In George Orwell's "1984", the main character, Winston Smith, works in the Ministry of Truth, where he “alters historical records to fit the needs of the ruling Party”. The Party is headed by an invisible personage known only as Big Brother.
In Orwell’s novel, the Party promotes an invented language called Newspeak, designed to prevent political rebellion by eliminating all words related to it. Even thinking rebellious thoughts is declared illegal.
In Canada today, we are seeing a revival variant of Newspeak, as well as a government headed by a shadowy figure.
Of course there are differences. Our "shadowy figure" has a name, and is visible as a physical person. He is the opaque and inscrutable Stephen Harper, who publicly reveals little about his inner workings and motivations, preferring to shape his appearance and his pronouncements around a carefully groomed "persona".
“Six years of deprivation of freedom,” Adil Charkaoui said as he snipped his electronic house arrest bracelet upon his release from a Security Certificate three years ago. "Two years in jail, four years with this bracelet and draconian conditions.”
Today, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms turns a venerable 30 years old – its “Pearl Anniversary,” if you will, making it nearly as old as Charkaoui himself. The occasion should not simply be celebrated as an important step towards democracy in this country – but as a reminder of the risks of unbridled government power, even (and especially) here in the “True North Strong and Free.”
NDP's newly elected leader, Thomas Mulcair. Photo by David P. Ball
As Thomas Mulcair, leader-elect from the New Democratic Party's nail-biting convention this weekend, faced off against the Tories today, he won the praise of fellow party members for targeting the Conservatives' approach to jobs and the economy in his first question to the government.
Mulcair - known for his combative approach to politics - alleviated some members' concerns about his plans for the NDP by renewing Vancouver MP Libby Davies' position as Deputy Leader. Davies was a prominent and outspoken Brian Topp backer in the race, and comes from the party's activist wing often at odds with Mulcair in the past.
But in the wake of his widely anticipated win, some NDP supporters and social movement activists across the country expressed concerns about the direction of the party under the new leader.
Heavily armed riot police were deployed during Vancouver Olympic protests (shown here) and similarly during a crackdown on anti-G20 demonstrations later that year in Toronto - warnings of the future? Photo by David P. Ball
“Let's not talk about statistics. Let's talk about danger.”
Scary words from someone in charge of Canada's public safety.
Calling them everything from foreigners to economic saboteurs, hypocritical celebrities and radicals, Oliver's remarks seemed more akin to 1950s Cold War-era red-baiting, in which progressives, sympathizers and - yes - even celebrities were blacklisted (here in Canada too), hauled before panels of politicians eager to investigate their patriotism.
Much can be said - and no doubt will - about the kind of political climate that rhetoric about 'outsider,' 'foreigner,' and 'radicals' rhetoric creates. Indeed, it serves to marginalize dissidents, and alienate them from the public. But it also has the tendency to backfire - especially when public opposition to Enbridge and the tar sands project is so high.
I am sad to report that, after following and finally covering the proceedings this last few months for the Vancouver Observer, I have next to no faith the inquiry will deliver change, truth or justice.
Some of my favourite photos from Occupy Vancouver by David P. Ball.
As the year comes to an end, I am honoured to have been able to report on the Occupy movement for the Vancouver Observer, and grateful for readers who have shared, discussed and responded to those stories.
I reported on Occupy Vancouver for VO from its first few days in October – after roughly 6,000 people demonstrated against economic inequality and corporate power, inspired by the U.S. movement which heeded Adbusters' call. (Ironically, the magazine is actually based here in Vancouver, but the movement took a month to reach us).