Thursday, August 16, 2007

On bad-faith negotiations

Following up on this post, let's take a look at what the Cons have done to try to shut out any outside message while paying lip service to lessons from past protests:
The leaders of Canada, Mexico and United States have a novel option for dealing with protesters: flip the channel.

Canadian officials who briefed reporters Thursday initially said that protesters would be allowed close to the hotel conference site in Montebello, Que., and would be visible to the leaders attending the North American summit next week.

But when pressed, they acknowledged that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Presidents George W. Bush and Felipe Calderon would actually only be seeing those outside the security fences by video link.

Mr. Harper's director of communications, Sandra Buckler, later said she understood the video-link decision was “in compliance with the court's decision that protesters have a right to be ‘seen and heard'.”
It's worth noting to begin with that even the Cons' choice of standards is based on a lie. According to CanLII, there isn't a single reported Canadian case that has used the phrase "right to be seen and heard". And Can-West's coverage suggests that the actual requirement being referred to is something entirely different than the Cons are claiming:
Officials did not respond to a request to cite a specific ruling. But a four-year inquiry by Saskatchewan judge Ted Hughes into the RCMP’s pepper spraying, strip searches and other bad treatment of protesters at the 1997 APEC summit in Vancouver concluded RCMP (sic) must provide generous opportunity for protestors “to see and be seen.”
It should be obvious just how big the gap is between the actual standard suggested by Hughes J. and the one apparently being applied by the Cons. Instead of allowing for the two-way communication implied by allowing protesters to "see" as well as "being seen", the Cons are making sure that any information goes one way at most.

And even assuming a one-way flow of information were appropriate, the means chosen by the Cons promises to be ineffective to the point of being insulting. After all, there's virtually no reason to think that attendees will actually pay attention to the protests given the choice to simply change the channel - as the very need for protests is based on the complete refusal of those in charge of the SPP process to let anybody but the most like-minded participants in on the discussion.

I'm not optimistic that the Cons' actions will be appropriately recognized as both dishonest and patronizing by Canada's media. But it appears that Montebello's organizers have offered yet more reasons for concern that the entire SPP process is being carried out in bad faith. And in the long run, that's the message which needs to find its way into public knowledge.

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