11.29.2009

amy goodman: "dissent is what will save us"

On this link from Rabble, you can hear Amy Goodman speak at some length about her detention and questioning by Canadian border guards last week - what happened, what it means, why we must continue to speak out at every opportunity.

Thanks to MR for sending. As she said, I'm in good company!

15 comments:

James said...

Just recently the Canada Border Services seized a number of films on their way to the Inside Out Gay Film Festival. None of the films were pornographic (at least one was rated PG), and all had been shown in Canada previously at other film festivals.

Both the US & the Canadian border services have been given way too much power.

L-girl said...

I heard about the films. You're right - WAY too much power. And the passport requirement is a terrible, unnecessary impediment.

Amy said...

Not that I need to be acknowledged, but did you not receive the link that I sent you on this as well? My comment was that there appears to be a lack of due process on both sides of the border.

L-girl said...

About 20 people sent me stories about Amy Goodman being detained, you among them. Thanks for that.

The story I am posting here is Goodman's talk in Vancouver, which was posted on Rabble, sent to me by WRSC coordinator Michelle R.

Most definitely a lack of due process!

geek guy said...

I hope she takes Canadian border services to court!!

Scott M. said...

Just a quick note -- the passport requirement is one of the US (Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative). It's not a requirement of Canada -- we haven't changed our laws in turn, though if someone from the States says they'll return to the States and don't have a passport it creates issues.
---
Re: Inside Out Gay Film Festival films... I'm ready to be a bit attacked here, but I'm sorry, at Customs we *regularly* checked media of all sorts for obscenity. Perhaps the obscenity laws should be changed, but they were doing their job. The fact that a spool of film comes in a canister in no way guarantees the film contains what is described on the canister. In fact, at Customs we regularly deal with swapped packaging for all sorts of reasons.

The problem here is that the organizers didn't call Customs in advance or try to figure out the right way to import the films. Customs doesn't try to inconvenience people -- in fact, our job is specifically to *help* people cross the border legally. We regularly stop videos crossing the border and put them on the DVD/VCR player that each station has on super-fast-forward to make sure there isn't any bestiality, etc. Again, those are the laws, not customs discretion.

However, when you introduce theatrical films, no customs office has the equipment to view them. So people either have to bring a portable viewer, or import them through the centralized office which *does* have equipment to view them at least a week in advance. This would have been explained to them if they called up well in advance.

But they didn't, they showed up at the border hours before the first film was to be aired. Sorry, folks -- just like if you're importing a car, or you're importing something under CITES, you have to find out what the rules are *before* you come.
---
To the original point of Goodman's detention -- all I can say is it's weird. Sounds an awful lot like they were working on a tip or intelligence. Perhaps there is a genuine security threat they were working on that said someone would come over posing as a journalist/speaker but who is actually scoping out the venues, or having a big meeting of crime organization in 3 days time, etc.

While it is annoying, I can definitely say it's not abnormal to pull over 5% of people due to flags, or due to random selection, and to have detailed searches of their vehicle incl. computers, and to have detailed questioning about what they're doing in the country. Having listened to Goodman's talk, it doesn't seem like the customs/immigration agents were acting way out of line.

L-girl said...

Just a quick note -- the passport requirement is one of the US (Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative).

Yes, we know that. But the reality is you now need a passport to travel between the US and Canada.

I'm ready to be a bit attacked here

I don't think anyone will attack you, but they may disagree. There's a difference.

To the original point of Goodman's detention -- all I can say is it's weird.

Yeah, weird. An outspoken left-leaning activist is questioned at the border. Like Col Ann Wright, Medea Benjamin and George Galloway not being allowed in. Weird.

Scott, your general outlook on these things is an apologist for border services - they're ok as long as nothing really crazy happens. Without your background in customs and your general knowledge and enjoyment of bureaucracy, I doubt you'd see Amy Goodman's detention and questioning as justified.

Re acting on a tip, what if she had been coming to Canada to talk about the Olympics? Why does that warrant "a tip" as if it's criminal activity? Why on earth should speaking about the Olympics be a problem?

Scott M. said...

Talking about the Olympics, or anything else, would be fine, of course.

The tip I'm proposing may have happened would be that someone was *posing* as a journalist/speaker. To determine that, they would ask about the topics of the speech, etc. The question of the Olympics would be made to see if it draws a reaction in any way from the person.

Why would Customs agents care if someone is coming in to talk about the Olympics? Bomb the Olympics, sure, but talk about them?

I'm not an apologist for Customs/Immigration. I am a realist. They deal with thousands of people crossing the border each day -- no one I knew in either service would get their jollies by harassing someone, nor would they want to waste their time on such a frivolous issue.

L-girl said...

no one I knew in either service would get their jollies by harassing someone, nor would they want to waste their time on such a frivolous issue.

My guess is they wouldn't describe themselves that way and might not be recognized by their peers as such. But if not their jollies, then perhaps the political agenda of their superiors.

Everyone thinks s/he's a realist, btw. :)

Scott M. said...

Everyone thinks s/he's a realist, btw

Fair enough. :)

...the political agenda of their superiors.

At least at my port and the ones I worked with, if there was someone, anyone suggesting pulling over folks for a partisan political reason:

a) The request would be refused
b) The person would be reported
c) A complaint to the union would go forth

Without a doubt. It goes to the heart of civil servants' integrity. I hope to heck there's no port where that would go unchallenged.

Nitangae said...

I am glad to hear Scott M.'s perspective on this matter. It reminds us that while we see government oppression as it appears with low-level civil service, the real problems are usually higher up. And it is likely that the higher ups (Tory Staffers, old volunteers in Harper's riding) are much less intelligent, and far less tolerant, than Scott M. and most of his co-workers. I don't expect Stockwell Day, for instance, to distinguish people gathering in Vancouver to protest the Olympics from people trying to bomb the Olympics.

L-girl said...

Scott, I really appreciate that perspective. I doubt that all (or most) civil servants have your sense of integrity. In general you have a stronger belief in people's good motives than I do. Thanks for your thoughts.

impudent strumpet said...

We regularly stop videos crossing the border and put them on the DVD/VCR player that each station has on super-fast-forward to make sure there isn't any bestiality, etc.

Weirdest. Job. Ever. And it's possible that there might be a situation where you aren't quite certain whether something is illegal or not, and you have to double-check or get an opinion from a colleague. So you quite genuinely have to go "Hey, guys, come look at this for a second!" **pause** **rewind** **slow motion**

It does occur to me that maybe people didn't check with customs because they didn't know movies might be something that would be controlled at the border. I certainly had no idea.

James said...

It does occur to me that maybe people didn't check with customs because they didn't know movies might be something that would be controlled at the border. I certainly had no idea.

Organizers of a film festival should know it, though. On the other hand, they may have figured that PG-rated movies which had been shown in Canada before would be ok.

Still, given Canada Border Services history of seizing just about anything addressed to a GBLT store or event, they probably should have been more paranoid...

Scott M. said...

Bringing in videos for public performance for money actually has a whole bunch of restrictions. In this case specifically, the film festival folks really should have done their homework.

BTW, at our port we stopped/checked more straight films than gay films. We also checked training films, documentaries, etc... don't forget, just 'cause the label says one thing doesn't mean the contents match the label. That's what smuggling is all about.

And no, no one liked that job.