October 12, 2017

That Time Canada Tried to Make a Literal “Gaydar”

Filed under: Cancon, Government, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Today I Found Out
Published on 10 Oct 2017

Never run out of things to say at the water cooler with TodayIFoundOut! Brand new videos 7 days a week!

In this video:

We are all familiar with the colloquialism “gaydar” which refers to a person’s intuitive, and often wildly inaccurate, ability to assess the sexual orientation of another person. In the 1960s, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) attempted to use a slightly more scientific, though equally flawed, approach- a machine to detect if a person was gay or not. This was in an attempt to eliminate homosexuals from the Canadian military, police and civil service. The specific machine, dubbed the “Fruit Machine”, was invented by Dr. Robert Wake, a Carelton University Psychology professor.

Want the text version?: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2013/06/when-the-canadian-government-used-gay-detectors-to-try-to-get-rid-of-homosexual-government-employees/

June 26, 2017

“Ah, the Comeau case. Schwisberg says it could change everything – knock down all the barriers”

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Liberty — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

It’s ridiculous that 150 years into Confederation, and we still don’t have free trade within Canada:

If you’re on vacation abroad somewhere this summer and find yourself explaining to people over dinner what makes Canada so unique and special, use the story about Gerard Comeau and his beer run back in 2012. There is no more Canadian story than that.

Comeau is a Canadian who, looking for the best bargain he could, drove to a Canadian town a few miles from his home in Canada, bought 14 cases of beer and three bottles of liquor from Canadian beer and liquor stores, then returned to his home. In Canada.

A squad of plainclothes Mounties with binoculars, it turned out, had him under surveillance, according to his lawyer. On his way home from the Canadian town to his Canadian home, he was intercepted and handed a ticket for $292.50 by uniformed Canadian officers who then seized all the alcohol he’d purchased.

His Canadian crime: his beer run had crossed one of Canada’s internal borders. He’d driven from New Brunswick into Quebec. As far as New Brunswick was concerned, that made him a smuggler.

Sixteen other people were charged that day in the same sting operation, but Comeau had more spine than most and fought the ticket. Some smart lawyers from Ontario and Western Canada got involved, and – my god, I love it when things like this happen – he won.

A New Brunswick judge ruled that the province’s law against importing alcohol from other provinces violated the Constitution Act, Sec. 121, which states: All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces.

The ruling shocked New Brunswick and most of the other provinces, which consider Sec. 121 to be one of the most horrible and un-Canadian sentences in the Canadian Constitution, something that should be ignored at all costs.

December 7, 2014

A Supreme Court decision that actually improved privacy rights for Canadians

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:08

The courts have far too often rolled over for any kind of police intrusions into the private lives of Canadians, but a decision from earlier this year has actually helped deter the RCMP from pursuing trivial or tangential inquiries into their online activity:

A funny thing happens when courts start requiring more information from law enforcement: law enforcers suddenly seem less interested in zealously enforcing the law.

Back in June of this year, Canada’s Supreme Court delivered its decision in R. v. Spencer, which brought law enforcement’s warrantless access of ISP subscriber info to an end.

    In a unanimous decision written by (Harper appointee) Justice Thomas Cromwell, the court issued a strong endorsement of Internet privacy, emphasizing the privacy importance of subscriber information, the right to anonymity, and the need for police to obtain a warrant for subscriber information except in exigent circumstances or under a reasonable law.

The effects of this ruling are beginning to be felt. Michael Geist points to a Winnipeg Free Press article that details the halcyon days of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s warrantless access.

    Prior to the court decision, the RCMP and border agency estimate, it took about five minutes to complete the less than one page of documentation needed to ask for subscriber information, and the company usually turned it over immediately or within one day.

Five minutes! Amazing. And disturbing. A 5-minute process indicates no one involved made even the slightest effort to prevent abuse of the process. The court’s decision has dialed back that pace considerably. The RCMP is now complaining that it takes “10 hours” to fill out the 10-20 pages required to obtain subscriber info. It’s also unhappy with the turnaround time, which went from nearly immediate to “up to 30 days.”

In response, the RCMP has done what other law enforcement agencies have done when encountering a bit of friction: given up.

    “Evidence is limited at this early stage, but some cases have already been abandoned by the RCMP as a result of not having enough information to get a production order to obtain (basic subscriber information),” the memo says.

March 29, 2014

Surveillance of Canadian telecommunications channels

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Law, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

The University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs looks at how the Canadian security establishment operates:

The issue of lawful access has repeatedly arisen on the Canadian federal agenda. Every time that the legislation has been introduced Canadians have opposed the notion of authorities gaining warrantless access to subscriber data, to the point where the most recent version of the lawful access legislation dropped this provision. It would seem, however, that the real motivation for dropping the provision may follow from the facts on the ground: Canadian authorities already routinely and massively collect subscriber data without significant pushback by Canada’s service providers. And whereas the prior iteration of the lawful access legislation (i.e. C–30) would have required authorities to report on their access to this data the current iteration of the legislation (i.e. C–13) lacks this accountability safeguard.

In March 2014, MP Charmaine Borg received responses from federal agencies (.pdf) concerning the agencies’ requests for subscriber-related information from telecommunications service providers (TSPs). Those responses demonstrate extensive and unaccountable federal government surveillance of Canadians. I begin this post by discussing the political significance of MP Borg’s questions and then proceed to granularly identify major findings from the federal agencies’ respective responses. After providing these empirical details and discussing their significance, I conclude by arguing that the ‘subscriber information loophole’ urgently needs to be closed and that federal agencies must be made accountable to their masters, the Canadian public.


The government’s responses to MP Borg’s questions were returned on March 24, 2014. In what follows I identify the major findings from these responses. I first discuss the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA). These agencies provided particularly valuable information in response to MP Borg’s questions. I then move to discuss some of the ‘minor findings’ related to the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA), Competition Bureau, Statistics Canada, and the Transportation Safety Board (TSB).

August 3, 2013

“RCMP officers stopping American citizens on the Buffalo side of their border”

Filed under: Cancon, Law, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

Where’s the outrage? Nobody seems to care! Oh, but I got the nationalities confused in that headline:

Bit by bit, agreement by agreement, Canada is giving away more and more in the name of trade. To Conservatives, none of this is a threat to our sovereignty, as if the very act of stating so makes it so.

But let us consider this fantasy scenario: RCMP officers stopping American citizens on the Buffalo side of their border. Picture the horrified expression of those resilient New Yorkers as they are forced to slow down on their Interstate highway so as to be greeted by a smiling RCMP officer who is to inspect their property, ask questions about where they live, where they’ve come from, and the like — all part of a so called “pre-clearing” program.

Of course, this scene would never occur. The United States protects, obsessively, their sovereignty. But here in Canada, armed American police officers will now be able to stop Canadians, in Canada, inspecting, checking and asking questions.

Again, the Conservatives will tell us that an armed American cop in Canada is all about trade, jobs and security, not sovereignty. If this is true, then can we not expect to see Mounties stopping Americans on the Buffalo side?

I blogged about this issue last year, too.

July 5, 2013

Dudley Do-Wrong

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:32

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have a great PR image in the rest of the world … for many people, the image of the scarlet-coated Mountie is synonymous with Canada. But for Canadians, there’s a growing unease about the RCMP:

Canadians have mixed views of our national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We seem to admire the RCMP as an institution but are increasingly suspicious of the actions of individual Mounties and of the force’s brass — its senior officers and policymakers.

Our attitudes are further complicated by the fact that we seem to see the officers in our local detachments as good guys — they play on our men’s league hockey teams, help out with community charities, take their kids to school like the rest of us — yet we are beginning to see more bad apples elsewhere.

According to an Abacus Data poll of 1,000 Canadians conducted in late June, the Mounties remain one of our most trusted national institutions. A symbol of the country, the RCMP ranks right up there (69%) with the maple leaf (83%) and universal health care (78%).

Yet a majority of Canadians believe officers have used excess force (51%) and that sexism is rampant (54%) within the RCMP. Significant pluralities are also convinced problems within the force are “widespread” (43%) and are not being exaggerated (42%).

[. . .]

But I would guess, the biggest strains on the Mounties’ credibility, particularly in rural Canada and the West, have been over guns. And the warrantless seizure of hundreds of firearms from the homes of evacuees following the flooding in High River, two weeks ago — in which Mounties broke open doors and removed private property arbitrarily — will only widen the existing trust gap.

April 23, 2013

What we know (so far) about the would-be Via bombers

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Railways — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:18

Maclean’s has a summary pulling together files from Nicholas Köhler, Charlie Gillis, Michael Friscolanti and Martin Patriquin on what is known about the two men arrested yesterday in a plot to commit an act of terror on a Canadian passenger train:

One of the men, Raed Jaser, is believed to have grown up in a Palestinian family with Jordanian roots. Court records seem to indicate he went on to a troubled history in Toronto, where authorities arrested him after a months’-long investigation they say ultimately leads back to al-Qaeda elements in Iran.

Although he is not a Canadian citizen, Jaser, 35, appears to have been in Ontario for at least two decades.

In October 1995, a man with the same name and year of birth was criminally charged in Newmarket, Ont., with fraud under $5,000 (the charge was withdrawn a year later). In December 2000, a week after his 24th birthday, Jaser was arrested and charged again, this time with uttering threats. Although court records show he was convicted of that charge, it’s not clear what sentence he received.

[. . .]

Details about the other man police say was involved in the plot, [Chiheb] Esseghaier, a resident of Montreal, are also coming into focus. A highly trained engineer, he had the resumé of an academic poised to go places.

As recently as last month he was publishing research papers.

The March 2013 edition of journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics published a paper on advanced HIV detection by Esseghaier, Mohammed Zourob and a fellow PhD student named Andy Ng.

According to his CV, Esseghaier was born in Tunisia. He received an engineering degree from Institut Tunisia’s National des Sciences Appliquées et de Technologie in 2007, with his masters degree following in 2008. He then moved to Université de Sherbrooke to research “SPR biosensor and gallium arsenide semi-conductor biofunctionnalization.” In November 2010, he joined Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS), a graduate institution associated with the Université du Québec.

October 24, 2012

How to betray your country in one easy walk into a foreign embassy

Filed under: Cancon, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 14:58

The story of how a Canadian officer decided to turn traitor and pass secret intelligence to Russia:

When news first broke that the RCMP had arrested a low-ranked Canadian naval officer for providing intelligence to a foreign power, the press was quick to focus on the fact that the officer, Jeffrey Paul Delisle, had previously gone bankrupt. That was exactly the sort of thing a foreign country would look to exploit in a potential recruit. But we know now that Delisle didn’t need to be recruited. Heartbroken and contemplating suicide, he walked into the Russian Embassy in Ottawa and volunteered his services.

[. . .]

Over and over, the RCMP agent returns to one question: Why? He offers friendly comments, assuring Delisle that he knows how much pain, so much pain, he would have been feeling after his divorce. Delisle breaks down. He shares the story of how he found his wife, whom he’d loved since high school, cheating on him. She only married him, Delisle claims she told him, for security. She left him and hooked up with a new man, and was pregnant with the new partner’s child shortly thereafter. Delisle bitterly recalls hosting his ex-wife and her boyfriend at a Christmas Eve party, because his daughter wanted him to. And he wanted to make her happy.

Delisle’s love for his children shines though his statements. He clearly adores them. He says they were the only thing that prevented him from indulging his wish to commit suicide, to steer his car into oncoming traffic. He decided that he’d live for them. Indeed, he was caring for them, his ex-wife apparently being out of the picture — another source of bitterness. Having decided that he was dead inside, but obligated to live, Delisle says he decided to commit “professional suicide.” So he walked into the Russian Embassy and offered to become a spy.

July 10, 2012

Does “Rule 34” have an exception after all?

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:58

Kathy Shaidle may have found the only known exception to Rule 34:

Since women (and not a few men) obviously love a man in uniform, where is all the porn featuring the Royal Canadian Mounted Police?

Dirty cops are an X-rated staple, and “the UPS guy” has almost driven the once-ubiquitous “mailman” out of the porn business.

Even Nazis get to go where Mounties fear to tread. Those sleek black (Hugo Boss-designed) SS getups can get under even the most surprising skins: During the Eichmann trial in Israel, “Stalag” porn became Über-popular sexual samizdat.

So this slightly put-out Canuck wonders: What’s wrong with the RCMP, eh? Their uniforms are pretty sharp, too. And Due South fandom was rabid.

Yet there’s a distinct Mountie-porn void, one that violates a law of the Internet — “Rule 34” to be exact, which declares, “If it exists, there is porn of it.”

May 24, 2012

Giving up Canadian sovereignty: RCMP “to ease Canadians into the idea”

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Under proposed new rules, US law enforcement could pursue suspects across the Canadian border and exercise police powers on Canadian soil:

According to an article in Embassy Magazine, the Harper government is moving forward on several initiatives that could give U.S. FBI and DEA agents the ability to pursue suspects across the land border and into Canada.

But, according to a RCMP officer, they’re doing it in “baby steps.”

“We recognized early that this approach would raise concerns about sovereignty, of privacy, and civil liberties of Canadians,” RCMP Chief Superintendent Joe Oliver, the Mounties’ director general for border integrity, told the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence on May 14.

“We said ‘Let’s take baby steps, let’s start with two agencies to test the concept, let’s demonstrate to Canadians and Americans that such an approach might work.”

Apparently the problem of suspected criminals fleeing into Canada has become so frequent that Stephen Harper has been persuaded to allow US officials to ignore the international boundary while in pursuit. Or perhaps it’ll only be used in “hot pursuit”. Or — rather more likely — any time a US official decides to exercise the rule. Oh, and the article also mentions that aerial surveillance of Canadian territory is also on the table. One has to assume that drone strikes will soon follow.

May 18, 2012

Reputations take years to create, but can be destroyed overnight as Toronto Police have discovered

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:09

Chris Selley on how the Toronto G20 protest and the still amazingly bad police response has contributed to the decline in public support for all police organizations:

On July 6, 2010, 10 days after the disastrous G20 summit, Toronto’s City Council voted to “commend the outstanding work of [police] chief Bill Blair, the Toronto Police Service and the police officers working during the G20 Summit in Toronto,” and thank them for a “job well done.” The vote was 36-0. The yeas included then-Mayor David Miller and many other left-wing luminaries. At this point in the G20 post-mortem, this seems a bit hard to believe.

We know much more now about how poorly the security operation was planned and executed: This week’s report from Gerry McNeilly, director of Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review, lays it out in painstaking detail. But what we knew 10 days later was bad enough: Thugs had wreaked havoc at will; 400 borderline-hypothermic people were held for hours in the pouring rain for no good reason; police cars were burned; journalists were roughed up and arrested; untold numbers of people were randomly and improperly searched and arrested.

Yet no one on a decidedly left-leaning Council saw fit to vote against the absurd “job well done” commendation (though then-councillor Rob Ford, now Mayor, did complain that the police had been too nice). One has to wonder how much longer politicians’ traditional lockstep support for police is going to last last.

[. . .]

People still call the police in hope of honest and brave assistance, and they almost always get it. But in late March, Angus-Reid asked Canadians how much “confidence [they] have in the internal operations and leadership” of their police forces. A minority of 38% had “complete” or “a lot of” confidence in the RCMP. The number for municipal police forces, taken together, was 39%. That’s about half of what it was in the mid-1990s. The respective numbers in B.C. are below 30%.

If that’s not a credibility crisis, I don’t know what is. Politicians are generally not in the habit of blindly supporting entities with those kinds of approval ratings, and police ought to be worried about that for all kinds of reasons. One of the obvious keys to fixing the problem is, simply, accountability. And it is nowhere to be found — not from the officers who witnessed fellow officers’ misdeeds, not from the commanders, not from Chief Blair, and not from the federal politicians who foisted this debacle on an unprepared and unsuitable city.

At the bottom of this post you can find a litany of complaints about the police handling of the Toronto G20 protests.

May 16, 2012

Toronto Police “violated civil rights, detained people illegally and used excessive force”

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 15:45

Toronto was not a good place to be on a certain weekend in 2010, as the police made many mistakes in trying to control crowds around the G20 gathering. After being too easygoing on Saturday, they flipped completely on Sunday and were on a rampage against protestors, bystanders, and anyone who didn’t obey mindlessly and without hesitation. It’s taken nearly two full years, but we finally have formal acknowledgement from the police watchdog that things were out of control. Colin Perkel writes in the Globe and Mail:

Police violated civil rights, detained people illegally and used excessive force during the G20 summit two years ago, a new report concludes.

The report by Ontario’s independent police watchdog also blasts the temporary detention centre that Toronto police set up for its poor planning, design and operation that saw people detained illegally.

The Office of the Independent Police Review Director found police breached several constitutional rights during the tumultuous event, in which more than 1,100 people were arrested, most to be released without charge.

“Some police officers ignored basic rights citizens have under the Charter and overstepped their authority when they stopped and searched people arbitrarily and without legal justification,” the report states.

[. . .]

“Numerous police officers used excessive force when arresting individuals and seemed to send a message that violence would be met with violence,” the report states.

“The reaction created a cycle of escalating responses from both sides.”

The report takes aim at police tactics at the provincial legislature, which had been set up in advance as a protest zone. It says the force used for crowd control and in making arrests was “in some cases excessive.”

“It is fair to say the level of force used in controlling the crowds and making arrests at Queen’s Park was higher than anything the general public had witnessed before in Toronto.”

I had lots of criticisms of the whole G20-in-Toronto farce, starting even before the event itself. We had the on-again, off-again stupidity of “secret laws“. Then, after the protests actually got underway, the police were refusing to release information about arrests to the media. Followed shortly by the smell of burning police cars. At that point, the police appeared to take a more serious (but still measured) approach, then they stopped pretending to be obeying the law they were supposed to uphold. Even well away from the scene of the protests, police officers were demanding the submission to authority from anyone who happened to be in their way.

And then we started to get a better view of what had actually happened. Having failed in their primary quest to keep the peace, some (many) then took out their frustrations on the citizenry. The courts also failed to exercise their traditional role and threw in with the rogue police actions. And of course we can’t forget “Officer Bubbles“.

January 14, 2012

Making the War on Drugs even more dangerous

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:25

Colby Cosh points out that the recent spate of deaths from ecstasy overdoses in western Canada is at least as much a result of the way the so-called War on Drugs is being prosecuted:

In recent weeks, it seems, adulterated ecstasy (MDMA) has left Alberta and B.C. with a sizable heap of young corpses. A tragedy has thus come home to roost in the West: namely, the tragedy of policy that incentivizes adulteration of drugs that, if manufactured in the open and checked for purity, would kill hardly anybody. Pure MDMA has a larger “therapeutic index” — a wider safety margin for overdose — than alcohol. It would probably make a pretty reasonable substitute for alcohol in many settings if we were to sit down and rebuild a drug culture from scratch. But over the past ten years or so, both Liberal and Conservative governments have worked to increase penalties for and monitoring of the flow of “precursor chemicals” used in the manufacture of MDMA.

It has been their goal to make pure MDMA more difficult to manufacture; when precursors are seized it is hailed as a triumph. But illicit drug factories never do put out the follow-up press release announcing that they’re putting less MDMA in their “ecstasy” and replacing it with other party drugs that have much smaller safety margins, or with drugs that interact dangerously with MDMA. And when rave kids die as a result, the RCMP chooses not to pose imperiously alongside the body bags giving a big thumbs-up. They are eager to take credit only for the immediately visible results of their work.

[. . .]

The debate over “harm reduction” in Canada has, for the past year or so, revolved around the Insite clinic in East Vancouver. That debate has been fraught with as much confusion and misinformation as drug moralizers could possibly create, but the core message, I think, has gotten through to Canadians, and certainly to the gatekeepers of their media. The message is this: we have only meagre power to stop people from abusing heroin if they are determined to do that. We do have, however, significant ability to protect people from the problems of a poorly-titrated or actively adulterated supply of heroin. The morbidity and mortality burden from the actual addiction itself, compared to the burden resulting from the drug’s illegality, is both modest and intractable. Insite is basically designed to yield the benefits that allowing heroin to be issued by prescription would bring.

Canada is apparently too under-equipped with libertarians to see that the logic extends to ecstasy, which about a million adult Canadians have used at least once. Yet rave-scene users have already been implementing “harm reduction” philosophy on the dance floor for decades. They react as best they can to adulteration risks by sharing information about dealer reliability, and they mitigate the most important medical peril of MDMA — the possibility of hyperthermia, i.e., internal overheating — by making sure ravers have access to cool rooms and plenty of fluids.

No government of any ideological stripe has ever successfully kept intoxicants away from eager customers: not the US government in Prohibition, not the Soviet government (on-the-job drunkenness was endemic), not even modern day prison authorities (drugs are plentiful behind bars). The “War on Drugs” has — predictably — failed. The question should be how to minimize the harm to drug users and society at large, because drug prohibition is a massive failure.

December 10, 2011

“It was not, all in all, Canada’s finest hour. Perhaps that’s why we still don’t talk about it much.”

Filed under: Books, Cancon, History, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:48

Robert Fulford on the event in Ottawa that started the Cold War:

For just one moment in history, Canada found itself at the dangerous centre of global politics. That was in 1945, when Igor Gouzenko left the Russian embassy in Ottawa with documents proving the Soviet Union was spying on Canada with the help of Canadian communists.

Gouzenko’s revelations were the opening shot in the Cold War. A new book, Stalin’s Man in Canada: Fred Rose and Soviet Espionage by David Levy, takes a rambling, anecdotal approach to a major figure in the story, the only Canadian member of Parliament ever convicted of conducting espionage for a foreign state.

Official Ottawa reacted badly to the news that there were spies in its midst. The government arrested the suspects and locked them up for weeks, without access to lawyers or families. They were paraded before a secret royal commission and persuaded to incriminate themselves. Gouzenko was given a new identity to protect him from Soviet assassins but the Mounties leaked nasty stories about him. For decades journalists treated him as a money-grubbing clown rather than the hero that he was.

Today the case remains largely unexplored and poorly remembered. Among those involved, only Gouzenko described his experience in a book, This Was My Choice, a rather thin and hasty account. Twentieth Century Fox produced a forgettable adaptation, The Iron Curtain, with Dana Andrews as Gouzenko.

July 21, 2011

Quebec-based botnet taken down

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:19

John Leyden reports on the Laval, Quebec man who has been arrested:

Joseph Mercier, 24, of Laval, Quebec, allegedly hacked school board systems in Canada as well as computer networks in the US, France, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. Mercier — who was in charge of his employer’s information security — reportedly ran his alleged botnet scam at home and at work, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports.

Mercier was released on bail following a brief court appearance on Tuesday. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are still investigating the scope of his alleged misdeeds. It’s unclear whether any banking fraud resulted from the scam, the precise motive for which remains unclear.

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