My mom…the terrorist?!

I am writing a research paper on anti-terrorism law in Canada. I decided to choose this topic because of this strange memory I had as a kid. It was this memory of tents all on our lawn and a lot of people being around the house at the same time. The only reason I knew this memory was real and not just a fragment of many recalled dreams was because of this one photograph I had seen over and over again in photo albums (the strange thing about me is that sometimes my dreams get tangled up with my realities and I have a hard time remember what was real in my past and what was simply a dream).

Those dreams are beside the point. A few weeks ago, I called my mom to ask her if she had done anything with Oka. I didn’t tell her about my memory or questioned her about the things I had remembered. She simply said yes. We had a long discussion about the information I was finding and the things that I could remember. At the time of Oka, I would have been around 3-4 years old. Some people say kids don’t remember events at that age…that is not true. I remember a lot of what happened.

My mom said that we were not allowed to use the phone and that our phone lines were tapped by the RCMP. She also said that she helped cook food for some of the families and individuals who were housed nearby. By this act alone, the motive requirement, and participation offences within the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC), my mom could have been considered as a listed entity under terrorism offences within the CCC.

There isn’t just one bad thing about being a listed entity, which means an individual, organization or corporation that conducts terrorist activities. There are a slew of things wrong with this practice. In a recent post, Pam Palmater discusses CSIS and First Nations’ activities. What is not discussed is how do individuals go about in getting put on such lists? Well, here is a quick outline:

  • Individuals can be put on the list. They do not have to have membership with any terrorist group or any other listed entity.
  • Individuals can be put on the list by way of association with terrorist groups and their activity or association to threats to Canadian society.
  • Individuals put on the list do not have a right to challenge this list (because they receive no notice if they are on it…they cannot challenge something they do not know about).
  • If individuals do want information on from CSIS, they do not have a right to receive detailed information. Rather they will be given a summary of the information. CSIS decides which information is be kept secret to “protect national security.”

The issue with these lists is that there is very little judicial interpretation and constitutional challenges to these lists because of the secrecy that surrounds them. What does this mean for Canadian citizens? Any one of us can be placed on this list and not even know it. An example of this list going wrong is the case of Cindy Blackstock, which is referenced in Palmater’s blog. As described by Palmater, Blackstock is a “peaceful, law-abiding citizen with a big heart.” So how did Cindy end up on this list? Who knows, she was merely advocating for First Nations children. Check out her “Have a Heart Campaign” that was launched this past February 14. Maybe all those Valentine’s Day cards sent to MPs and the PM’s office were considered a threat to “national security”?

I really like the way Palmater’s blog shares the way the information is shared with individuals who request an Access to Information and Privacy request. Please have a read over her entire blog to see the information that she received in return from the CSIS.

These supposed secret lists and the information they have on individuals all collected in the name of “protecting national security” kind of scares me. It is especially disheartened that institutions that are supposed to protect citizens are busy collecting information on its Indigenous peoples … all in the name of “protecting national security.” I wouldn’t believe that any Indigenous person, organization, or corporation deserves to be put on such a list especially when we are always fighting for our inherent and constitutional rights.

I wonder though, would my momma be on the list?

Oh and hey, Mister Government, where is our apology that was written about in the December 2010 Globe and Mail for having First Nations as listed entities, or are you all tired out from the 2008 Residential School apology?

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