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Illegal Spying In Canada – The CSEC Lawsuit | Press For Truth

Illegal Spying In Canada – The CSEC Lawsuit | Press For Truth.

In this exclusive Press For Truth video report Dan Dicks interviews Caily DiPuma of the BC Civil Liberties Association about their lawsuit against the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) which calls on the government to state clearly who they are watching, what is being collected, and how they are handling Canadians’ private communications and information.

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Canadian banks to be compelled to share clients’ info with U.S. – Politics – CBC News

Canadian banks to be compelled to share clients’ info with U.S. – Politics – CBC News.

Starting next summer, Canadian banks will have to provide more identifying information about clients to the Canada Revenue Agency, as part of a Canada-U.S. agreement to help the Internal Revenue Service trace taxable income by American citizens abroad.Starting next summer, Canadian banks will have to provide more identifying information about clients to the Canada Revenue Agency, as part of a Canada-U.S. agreement to help the Internal Revenue Service trace taxable income by American citizens abroad. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

Photo of James Fitz-Morris

James Fitz-Morris
Parliament Hill

James Fitz-Morris has been reporting from Parliament Hill for more than a decade and joined the CBC’s parliamentary bureau in 2006, covering finance and foreign affairs among his beats. Fluent in English and French, he has also worked in Beirut and is still grappling with Arabic.

Starting next July, Canadian banks will be required to ask anyone opening a new account if they are now, or ever have been, an American “person.”

It comes at the behest of the U.S. government and its efforts to “smoke out” tax dodgers.

The Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, was passed by the U.S. Congress in 2010 and comes into force July 1, 2014.

The law forces all banks and other financial institutions outside the U.S. to search for customers who have certain “indicia.” Those are markers that show the person may be a U.S. citizen or a former permanent resident who, under U.S. law, must file income tax returns to Uncle Sam no matter where they reside in the world.

The only other country with similar tax rules for expats is Eritrea.

When announcing the law, U.S. President Barack Obama said, “if financial institutions won’t cooperate with us, we will assume they are sheltering money in tax-havens and act accordingly.”

The threat is a withholding tax of 30 per cent levied on every transaction a non-compliant bank has coming from, or even passing through, the U.S.

“Bottom line is: there is absolutely no way that a large, modern financial institution like a Canadian bank or a large credit union could escape FATCA,” says Marion Wrobel, vice-president of policy and operations at the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA).

Wrobel says his organization has been fighting FATCA since it was announced, calling it the “extra-territorial” application of American law.

“The only reason the Americans can do it is because it is a large economy, financial markets are integrated globally,” Wrobel adds, “and it is virtually impossible for a large institution like a Canadian bank, an insurance company, a securities dealer, a large credit union to avoid being caught up in a FATCA net.”

Starting July 1, 2014, banks will be required to scour the records of all of their customers with more than $50,000 in an account.

They will be looking indicators such as: place of birth, alternate addresses and phone numbers, and past residency in the United Sates. Every file with at least one indicia marker will be flagged as a “U.S. Reportable Account.”

At the same time, anyone wanting to open a new account will be asked directly if they are a “U.S. person” as defined by the IRS. Anyone who answers affirmatively will be flagged.

Wrobel says refusing to answer the question could also land any Canadian in trouble.

“If you refuse to answer it you could be considered recalcitrant and your information could be reported.”

So far the banks’ protests have changed little. The best they have been able to do is take some of the heat off themselves directly. Canada is close to negotiating an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with the U.S. to implement FATCA.

Once in place, the bank would no longer be required to send private customer information directly to a foreign government agency. Instead, Canadian banks will flag their customers to the Canada Revenue Agency, and — under the terms of the agreement — the CRA will be the one that automatically transmits all the information to the IRS.

‘Infringement of liberty and privacy’

To enact the IGA, the Canadian government would almost certainly need to introduce a new law or amend existing ones to allow financial institutions to breach the privacy of Canadian citizens and residents.

It’s not clear how that can be done without running afoul of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Constitutional lawyer and expert Peter Hogg wrote to the Finance Department to express his concerns about the proposed deal.

In a copy of the letter released under Access to Information, he says: “To impose on financial institutions the duty to report to CRA (en route to the IRS) the names, addresses, place of birth and date of birth and details of the bank accounts of account-holders identified only by their place of birth in or citizenship of the United States, and all under the implicit threat of taxes, penalties or prosecutions by the IRS, seems to me to be a clear case of discrimination in contravention of [Section] 15 [of the Charter].”

He goes on to say: “There is no mechanism in the Model IGA whereby individuals who are suspected to be U.S. citizens would even know that their personal information was provided, “ Hogg’s letter argues, “thus there may be no opportunity to provide additional information or take other steps in order to prevent the transmission of this information from Canada.”

At best, Hogg believes, it is an infringement “of liberty and privacy,” but possibly also violations of at least three sections of the Charter.

The plan has critics around the world.

“I don’t think it’s pejorative to use the term ‘fishing expedition,’ that term has been used by the U.S. government already and people talking about FATCA — that’s exactly what this is,” says Allison Christians, the Stikeman Chair of Tax Law at McGill University.

She points out Canada and the U.S. already have a tax treaty that’s been in place for almost 20 years, which allows the IRS to obtain information on specific individuals from the CRA automatically.

“But FATCA wants more,” Christians adds. “They want not just the ones we have already identified; they want to, in the words of a former treasury secretary, ‘smoke out’ the Americans who are hiding.”

And this is where many experts believe FATCA might not just be unconstitutional, but also misguided.

“It’s not risk-based, it’s not targeting known tax havens. It’s looking at places like Canada, you know — Americans do not come to Canada for the low taxes,” says Wrobel.

Perhaps to add insult to injury, the individual Canadian financial institutions being deputized by the IRS to sniff out wayward U.S. taxpayers need to cover the cost of the added scrutiny, monitoring, and reporting themselves.

The CBA estimates it will likely cost the big banks $100 million each to comply with FATCA.

 

 

The Environmental Movement Needs People Power | Hannah McKinnon

The Environmental Movement Needs People Power | Hannah McKinnon.

Over the weekend thousands of Canadians united in over 130 communities from coast to coast to coast to demand a safer climate and a cleaner energy future.

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Saturday’s national day of action to defend our climate and our communities from tar sands and pipelines was a powerful day for me. I work in Ottawa, and it can be tough to be at the heart of politics that are driving the problems rather than the solutions.

The truth is, I needed Saturday. I needed to be reassured that Canadians are ready to stand up for what they believe in, and that this movement is growing. We are up against some of the wealthiest companies in the world, companies that depend on pollution for profit. And in Canada, we are facing governments that are doing everything they can to ensure nothing gets in the way of the oil industry.

Over the years, the environmental movement has written hundreds and hundreds of reports and had thousands of meetings with decision makers, and while these things remain important, what we really need is people power. We need decision-makers to realize that Canadians want climate change to be taken seriously for a clean energy future.

After all, this is about a safe climate now for people around the world, and a safe climate tomorrow for our children. Every parent wants the best for their children, and that is not what we are offering to give them right now. If we allow business as usual, we will be handing over a planet rife with disasters far worse than the tragedy we are already seeing today in the Philippines, the U.S. Midwest, and even our own backyards.

Former Irish Prime Minister and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, said over the weekend amidst the ongoing United Nations climate talks in Poland that, “[W]e need a forward-looking leadership, and that won’t come from Canadian politicians unless it comes from the Canadian people.” And being here in Ottawa, I can assure you that she is absolutely right. We need to demand the future we want and we need to do it loudly, often and clearly. We need more days like Saturday.

Saturday gives me the confidence to walk into a meeting and assure people that building fossil fuel infrastructure like new pipelines will never be easy again. That Canadians care more than ever about the environment, our shared climate and a clean energy economy. And that this movement is growing.

We will keep coming together, in bigger and bigger numbers until these demonstrations become celebrations of the clean and safe energy future that we deserve.

Check out highlights from Defend our Climate, Defend our Communities hereTo find out the truth about the tar sands visit www.tarsandsrealitycheck.ca

 

Soaring farmland prices a crisis in the making: Don Pittis – Canada – CBC News

Soaring farmland prices a crisis in the making: Don Pittis – Canada – CBC News.

If you knew there was a very safe Canadian investment that skyrocketed by 20 per cent last year, you’d probably say that was a good thing.

But when the thing that’s going up in value is farmland, Christie Young says it’s a crisis in the making.

The latest survey by Farm Credit Canada shows the price of farmland in Quebec rose by a staggering 19.4 per cent last year. Nationally, Canadian farmland from coast to coast has risen by an average of 12 per cent a year since 2008. That’s more than five times the rate of inflation.

For people who already own farmland, soaring prices are a windfall.

But Young, executive director of FarmStart, a group trying to help young farmers get into the business of farming, says Canada is facing a sea change that bodes ill for agriculture.

“The average age of farmers is 60 years old across Canada,” says Young.

“According to StatsCan data, about 50 per cent of our land assets will be transferred in the next five years. And of the retiring farmers, 75 per cent of them don’t have successors. It’s a transition we’ve never seen before in agriculture. And it’s one we are wholly and completely unprepared for.”

FarmStart has two incubator farms in southern Ontario to bring new farmers into the business, but at current prices, Young says there is no way those starting out could earn enough from their farms to make a living and pay their mortgage.

Overpriced land

It is a problem that Rejean Girard, who farms southwest of Montreal, understands.

He bought his small plot of land near Saint-Cesaire 20 years ago. But Girard says the return he gets from the sheep he raises would never pay for that land today. By that measure, he says, the land is overpriced by about three-quarters.

StatsCan Crops 20111004Prices of farmland have risen across Canada by an average of 12 per cent a year since 2008. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The steadily rising price of land has caught the attention of savvy Canadian investors. Global investors have an interest, too, but in most provinces only Canadians are allowed to own farmland.

That has created an opportunity for Canadian farmland investment funds like Bonnefield, Agcapita and Assiniobia, which have been assembling blocks of farmland and selling shares to high net worth Canadians.

The president of Toronto-based Bonnefield, Tom Eisenhaur, says farmland has been one of the most lucrative and secure investments especially when markets are volatile, and “a better hedge against inflation than gold.”

Eisenhaur says he expects the price of land to continue to rise, if not at the same rate as over the past decade.

He quotes a United Nations survey that shows world food production will have to double over the next 20 years.

“While it’s trite to say, no matter how bad or how good things get in the markets, people still have to eat.”

Profits from rising prices

While Eisenhaur is profiting from rising prices, he scoffs at the idea that funds like his are responsible for the land boom.

He says that while farmers buy and sell some $15 billion worth of land each year in Canada, third-party investors like his company trade a mere $100 million worth.

So it seems clear that farmers’ pursuit of more acreage is helping to push up the price of the land.

That seems to be in direct conflict with what Girard, Young and many others say about the difficulty of paying for farmland with a farm income.

That is, until I speak with Gary Brien who farms near Chatham, Ont..

P.E.I. FARM FEATUREThe steadily rising price of farmland has caught the attention of savvy Canadian investors (Canadian Press)

“The way we’ve looked at it is more of a way of life. It just so happens the land has gone up as we accumulated it over our lifetime,” says Brien. “I really don’t think we own it. We’re just using it while we’re here. The value to us may not be in a dollar value.”

Brien says that the last few years, bumper crops have pushed up farm incomes to record levels, so farmers have had cash to spare. And when farmers have money on hand, their non-monetary way of thinking of land, combined with the tax rules, encourages them to put that spare cash into farmland, whatever the price.

“Farmers don’t like paying income tax,” says Brien. “And if they get a bunch of money and have a choice to pay income tax, or buy more land, they buy more land.”

Bigger and bigger

That tends to mean existing farms are getting bigger and bigger, able to take advantage of the efficiencies of expensive modern farm machinery and make the money to buy more land.

But that doesn’t help the farmers who are just starting out small, without inherited family land and little prospect of paying off a mortgage, even if they could get one.

“We have farmers in rural areas paying far over the productive value of the land that they are buying because they have the income or there are such scarce land resources that they’ll pay anything,” says Young.

“For a new entrant looking at that landscape, it is almost impossible to conceive of buying a farm.”

 

Info sharing between CSIS and CSEC concerns security watchdog – Politics – CBC News

Info sharing between CSIS and CSEC concerns security watchdog – Politics – CBC News. (source)

A federal review agency says sensitive information gathered by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service could be abused by Canada's allies due to lax sharing policies, in an annual report tabled in Parliament on Thursday.A federal review agency says sensitive information gathered by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service could be abused by Canada’s allies due to lax sharing policies, in an annual report tabled in Parliament on Thursday.

A federal review agency says sensitive information gathered by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service could be abused by Canada’s allies due to lax sharing policies.

In its annual report, the watchdog that keeps an eye on CSIS flags concerns about what happens to intelligence that CSIS passes to the national eavesdropping agency, which in turn shares the details with foreign allies.

The report underscores the fact CSIS is collaborating ever more closely with Communications Security Establishment Canada, which has come under scrutiny lately due to its participation in the international Five Eyes alliance.

CSEC, which monitors foreign telephone, satellite and Internet traffic, shares information with the U.S. National Security Agency and counterparts in Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

The American NSA has been the subject of almost daily headlines due to leaks from former contractor Edward Snowden that have revealed the agency’s vast surveillance of worldwide communications.

In its report, tabled in Parliament, the Security Intelligence Review Committee recommends CSIS develop clearer and more robust principles of co-operation with CSEC to ensure appropriate information sharing.

Food and Water First: The fight to protect prime farmland continues | Notes from the Panther Lounge | David Suzuki Foundation

Food and Water First: The fight to protect prime farmland continues | Notes from the Panther Lounge | David Suzuki Foundation. (source)

Photo: Food and Water First: The fight to protect prime farmland continues

A new grassroots movement is spreading across southern Ontario: Food and Water First (Credit:Jason van Bruggen)

By Ontario and Northern Canada Director-General Faisal Moola

Last fall the David Suzuki Foundation and our allies in the farming and local food movements defeated a mega-quarry proposed by the Highland Companies, that, if built, would have destroyed hundreds of acres of class 1 soil near Melancthon township, Ontario. Much of Canada’s most productive farmland has already been drained, dug up or paved over with urban sprawl and unsustainable aggregate pits, quarries and other development. The project would have been yet another outrage against this country’s rich agricultural heritage.

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The successful fight to stop the mega-quarry was inspired by tactics of the civil-rights movement and other grassroots campaigns — and people power eventually won the day. Local residents and allies held protests and rallies, wrote letters to politicians, gathered thousands of signatures, created land-inspired art, and participated in hundreds of other activities to raise awareness and put pressure on Highland Companies. The campaign benefited from support from some of Canada’s top musicians, artists, writers and actors, including Barenaked Ladies, Sarah Harmer and Rachel McAdams, and culminated in Soupstock, a giant community picnic/culinary protest that brought 40,000 people together in Toronto’s Woodbine Park.

Though the mega-quarry proposal was withdrawn, our precious farmland is still at risk of being destroyed. Currently, nothing prevents another similar project from going forward. So a new grassroots movement is spreading across southern Ontario: Food and Water First. Its goal is to ensure stronger government policies and laws to protect prime agricultural land and source drinking water areas from development.

The Food and Water First coalition, which includes the David Suzuki Foundation as well as farming organizations, local businesses and other NGOs, has already managed to get nearly a dozen communities — from small townships such as Melancthon to giant cities like Toronto — to pass council resolutions recognizing the importance of farmland and committing to protect it.

Recently, Food and Water First again joined with the Canadian actor Rachel McAdams, indie band Whitehorse and film maker Jason van Bruggen to produce an inspiring short video about the need to place our most precious assets — food and water — ahead of short-term economic gains brought about with their destruction.

Join the fight to save Ontario’s prime farmland by signing the Food and Water First pledge.

 

Canadians’ Non-Mortgage Debt Jumps 21%, Fewer Paying It Off: RBC

Canadians’ Non-Mortgage Debt Jumps 21%, Fewer Paying It Off: RBC. (source)

cent in the past year, and more consumers are running into the red, according to Royal Bank’s debt poll.

Just 24 per cent of Canadians say they are debt-free, compared to 26 per cent in 2012. And those who are in debt have increased their non-mortgage burdens to $15,920 from $13,141 in the same time frame, RBC’s survey found. That’s an extra $2,779 over the past year compared to growth of just $83 in the year prior.

Canadians are taking advantage of the era of super low interest rates to finance more borrowing, a move the government has vocally discouraged.

Debt loads have skyrocketed in the years since the 2008-2009 recession, after the government dropped borrowing rates to near zero in order to stimulate consumer activity, the housing market and the economy.

The RBC poll found that the number of Canadians who are anxious about their debt levels has risen four percentage points in the past year, to 38 per cent. Still, the same number said they are comfortable with the amount they owe.

The household debt-to-disposable income ratio is at an all-time high, around 163 per cent. That means for every dollar Canadians earn, they owe $1.63.

The Bank of Canada and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty have repeatedly warned Canadians about digging themselves into a financial hole while borrowing is cheap. They fear consumers may be unable to climb out of the debt load when interest rates inevitably rise.

However, in its latest monetary policy report, Canada’s central bank slashed its economic outlook for Canada for the next three years and indicated that a troubled global economy may compel it to maintain interest rates at the current near record low rate of one per cent, where it has been since 2010.

The announcement left many observers wondering whether the prolonged low interest rate environment will increase the likelihood of a housing correction or hard landing for borrowers when rates finally rise.

The RBC poll was conducted by Ipsos Reid from Aug. 22 to 27 through an online sample of 2,108 Canadians with an estimated margin of error of plus or minus two per cent, 19 times out of 20.

 

The World Complex: Should Canada and the US merge . . . (updated)

The World Complex: Should Canada and the US merge . . . (updated). (source)

. . . like Diane Francis asks?

No.

Sure, I could use the money. But I think in her calculations she has neglected to consider the extra costs to Canadians, like having to roughly double our per capita medical expenditures. Not to mention we might have to start pulling our weight in military adventurism around the globe. We might have to close our embassy in Cuba.

There’s an old song I remember hearing from way back. The words used to be on the internet years ago, but I can’t find them now. Unfortunately, on my copy the first line is garbled, so I’m not sure of the wording.

There’s a fine country called America don’t you know,
Just take a look at your atlas, it’s the one that’s down below.
There’s fifty states in the union and something should be done,
To forget the war of 1812 and make it fifty-one.

There’ll be colour television,
Social security,
Racial segregation and the Birch Society;
You can take the fifth amendment,
You can vote for LBJ,
You can even burn your draft card when we’re Canada, USA.

Now some folks think we’re English, which isn’t true at all;
And some t’ink we’re a colony that’s run by Charles de Gaulle;
But we’re looking up to greater things upon the glorious day,
When the capitol of our little state is Ottawa, CA.

There’ll be colour television,
Social security,
Racial segregation and the Birch Society;
You can cheer for Jimmy Hoffa,
You can join the Klan today;
You can even be a Commie when we’re Canada USA.

There’s a bunch of stripes and fifty stars upon the Yankee flag,
There’s gonna have to be fifty one when Canada’s in the bag,
But when we see the flag unfurl, we’ll know we’ve won the fight,
We’ll be just before Connecticut in the third row from the right.

There’ll be colour television,
Social security,
Racial segregation and the Birch Society;
You can take the fifth amendment,
You can vote for LBJ,
You can even burn your draft card when we’re Canada, USA.

We’ll all be much more affluent in the Great Society,
Their buck is worth $1.10 in Canadian currency,
The economy’s going to get a boost for it’s very evident,
That it costs us more to feed a Queen than pay a President.

There’ll be colour television,
Social security,
Racial segregation and the Birch Society;
You can cheer for Jimmy Hoffa,
You can join the Klan today;
You can even be a Commie when we’re Canada USA.

There’ll be no more selling prairie wheat to all the commie crew,
There’ll be no more Cuban sugar–that’s very naughty too,
But think of all the benefits that surely have to come
When we’re citizens of a country that’s got the atom bomb!

There’ll be colour television,
Social security,
Racial segregation and the Birch Society;
You can take the fifth amendment,
You can vote for LBJ,
You can even burn your draft card when we’re Canada, USA.

Update: Just need to update that last chorus a bit:

There’ll be welfare cheques and foodstamps,
Homeland Security,
The NSA on Google
And the end of privacy,
You can take the fifth amendment,
Get Obamacare today,
You can even shoot Iraqis when we’re Canada, USA!

 

Rogue page Brigette DePape still protesting Harper – Politics – CBC News

Rogue page Brigette DePape still protesting Harper – Politics – CBC News. (FULL ARTICLE)

The most memorable moment in the last throne speech came when a young woman walked into the centre of the plush red Senate chamber filled with dignitaries and elected officials and held up a handmade sign that read “Stop Harper.”

Brigette DePape, who had worked as a page in the Senate for a year, was then quickly hauled away by the House of Commons’ sergeant-at-arms.

“I remember I was terrified,” she said, recalling that moment on June 3, 2011, in an interview with CBC News from Vancouver last week.

‘We had gone to see a lawyer before and they said [the] worst-case scenario would be 30 years in jail for frightening the Queen.’— Former page Brigette DePape

“[Prime Minister Stephen] Harper is sitting right to my left and then there’s the Governor General, and then there are all the politicians, and I am so afraid. I am afraid about losing my job, I am afraid about what my parents are going to say back home in Winnipeg, and I am afraid about getting arrested.”

 

Inside Canada’s top-secret billion-dollar spy palace – Politics – CBC News

Inside Canada’s top-secret billion-dollar spy palace – Politics – CBC News. (FULL ARTICLE)

While the Harper government is preaching government austerity, it is spending almost $1.2 billion on a new Ottawa headquarters for a little-known military spy agency.

It’s the most expensive Canadian government building ever constructed.

Under tight security, CBC obtained an exclusive tour of the top secret complex that most Canadians will otherwise never get to see, a development even National Defence apparently thinks is so grandiose that the department dubbed the project “Camelot” in official documents.

When completed next year, the facility in suburban Ottawa will house the roughly 2,000 employees of the Communications Security Establishment Canada, a federal agency that spies mainly on foreigners by hacking into their computers, reading their email and intercepting their phone calls.

CSEC officially estimates the complex will cost $880 million. But sources close to the project say it will be closer to $1.2 billion by the time all the associated costs are tallied.The new CSEC headquarters will have more floor space than the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, and its cost would build several big city hospitals.

The developer has also been contracted to maintain the building and provide other services for another roughly $3 billion over the next 30 years….

 

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