SFSC Event: First Peoples, Palestine, and the Crushing of Free Speech

New! Watch video of Stephen Salaita’s talk at SFU on Jan 12

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Why Seriously Free Speech?

Over the last decade more and more people have started questioning the policies and actions of the State of Israel. In response, some of Israel’s supporters have increasingly tried to suppress open political debate of Palestine/Israel. This campaign to vilify, intimidate and harass Israel’s critics has intensified since December 2009 when live video showed Israel’s treatment of Palestinians during its military assault on Gaza.

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SFSC at Just Film Fest

IMG_20150322_130801SFSC had table at the Just Film Festival at Langara College last weekend (both Saturday the 21st and Sunday the 22nd) and sponsored two films: “The Koch Brothers” on Saturday at noon, and “Vessel” (about abortion rights) Sunday at 1:30.

Films on Palestine/Israel at the festival included: The People and The Olive, Al Helm: MLK in Palestine and The Lab

http://justfilm.ca/films-topic-2014/palestine-israel/

Lots of people dropped by the table to see our leaflets and books.

SFSC Article: Bill C-51 (Anti-Terrorism Act 2015) is the culmination of repressive government legislation

Brian Campbell, Canadian Library Association (CLA) Advancement of Intellectual Freedom Award Acceptance Speech, 2015

I would like to begin by thanking the CLA Intellectual Freedom Advisory Committee, and Alvin Schrader, Chair and former recipient, for choosing me for the prestigious CLA Advancement of Intellectual Freedom in Canada Award. It is an honour to follow in the footsteps of June Callwood, Les Fowlie, the Toronto Public Library Board, and other exemplars of intellectual freedom in Canada.

This award does not represent the work of one person but the work of many. Thank you to all those involved in the work of the BCLA Intellectual Freedom Committee, and the BCLA and CLA Information Policy Committees. I would especially like to thank everyone who wrote such generous letters of recommendation about my work.

The early years of the BCLA Intellectual Freedom Committee focussed, like many, on defending individual authors and books from censorship. We participated in Freedom to Read Week and developed educational materials, but our work was primarily defensive. However, a climate was developing, following the example of the Reagan Administration, to reduce government collection of data and access to it. The suppression of information access through self-censorship and government regulation was growing.

The BCLA Intellectual Freedom Committee began to take on projects broader than cases of individual defence. In conjunction with and under the leadership of Les Fowlie we participated in the 1988 fight against Bill C-54 (proposed amendments to the Criminal Code and the Customs Tariff regarding pornogaphy). As BC libraries distributed postcards, Toronto Public Library, in an heroic act of defiance, shut down most of its branches for a half day study session. Continue reading

SFSC Article: BILL C-51: SHUT IT DOWN BEFORE IT SHUTS US UP!

Billc51flyerSFSC Flyer
A spectre is haunting Canada, the spectre of so-called “anti-terrorism legislation”, raising fear in order to enable control.

The Harper Conservative government, supported by the Liberals, is about to pass Bill C-51, the 2015 Anti-Terrorism Act, that substantially expands the already-considerable powers of CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service), the RCMP, border services and other agencies.

Among other things, it lowers the bar for “preventive detention” if an agency thinks someone “may” (changed from “will”) commit a crime. It lowers standards for putting someone on a no-fly list, and broadens the definition of “terrorism”.

Under Bill C-51, you would break the law “by speaking, writing, recording, gesturing or other visible representation, knowingly advocate or promote the commission of terrorism offenses in general”.

Terrorism includes “undermining the security of Canada”, “interference with critical infrastructure” or “the economic or financial stability of Canada”. Continue reading

SFSC: Harper’s Anti-Terrorism Act isn’t about Terrorism: it’s a Torture Act

By Michael Keefer, SFSC Member

The Harper government’s Bill C-51, or Anti-Terrorism Act, has been in the public domain for over a month. Long enough for us to know that it subverts basic principles of constitutional law, assaults rights of free speech and free assembly, and is viciously anti-democratic.

An unprecedented torrent of criticism has been directed against this bill as the government rushes it through Parliament. This has included stern or at least sceptical editorials in all the major newspapers; an open letter, signed by four former Prime Ministers and five former Supreme Court judges, denouncing the bill for exposing Canadians to major violations of their rights; and another letter, signed by a hundred Canadian law professors, explaining the dangers it poses to justice and legality.

As its critics have shown, the bill isn’t really about terrorism: it’s about smearing other activities by association―and then suppressing them in ways that would formerly have been flagrantly illegal. The bill targets, among others, people who defend the treaty rights of First Nations, people who oppose tar sands, fracking, and bitumen-carrying pipelines as threats to health and the environment, and people who urge that international law be peacefully applied to ending Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. (Members of this latter group include significant numbers of Canadian Jews.)

But the Anti-Terrorism Act is more mortally dangerous to Canadian democracy than even these indications would suggest. A central section of the act empowers CSIS agents to obtain judicial warrants―on mere suspicion, with no requirement for supporting evidence―that will allow them to supplement other disruptive actions against purported enemies of Harperland with acts that directly violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other Canadian laws.
The only constraints placed on this legalized law-breaking are that CSIS agents shall not “(a) cause, intentionally or by criminal negligence, death or bodily harm to an individual; (b) wilfully attempt in any manner to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice; or (c) violate the sexual integrity of an individual.”

The second of these prohibitions―occurring in the midst of a bill that seeks systematically to obstruct citizens in the exercise of their rights, pervert justice, and defeat democracy―might tempt one to believe that there is a satirist at work within the Department of Justice. (Note, however, that CSIS agents can obstruct, pervert and defeat to their hearts’ content, so long as they do so haphazardly, rather than “wilfully.”)
But the first and third clauses amount to an authorization of torture. Continue reading

rabble.ca: A Canadian in Paris: Hassan Diab’s indefinite jail journey

a href=”http://rabble.ca/columnists/2015/02/canadian-paris-hassan-diabs-indefinite-jail-journey” target=”_blank”> | By Matthew Behrens

The long-running extradition saga of Ottawa sociology professor Dr. Hassan Diab — sought by French authorities for a 1980 crime he did not commit — took a dramatic turn when the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear his final appeal to stay in Canada last November. Although Canada had 45 days to forcibly remove him to France, Dr. Diab was hustled out of the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre and whisked away less than 48 hours later, denied a previously scheduled opportunity to bid goodbye to his pregnant wife, Rania, and baby daughter, Jena.

Diab’s lawyer, Donald Bayne, a 43-year veteran of Canadian courts, appeared stunned at a Parliament Hill press conference the day of the Court decision, concluding: “We now have in my view a classic recipe for the wrongful conviction of a Canadian.”

Originally arrested in 2008, Diab had spent the following six years under house arrest, forced to pay $2,000 a month for the electronic monitoring device strapped to his leg, denied an opportunity to teach, and frustrated by an endless round of extradition hearings where, despite the very low judicial standards, the severe weakness of the alleged case against him was nonetheless clearly exposed. During that time, it was revealed that the physical description, palm and thumb prints, and handwriting of the 1980 rue Copernic bombing suspect did not match Dr. Diab’s. Continue reading

SFSC Letter: to Hassan Diab r.e. Canadian government’s ruthless reaction to dissent

M. DIAB Hassan
416299 Z D3
Maison d’arret des hommes
7, avenue des peupliers
91705 FLEURY-MEROGIS
France

Dear Hassan,

I am writing on behalf of the Seriously Free Speech Committee (SFSC) to express our solidarity with you in the totally unjust situation in which you find yourself.

The SFSC was formed seven years ago to defend three people faced with a civil lawsuit for producing a parody of the Vancouver Sun’s (Vancouver’s dominant newspaper) one-sided reporting of the Israel-Palestine situation. We have since continued defending organizations and individuals who have been attacked for their support for Palestine or criticism of the Israeli occupation.

Your case, despite the substantial evidence of your innocence, exhibits the profound viciousness of the Stephen Harper Conservative government towards anyone not uncritically supporting the State of Israel. The flawed evidence that was used to justify your extradition is hardly conceivable in a fair justice system. Legal experts, handwriting experts and even the judge question the evidentiary flaws exhibited in the handwriting analysis. The unfair trials under France’s anti-terrorism law, the prejudice of the French legal system against Palestinian supporters and the weakness of extradition laws in Canada have resulted in your extradition. Unfortunately your extreme situation reflects the Canadian government’s ruthless reaction to dissent. Continue reading

SFSC Letter: Free Rasmea Odeh – she has been denied her rights long enough

Honorable Judge Gershwin Drain
Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse
Detroit, MI 48226 USA

Dear Judge Drain

We are writing on behalf of the Seriously Free Speech Committee (SFSC) to express our concern regarding the situation of Rasmea Odeh. As a committee of individuals concerned with issues regarding Free Speech we feel that the roots of Ms. Odeh’s situation lie in precisely her inability to speak freely.

Our understanding of her situation is that she was tortured by Israeli security forces into making a false confession many years ago. This led to her serving many years in prison. Everything else that puts her in the situation she is in today flows from that basic denial of free speech years ago.
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SFSC Article: Professor Steven Salaita’s fight against censorship comes to Vancouver

By Sheila Delany, SFSC Member, The Georgia Straight

Ever had the rug jerked out from under you? Had your life forced into a sudden 180 degree turn? Steven Salaita has. The young professor, author or editor of six books and numerous articles on indigenous peoples, colonialism, and Arabic culture, was a well-liked tenured teacher at Virginia Tech University. Over a year ago, in autumn 2013, he accepted another tenured position in American Indian studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He and his wife quit their jobs in Virginia, sold their house, moved north with their child, and Salaita began preparing classes.

Then in August, three weeks before classes were to start, came the surprise. Pro-Israel students and wealthy donors to the University of Illinois, some of them prominent Zionists, had monitored Salaita’s personal Twitter account, on which he had registered angry comments during Israel’s brutal attack on Gaza. Doubtless they also knew that he had been active in the BDS—boycott, divest, sanction—movement to pressure Israel into ending its occupation of Palestine, and particularly the academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions. They may have known that his parents are Jordanian and Palestinian.

Accusing Salaita of anti-Semitism and incivility, some donors contacted the chancellor of the university and threatened to withdraw funding if the hiring went through. It had, of course, been approved by the department and relevant administrators, and contractually agreed, but now the chancellor, Phyllis Wise, was motivated to interfere. She refused to send the hiring package on to the last step in the process, the normally pro-forma approval of the board of governors or board of trustees. In other words, the job offer was canceled, nullified, withdrawn, rescinded, revoked. This has been variously referred to in news articles as “de-hiring”, “un-hiring”, “reversal”, et cetera. Continue reading

Mondoweiss: How Salaita’s critics have distorted the Salaita report


By Phan Nguyen, Jan 5 2015, Mondoweiss

Following the controversial termination of Steven Salaita’s hiring at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), the university’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) initiated an investigation into whether the termination violated the university’s statutes and bylaws and academic freedom.

The CAFT issued its findings and recommendations in a report on December 23, accusing the administration and board of trustees of violating shared governance and academic freedom, and calling on the university to reconsider Salaita’s application and financially compensate him for his unjust termination.

This is the first of two articles exploring elements of the CAFT report. In this first article, I demonstrate how Salaita’s critics—the same ones who misrepresented Salaita’s tweets—are now misrepresenting the CAFT report.

In particular, I focus on the claims made by two prominent critics of Salaita: William Jacobson, who is the editor of the Tea Party Zionist blog Legal Insurrection, and Liel Leibovitz, senior writer for Tablet magazine. Continue reading