P is for privacy
Re MacKay Approved Surveillance (June 10): The Harper government, which got rid of the long-form census because it allegedly intruded upon the privacy of Canadians, has been making use of a secret electronic eavesdropping program to track our telephone and Internet activities.
If there was nothing wrong with this program when Liberal defence minister Bill Graham approved it in 2005, why did the Conservatives get rid of it a couple of years later? And if f there was something wrong with this program, why did the Conservatives bring it back in 2011? And why did they do so in secret?
And why are they hiding information on the program now behind blacked out (redacted) lines and paragraphs in documents released through the Access to Information process?
Burris Devanney, Halifax
The secretive Canadian Communications Security Establishment should have a civilian oversight board of directors to ensure that surveillance of electronic communications does not threaten the basic human rights and civil liberties of Canadians.
Derek Wilson, Port Moody, B.C.
The public’s outcry at the revelation of a U.S. government “call log” involving millions of Verizon customers is surprising. If we deem this to be an unacceptable intrusion of privacy, we should all get off the Internet. Fast. Or, we can collectively acknowledge what has already become so apparent: Privacy – with a capital P – is a thing of the past. When so many of us eagerly share the details of our private lives on public of platforms, is this really something we can decry?
Florence Bienvenu, Montreal
Re Mixed Reaction To Exhibition Marking A Dark Wartime Chapter (June 10): In the interests of full disclosure, you should know that I was consulted during the process of developing the Banff exhibition dealing with the First World War internment of Eastern Europeans.
In public history, the first consideration is to put events in the context of their time – appreciating what things meant on their own terms, rather than what we think they meant. Yes, the government referred to the internment facilities as “concentration camps.” But to presume a whitewash in the omission of this “harsh term” from the exhibition is mistaken: At the time of the First World War, it was not a harsh term. It simply referred to any place where people were brought together, or concentrated.
Soldiers’ letters often mentioned arriving at concentration camps in England or France. When visiting militia training grounds at Vernon, B.C., or Valcartier, Que., one could buy postcards captioned “Concentration Camp.” It was a military designation, no negative connotation implied or understood.
The internees’ experience is central to the exhibition, as it should be, but that experience couldn’t be presented in isolation. Parks Canada should make no apologies for including background material on labour and the global conflict, for it is essential to understanding the internment. Without that context, historical details are meaningless or, worse, misleading.
Jonathan F. Vance, Department of History, University of Western Ontario
There may be reasons to reform the Senate along the lines Preston Manning proposes, but from Quebec, some of his views look a bit parochial and outdated (Reform, Not Abolition, Is In The East’s Interests – June 10).
While it may look from the booming West that Quebec has a “declining population,” that, of course, is only relative. Its population has grown from about six million to more than eight million over the past four decades. Even in relative terms, Quebec is largely holding its own these days: At 24 per cent of the national population, the province now draws about 22 per cent of new immigrants to Canada. And its birth rate has once again risen higher than the national average. Quebec’s economy is far from stagnant. The latest federal jobs report told of boom conditions across the country; Alberta and Quebec are drawing job-seekers.
There used to be a lazy reflex on the part of powerful opinion-makers in the East to dismiss the West. When that is done in reverse, it is no more persuasive.
David Winch, Montreal
Re ‘Visible Minority:’ A Misleading Concept That Ought To Be Retired (online, June 10): While the term “visible minority” is fraught with issues – the key one being it uses “white” as a standard against which everyone else is measured – it is wrong to propose that “race” be abandoned as a concept to be considered in pursuing equity in Canada. Members of racialized communities (including African and Asian Canadians, among others) – including those who were born in Canada – earn less than white Canadians and experience higher unemployment rates. That should tell us something else is at play, other than language and immigration status.
Rather than looking at “visible minority” as a group, many academics have advocated for the use of disaggregated data, which allow for a more refined way of measuring and hence addressing the disparities faced by different racialized communities. By “whitewashing” the issue of race, Frances Woolley’s proposal would simply lead to further inequities.
Avvy Yao-Yao Go, clinic director, Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Do-over jet colours
Re Stephen Harper’s Flying Colours (June 8): The Prime Minister’s military Airbus has been repainted red, white and blue. What’s next for the Conservatives’ rebranding of Canada? Adding blue stripes and little crowns to the Canadian flag? Enough with the “royalizing” of the armed forces.
John Dance, Ottawa
The colours of the RCAF roundel have been red, white and blue since the First World War. This repainting of the jet the Prime Minister uses is not Conservative subterfuge but long-standing tradition. White with trim has always been in vogue. I cite Air Force One with its sky blue trim as a good example.
Jock Williams, Toronto
The RCAF design copies the graphic style adopted by city police departments, ubiquitous squad cars with swoosh-like graphics and hideous lettering – a style favoured by adolescent males and the manufactures of RVs. What does the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada have to say about this look? A design pro should have been consulted for so visual a representation of our country.
Keith Branscombe, Toronto
Forget the colour scheme, forget the cost. The real scandal about the repainted federal government Airbus is what it reveals about the paucity of Canada’s national symbols. All those maple leaves. Couldn’t they substitute a Canada goose or two for some of them?
Tim Wood, Geneva, Switzerland