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June 12: Surveillance state, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Surveillance state

Re Surveillance In Cyberspace (June 10): Surely organized crime and terrorists always operate under the assumption that phone and Internet communications are vulnerable, making most network surveillance pointless?

Rod Matthews, Melbourne, Australia


Odd, isn’t it, that when Apple debuted its Macintosh computer in 1984, a television commercial, 1984, featured a Big Brother motif into which an Apple renegade stormed, supposedly setting us all free. Now we learn that Apple, Google, Facebook and others of the new order have been sharing our personal data with government cyberspies (What Could Go Wrong? – June 11). Some are calling it Nineteen Eight-Four, but it strikes me as being more like Animal Farm, with us, the farm animals, looking through the dining room window to see the pigs and humans eating dinner together – and being unable to tell the difference.

Anne Mullens, Victoria


Your editorial For Parliament, Not A Minister Alone (June 11) reminds Canadians of how little we know about the operations of the Communications Security Establishment. Whether the CSE ever cancelled its metadata collection over lawfulness concerns, as The Globe states, is unclear. What is clear is that CSE’s metadata collection program exists, is of long standing and is a complete mystery to the public.

Whether it touches on metadata of Canadians or is purely a foreign intelligence gathering tool cannot be ascertained with any certainty. What we do know is the CSE’s public watchdog agency promised a study of the metadata program in its 2006-2007 annual report, but has not commented in its public reports on this issue subsequently.

Canadians would be wise to ask: Why not?

Even Parliament, to which the commissioner of the CSE ultimately reports, could ask that question and put aside its habitual inattentiveness to the role the CSE plays as a major intelligence gathering agency.

Wesley Wark, visiting professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa


It is politicians and other power brokers who have the most to worry about in the surveillance state. Who doesn’t suspect leaders of e-snooping on their rivals? How else did J. Edgar Hoover manage to retain his position as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for nearly 40 years under six different presidents if not for the fact that he had dirt on all of them? And that was with 20th-century technology.

William Reed, Victoria


On-demand access

Re New Rules Target Foreign Workers (June 11): A law giving the government the right to enter any business, without the necessity of obtaining a warrant, and demand documents is excessive and runs against Canadian civil liberties. No one should be given this type of power, which can too easily lead to abuse by the government. This is one more example of the loss of Canadians’ rights under the Conservative government.

David Bell, Toronto


Ethnic prisoners

Re Internment Language (letters, June 11): Prof. Jonathan Vance argues that in public history, events have to be put in the context of the time, rather than what we think they meant. He says “concentration camps” – the term used by the Canadian government during the First World War for the internment of Canadians of Eastern European origin – was “not a harsh term.”

The camps were not simply any place where people were “brought together, or concentrated.” They were ethnic prisons. Avoiding the term “concentration camp” in the Banff exhibition is a whitewash.

Reiner Jaakson, Oakville, Ont.


Inspections’ limits

Ontario Boosts Long-term Care Inspections (June 10) provides welcome news that 100 new inspectors will be hired to strengthen safety and improve care for vulnerable residents of long-term care facilities.

Letting the CEOs of for-profit nursing home chains police themselves clearly is not working, so the commitment to inspect every home on an annual basis is a critical step in ensuring that residents are well cared for. A key question that needs to be answered, however, is: If an inspector identifies staffing shortages as part of the problem, how will this be fixed?

Sharleen Stewart, president, SEIU Healthcare Union


Are more inspectors going to solve elder abuse in long-term care facilities? Probably not. Once an inspector arrives, staff are on their best behaviour. It was a hidden camera, not an inspector, that caught the gross abuse in the facility in Peterborough, Ont.

For nine months, I often fed an aunt breakfast in a care facility. I witnessed a good deal of abuse (as well as much loving care). The breakfast staff grew so used to me, they forgot I was watching and listening. Worst was the demeaning attitude shown to residents in the dining room.

While management might like to fire the abusers, it’s difficult to find replacements. Few want to work for such low pay. A better solution is to provide ways of keeping seniors in their own homes for as long as possible.

R. B. Fleming, Argyle, Ont.


Low-water woes

Re Raise The Great Lakes? If Only It Were So Simple (June 10): Clearly, climate change has contributed to a decline in Great Lakes water levels. But scientists at the International Joint Commission caution against making simplistic assertions, especially since the only man-made – and the largest single – contributor to the decline in water levels has been the dredging and subsequent erosion in the St. Clair River. It will take time to address climate change, but there are solutions already at hand to gradually raise the water levels by installation of underwater sills and flexible gates in the St. Clair River.

Rather than stress the facts and science from a joint $20-million study of water levels in the upper Great Lakes, Lana Pollack, the U.S. chair of the IJC, articulates politically correct views that only contribute to more public confusion.

Ulli Rath, Collingwood, Ont.


Edelweiss and … ?

Re Do-Over Jet Colours (letters, June 11): Tim Wood’s comment on “the paucity of Canada’s national symbols” seems rather odd, coming from someone in Switzerland, a country for which one is hard pressed to think of a national symbol – unless it is a cuckoo clock, chocolate bar or bank vault.

W. E. Hildreth, Toronto


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