The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Canada needs more independent media. And independent media needs you.

Did you know that most news organizations in Canada are owned by just a handful of companies? And that these companies have been shutting down newsrooms and laying off reporters continually over the past few decades?

Fact-based, credible journalism is essential to our democracy. Unlike many other newsrooms across the country, The Tyee’s independent newsroom is stable and growing.

How are we able to do this? The Tyee Builder program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip into our editorial budget so that we can keep doing what we do best: fact-based, in-depth reporting on issues that matter to our readers. No paywall. No junk. Just good journalism.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to be Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.

Canada's Spy Watchdogs Are Lobbyists, and That's a Problem

When government listens to industry (Big Telecom, anyone?), and not citizens, we all suffer.

By Steve Anderson 16 Jan 2014 |

Steve Anderson is the executive director of

image atom
Chuck Strahl: lobbyist by day, spy watchdog by night? Photo: Twitter.

Many are expressing outrage now that the public has become aware that Chuck Strahl is acting as a lobbyist for Enbridge, the company hoping to build an oil pipeline across British Columbia. The problem is that Strahl is also chairman of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), which is basically the only watchdog over the domestic spies at CSIS.

Regardless of your position on oil pipelines, surely all of us can agree that publicly funded government watchdogs should not be employed by those connected to the agencies they are overseeing. In this case there's a clear conflict of interest since CSIS has been asked to aid the oil industry in monitoring environmentalists.

As Postmedia's Stephen Maher notes, "Last year, the National Energy Board called in CSIS and the RCMP to investigate possible security threats from opponents of the Enbridge pipeline on dubious grounds. It's hard to ask those pipeline opponents, who may have been sinned against by their government, to trust Strahl's organization to look into whether their rights have been violated."

It gets worse

To make matters worse, the CBC has now reported that most of the SIRC watchdog committee members have ties to the oil industry and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Notable civil liberties lawyer Clayton Ruby has suggested a modest reform where watchdogs do not take positions outside their role and have full employment in their positions. "At the very least, all of them should be banned from lobbying," Ruby says.

This all comes against the backdrop of shocking revelations from Edward Snowden about mass surveillance of innocent citizens, and Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley's deeply worrying statement that CSIS deliberately misled him when applying for a warrant to spy on Canadians. It's clearly time for a review of all spying activities and oversight mechanisms for CSIS, RCMP, and ultra-secretive spy agency CSEC. That's why has joined with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association to launch a lawsuit against CSEC's spying on law-abiding Canadians.

As Canada's largest and broadest pro-privacy coalition and tens of thousands of Canadians have stated: "More than ever, Canadians need strong, genuinely transparent, and properly enforced safeguards to secure privacy rights. We call on Government to put in place effective legal measures to protect the privacy of every resident of Canada against intrusion by government entities."

In the end the secretive, expensive, and out-of-control Canadian spying apparatus must be fully reined in.

Feels familiar, doesn't it?

For those of us who have been active in the Internet freedom movement, this situation feels very familiar to our telecom woes. The reason we are now having to dig a way out of a system of Big Telecom price-gouging is because the government and regulators were listening to industry lobbyists rather than Canadians. That appears to also be the case with government surveillance now.

We saw this clearly with the government's online spying bill C-30, but I think many were hopeful they had seen the light when it made a public commitment to never again try to impose warrantless spying on Canadians. The government has now flip-flopped, and Justice Minister Peter MacKay is now trying to use our concern for children to push many of these NSA-style spying provisions through. It's wrong and sad to see this. Clearly the government is listening to lobbyists (this time those in the security/resource extraction sector) and not citizens.

Whether it's telecom price-gouging, copyright censorship, online spying, or a range of other issues; these controversies reveal a systematic democratic deficit in Canada and beyond.

In this era of participation, after years of open collaboration and free expression online, citizens believe they have a right to participate in decisions that affect their daily lives -- we have a right to meaningful, open-ended participation in our economy and our democracy. What we're seeing today is that ethos and deepening culture bump against old, top-down business and government bureaucracies intent on maintaining their control.

Credit where credit is due

We've seen in Canada that our government under the leadership of Industry Minister James Moore, and the CRTC led by chairman Jean-Pierre Blais, are beginning to adapt to this new reality of public participation. Moore resisted Big Telecom's misleading PR and legal offensive last year, and has begun to usher in new rules and government enforcement to support our access to independent Canadian telecom choice. The CRTC's Blais has done the same with the wireless code of conduct, roaming, and has even tried to open up a consultation process about the future of TV.

None of this is enough for Canadian families feeling the pinch of price-gouging in these difficult economic times, but we're moving in the right direction in terms of public policy, if not yet effect. If the government builds on these efforts and doesn't submit to lazy, short-term fixes, we'll get somewhere in the next year.

If one part of the government can begin to learn to open up to the will of citizens and our active participation in decision-making, there is hope that other parts of the government can learn this lesson as well.

We're working to build as large a community as possible around these issues, and we'll be sure to connect with these voters around election time to let them know where each of the parties stand. Together we represent a growing political force. Learn more at  [Tyee]

Read more: Federal Politics

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free.


The Barometer

Do You Think the Injunction at Fairy Creek Will Be Reinstated?

Take this week's poll