I grew up within a faith rooted in the experience of someone who was publicly ridiculed, tortured and executed. We sit under the shadow of what the state can do and yet too often remain silent when silence itself is the problem.
There are ongoing calls for background screenings of those that labour on the harbour fronts of our maritime cities. These screenings are not primarily based on what the people are currently doing or likely to be doing, but to find something in the past that is hidden and possibly either something that can be used to discredit the individual, making them vulnerable to pressure, or indicate that the person is a potential criminal or security threat. There is a built in incentive to try and hide one’s past, to avoid being open about one’s views, with background checks that seems to breed a climate of secrecy and distrust, that seems to potentially reward successful dishonesty. It discourages individuals from being willing to come forward to address problems such as substance abuse; it leads to employment and management judgements being based not only on who is doing a good job but adding the question of who doesn’t meet the current political and social criteria. In the past such practices have fed homophobia and racial prejudice
The matter of government secrecy seems to be related to the increased security paranoia. The May 10, 2007 Globe and Mail ran an article, Public servant arrested in leak of Tory green plan, on the arrest of a temporary civil servant for having leaked information. Jeffrey Monaghan was removed from his office in handcuffs for having acted as a whistleblower and faxed copies of proposed federal policies on greenhouse gas emissions to the media and environmental activists.
As government policy is and should be a matter of public debate, having
someone arrested for letting the general public know through the media what is being discussed is frightening. It makes little sense to talk about electoral and parliamentary reform if letting the public know what is going on is punished.
On the basis of secrecy there is opposition to environmental right to know legislation which would require corporations to fully disclose what is in their manufactured goods—essential information to make good public safety and transportation policy decisions. On the basis of secrecy, there is opposition to effective whistle-blowing protection which would ensure that those that release information in the public interest aren’t harassed or punished for their actions.
For security reasons, policies are implemented which discourage honestly
while not enhancing security. What is encouraged in an atmosphere of darkness and fear? Certainly not public debate and effective participation in the political process.