Precinct 333

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Who Says Canada Is A Free Country?

This case proves once more how far Canada has strayed from the values and practices that characterize a western-style democracy. Is the day coming that we have to liberate her people from a government as oppressive as that of Saddam Hussein's was?

Calgary's police chief Jack Beaton has used a rare legal tactic to seize a computer from a private home that was believed to have been used to operate a website critical to Beaton and his senior managers.

Beaton obtained a civil court order this month to enter the home of a civilian police employee and seize the computer.

A sweeping gag order issued at the same time prevents anyone from talking about the case or reading documents related to it, which have been sealed.

So, let's consider the basic outline here.

A website criticizes government agency and its high officials.

The courts order the site taken down and the equipment used to engage in that free speech confiscated.

All comment on it is stifled by a gag order against the allegedly corrupt officials (who want the charges to go away) and the folks making the charges.

And local elected officials, for whom the police chief works, applaud the move.

However, Ald. Craig Burrows, who sits on the police commission, says Beaton acted properly.

"I think any time you go after the morale of a service or the morale of a city that takes pride in its service, the chief has a right to act," Burrows said.

"I'm afraid we live in a culture today where you can say anything you want about people, as negative as it is, and you don't think you can be held accountable. I think our chief is just basically ensuring that, moving forward, if you're going to say something that's going to affect the reputation of the service and officers, you have to have evidence to support that claim."

So, if you are going to make critical remarks, the government can shut you down, preventing you from presenting that evidence to the public. That effectively means that there is no right in Canada to criticize the government if the officials involved do not like the criticism.

Now you may wonder what sort of accusations were made on the website.

Messages on the site said it spoke for officers who had suffered under Beaton's "corrupt" administration.

It stated: "We are the police, the communications officers, the administration staff and other police service members and employees that either have been the victims of tyranny, politics, harassment, bullying, racism, constructive termination, etc., or we know someone who has."

Last fall, Beaton was quoted in the Calgary Herald as "vowing to take every measure necessary to get those behind the website."

He has also called the site "mean-spirited" and "in poor taste."

Four current or former police officers, who agreed to talk to the CBC about their concerns as long as their names weren't used, said promotions on the force are based on who you know, and that racist and sexist behaviour is tolerated.

Sounds to me like this was clearly raising issues of public concern about problems in a government agency. You know, the sort of things that citizens should be aware of and permitted to discuss freely in a democratic society. The failure of Canadian law to protect such a basic right is simply one more piece of evidence that our neighbor to the north has ceased to share fundamental values with the United States. When a public official is allowed to remain in office after making a public statement that he will "get" those who dare to criticize how he does his job by using the full police power of the government to suppress those criticisms, it is clear that the protection of fundamental rights no longer exists. What you have in such a case is an authoritarian system that feigns respect for civil liberties.

I'm curious -- where are all the liberals running websites that claim the Bush administration is oppressive and urging folks to flee to Canada? Why are they not speaking out against this atrocity?


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons License.