Yesterday it was reported in the media that the federal Government Operations Centre (GOC) is calling on all federal departments to compile information on all protests in the country. Not many people have heard of the GOC. Its mandate includes building and sharing “common situational awareness at the national level related to all hazards of national interest, emerging or occurring”. That would mean monitoring the potential for natural disasters, you might guess. Creating flood and earthquake plans, you might think. Well, not only.
It appears that the GOC thinks that lawful assembly and free speech requires “situational awareness” because it threatens to burgeon into a hazard of national interest. How else to explain the documents produced through access to information requests that show that the GOC coordinated a response to Aboriginal demonstrations against fracking last year and monitored hazardous events of national interest including “a healing dance in Kenora Ont., a prayer ceremony in Edmonton and an Idle No More “taco fundraiser, raffle and jam session””. Now it wants to fan out these surveillance efforts to all government departments.
Micheal Vonn, Policy Director of the BCCLA said, “This is a travesty. The Canadian government cannot use the guise of “situational awareness” or a completely ungrounded claim of potential for national emergencies as an excuse for blanket surveillance of all peaceful protest. This surveillance directive is outrageous and it will be challenged. All people in Canada have a constitutional right to peaceful assembly. Having that right threatened by the government is the true national emergency.”