The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Monday, June 30, 2003


Sheeple may be people, but they ain't no friends of mine...

If you ever wanted an example of what sort of person is a real threat to that oft-abused word, “freedom,” here’s a good one. Another hand-wringing suburbanite says she’s got no problem giving the State powers of arbitrary search and seizure in order to nail marijuana growers.

Recently, I decided to attend a Surrey town meeting about grow-ops in our neighbourhoods. I learned a lot.

The panel kept discussing privacy and freedom and how the police’s hands are often tied and how grow-ops are using this to their advantage…

I have no problem with someone coming in to inspect my home. I have nothing to hide. I feel that the people who fight these “violations of privacy” have something to hide.

Well, I’ve got news for you, honey. I do have something to hide—my personal life and what goes on inside my house. Am I doing anything illegal? Probably not (although there may be some obscure section of some law pertaining to my porn stash.) That’s beside the point, which is that it’s none of the police’s business what goes on there unless they can take it to a judge and show him or her some probable cause that illegal activity is going on and that a search is justified.

The old “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” argument isn’t exclusive to the police and their witless accomplices in the general public. It was also a favourite of totalitarian states, who used it to justify the State’s intrusions into its residents’ private affairs with no explanation or consistent reasoning. Unfortunately, there are too many people who would submit to those measures in the mistaken belief that this will make them more secure.

Speaking of privacy, the Vancouver Police Department has revived its plans to install a network of two dozen surveillance cameras to monitor the goings-on in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The VPD brass were emboldened by the dismissal of a lawsuit by former federal privacy commissioner George Radwanski against the Kelowna RCMP’s downtown surveillance camera. Putting spy cameras into Vancouver’s most notorious neighbourhood was an idea presumed dead after the COPE party, skeptical of if not opposed to the cameras, swept last fall’s civic election. This hasn’t kept the VPD from quietly pushing the idea even as the new city council has indicated that it’s not likely to give the police department the budget to set up and staff the system.

Of course I’m opposed to the cameras. The message that installing them sends is clear: citizens who live or work a certain part of town will be subject to police surveillance that they would not face in the other 98% of the city. The decision to scrutinize these people has nothing to do with the individual except for their presence in a designated area—nothing about their past record or current status factors in the decision to watch a person in the camera zone.

People choosing to shop along Powell or Hastings (don’t laugh: the DTES boasts the Sunrise Market, Rice World, and two of the cheapest butcher shops in Canada) will be under the VPD’s automated eye, while the folks who can afford to patronize Capers and Urban Fare won’t. Is it discriminatory? Yeah. Going into a designated zone in a public area shouldn’t mean that you automatically consent to being watched by the State. Entering a private shop and being under the owner’s eye is one thing, but this is state surveillance in a public place, and often a place where people have no choice whether they enter the space or not.

Vancouver’s police have recently reduced the open drug dealing near the corner of Main and Hastings without such intrusive measures. By adding more foot patrols and some horseback presence (with a few problems, granted), they’ve made the police more visible and able to respond to altercations and violence instead of just watching. Police officers “on the ground” get a better sense of the situation and the people on their beat in a way that a guy staring at a dozen screens can’t. If the city wanted to put more full-time officers down there, I’d have no problem as long as the officers behaved within the law. Whether they always do is contentious; on the other hand, the Vancouver Police gets as much public scrutiny as the other forces in British Columbia combined. The combination of the press’s presence in the city proper and organizations like the Pivot Legal Society sticking up for the ‘dregs’ of society tends to keep the VPD in check.

Given that the city’s police have been getting good results using techniques that don’t always alarm civil libertarians or intrude on basic legal rights (including privacy), they should quit lobbying for the cameras unless the situation in the Downtown Eastside deteriorates dramatically.

Fight the Sheeple. They’re a more immediate threat to your freedom that even Kim Jong-Il. (but if he launches a nuke, it’ll be flyin’ over my head on its way to wherever…)

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