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Border Services Attack on Freedom of Speech: Merits More than Just a Story

November 29th, 2009 · 31 Comments

I sure hope all our BC and Canadian media  (newspapers, television, radio, magazine organizations) and all our BC and Canadian  Civil Liberties Associations have taken notice of the MAJOR attack on Freedom of Speech in Canada by Canadian border guards last week. 

An award-winning U.S. journalist, Amy Goodman,  was pulled aside, had her car and even her computer searched and was grilled for more than an hour before being admitted into the country.

Goodman was on her way to Vancouver to speak at a Vancouver Public Library forum on global warming, U.S. health care,  and the economic meltdown … and, of course like all good authors, to plug her new book “Breaking the Sound Barrier”.

  According to Goodman … the border guards kept prodding and asking what she was going to speak about in Vancouver.  Over and over they kept asking about “what else?”  as she recited her list.

Now I know some might regard ANY questionning of any “speaker” trying to get into Canada as an infringement of  freedom of speech. And it is. 

 But I CAN understand why Canadian laws … enforced by Canada Border Services … try to keep out “speakers” who might want to exercise their freedom of speech by violating our Charter of Rights: ie. making speeches calling for the expulsion or even extermination of various groups; attacks on abortion doctors;  imprisonment of homosexuals or other claptrap encouraging hate and division contrary to our laws.

I suspect the Border Services already know who those people are. Or they could just Google a person’s name to find out!!

But in the case of Goodman … something much more malicious seems to have been at work: the guards were apparently in “Olympic Protection Mode” … which may include some sort of  new Canada Border Services Vancouver 2010 journalism standard: hear no evil, see no evil, and above all, speak no evil about the Games or any of  the frolicking surrounding them.  

And keep out any foreigners who may want to say anything critical  of the the big party!

THIS IS NOT CHINA  … the Games are not taking place in a Canada living under a dictatorship (not yet!) … and the Border guards, I believe, clearly overstepped their duty, their responsibilties and their  authority in trying to find out if Goodman was going to say ANYTHING or TALK about the Olympics!

To hell with them!  They had no right, in my view,  to even ask that question.

We can only wonder if they would have turned her away if she had said “Yes”? Or revealed she intended to talk about cost overuns through history, civil rights violations at previous Olympics?  Holy Revelations, Batman!! 

As I said, I recognize there ARE people they can legitimately exclude: did Goodman show up on any “watch” list?; does she have a record of “agitating” race hatred or violating our Charter?; has she been to Canada before or ever been denied entry?

They probably could have established this on their own computers in a minute!

And all they had to do is Google Goodman to find out if she is a legitimate journalist, speaker  … or head honcho of some foreign conspiratorial underground network.  Canada Border Service and CSIS might not have such “advanced” intelligence  … but I’d bet the Internet, Facebook and Twitter would know!  LOL!! 

The media jumped on Goodman’s border detention and embarrassing treatment as a story as soon as they learned about it.

But that is not enough: the Canadian bureaucracy has made a major move against Freedom of Speech. A precedent has been set … and will stand … unless our media and civil liberties outlets pursue this matter.

How did this happen? Under what rule or regulation was it proper to ask the Olympic question?  Or are there new temporary “Olympic” rules authorized to infringe on our freedoms ? Who issued the instructions to ask Olympic questions of writers or speakers?

There are many questions about this incident still unanswered; they should be posed to federal government officials, to the ministers responsible and to the Prime Minister in the House of Commons.

Don’t let it drop: even if  Canada wins Gold …  THIS could be the most lasting legacy of Vancouve 2010.

We must not let that happen.

Harv Oberfeld

Tags: Media · National

31 responses so far ↓

  • 1 DMJ // Nov 30, 2009 at 12:16 am

    This is very scary, where government agents interrogate people for fear they may something negative about the Olympics.

    As cynical as I am, I am afraid there is an Olympic sized Olympic story and the powers that be are deathly afraid for it to surface until after the event, as the public would demand resignations before the two week spend fest.

    I tummy tells me that there is a financial fiasco on the horizon and the feds and Provo’s are afraid the public gets wind of it, before the next rounds of elections.

  • 2 Mike C // Nov 30, 2009 at 12:46 am

    Do we have any idea how many “Canada Border Services” personnel were involved in this fiasco?
    Was it just some martinet in a uniform (now with a gun) who decided he or she would make the rules or were other, higher ups involved as well?
    Is there a written policy about questioning people, especially journalists, about how they feel about the “Limp Dick” games?
    This probably is just the tip of the iceberg.
    Our employees, note I said “our” because we pay them, should concentrate on keeping out crooks, hate mongers, drugs, guns etc. and leave the mind games and the “how do you feel about” questions alone.

    (Response: Good questions ..let’s hope some working media pursue them … and the critical issues involved. h.o)

  • 3 Cameron // Nov 30, 2009 at 3:20 am

    Harve.. good piece. While there was a flash of coverage,I’ll be disappointed if there isn’t a stronger demand for accounting from Border Services and the Government that recently approved arming these clerks.

    I don’t see any reason why anyone should be prevented from entry if all they plan to do is talk.

    There are plenty of laws here to protect groups from hatred.

    Remember that Border Services successfully exhausted efforts by Little Sisters to challenge its ongoing practice of censoring books at the border.

    (Response: this Cameron is THE Cameron Bell who built BCTV’s first rate Newshour. I’m sure if any media or civil lib orgs need an expert to speak to the dangers of Canada Border Services actions in this case..he’d be the guy to talk to about the possible implications. h.o)

  • 4 BC Mary // Nov 30, 2009 at 3:29 am

    Harvey:

    I am puzzled by your omission of BLOGGERS from this call to arms, quote:

    I sure hope all our BC and Canadian media (newspapers, television, radio, magazine organizations) and all our BC and Canadian Civil Liberties Associations have taken notice of the MAJOR attack on Freedom of Speech in Canada by Canadian border guards last week.

    Bloggers — of which you are one — will probably do more to tell the Amy Goodman story than any other single component of the free press.

    It must’ve been an oversight.

    (Response: It’s not a matter of just telling the story: that has been doine. What we need now is more than just talk … we need MSM execs and Civil Lib honchos to file official complaints or protests ..or even a legal challenge. Doubt bloggers have the backing and resources needed to do that part. h..o)

  • 5 Henri Paul // Nov 30, 2009 at 3:51 am

    What came to my mind when I seen this story was, how dunce are these people at Canada Border Services , when the news gets out to the Americans about this gestapo interrogation at the Canadian border, they will stay away in droves, as it already stands, the numbers of Americans with passports ,which are required for reentry is already very low.

    (Response; Or they flock here ..just to do a story on how government officials are being used to ferret out/turn back possible critics of the games or current regime …just like China! h.o.)

  • 6 Lynn2 // Nov 30, 2009 at 5:48 am

    I think your response to the journalist being questioned is somewhat dramatic.
    She was allowed into the country with a 48 hour work visa after being questioned for some time.
    It is my understanding that Canadian journalists going to work even briefly in the USA are often questioned at length and their papers and computers examined.
    Happily I am not a journalist so do not have to persue this.

    (Response: When people enter the country not as tourists but on business, such as public speakers ..the guards have the right to ensure they are indeed who they say they are and are coming in for the purpose stated and not on any watch “watch” list … Nazis, race dividers etc … but once they satisfy that, they have no right to ask if a specific inocuous topic like the Olympics ..will be discussed in their speech. What difference would that matter? Only good coments allowed in? h.o.)

  • 7 Henri Paul // Nov 30, 2009 at 5:59 am

    Maybe Amy Goodman is lucky, here is a little back ground about a former Canadian
    Border Service officer.
    See the * below

    Questioning by MR. McGOWAN of Mountie at the BRAIDWOOD inquiry into the Death of Robert Diskenski at the Vancouver airport

    Q
    Officer, you’re employed by the RCMP presently?
    A
    That’s correct.
    Q
    Okay.
    You originally are from Ontario?
    A
    That’s right.
    Q
    Okay.
    You attended the University of Windsor and
    obtained a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in
    Criminology?
    A
    That’s correct.
    Q
    And what year did you complete your education
    there?
    A
    2004.
    Q *
    Okay.
    During the course of your education at
    university and for some time subsequent to
    obtaining that degree you worked as a Canadian
    Border Service officer?
    A *
    That’s correct.
    Q*
    And where were you stationed for that employment?
    A *
    I was stationed at the Ambassador Bridge in
    Windsor, Ontario.
    Q
    Okay.
    You ultimately were successful in your
    application to the RCMP and attended Depot
    starting late in 2005?
    A
    That’s correct.

  • 8 Crankypants // Nov 30, 2009 at 7:23 am

    Whether they will admit it or not, the border guard or guards involved in this interrogation were following orders from their superiors. The question is at whose behest.

    I know nothing of her other than she has some television show which is apparently broadcast into Canada. She may not have had the olympics on her agenda on this trip, and even if she did, how large an audience would she have reached. Now that she is back home in the USA, she can let loose on her show and reach a much greater audience if she so chooses.

    As with many stories, it seems that the MSM gave it the flavour of the day coverage and will probably not pursue it any further.

  • 9 Norm Farrell // Nov 30, 2009 at 8:03 am

    How did this happen? Under what rule or regulation was it proper to ask the Olympic question? Or are there new temporary “Olympic” rules authorized to infringe on our freedoms ? Who issued the instructions to ask Olympic questions of writers or speakers?
    —————————————-

    H.O., that paragraph is important. All of us that know about this incident must write our MPs and Minister Peter van Loan and demand the answers. This attack was directed at a journalist who holds almost all awards it is possible to hold. She’s been treated badly before while covering news. Canada now ranks with East Timor.

    If their aim was to secure widely distributed negative publicity for the Olympics, they got it.

    Northern Insights lists some of the many news awards earned by Amy Goodman:

    http://northerninsights.blogspot.com/2009/11/not-keeping-waters-pure.html

    (Response: Yes I hope people do write, but frankly I think government is almost immune to letters of criticism. What we really need is open criticism from organized groups ..and actions to take their protests further. h.o.)

  • 10 The GREAT SATAN // Nov 30, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    On all things Olympic the Government of BC and our “beloved leader” are pushing all the security buttons . . . federal, provincial and municipal.

    Add to it our “beautiful” BC media ready to not report any Campbell bad news in exchange for Olympic advertising cash and you have a truly disgraceful situation.

    One need only watch Mr. Bad & Ms. Botox at 6:00pm to see that truth and freedom of speech have become the first casualties of newsroom greed.

  • 11 Genuine // Nov 30, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Those boarder guards just opened a can of worms,boy the best and brightest might of thought it out a little, before they harassed an activist of Goodmans caliber and influence,talk about drawing attention to something they don’t want people to mention.P.S. my attic is complete and my papers are in order,and Harvey you thought some of my comments were over the top a few months ago,what do you think now?

    (Response: Sorry..you’ve submitted so many (which is great!) but I can’t remember which ones specifically were over the top. But if I said it ..I’m sure it was so. :) h.o.

  • 12 Stuart S. // Nov 30, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    This is what happens when we allow corporate criminals to run our country. Just imagine how bad it will be if the conservatives get a majority federally and the libs win another term provincially.

  • 13 Leah // Nov 30, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    This hasn’t been ignored by media south of the border…matter of fact, this journalist has taken great exception to what happened to Amy – and I’m on his side. Let’s hope he keeps the spot light right where it should be – on Gordon Campbell, VANOC, and all those who made an obscenely quick profit on the “games.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-zirin/amy-goodman-and-canadas-o_b_372273.html

    Huff has a huge following in the US, and is gaining an ever larger one in Canada. As for Amy, she’s one if not my favorite, investigative journalist. She tells it like it is, and no one owns her. It will be interesting to read her take on this incident when she gets back home and has time to write it.

  • 14 Kam Lee // Nov 30, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Harv …. Great article. The sad fact is that that goof at the border is not the one who made the decisions. It would be directed from Ottawa and Victoria. I have had messages as well as phone conversations with colleagues in the USA, and they are outraged by this dangerous precedence. The newspapers in LA, Washington, Ohio, and Florida are talking about Canada, or is it China? Ask gordo what he thinks about this terrible action. He will say nothing. He is a fool, as well as a liar. A owelipcs protector.

  • 15 Lynn#1 // Nov 30, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    I just saw an old black and white movie called Mortal Storm, starring Jimmy Stewart. Seems kind of surreal in light of what is happening in the world. Propaganda and freedom restrictions.

  • 16 SharingIsGood // Dec 1, 2009 at 1:40 am

    Here’s a link to the Democracy Now! Amy Goodman Show that Ms. Goodman’s treatment at the border spawned. This has the potential to step up a couple of notches into the mainstream media as both Democracy Now! and The Huffington Post attract real attention from the MSN. http://www.democracynow.org/2009/11/30/amy_goodman_detained_at_canadian_border

  • 17 Genuine // Dec 1, 2009 at 1:45 am

    HARVEY I’m honored,just by the fact that you read some of the stuff I write,and it truly is for my love of B.C. and Canada,this country has been very good to me, and,want it to be good for future generations,all I’m getting at is,if all our resources are being given away (our capitol)then what will future generations have to borrow on in tough times,when all our resources are owned by corporations,and the free press is stifled from within they are even trying to stifle voices like Ms Goodmans and she doesn’t even know what the heck that boarder guard was talking about!!!

    (Response: One of the things I like best about having a blog is that I can give people a place to discuss and debate the ideas I rant about. It’s healthy for our society ..and as we grow, the powers to be will start to realize that better represent the ideals of democracy than they do. h.o.)

  • 18 Lynn2 // Dec 1, 2009 at 2:20 am

    I will take USA outrage with Canada with a grain of salt.
    Amy Goodman was arrested @ the Republican National Convention in 2008 for “conspiracy to riot”
    The charges were eventually dropped.Were these charges enough to create a red flag @ CBSA ?
    A positive for Ms. Goodman is she has now received a great deal of attention for the book she is promoting.
    All the same I am sorry Canada seems to be geting as paranoid as the USA.

  • 19 A. G. Tsakumis // Dec 1, 2009 at 8:06 am

    Truth be told, it really wasn’t covered much and it should have been. What a sham!

    As I have said before, there is a difference between free speech and hate speech. Clearly, she wasn’t coming here to do anything other than talk and I have seen her work–she is respectful, if not anything else. I do not agree with much of her opinions as they are stepped in nonsensical drivel, but I defend her right to have them and be able to express them freely and often.

    Minister van Loan should indeed be made to answer, as should the Premier, who I think is the most despicably arrogant man to ever hold that office. It is his impetus that has given rise to such shameful acts.

    And, WOW, Harv; Frosty and THE Cameron Bell, both regularly commenting on your blog.

    Now, THAT’S an honour!

    Maybe that’s why real media is dying in this town….Mr. Bell (although I’d argue is one of a kind) has been replaced by the producer who would rather talk about which floozy’s nether regions Tiger Woods circumnavigated, while, er, down under (sorry, I couldn’t resist), instead of Basi-Virk, ‘Climategate’, Richard Colvin’s rapidly unravelling “story”, or even this story, which is essentially about censorship.

    In the meantime…while we slept…

    (Response: I’m honoured by all the people who take time to write and encourage discussiion here … even those who disagree with me (of course, they’re wrong! ;) And we are being listened to ..watch for a possible (still being worked on) special announcement here on the blog in the next few days. h.o)

  • 20 Skookum1 // Dec 2, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Lynn2:

    I’ve never heard of Canadian journalists being similarly harrassed by US border/customs agents – can you name some cases?

    Journalists do NOT require a work visa in either direction; that was observed by someone in the Dave Zirin article on the Huffington Post, or in the article itself.

  • 21 Lynn2 // Dec 2, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Skookum1

    I don’t believe I said jounalists required visas.
    However I did hear a well known BC journalist state on the radio that his papers and computer are checked when he goes to the USA when working as a journalist.
    Maybe they weren’t selling a book and arriving late after not leaving adequate time @ the border.

  • 22 Lynn2 // Dec 2, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Further comments;
    Farley Mowat ,an officer of the Order of Canada was banned from travelling to the States in 1985 having accepted an invitation to speak @ a university in Chico , California.
    No reason was given.
    He writes books on Canadian north and childrens books.
    The result was a media circus and Regan decided he could visit the USA.
    Mowat then declined.
    I have no issue with Ms Goodman but am amused @ the big ego — I’m a journalist how dare they.
    As a foreigner entering Canada , CBSA can deny entrance. They did not.
    People visiting Canada do not have the “right “to enter Canada and are required to answer questions re: reasons for entering.
    Only Canadian citizens,permanent residents and natives have this right.
    All items real and electronic are subject to search and everyone should be aware of this.

    (Response: There ARE rules and laws. CBS officers cannot deny entry on a whim or without cause. in this case the danger to our liberty was that they were not questionning if she was a threat or some previous record ..it was that they apparently were just worried that she might speak negatively about the Olympics. THAT, I believe, goes beyond their business. h.o.)

  • 23 Lynn2 // Dec 3, 2009 at 12:35 am

    I repeat ; the journalist was not denied entry.

    (Response: I repeat: they had to right to determine she was a legitimate journalist..they had NO right to demand to know what she was going to speak about. h.o.)

  • 24 Lynn2 // Dec 3, 2009 at 1:36 am

    There are several reasons to deny admission to Canada
    i.e.-security reasons
    -human rights
    -organized crime
    -health
    -financial
    -misrepresentation
    I do not believe any of the above applied to the journalist or she would not have entered Canada.

    I also do not think Farley Mowat was a threat to US security either but then what do I know.

  • 25 Skookum1 // Dec 3, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Farley Mowat keeps an anti-aircraft gun on his Cape Breton property, and IIRC has talked about shooting down US aircraft….he’s been on a watchlist for years……probably under the “Communist” category that was used in the US as a catch-all, whether someone was a declared Communist or not….

    the AAG may be only a Hunter S. Thompson-style joke, but as we know border guards are not known for their sense of humour, nor anti-terrorist authorities…..

    Harvey, have you had any such experience at the border?

    (Response:Actually I often found the US guards quite friendly when we were crossing for work …in a BCTV van. And as a private traveller I was only once hassled: at the Blaine truck crossing by a U.S. border guard…just after doing a few stories about the U.S. arrogantly ignoring several international trade rulings on softwood lumber .. and after grilling the US Ambassador to Canada about it during his visit to Vancouver. (I’m sure they too watched BCTV in Blaine! :). I have one of those Nexus “trusted traveller” passes but a friend I was travelling with did not ..so I let him out at the border to cross as a pedestrian. Made him even carry his jacket. The first US Immigration guy in the Nexus booth was fine, friendly ..told me where to wait for my companion at the back of the secondary check area: the officer there was fine too. But as I stood there in the parking area outside the building ..another officer … quite an older guy, with a scowl on his face … approached me and asked why I was there. I explained that I was a Nexus member and was waiting for a foot passenger to come through and had been told to park where I was. He said he wanted to look at my car. Sure, no problem .. better safe than sorry, right? He, of course, found nothing … EXCEPT two half-drank cups of Tim Hortons in the front seat cup holders!!!! (Run for your life!!! Tim Hortons invading the U.S.!!) He asked me whose cup was on the passenger seat side? When I told him my friend’s, he told me I could lose my Nexus clearance for that. “You don’t bring in ANYTHING belonging to someone else,” he spat out. That set me off … “Well, actually, it belongs to me ..I PAID FOR IT. He had a drink from it ,but it’s mine.” I told him. He repeated the rule …. Was that really defending the US’s security?? Seemed almost like a journalistic rebuke of sorts … but I couldn’t prove that was the motivation, … but I have always suspected he was motivated by my critical stories about the U.S. I still go to the U.S. quite often … enjoy it, and although I was also pulled over for secondary check, crossing for a month-long trip in Toronto …I wouldn’t call that hassling and haven’t had any other real problems. h.o)

  • 26 crh // Dec 3, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    The journalist in question was not denied entry because it could not be proven that she would be speaking negatively about the Olympics.

    If it could have been, she would have been denied entry.

    Anyone else for a little more facism with their government?

  • 27 the Dude // Dec 4, 2009 at 4:25 am

    “But that is not enough: the Canadian bureaucracy has made a major move against Freedom of Speech. A precedent has been set … and will stand … unless our media and civil liberties outlets pursue this matter.”

    yea. what about bill c-6 for you sirs?

    (Response: Bill C-6, the proposed Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, is intended to “keep Canadian families safe from dangerous consumer products,” according to Health Canada, but some fear the bill carries with it clauses that would restrict access to natural health and allow Health Canada officials powers that would circumvent the courts, the Canadian Constitution and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” …from a story in the Merritt News, explaining it very well. h.o)

  • 28 the Dude // Dec 4, 2009 at 4:29 am

    Also the real story here for me was the lack of coverage by the media. Apart from CFRO 102.7 of course…

  • 29 the Dude // Dec 5, 2009 at 3:36 am

    Bill C 6 the real story, how this country is becoming a dictaturship

    the title is mine…

  • 30 the Dude // Dec 5, 2009 at 3:39 am

    yes you could edit the title by changing the ”u’ for a ‘o’….

  • 31 kootcoot // Dec 10, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    I am ashamed that people like MP George Galloway, Ret’d USAF Colonel Ann Wright, and Amy Goodman are either banned at the border or harassed by Canadian Border services yet war criiminals like Dick Cheney or Dubya Bush are welcomed with open arms. There are countries that folks like Bush, Cheney and Kissenger either avoid or feel nervous about and then there are countries that feel no accountablilty to international law – under Harper and Airshow Mackay Canada is rapidly joining the second group – above the law (or would below the law be more appropriate?)!