“I’ve got my eye on you,” is a phrase you would usually expect to hear from a father of a young teenager. In this instance, it was a rude awakening. As someone with a long history at a First Nations publication, I pretty much expect that Canada’s various intelligence agencies spy on us. I even screw around on the phone with the understanding it might be tapped. Intelligence gathering organizations would be foolish to ignore the possibility that people or organizations they are interested in would contact the magazine.
I’ve mused about this possibility in the past. But I am a person who wants and believes in our fundamental right to privacy. Thus, when I come across a news headline in the online publication The Dominion that reads, “Canada’s Spy Groups Divulge Secret Intelligence to Energy Companies,” I was flabbergasted. I was outraged and quietly checking my underwear for skid marks. After all, we don’t know how far they’re willing to go with “secret intelligence.”
What about all those companies getting government spooks to spy on environmental groups and First Nations for them? I know it sounds bad when your private life is revealed to corporate Canada without your consent or knowledge. But let’s not get too crazy and just take a breather before giving free rein to a volcanic flow of righteous anger. At least give me time, as a corporate citizen, to obtain a Secret Level II security clearance that Natural Resources Canada has already granted to over 200 industry representatives. According to a statement by former Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, “This enables us to share information with industry and their associations.”
Damn, I really want to see those reports. Maybe we could help to defuse situations? Of course I could recommend that spying on Greenpeace should be minimized to save taxpayer money. After all, they are the ones paying for this political/business co-venture. One would expect that the people who have paid for the protection provided by governmental intelligence agencies would not welcome subsidizing the business world’s ability to pry into our lives.
And what will or can be done with the access that business now has to all of us non-corporate citizens? Well, one thing that can be done is targeting individuals and their families economically. Need a job? Well, that time volunteering for Greenpeace might work against you. Now I’m not saying ideals will be crushed under the corporate boot, I’m merely implying that. Your right to change people’s minds and public opinion is something that can now be considered a threat to your livelihood.
Current Natural Resources Minister John Oliver responded to this story by saying that environmental groups “threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical agenda.” That tells you whose side he’s on and why this might be happening, despite our constitutional right to contest government decisions.
In the end, it comes down to one thing. In my office, I learnt that the phone system has a way for one phone to listen in on any other phone like an intercom. My immediate thought was “cool – teach me how to do that.” After a while my next thought was, “Is there a way to block it?” I started to laugh as I realized the significance of the two.
It was a question of right and wrong. It is wrong to destroy a person’s privacy for profit. A government belongs to the people and as such they can share knowledge of our ideals and associations. But one that sells its own people’s privacy for nothing cannot be representative of the people. As such this use of intelligence, if it’s justified at all, should be in-house and not shared with private business interests.