A PASSIVE listener of CBC radio as I am (it is on when my partner is home, and off when she isn’t), I first heard of the Government’s surveillance of native youth advocate Cindy Blackstock via the program The Current.
On the topic of currents, it happens that I’m currently writing a book in which the name Blackstock runs among many others. As a result of my research, I think I can answer the program’s rhetorical (and unanswered) question: Why is the government spying on Cindy Blackstock? The answer is in part disclosed by the description of her as an advocate for First Nations children and youth. Well, that seems only slightly dangerous, and hardly subversive, does it not? And yet, the feds have sent their people to her meetings for the purpose of taking notes, and according to media reports (which benefit from information obtained by an access to information request submitted by Blackstock herself) her virtual movements are monitored on Facebook, as are her movements in real space and time.
This invites, and perhaps begs, the making of possible distinctions. Is the term for this business spying, or is it monitoring; and is there any difference between the two? The evident discomfort of the Government, whose immediate representative John Duncan has pledged to investigate — whatever that means — suggests a guilty conscience, and therefore guilty work. It is known that many Aboriginal people are being watched under Mr. Harper’s orders, a fact discussed only days ago by your humble servant.
Well then, why would the Government be spying on (or, if you prefer, taking an interest in) the Executive Director of an obscure outfit called the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society? The CBC suggests it has to do with a 2007 human rights complaint filed by Blackstock against the federal government which argued (unsuccessfully) that the federal government was guilty of under-funding child welfare services delivered on reserves. At the core of the challenge was a comparison of lower federal funding levels to higher provincial ones, which led the court to conclude that the apples of Indian Affairs — pun unintended, for those who detect it — were being compared to the oranges of provincial services. In other words, jurisdiction was invoked to dismiss the assertion that Aboriginal children were being short-changed.
The timing of the surveillance does support the idea that it was a result of this legal initiative. There is however a bigger threat on the horizon, and Cindy Blackstock is one of its most vocal and partisan and aggressive proponents. Yesterday, Bill Curry of the Globe and Mail reported that the “Cost to redress native residential school abuse [is] set to pass $5-billion.” A record-setting settlement, that. But what the CBC does not now, and what Canadians do not know, but the federal Government very much knows, is that there is an even larger mess on the way which goes by the term “The Sixties Scoop.” This refers to the many decades during which the Child Welfare System of Canada placed Aboriginal children into non-Aboriginal homes. Now well into adulthood, these adoptees are quietly preparing the ground for a class action lawsuit which may exceed in scope and cost the multi-billion-dollar Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. That’s sufficient reason for the feds to take notice of an advocate, in my estimation.
I claim that the Government has been preparing for this for years because I’ve done some watching of my own. If you’d like to know in which direction the wind is blowing, I recommend you follow the movement of the vast reserve of federal lawyers, who some years before the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was deployed in something called the Indian Residential Schools Unit under a very decent fellow I happen to know named Shawn Tupper. Once the IRSSA was put in place, the Government lawyers were moved from Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada (the successor of the Indian Residential Schools Unit) to the Aboriginal Children’s Issues Legal Services Unit within Justice Canada’s Aboriginal Affairs Resolution Branch. Presumably they are busy at the next big issue: adoption.
Think of this less as a conspiracy theory and more of a following of the money. And, as always, remember that you heard it here first.