“Big Brother Is Watching You” is the ubiquitous slogan of the all-knowing, all-powerful Party in George Orwell’s dystopic classic 1984.
A metaphor for the surveillance state, Big Brother watches protagonist Winston Smith’s every move via omnipotent telescreens, not unlike those in the popular reality series of the same name that debuted in 2000.
But unlike in Big Brother, a clandestine law enforcement known as the Thought Police operates in Orwell’s 1984, tracking the thoughts and words of Londoners to ensure they conform to and promote Party principles.
Orwell’s Big Brother and his Thought Police have been on the minds of Canadians lately, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s C-51 bill–nicknamed the “secret policeman” bill–passed second reading in the House of Commons in February, the Toronto Sunreports.
The legislation seeks to equip CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) agents with the same powers of the police, the Globe and Mailreports. It also empowers CSEC (Communications Security Establishment Canada) to surveil Canadians’ phone conversations and online activity.
CSEC is to Canada what the Thought Police is to Big Brother.
According to stopc51.ca, under “secretive ministerial directives” CSEC can “collect and analyze the online and phone activity of Canadians who communicate with somebody outside the country.”
Under the ‘Big Brother bill’, personal and intimate information will be gleaned from emails and phone calls by a team of 2000 CSEC employees. This information can then be shared with a network of 1000 “clients,” including CSIS and the Department of National Defense.
The purported aim of the Big Brother bill is to ensure Canadians “live free from threats to their lives and their security” while being protected from “activities that undermine the security of Canada.”
It was in a bid to caution Canadians against the “great evil” that has been “descending over our world” (Islamic extremism), that Harper arbitrarily tied two unrelated shootings of Canadian security personnel to ISIS, the Globe notes, before tabling the supposedly anti-terrorism legislation.
But instead of fulfilling its intention, the legislation has many Canadians fearing the bill will violate their privacy and freedom–the very virtues it seeks to protect.
The Big Brother bill clearly outlines a number of activities–i.e., espionage, terrorism–that are reasonable threats to the safety of Canadians.
But what has many concerned is those activities which are not clearly outlined.
For instance, performing an act that interferes with “the economic or financial stability of Canada,” could constitute an attempt to “undermine the security of Canada,” which could mean jail.
Saturday, March 14 saw more than 50 protests across Canada denouncing the ‘Big Brother bill,’ sending a clear message to Stephen Harper that, as NDP MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan said, “the protection of Canadians’ freedoms must not be done via the removal of them.”
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