"I spy a waste of money” at Communications Security Establishment Canada

On Wednesday morning, Shit Harper Did (SHD) and friends put up a 24-foot banner reading "I SPY A WASTE OF MONEY" with two 3-feet eyeballs at the new spy agency on Ogilvie Road in Ottawa. The purpose of the action, part of SHD’s new Creep campaign, was to bring attention to the costly building and Canada’s spying on environmental and other advocacy groups.

I spy a waste of money

The $1.2 billion Communications Security Establishment Canada building – what CBC has called Canada’s new ‘spy palace’ - is the most expensive government building that has ever been built.

SHD.ca action coordinator Brigette DePape says, “The Harper government is increasingly invading our privacy while telling us less and less about what they’re doing with our money. These are unprecedented actions that undermine democracy in order to help the Conservatives maintain power.”

The group's press release states, “The filmmakers made repeated requests for an on camera interview with a CSEC representative by going through the appropriate channels at the agency (through email, over the phone and in person). Eventually they were told by a senior communications advisor “We don’t have anyone doing interviews right now from CSE at all. It’s not unusual. Nobody’s doing interviews from CSE.“ When the same representative was asked about the missing $3.1 billion dollars in anti-terrorism funding, they asked that questions be submitted by email and immediately hung up.

The release continues, “The filmmakers did as they were told and submitted four questions via email, however they have yet to receive a reply.” To read the press release and four questions click here.

The press release also said, "Multiple security guards informed the comedians that they were on private property and that alarms in the facility had been triggered by their presence. The guards proceeded to film the activists, who responded by filming the guards and staring at them with two 3ft eyeballs...The guards discussed whether to notify the police, but eventually one of them produced a pair of industrial scissors and forced his way past the peaceful protesters to cut down the banner, while they struggled to keep it up. The organizers were disappointed by the reception, as they had hoped that CSEC would consider keeping the installation as a permanent feature at their new office, which is the most expensive government building ever constructed."

SHD.ca Executive Director Sean Devlin warns, “The Conservative government’s spying is out of control. They’re spending billions of tax dollars on secretive efforts that appear to include spying on foreign governments and peaceful people in this country mainly in an attempt to protect corporate oil and mining interests.”

Media reports (here and here) revealed that the changes to environmental legislation outlined in Harper’s 2012 omnibudget bills were made at the request of the energy industry.

The Vancouver Observer recently reported that documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show that, “Not only is the federal government subsidizing the energy industry in underwriting their costs, but deploying public safety resources as a de-facto 'insurance policy' to ensure that federal strategies on proposed pipeline projects are achieved.”

The article lists several groups that the Harper government is spying on, “The groups of interest are independent advocacy organizations that oppose the Harper government's policies and work for environmental protections and democratic rights, including Idle No More, ForestEthics, Sierra Club, EcoSociety, LeadNow, Dogwood Initiative, Council of Canadians and the People's Summit.”

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has filed a lawsuit against the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) calling on the government for transparency in who they are watching, what is being collected, and how they are handling Canadians’ private communications and information. To learn more and to sign the pledge to stand with the BCCLA, click here.

Photos courtesy of Isaac Vallentin. For more photos of the action, click here.

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