Maybe it’s just Bell, but it seems to me that the WikiLeaks website has been having some trouble with bad connections lately — probably as a result of its new Guantanamo leaks. Moreover, although the latest relevant leaks continue to receive some play in the media, Canadian sites like CBC appear to have stopped updating their databases of relevant cables as they’re released. (They’ve done this just as they begin releasing several series of documents that have not yet been released to the general public, which particularly irks me.) For this reason, Sixth Estate is going to maintain a list of documents relevant to Canadian politics and foreign affairs at the Sixth Estate Watchlist. Note: this is not a mirror of WikiLeaks. It is a collection of documents specifically related to Canada, not a duplication of the entire WikiLeaks archive. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll still need to go to WikiLeaks.
Soon, I’ll expand the Watchlist database to include the rest of what WikiLeaks has released from the cable archive, as well as a number of other important sets of documents which are increasingly difficult to find online. For the moment, however, you can find links to around half of the WikiLeaks documents from Canada, sorted by subject area. As anyone who has worked in diplomatic history will not be surprised to learn, the vast majority of the documents are unclassified summaries of public news. The documents I thought seemed more interesting and, um, newsworthy are the ones that have been bolded. Also,
here are a selection of what I consider to be the most important documents so far in the collection:
- Plotting to Raise Canadian Drug Prices — In 2004, American diplomats in Quebec met with a Canadian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, Janssen-Ortho, to discuss the company’s efforts to raise Canadian drug prices to levels similar to those in America. Interestingly, it viewed Quebec as the most important battlefield, since it believed it could arrange a deal under which prices to private purchasers went up substantially but prices to the very large Quebec public drug insurance plan, RAMQ, were slashed in return for keeping the provincial government on the sidelines of any subsequent drug debate.
- Cineplex Proposes Jailing Movie-goers — I realize that bringing a video camera into a theatre and filming a movie so you can sell bootleg copies of it is illegal — and so it should be. But it’s incredible that Cineplex would be lobbying the government for a law that would send people to jail just for possession of a camera inside a movie theatre. People who patronize Cineplex establishments should be aware that this corporation appears to prefer doing business in a police state. Subsequently they admit that most of the piracy they’re worried about is likely the actions of as few as a single individual.
- Stephen Harper “Likes to See the Fear” in Employees’ Eyes, Suffers from “Vindictive Pettiness” — The embassy reveals its views of strongman Harper on New Year’s 2009. Under Harper, it reported, Canadian political power had been centralized directly within the office of the leader “to an unprecedented degree,” to the extent that everyday politics had been reduced to mere “strict discipline and scripting.” Even “the most routine decisions” were now being made by a tiny coterie in the Prime Minister’s Office. Reportedly even Cabinet ministers are not always told in advance of major policy announcements. Harper tells new employees he “likes to see the fear in their eyes” and prefers advisers who do not challenge his “self-conscious” image as “the smartest guy in the room.”
- Canadian Companies Bribed Gadhafi — There are quite a number of documents covering the affairs of Canadian energy companies in Gadhafi’s Libya prior to his becoming an enemy of Canada. This was not an isolated case; the Libyan National Oil Company also demanded payoffs from Verenex, for instance.
- Harper’s Climate Change Policy “Grudging” and “Virtually Invisible” — The top priorities for the Conservatives in 2010, the embassy predicted, would be to stay in power, wait for a global economic recovery (since its own stimulus package was mostly not useful, the embassy implied), and try to convince the public that it was actually doing something on climate change when it really wasn’t. No Conservative government would put forward “big, sexy initiatives” on environmental issues.
- Harper: Canada and Russia Have a “Good Working Relationship” in North — In a series of meetings in January 2010, Harper and NATO Secretary-General Fogh Rasmussen discussed Afghanistan, the Arctic, and the future of the organization. Somewhat in contrast to the occasional public sabre-rattling over the Russian bomber flights, Harper told Rasmussen that Canada and Russia had a “good working relationship” in the Arctic and that there was especially no need for NATO to consider sending military assets to the region to defend against Russian interference.
- Canada “Weathers” the Credit Crisis — The Harper Government™ has consistently taken the position that their proper approach to policy and regulation meant the Canadian financial sector ably weathered the storm of the recession, and was better prepared for recovery afterward. Although it is true that Canada did fare better than some, there were moments of considerable tension, which the American diplomatic cables chart much more honestly than the Canadian federal government. See also this document.
- AK-47s and Lawlessness on the Mohawk Kanesetake Reserve — A revealing interview on the role of organized crime and the proliferation of heavy weapons, as alleged by a chief in an interview with the Montreal consulate in 2004. The chief himself was living away at the time, since his house was burned to the ground by arsonists some months before.
- Canadian Spy Chief Complains of Canadian “Alice in Wonderland” worldview that requires him to follow the law — CSIS director Jim Judd attracted considerable media attention for his own appearance in the WikiLeaks cables, in which he shares with American diplomats his frustration that Canadian courts are consistently requiring his agency to actually follow the law as it spies on Canadians and foreigners in the name of the war on terror. Judd praises Harper for “taking it on the chin” by trying to push for greater powers for Canada’s secret police agency. Interestingly, WikiLeaks edited out an entire paragraph. One wonders what was so serious that WikiLeaks had to censor it.