Capitalism, oligarchy and the new economic order

What Is Stephen Harper Reading? That was the title of a book Yann Martel wrote in 2011. He wrote it as a compilation of recommended readings he sent bi-monthly to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I know it is a bit late but I wish Martel had included among those titles Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the newly released book authored by French economist Thomas Piketty.
As an economist by training, Stephen Harper would be interested in reading what Thomas Piketty has to say about capitalism and the threat that rising inequality is representing for the whole economic system.
But don’t get me wrong; Thomas Piketty isn’t a leftist politician. It just happens that some of what he is preaching corresponds perfectly with what some leftist activists and analysts have been warning us for years, to no avail. Today, the words, analyses and charts inside Piketty’s book are confirming their predictions and giving them credibility — not with neoliberals but with common people who discovered Piketty’s book. The book confirms their suspicions and perfectly describes their realities.
In reality, Piketty’s book came three years late. The Indignados movement in Europe and the Occupy Wall Street movement in the U.S. started way before the book was originally published in French.
However, the difference between Piketty and protest groups is that his work can’t be brushed off as lousy, simplistic or the work of some anarchists. His original contribution, developed together with his colleagues, is a statistical method that allowed him to track the evolution of income and wealth over a long period of time (over the 20th century for America and Britain, and the18th century for France). Thus, he was able to follow inequality through two dimensions: across social classes and through time. He traced the inequality of La Belle Époque (19th century in Europe) and was able to pinpoint the main culprit: the accumulation of wealth and its transmission through inheritance. In today’s words, Piketty was able to track down the 1% that Occupy Wall Street protesters strongly denounced. Indeed, he found out that:
The top 10% owns most (70%) of the capital, and the bottom 50% owns almost none (5%) of it.
Moreover, Piketty drew similarities between rich people of the 19th century and the wealthy today. He even mentioned, unheard of from an economist, some literary characters from the novels of Jane Austen and Honoré de Balzac. In the Belle Époque, the family in which you are born, or to whom you get married, make you poor forever or rich forever.

It is the emergence and later the spread of capitalism that came to change this fatalism. Workers and then middle-class groups, through education and hard work, made a path between the rich and poor and this is how, for instance, the middle class came to represent the most important class in America during the ’50s. Not for a long time, though! The Jane Austen and Honoré Balzac characters of this new world reappeared and concentrated all the wealth in their hands.
It is interesting to note how Piketty emphasizes wealth instead of income as the most important tool for studying inequality — and for this he studied tax records instead of relying, like other economists did in the past, on surveys about salaries and income.
Of course, many critics say that today’s rich made their fortunes through hard work and not through inheritance like was the case in La Belle Époque. It may have been true for some when the American Dream was still a reality but it is no longer the case today. Take the cases of CEOs who keep receiving million of dollars in compensation and yet aren’t good enough to save their firms from financial disasters. And how about JPMorgan Chase, one of the biggest banking and financial multinationals in the world? Didn’t this firm start from a wealthy family?
Piketty advocates for a wealth tax that would reduce the growing inequalities that we currently observe in Canada, in the U.S. and all over the world. Politically, this is extremely difficult if not impossible. In France, Gerard Depardieu and other movie stars or singers went to war against the French government when it tried to increase the taxes on their wealth. In the U.S., Forbes magazine, which promotes wealth through its famous list of the richest people in the world, harshly criticized Piketty’s work.
So after reading Thomas Piketty’s book, can we safely say that America, as the icon of capitalism, is no longer a democracy but an oligarchy? Everyone seems to be afraid to say so!
There are some courageous voices who dare to do so. In their book, The Betrayal of the American Dream, Ronald Barlett and James Steele write: “a sign held by a protester at Occupy Wall Street in the fall of 2011 framed the issue: I don’t mind you being rich. I mind you buying my government.”
Recently, two American political scientists, Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, released a report in which they declared:
“…we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”
Gilens and Page don’t go as far as declaring the U.S. an oligarchy but they nicely frame it as follows: “economic elite domination.” It is exactly what Thomas Piketty discovered through his study of tax records and patterns of inequality.
In Canada, we are not immune to such inequalities and “economic elite domination.” In a recent study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, it is mentioned that:
“… many gasp at the fact that Canada’s richest 20% of families take almost 50% of all income. But when it comes to wealth, almost 70% of all Canadian wealth belongs to Canada’s wealthiest 20%.”
Piketty’s findings cannot be better confirmed, even here in Canada. Once again, I find myself wishing Stephen Harper would one day read Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

This article was originally posted with

Au revoir Pauline: Goodbye to Quebec’s time of division

As a francophone, a North African and a veil-wearing Muslim woman, I felt deeply concerned by the debate around the Charter of Values that created turmoil in la belle province since last fall. This debate suddenly died after the crushing defeat of Pauline Marois and the Parti Québécois.
Moreover, as someone who first migrated to, then lived and studied in Quebec, I always had a special place in my heart for Montreal. I have emotional memories there. Somehow I left my heart there in one of its streets.
Last fall, I even started writing a regular column in French for the Huffington Post Quebec where I shared with readers my worries, my opinions, and even good advice that Pauline Marois chose to ignore…
The Charter of Values, or de la laïcité, was portrayed by Pauline Marois and her accomplices as a charter to fight women’s oppression and promote values of gender equality. Noble principles, indeed! The Charter was supposedly targeting the main religious symbols kirpan, yarmulke, the cross (depending on its size and place) and of course, the famous veil.
It wasn’t a very well-kept secret that the Charter was mainly targeting Muslim women who chose to wear the headscarf. Their increasing number in daycares, as educators, and in the public space in general, was apparently creating a malaise according to Bernard Drainville, the minister who initiated this charter.
So, in the name of gender equality, women wearing the veil were going to be fired from their jobs to preserve the secularism of society. What an irony!
Moreover, what Drainville kept as secret are the hundred of thousands of comments from individuals and organizations opposing the Charter as well as the legal advice he received about the Charter’s constitutionality. Maybe transparency and accountability weren’t as important for him as gender equality…

But beyond all the heated debates, and the false arguments used by Pauline Marois and her friends, two concerning phenomena became apparent:
- a social rift between mainstream society and ethnic groups.
- normalization of hateful comments directed towards Muslim women and Islam, not only on the Internet by also by some media commentators and, of course, by Janette Bertrand, the self-proclaimed head of the pro-Charter camp.
In the 2007 Quebec election, the Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ), headed by Mario Dumont, a small political party at the time, won 41 seats in the National Assembly and against all odds became the official opposition, sending the Parti Québécois into third position.
The secret of that sudden victory? The ADQ played the political wedge card of identity. Not the veil as much as the sugar bush serving a halal menu or orthodox Jews asking that YMCA glass be covered as the poor men can’t support the view of almost naked women jogging on treadmills.
The ADQ didn’t go as far as bringing in a charter of values; they were testing the waters and it worked wonderfully. But only temporarily — and in the next election, the party was almost decimated.
After “printemps érable” and the student revolution against the Liberals and their tuition fee increase, Pauline Marois came in as the saviour of the Parti Québécois. Her strategists thought they could be smarter than the ADQ’s. They saw how lucrative the identity issue can be in terms of voting and they wanted to replicate it in order to make gains in the election. They didn’t take into consideration that the ADQ bitterly lost in their next election; they didn’t think that playing with fire can be a lot of fun until the fire catches their hands and clothes.
When I was a little girl, one of Lafontaine’s fables that impressed me was the one about the frog and the ox. The frog once saw the ox near a pond and wanted badly to become as big and as beautiful as him. So she started drinking the water until she exploded. This old French fable is taught to children and I am not sure if Pauline Marois — who claims to be a defender of French language and culture — read it.
Marois’s strategists thought that by raising the spectre of the “Muslim invasion” they would succeed as the Front National in France did. But Quebec isn’t France and North America isn’t Europe, a fact they seem to have forgotten.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee, turned into an acclaimed politician in the Netherlands espousing the cause of the extremist right-wing. It worked so well for her. Old conservatives loved her, people who didn’t want the Muslim neighbourhood to grow in their backyards quietly approved her comments, and then one day her dangerous game exploded in her face as it was discovered that she lied with respect to her refugee claim. The same people who once were her friends end up stripping her of Dutch citizenship.
She didn’t learn her lesson though. She went to the United States and started touring the American universities, repeating her same hateful speeches. Some people listened to her but many ignored her. She even scornfully admitted in one of her books that North American society was not as receptive to her message as the Europeans were.
Did Pauline Marois and her candidates hear about Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Or was she only looking at her navel, to use a French expression?
One thing is sure: Quebecers punished Marois badly for being so arrogant. Today, the challenges for all Quebecers are tremendous: economic, social and cultural. Let’s hope that the time of division is behind us. I can only hope that Pauline Marois and her clique are just a bad dream. Au revoir, Pauline!

Y-a-t-il vraiment une menace intégriste musulmane au Québec?

Oui, selon les francophones vivant en dehors de Montréal mais pas vraiment pour les anglophones ou francophones vivant dans la région de Montréal.  Oui, selon Pauline Marois. Pas vraiment selon Philipe Couillard?Qui a raison et qui a tort? Qui sont les naïfs et qui sont les lucides? Ville contre campagne? Anglophones contre francophones? Péquistes contre libéraux? Souverainistes contre fédéralistes? Une chose est claire: il n’existe pas une seule solitude au Québec mais plusieurs espaces solitaires.

Après des mois de débats houleux, de manifestations, des chemises déchirées sur la place publique, d’insultes échangées et des milliers de pages Facebook partagées , la charte des valeurs québequoises, par laquelle toute la question de l’identité a fait son apparition s’est en quelque sorte timidement esquivée de la campagne électorale. Ce n’est plus le voile ou la kippa qui fait peur mais plutôt c’est le musulman intégriste. Un point c’est tout. Apparemment, ce musulman intégriste, probablement caché dans sa mosquée, représente une menace. Laquelle? Je ne sais pas. Du moins on ne nous le dit pas. Néanmoins, presque 60% des québécois pensent qu’il menace le Québec.

C’est drôle comment les péquistes de Pauline Marois se sont appropriés les idées de la fédéraliste Fatima Houda-Pépin sans que celle-ci s’en offusque ou se rebiffe. Au contraire, elle sourit toujours. A chaque fois que je la vois à la télé, elle sourit, certainement ce n’est pas une musulmane intégriste. Les photos de femmes musulmanes semblent toujours en colère, fâchées, tristes.  Celles-ci, elles doivent être des musulmanes intégristes. Elles menacent la société de quoi? De leur colère?  De leur soumission? Je ne sais pas encore. Personne n’a voulu me dire. Mais tout le monde semble avoir peur.

Pauline Marois se dit convaincue que les musulmans ont infiltré la société québécoise. Sur quoi se base-t-elle? Je ne sais pas. Dans quelle étude est-elle allée piger ses idées? Des arrestations à tous les jours de complots musulmans? Peut-être a-t-elle confondu la menace musulmane de menace du crime organisé. Ah oui, ça doit être ca! Un lapsus. Un simple lapsus linguae. Elle a confondu la corruption qui s’est infiltrée dans toutes les sphères de l’économie québécoise avec l’islam. Il faut la pardonner Pauline, elle travaille fort ces jours-ci et elle ne connait plus la différence entre intégrisme and gangstérisme.

Pour revenir à Fatima Houda-Pépin, à mon avis, il faudrait qu’elle demande à Pauline Marois des redevances en terme de voix électorales. Voici un stratagème génial que je lui suggère : pour chaque voix gagnée par le PQ dans la circonscription dans laquelle Fatima Houda-Pépin se lance, elle reçoit deux votes pour elle. Deux pour un. Comme ça, Fatima Houda- Pépin pourra battre Dr. Barette et elle pourrait retrouver sa place et sa pension à l’assemblée nationale et rester toujours souriante.

Autre chose. Le Parti Québécois a annoncé qu’un gouvernement péquiste se doterait d’un centre de recherche sur les crimes dits d’honneur et la lutte à l’intégrisme.Car faut-il préciser que ces crimes d’honneur barbares sont strictement associés aux musulmans. Mais qu’en est-il des crimes de passion. Des crimes de jalousie? Ne constituent-ils pas une menace pour les femmes québécoises? Et les drames de Saint-Isodore et de Trois-Rivières? On oublie que ce sont tous des hommes jaloux et violents qui ont tuée leurs proches. Ça ne semble pas préoccuper Pauline Marois outre mesure.  Ce n’est pas importé d’ailleurs, c’est purement québécois! Mais les musulmans, c’est plus facile, on leur tape dessus et surtout il ne faut pas appeler ça de l’islamophobie. Ça s’appelle de la liberté d’expression.

Par contre quand le Magazine MacLeans publie une enquête pour dire que le Québec est la province la plus corrompue du Canada. Là, la mobilisation est générale, on crie  au « Québec bashing » ou disons le en terme plus civilisé à la francophobie.

Je jette l’éponge, je ne comprends plus rien! Quelqu’un pourra-t-il m’éclairer?





Ce billet a été publié sur le Huffington Post Québec

Forget Government Corruption, It is raining Olympic Medals

The sky is raining medals on Canadian and Quebec athletes. This is excellent news for all Canadians, but definitely more so for the Harper government and for the Parti Québécois government of Pauline Marois.

Both governments are plagued with corruption scandals but the Winter Olympic Games of Sochi seem to be giving them a free, long and happy ride.

The Senate scandal looked like it was coming to an end after senators Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau were charged by the RCMP. Easy targets? Maybe. How about Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy? Is this enough to close the dark chapter of bribes and unjustified expense claims of the other senators? And how about Nigel Wright, Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff who was found to have “paid” Senator Duffy a $90,000 cheque? We almost forgot about him. Will he be prosecuted for bribery?

Spying on Canadians by Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) and its dangerous consequences for the lives of millions of Canadians was quickly declared legal by two high-ranking intelligence officers when questioned by parliamentarians.

Journalists didn’t even dare question the allegations of the two officials.

Meanwhile this same agency still receives taxpayer funds, estimated to be around $4.2 billion. Part of this money goes to build a fancy and luxurious building without any accountability or outcry from any member of Parliament.

he mere usage of technical vocabulary like “metadata” seems to have shut off many brains. CBC reported that “when asked to clarify the importance of metadata, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s national security adviser explained it simply as ‘data about data.'” Using a technical and complicated vocabulary is a tactic to make citizens feel intimated, and thus somehow reassured by the degree of knowledge and expertise of our politicians and their bureaucrats. Meanwhile the real issue of spying on Canadians went off the radar and discussion focused on the definition of metadata and how insignificant its impact on privacy is.

Pauline Marois is also having a nice glide during the Winter Olympics season. Despite serious revelations about corruption in the construction and political milieu, she is still magically able to deflect attention by insisting on the importance of the “Charte des valeurs québecoises,” making it a wedge issue to gain more votes in the coming election. Even the serious allegation about a “deal” between her husband and some officials of the Fond de Solidarité du Québec was not judged serious enough by the media to seek answers.

Meanwhile, Canadian athletes are gleaning medals, making Canadians and Quebecers feel more euphoric. Forget about snooping, forget about corruption and secret deals, and forget about any cuts in the new federal budget. Canadians are happy, and for that Harper and Marois have Vladimir Putin to thank.

This posts was originally published on

Petit lexique des symboles des femmes musulmanes

Ces derniers jours, j’ai l’impression que plus la Charte des valeurs fait les manchettes dans les nouvelles, plus les esprits des gens sont confus et plus leur vocabulaire devient imprécis et bourré d’erreurs. Un grand méli-mélo de termes, exactement comme dans un bazar perse ou un souk arabe. Ce charabia de termes et de mots à connotation barbare rajoute au climat de peur et d’ignorance.
Alors, par pure magnanimité et pour dissiper le brouillard qui s’est emparé des esprits et des dictionnaires, ainsi que pour sauver le Québec de la grande noirceur qui s’abat sur lui, j’ai décidé de faire un cadeau à Madame Marois et aux partisans de la Charte (allez dire que les musulmanes ne sont pas généreuses).

En fait, j’ai décidé d’écrire un guide lexicologique pour les novices qui se lancent dans ce débat pour la première fois. Ce guide peut aussi être consulté sporadiquement par les intermédiaires à chaque fois que les choses se brouillent. Je ne pense pas que les «pro» comme Bernard Drainville et compagnie en ont besoin! Mais à eux de décider…

Le hidjab ou hijab: mot toujours féminin, jamais masculin à cause de l’oppression des femmes musulmanes. Aussi écrit dans les commentaires des partisans de la Charte comme ijab ou idjab ou parfois même la «chose» ou le «torchon sur la tête». Ce mot est d’origine arabe et veut dire dérober au regard ou cacher.

Il peut être attaché de différentes façons. De gauche (pour les plus modernistes) de droite (pour les conservatrices) ou au milieu pour les vieilles mémères comme moi. Mais parait-il, selon les sondages, quelle que soit sa forme, sa couleur, sa marque, il reste très dangereux, d’où sa prochaine interdiction par Pauline Marois.

Le foulard: anciennement utilisée par les grand-mamans et les arrières grand-mamans québécoises pures laines pour aller à l’église le dimanche. Encore utilisé par des grands-mamans d’aujourd’hui qui sortent de chez le coiffeur de peur que leur mise en plis ne se défasse. La Charte des valeurs québécoises est restée muette là-dessus. Toutefois, quand on lui rajoute l’adjectif «islamique», il rejoint le mot hidjab et peut montrer des signes d’agressivité.

Le tchador: prononcé «chat-dort», mais rassurez-vous les souris, les politiciens, sont là pour le surveiller! Mot originaire d’Iran et qui veut dire littéralement «tente». Oui, oui, vous avez bien lu. Tente, comme la tente de camping qu’on prend avec nous l’été, avec la seule différence qu’elle est toujours de couleur noire. Ce symbole fait beaucoup peur, car il rappelle de mauvais souvenirs comme le film américain des années 90 Jamais sans ma filleou Khomeiny avec son regard perçant et ses sourcils froncés. Étrangement, le tchador ne fait pas l’unanimité entre les politiciens. Fatma Houda Pépin en a fait son cheval de bataille, suivi là dedans par Philippe Couillard, en prenant bien soin de la mettre à la porte et de s’approprier l’idée. Mais Bernard Drainville, lui, hésite encore. Car même s’il a pensé que le «chat-dort» sera interdit dans la fonction publique, il sera quand même permis dans les universités. Cherchez la logique!

Le voile: quand il est sage et innocent, c’est un voile qui recouvre la tête sans faire de dommages au cerveau, comme par exemple le voile de la mariée. Toutefois, quand il se marie à l’islam, deux mutations génétiques peuvent se produire. La première: le voile islamique. La femme devient opprimée, contrôlée, sans opinion. Elle montre des signes de détresse qui n’échappe pas aux yeux de Bernard Drainville. Mais heureusement, son visage reste intact. Cependant, avec le voile intégral, c’est la catastrophe. Tout le visage est couvert et on ne laisse qu’une seule petite fente au niveau des yeux et des petits trous au niveau du nez pour respirer. Au cas où le fabricant du niqab (toujours un homme) omet ces trous, c’est la suffocation totale.

Le niqab: mot qui veut dire «masque», mais pas aussi inoffensif que les masques portés à l’Halloween. Apparemment, il peut être porté par les voleurs pour effectuer des hold-upd’où la raison de son interdiction. Selon les rumeurs qui circulent, les femmes qui le portent sont toujours fâchées qu’elles n’osent pas afficher leur visage. Certaines préfèrent se tourner vers le mur pour parler à la classe au lieu de vous regarder en face.

La burqa: selon Nicolas Sarkozy, ex-président français, la burqa est un «signe d’asservissement» de la femme. Malgré tous ses efforts pour obtenir la nationalité française, la «burqa n’est pas la bienvenue sur le territoire de la République française», encore selon les dires de Sarkozy. Pauline Marois a tellement adoré les mots de Sarkozy qu’elle a décidé de lui emboîter le pas. Laura Bush, la femme de Georges W. Bush, ex-président américain, a imploré les Américains d’aller en guerre en Afghanistan pour sauver les Afghanes de la burqa. Michelle Obama n’a encore rien dit surement préoccupée par les frasques supposées de Beyoncé et de Barack.

Voilà, c’est fait! Si vous avez d’autres mots que vous ne comprenez pas, n’hésitez surtout pas à me contacter.

Ce texte a été publié sur le Huffington Post Québec

La charte: à quoi servent des audiences publiques quand les esprits sont fermés?

Je trouve tellement mesquin et de mauvaise foi que Mme Marois et son ministre Drainville, avec la complicité de la majorité de la presse, fassent tout un plat à propos des audiences publiques sur le projet de la Charte qui se tiennent devant un comité parlementaire. C’était comme si ces débats allaient nous prouver que nous vivons bel et bien dans une démocratie. Allons Pauline, nous ne sommes pas dupes à ce point ! Quand des voix comme celles du sociologue Gérard Bouchard, du philosophe Charles Taylor ou du président de la Commission des droits de la personne Jacques Frémont sont ignorées ou simplement rejetées du revers de la main, on commence à se poser de sérieuses questions.

À quoi ça sert tout ce tapage médiatique alors que nous savons parfaitement que la position du gouvernement ne bougera pas d’un iota? Pourquoi vouloir donner l’impression qu’il y a un débat alors que la décision a été déjà prise et que le Parti québécois aimerait tant partir en élection sur la question de la Charte pour gagner la majorité dont il rêve? Bravo, Machiavel n’aurait pas fait mieux! Un débat est l’occasion d’échanger des points de vue avec l’éventualité implicite que chacune des parties relâche un peu de la corde pour trouver un terrain d’entente. Malheureusement, ce n’est pas ce que nous entendons et nous percevons de la part de M. Drainville et des ses amis.

Et pourtant, un débat similaire sur les accommodements raisonnables a eu lieu devant la commission Taylor-Bouchard. On nous avait présenté les dérapages de l’époque, pour ne pas dire les propos franchement racistes et xénophobes, on nous avait dit que c’était une sorte de soupape à vapeur, une façon pour que les esprits trop échauffés des deux côtés de la barrière relaxent et fassent sortir ce qu’ils avaient sur le cœur. On pensait qu’une fois la commission de Taylor-Bouchard terminée, la poussière retomberait graduellement et que les choses reviendraient à la «normale». Hélas, c’était rêver en couleur! Le projet de Charte des valeurs a ressorti les vieux cadavres des armoires. Et au lieu de proposer des projets rassembleurs afin d’enterrer ces cadavres, les politiciens sont en train de verser de l’huile sur le feu en faisant semblant qu’ils jouent le jeu de la démocratie. Une drôle de démocratie puisque celle-ci se fait sur le dos des plus vulnérables de la société!

Quand le Québec vivait sous la domination des Anglais, et que plusieurs lois favorisaient l’embauche des anglophones, les Québécois se sont rassemblés, ont mis leurs efforts ensemble pour casser les chaines de la pauvreté et de l’humiliation qui les tenaient par-derrière. Aujourd’hui, il est étrange de voir que ce même peuple, sous prétexte de préserver l’identité québécoise, se retourne contre des communautés minoritaires qui essaient tant bien que mal de participer à la vie économique du pays en travaillant et en y contribuant .

Désolée d’en offenser plus d’un, mais l’identité québécoise réside uniquement dans le français. Et pas dans les kippas, ni dans les hidjabs, ni dans les mini-jupes. Au lieu de mener sa bataille pour le fait français, améliorer la qualité du français qui se parle et s’écrit dans les écoles, les universités et dans les lieux de travail, Pauline Marois a choisi la bataille la plus facile: celles des communautés ethniques. Peut-être qu’elle la gagnera. Non pas parce que son parti est le plus fort ou parce que ses arguments sont les meilleurs, mais surtout parce que la proie choisie est vulnérable et que la politique de division paie toujours dans un climat de peur. Mais attention Mme la première ministre, la politique de division a parfois un effet boomerang: le gain d’aujourd’hui pourrait être la perte de demain.

 Cet article a été publié dans le Huffington Post Québec

Who’s watching the CSE? A call for national security accountability

Imagine your boss putting a hidden camera in your office or a spying device in your telephone recording your conversations. Imagine the reaction when, after rumours spread about his misbehaviour or after some whistleblower leaks documents about his actions, he admits that he “did it” but quickly adds that he did it only “incidentally”! Are you going to believe him and are you going to trust him again? Of course not! Well, this scenario isn’t a simple assumption or a fictive statement.

It is our new reality and it is happening even closer to us than we expected. However the culprit isn’t your boss (or maybe it is, who knows these days!) and the victim isn’t just you. The Canadian Security Establishment (CSE) is the governmental entity conducting this type of spying, not on one Canadian in particular, but on all Canadians. At this stage, I am speculating more than anything else, but I would rather assume the worst since by their own admission, the CSE “did it.” On who exactly? When? Where? We still don’t know!

Two elements are worth examining here. First, the usual excuse that they “did it” only a few times or rather “incidentally” as they keep saying. In the past, the police when confronted with the misbehaviour of one or some its members, portrayed them as a “few bad apples.” That strategy worked fine. It helped the police avoid public scrutiny and kept public trust in the institution. Nevertheless, even after barn-burning scandals in the ’70s and a lengthypublic inquiry conducted by Justice David McDonald in 1981, very few lessons were retained and business was back to normal. People have the tendency to forget and recommendations barely followed as few journalists and even fewer politicians would follow up.

The second element is that the CSE keep repeating that they “did it” for our own sake. Another patronizing argument that insinuates Government Knows Best and that we should be happy to have such a wonderful institution that protects us from “foreign entities.” Mere mention of these terms creates a sense of mystery and urgency to act that can turn every skeptic into a believer. After all, the CSE implicitly rely on the wrong belief that “if it doesn’t happen to me, then who cares!”

So far, only a few legal experts in the field have denounced this dangerous intrusion. No public outcry, no loud politicians screaming and yelling in Parliament. Craig Forcese, one of these legal experts, went as far as to call for a public inquiry. I agree.

However, what we should remember is that in Justice O’Connor’s list of recommendations after the Arar inquiry in 2006, there was one recommendation that advised the government to create oversight bodies for the RCMP, CSIS and five other agencies involved with national security, including the CSE.

As far as I know, this particular recommendation was never followed. So we end up with no independent monitoring agency for the RCMP or for the CSE. The CIRC, supposedly meant to play such a role for CSIS, is embroiled in one scandal after another — especially after the corruption and criminal file on its previous president, Arthur Porter, and the latest revelations from the press about Chuck Strahl, the current director, who was found to be lobbying on behalf of Enbridge on the sensitive and environmental file regarding the pipeline in B.C. The irony of this is that Strahl defended himself as being nothing like Arthur Porter!

Last December, Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley found out that he was misled by CSIS and CSE agents to expand their eavesdropping powers unlawfully. In his ruling, he chastised these agencies for their roles in twisting the law in their favour. Unfortunately, no action was taken by the government. Given all this, I have reasons to believe that in the coming months, we will hear more stories about spying on Canadians and more dangerous revelations.

How many of these revelations do we need to get to the bottom of all this? Certainly, keeping silent is not an option.


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