5.13.2010

more info please: can you tell me why cic is monitoring a private citizen's blog?

From friend and reader Matthew Bin, who posts here as M@, to his Member of Parliament:
Dear Terence,

I apologize for dropping two e-mails in your inbox on one day, but a situation has arisen that, with respect, deserves an answer.

Last summer, I sent an e-mail (copied below) to your office, asking if you could tell me why CIC, with its apparently insufficient resources, is monitoring a private citizen's blog. I received a call from a member of your staff a few weeks later, asking me to confirm that I am actually a constituent in Oakville, and I assured him that I was. He told me that I would receive a reply soon, but to date no reply has been forthcoming.

I would like to hear your comments on a related situation reported by the same blogger today. The story is described in full at the following URL:

http://wmtc.blogspot.com/2010/05/hello-cic-nice-to-see-youre-still.html

I will provide a short summary so that you don't need to pore through the whole thing: the blogger in question asked a rhetorical question about which citizenship guide she ought to be reading to prepare for her upcoming citizenship exam, since there was a much-publicized update to the guide published recently. Her partner subsequently received a call from a CIC representative, at his place of work, to answer the question.

Although I understand that you must receive many requests for information every day, and I imagine the workload to respond to them must be quite extensive, I must insist upon receiving an answer to my questions around this situation:

- Why is the CIC spending such time and resources to monitor a private citizen's blog?

- Why is the CIC looking up that citizen's personal information to contact them -- at a place of work, no less! -- in response to the content of that blog?

If it is not within your office's power to respond to these questions, I would very much appreciate it if you could refer me to the appropriate person or office who can do so. Again, I would be happy to receive your call at xxx, or to meet with you at your office at your convenience.

Thank you again for your time.

Sincerely, etc.

[earlier email]

Date: Fri, Jul 10, 2009 at 1:58 PM
Subject: CIC monitoring of war resister activities
To: Young, Terence - M.P.

Mr Young,

We met back in January to discuss the issue of American war resisters in Canada. I appreciate your willingness to discuss the issue, and I think we had a good understanding of each other's position by the time the meeting ended.

I was very disappointed to see you vote against the Citizenship and Immigration Committee's motion on March 30. However, you can imagine that I was happy to see parliament pass a motion, for a second time, recommending that war resisters be allowed to stay in Canada.

However, a serious issue has come to light today, one that goes far deeper than any disagreement on a government's policies or actions. Documents acquired through an Access to Information Request have revealed that CIC personnel have been closely monitoring the activities of the resisters movement, including postings on a private citizen's blog. This information has been posted on that blog, at the following URL:

http://wmtc.blogspot.com/2009/07/internal-documents-show-harper-govt.html

I'd appreciate an explanation -- whether you can provide it, or direct me to someone who can -- for why government resources are being expended this way, and why the online postings of citizens who disagree with current government policy are driving the actions of a federal department. This appears to be an egregious and politically-motivated waste of departmental resources -- especially in light of the immigration and refugee processing backlog that CIC has repeatedly mentioned in recent months.

I would very much like to know your thoughts on this matter. I can be reached by e-mail or by phone at xxx, or I can come in to meet with you at your convenience.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely, etc.

The relevant part of the response thus far:
I've faxed the details of your inquiry to the MP Enquiries Division at Citizenship & Immigration Canada with a request for them to investigate. It usually about 48 hours before we hear back from them. At that time I may receive further instruction to pursue the inquiry through a different CIC avenue.

I'll get back to you once I have some concrete information.

If you're not up to speed on this craziness, please see this post, which contains links to the back story.

4 comments:

Holly Stick said...

I'm not sure why they would pay extra attention to your blog; but someone is paying attention to various blogs. David Eaves notes that some blogs are banned from certain government departments:

http://eaves.ca/2010/05/11/banned-blogs/

L-girl said...

I'm not sure why they would pay extra attention to your blog

Because of this. I blog for a group of activists that are in active opposition to Jason Kenney, that regularly turn up to protest his appearances, get hundreds of people to call and email his office, and are go to court on a regular basis to challenge his office's rulings.

I quite sure I'm not the only blogger they watch, but that's why they watch this blog.

Thanks for the link.

L-girl said...

I wonder why Eaves says those blogs are banned. They are obviously not banned, they are only blocked at certain workplaces. My own workplace blocks all blogs! All blogging software and all blogs are blocked, period. It's stupid, but it's within their rights to do so. But no one has banned of these blogs.

M@ said...

I just wanted to clarify one thing -- in the e-mail I mentioned that I was dropping him a second e-mail in the same day; my first was a response to a list of talking points that he provided in an attempt to justify not allowing abortion to be included in the CPC's "maternal health" package.

I try not to inundate my MP with e-mails. It's difficult sometimes.