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.


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.]

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