7.10.2009

internal documents show harper govt obsessed with war resisters

Those of us who actively oppose the policies of Stephen Harper's Conservative Government may sometimes feel government officials are impervious to our criticisms. Those of us who write and call and protest and organize and blog may wonder if the Conservatives are paying even the slightest bit of attention to our efforts.

Today I can definitively say: we are noticed every day, and I have proof.

Good morning, CIC! You might want to get a fresh cup of coffee. You may be here a while.

I now know that there's someone at the CIC whose job it is to read "we move to canada". (And he or she is spelling-challenged.) The Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration is watching the War Resister Support Campaign - and this blog - very closely.

* * * *

I recently wrote about how the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration under Minister Jason Kenney has tried to re-write Canadian history. By removing historical information from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website, Kenney & Co. have tried to erase a piece of history that many Canadians are justly proud of, but which does not square with their party line. For more background on this, see this post.

When the War Resister Support Campaign became aware of this, volunteer Communications Coordinator Ken Marciniec filed an Access to Information request, asking for all documents relating to the website change, war resisters, "deserters of the armed forces of the United States of America", and so forth.

The Ministry waited the full 30 days afforded to them under the Access to Information Act. Then it filed for a 90-day extension. In response to the delays, Ken filed a complaint with the Information Commissioner. I'll write more about the travails of ferreting out this information in a separate post. It's quite a tale.

Finally, CIC released a small portion of the documents that pertain to Ken's request.

The pages he received are numbered up to 1,635. There's no way to know if this constitutes all the documents that are responsive to the request; there very well may be more.

Of the 1,635 pages, 1,338 (81.83%) are missing.

297 pages (18.17%) are included.

And those 297 pages are heavily redacted, some almost entirely blank.

Ken is following up with the Information Commissioner to discover if the unreleased information was properly withheld under privacy laws, solicitor-client privilege, or other legal exclusions from the Information Act. Meanwhile, campaigners and resisters have signed letters authorizing release of any information that pertains to them, so soon privacy will not be an issue. Again, I'll cover this in a separate post at a later date.

So, in keeping with the Harper Government's preference for secrecy and obfuscation over transparency and accountability - hmm, transparency and accountability - where have I heard those words before...? oh right, in Harper's first election campaign - we haven't obtained a lot of hard information.

But we've learned something very interesting: the Ministry is more aware of our actions than we ever knew.

The series of emails released to us follow - step by step, date by date - the entire War Resisters Support Campaign. You can go back through the Campaign calendar, and match up each relevant date - each court hearing, each removal order, each letter-writing campaign - with a flurry of relevant emails among CIC staff.

I have pdf copies of the documents we received, now public. Some are CIC talking points on the war resister files. Some are links to news stories about war resisters. Others are communications about the War Resister Support Campaign, and about this blog.

Here's the relevant text of one email [spelling and grammar unchanged]:
...next week we will probably be receiving a larger share of communications to the department regarding war resistors, as next week has been informally designated 'let them stay week' by the War Resistors Support Campaign.

http://wmtc.blogspot.com/2009/01/january-19-24-let-them-stay-week.html

Nothing has changed as far as positions, etc. but if you feel the need to pass along the heads up to your staff, that would be fine.

A reply to the above:
In light of next week's campaign, I want to circulate these lines as I've removed a ton of old stuff and made a few minor tweaks. Can you please review before I send to directors for approval?

After Jason Kenney prejudiced the entire refugee process by publicly announcing the war resisters were "bogus refugees," the Canadian Council for Refugees released a statement supporting the war resisters. Immediately after that date, this appears in the CIC emails:
As you may know, CCR issued a letter yesterday and sent it to the media today regarding comments Min. Kenney had made regarding war deserters - copy attached. Refugees Branch has drafted a response. Our hope is to send this response to the CCR as well as issue it to the media, so we're trying to quickly consult with several sectors to see if our text raises any concerns.

Please review and provide comments asap today. Apologies for the very short notice and thanks in advance for your help.

The most telling emails show how closely CIC is following this blog.

Earlier this year, the Ministry was coming down hard on one war resister family, trying to prevent them from exercising their right to due process. On March 6, 2009, at 12:20 p.m., I posted a summary of the case.

Twenty-five minutes later - March 6, 2009, 12:45 p.m. - this email was sent within the CIC.
The principle blogger on the war deserts has a fairly technical post about the process for [redacted]. Could I get a fact check of the post in case we need to do some rapid response to this.

The next day, after conferring with the family's lawyer, I revised the post, with the legal details deleted.

On March 9, 2009, select CIC staff received this email.
To follow up: the blog posting was updated by the writer to removing the summary and stating that it was completely inaccurate, so no need for a fact-check on that content now.

I just learned from CBSA that [redacted] CBSA notes that if a further request for deferral is received, which is likely, that deferral will be reviewed by a different officer than the original request by order of the Federal Court.

"The principle blogger on the war deserts"? That's me!

[Note to CIC: the word for primary or main is spelled principal. While I am a principled blogger, I cannot be a "principle blogger". The people I support are "war deserters" not "war deserts". "Resistors" are electronic equipment; people who resist are "resisters".]

Interestingly, the CIC staffer whose job it is to read wmtc is not identified. All other CIC staff in the emails we have obtained are identified in the email headers or by their signatures: name, title, email address, phone number, fax number. It appears that the only person whose identification is withheld is the CIC staffer who reads and reports on wmtc. But we do know this person is in fact a CIC employee who works in Ottawa; that much information from the email signature was left intact.

Who is this mystery reader? Why is her or his name being kept secret?

Names can be withheld for privacy reasons or solicitor-client privilege. But this is a government employee, doing an assigned job. Why can't we know who it is?

More on this as it develops.

[Update. Ken thought wmtc readers might like to see what one of these redacted documents looks like. I've uploaded a pdf page here.]

21 comments:

redsock said...

"Big time, Bill! Big time!" (/lastwaltz)

***

"The principle blogger on the war deserts"

When we first saw this, I thought it said "war desserts".

L-girl said...

I'm wondering if s/he subscribes to the war resister feed, or does s/he read all my posts? Does she [I'll use she, it's easier] know I'm going to grad school? That I follow the Red Sox? Does she look at our dog photos?

Ish said...

"'The principle blogger on the war deserts"?'"

As you must know considering you write about such things, it is very hard to make a crème brûlée while under fire.

bgk said...

LOL, hilarious. I hope they enjoy hearing you debate about biodegradable doggy mess bags.

Nitangae said...

I am sure that they will get their just desserts, so don't worry.

:-)

M@ said...

For a government with a record-breaking deficit and no plans to eliminate it any time soon, they sure seem to have a lot of extra time and resources on their hands.

I've written my MP to find out why that might be. I would encourage others in CPC ridings to do the same.

Dharma Seeker said...

As I was reading I kept thinking "my tax dollars at work". Excellent. If you wrote a post about Harper's Fisher Price hair do you think he'd finally do something about it?

Amy said...

I am not sure whether to be amused or horrified! But you obviously are getting your "just desserts" for all the effort you have put into reporting on the issues raised by the resisters. It's impressive and a bit scary that you have become their source of information. :)

SoSock said...

I am so proud :)
JoS officially has a "person of interest" in their midsts.

You go girl.

Cornelia said...

Wow!!! OMG! Maybe the person whose job is checking out WMTC and whose main foe seems to be spelling had his or her name deleted because it's so weird and freaked-out what Kenney and his people are doing and because he or she has such a problem with writing though he or she needs it urgently on the job? Haha, just kidding, in a satirical way it's hilarious...

Cornelia said...

Yep, it sounds as if Kenney and his coworkers seem to be extremely bored and a "little" bit paranoid, right?

Cornelia said...

I look forward to the updates on this issue. Very interesting. Most definitely.

L-girl said...

Heh, thanks all, yes, it's amusing, horrifying and a friggin waste of our taxes.

"I hope they enjoy hearing you debate about biodegradable doggy mess bags."

Ooo, you've been reading a long time!

"If you wrote a post about Harper's Fisher Price hair do you think he'd finally do something about it?"

It's worth a try! :)

L-girl said...

"JoS officially has a "person of interest" in their midsts."

My father used to dream of being on Nixon's enemy list. Maybe this is as close as my family will get. :)

redsock said...

Jason Kenney looks like a guy who wants to keep his eye on kinds of desserts.

Kim_in_TO said...

Dear CIC:

In your next email communication, can you please ask Minister Kenney to stop being an asshole?

Sincerely,
A Supporter of War Resistors and War Resisters

Scott M. said...

My guess, btw, is the other pages are withheld under "cabinet confidences".

It'll be nice to see exactly what their reasoning is (IIRC they were supposed to include that in the covering letter anyway), and an appeal to the information commissioner on the results may prove enlightening (although slow).

Cornelia said...

Dear CIC,

Please show that to your boss, Mr. Harper. He might be interested though unfortunately not agree:

An: letters@nationalpost.com
Betreff: Ms. Rivera\'s appeal

Dear Sir or Madam,

Refering to

Female deserter makes final appeal
Published: Thursday, July 9, 2009 in the National Post
http://www.nationalpost.com/news/canada/story.html?id=1772559

I verily hope Ms. Rivera can stay in the end. It would be tantamount to a grievous hardship if she was sent back to the stockade and separated from her kids. If Harper and Kenney respected the will of the majority of Parliament and of the population, she and the other resisters would have been allowed to stay without problems, anyway. So, it's an uphill battle in the courts. I agree with Ms. Alyssa Manning's arguments that those who speak out in public against the war are indeed usually not discharged, but sent to jail, which amounts to discrimination for their political opinion. And as the lady lawyer said, just copying and pasting from another negative decision is far from a decision on the merits of the case. Exactly. It does fail to take the individual hardships into account as well and I hold it is grounds for appeal and it was no due procedure.
Hopefully Ms. Rivera's appeal will be granted so that the poor lady and her family can stay in Canada and be protected from further hardships!

Thanks so much for publishing in advance.
Sincerely,
Cornelia Maier, PHD, Augsburg, Germany

Boyd M L Reimer said...

Hello Government of Canada Representative :

When will your boss, the Prime Minister, answer my letter of Aug 18, 2008?

It’s a simple “yes or no” question, and it is only one line, so it should be easy to answer:

“Do you believe that there should be an unconditional human right to refuse to kill?”

The letter was sent registered mail and here is evidence from the post office that your boss, the Prime Minister, received it Aug 20, 2008.

After almost a year without receiving a reply, it seems like you're having a hard time finding the time to answer it, so if you like you can just reply through this blog. That may make things easier for you.

(This is a cost-free method of answering my letter: First, I pay your wages with my taxes. And second, if you reply through this blog then you can save yourself a stamp.)

I'm sure that the writer of this blog won't mind you using it to answer a taxpayer's question.

Still waiting,
Boyd Reimer

Boyd M L Reimer said...

PS. Use tracking number 79 267 728 581 at this link to find evidence that the letter was received Aug 20, 2008.

Boyd M L Reimer said...

I don't like to see facts about the Vietnam era removed from the govt. website.

Please don't let that happen to the War Resisters history that is now being made.

There is now a Wikipedia article called Canada and Iraq War Resisters. Please help watch the article as it watches this issue, and keeps the facts straight. Thanks.