freedom is a lot easier to squander than it is to regain.
We don't recognize the danger facing us because conditions are still pretty good. But these measures are not planned for good times. They are designed for the bad times that are in store.
Sept. 11 was an audacious act on the part of the world's financial elite. It served the double purpose of providing an excuse to subjugate the Muslim world while at the same time creating an enemy to justify political repression at home.
The crumbling twin towers signaled the final stage in a long-term plan for a world police state governed by the superrich. The New World Order is the work of the devil, and Canadians brought it a step closer last week.