Saturday, November 28, 2009

American journalist held at Canadian border over fear of negative Vancouver Olympics comments

The Vancouver Olympics haven't even happened yet and I'm already sick of them. Seriously, I wish this entire country would just shut up about them. I'll watch, yes, and I'll cheer on the Canadians, but the nationalism and self-glorification annoy me.

And this -- this is embarrassing, appalling, and telling of what this country has become:

U.S. journalist Amy Goodman said she was stopped at a Canadian border crossing south of Vancouver on Wednesday and questioned for 90 minutes by authorities concerned she was coming to Canada to speak against the Olympics.

Goodman says Canadian Border Services Agency officials ultimately allowed her to enter Canada but returned her passport with a document demanding she leave the country within 48 hours.

Goodman, 52, known for her views opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, told CBC News on Thursday that Canadian border agents asked her repeatedly what subjects she would cover at scheduled speaking engagements in Vancouver and Victoria.

Goodman said she told them she planned to speak about the debate over U.S. health care reform and the wars in Asia.

After much questioning, Goodman said the officials finally asked if she would be speaking about the 2010 Olympics.

"He made it clear by saying, 'What about the Olympics?'" said Goodman. "And I said, 'You mean when President Obama went to Copenhagen to push for the Olympics in Chicago?'"

"He said, 'No. I am talking about the Olympics here in 2010.' I said, 'Oh I hadn't thought of that,'" said Goodman.

"He said, 'You're saying you're not talking about the Olympics?'"

"He was clearly incredulous that I wasn't going to be talking about the Olympics. He didn't believe me," Goodman said.


Goodman said her car was searched and the officials demanded to look at her notes and her computer.

What the hell's wrong with us -- with Canada? Are we really so scared that someone might say something bad about us and our oh-so-freakin'-important Olympics that we'll go to these oppressive lengths? Honestly, I really don't give a shit about the Olympics in terms of what they mean for this country. (I want our athletes to do well, but, beyond that, whatever.) Indeed, I hope that reporters -- both Canadian and international -- do apply a critical eye to the Vancouver Olympics. (The authorities are clearly worried about something getting out, aren't they?)

Sure, I realize that probably most, if not all, Olympic host countries do this sort of thing. The crackdown in Beijing, for example, must have been far worse, if fully expected from the brutal totalitarians who run China. But this doesn't excuse Canada one bit, and if this is what we're doing to foreign reporters, including to good ones like Goodman, we should be ashamed of ourselves. The Olympics are no excuse for jingoism, bullying, and crackdowns on the freedom of the press -- or on freedom at all, for that matter -- even if they so often are. And we -- we Canadians -- should get over ourselves. If this is how insecure we are, and if this is how pathetically we respond when the international spotlight is upon us, then we deserve, at the very least, to be ridiculed, and to be exposed.

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  • This has nothing to do with the Olympics and everything to do with 'harmonizing' border control policies with the United States.

    CBSA has a reputation for harassing journalists and public intellectuals who are critical of the official American political narrative. There is almost certainly a DHS-originated 'harmonized' watchlist directing the CBSA who to harass.

    The CBSA rank and file were likely told to harass Goodman regarding 2010, but it's near certain that the decision to harass Goodman at all originated in Washington, not Ottawa. CBSA was merely responsible for finding a pretext to justify following their orders.

    These incidents are part of the very real price that Canada pays for 'harmonizing' its security policies with the United States.

    Security cooperation with the United States needs to be curtailed to cooperating only on real security threats and not conducting politically motivated harassment on behalf of the DHS.

    The CBSA itself should be legislatively constrained to revenue collection and protecting Canada from criminal activity only. Official screening or harassment of visitors on the basis of their intention to exercise the Charter right to freedom of speech--including exercising that right the ends of to criticizing 2010 or irritating Washington--has no place in a free and democratic country.

    For obvious reasons, this post is anonymous. 'Harmonized' watch lists have a lot of reach.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:01 PM  

  • You may be right, and there is no doubt a good deal of "harmonization" going on, what with Ottawa trying to suck up to Washington, but I suspect there's more to it than that as well, and the very fact that they used the Olympics as an excuse shows how insecure we are as a country.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 7:05 PM  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:53 AM  

  • This is shameful how the Canadian Border Services has conducted itself. Let us see if anyone from the Federal Government will explain this treatment of the press.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:16 AM  

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