PAJU’s co-president, Bruce Katz
We now know that the SPVM has been tracking journalists who have been ‘unruly,’ putting their noses where officialdom doesn’t want them to go. Of course, that’s what journalists are supposed to do in their role as the Third Estate, but that’s beside the point. The Washington Post has published an article showing that Israel’s ruling Likud government ‘used Facebook to track the activities and posts of certain journalists it perceives as antigovernment…’ (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/11/06/israels-ruling-party-used-facebook-to-track-anti-government-journalists ) Sound familiar? It should. It’s been happening around the globe; the Erdogan government in Turkey is a perfect example. The tracking of journalists constitutes an assault on the democratic process as is the case with the SPVM (and CSIS) spying on journalists trying to do their jobs.
I mention the case of Israel because Mayor Denis Coderre and Toronto Mayor John Tory are to embark on an economic mission to Israel from November 13th to November 18th of this year. Yes, Israel is an apartheid state as expressed by numerous public personalities such as Desmond Tutu and former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, but Denis Coderre says that Israel is a democracy, not an apartheid state and he supports it unconditionally. He also supports his police chief, Philippe Pichet (unconditionally?) who has admitted that the SPVM has been spying on several journalists, this despite the fact that calls have come for Pichet to be fired. If ever he is fired, there may be an opening for him in Tel Aviv. Perhaps Mayor Coderre can pick up a few pointers about tracking journalists when he meets with Israeli (Likud) officials in Tel Aviv and fill in his police chief on his return to Montreal? Perhaps this can be done at the press conference Mr. Coderre will attend in Tel Aviv where no Palestinians will be permitted to attend!
What we are witnessing is the result of a slow but constant process whereby authoritarian government in Canada and elsewhere has used 9/11 and the threat of terrorism to install, over a period of time, a pervasive system of surveillance of the citizens and groups who oppose neo-liberal economics and corporate greed, in the name of the security of the state. What we need to understand is that this is not the clash of opposites but rather a dialectic where one hand washes the other, hence the idea expressed in Joseph Conrad’s novel, The Secret Agent: ‘The policeman and the terrorist come from the same basket.’ Their existence depends on one another and the fear which issues from their conflict is the bread-and-butter of demagogues who spread fear in the name of democracy.
You may think that I have wandered somewhat off the subject but in fact I haven’t. Mr. Coderre crows about his love of democracy, his unconditional support for the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression. Is this really the case? In a timely article which appeared in the Journal Metro today, November 7th, 2016, («Coderre et la liberté de presse»), Frédéric Bérard reminds us that the name of Denis Coderre surfaced in relation to the sponsorship scandal of the late 1990s, thanks to research undertaken by the Globe and Mail journalist, Daniel Leblanc.
A few years later, Denis Coderre, then Minister of Immigration and Wayne Easter, Attorney General of Canada, signed Security Certificates which resulted in the imprisonment, without formal charges or proof, of Adil Charkaoui and Mohammed Harkat. The Security Certificate allows the government to do away with Habeas Corpus, which is an integral part of due process in the judicial system, and imprison an individual for an indefinite period without due process. It is, in effect, the return to the lettre de cachet which existed in the era of Louis XIV and which permitted the imprisonment of individuals in much the same way.
During the period of last year’s federal election, the City of Montreal tore down posters – duly identified as election posters in accordance with the stipulations of Elections Canada – of BDS-Québec (unincorporated Third Party duly recognized by the Director of Elections) and the Communist Party of Canada with unabashed impunity. This is now before the courts.
The tracking of journalists by the SPVM in Quebec is simply another instance of authoritarian government overstepping its bounds and infringing on democratic practice not to mention Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Quebec’s Charte des droits et libertés. Mr. Coderre, a defender of democratic practice, a staunch supporter of civil liberties? Hardly. I think.
Frédérc Bérard sums it up nicely in the final paragraph of his article in Journal Metro. I translate it here from the original French: ‘Hounded, he (Coderre) serves Lebanc and other journalists, Vincent Marissal being one, the following warning: ‘The government has means. What would journalists say if the RCMP stuck their noses in their (journalists) private lives?’ The question is no longer theoretical. Big Brother is watching you!
November 7th, 2016