|The first time I heard Paul Fromm was when he was a guest on Hesham Tillawi's show Current Issues TV. Mr. Fromm is with the Canadian Association for Free Expression and goes to bat for people accused of "thought crimes". The whole concept of "thought crimes" boggles my mind. After all, since when are "thoughts" punishable? Is the government now taking up residence in our minds? And so, I applauded Mr. Fromm for, what appeared to me, his honorable mission. On October 21st, I met Paul Fromm in New York City when I attended his lecture on Marxism. The talk was scholarly and fair. It was after the lecture, that I learned about Paul Fromm's ordeal.
I was appalled to learn that on October 9th of this year, Paul Fromm was detained for over two hours by Canada Customs. The incident occurred as he was returning from Seattle for a speaking engagement in Vancouver. His luggage and pockets were searched. The operatives for the Canada Border Services Agency took a book that was on Mr. Fromm's person; Race, Intelligence and Bias in Academe. Apparently, this book fell into the category of "hate propaganda". In addition, they cleared and then seized Mr. Fromm's laptop for further investigation. Fromm recalls: "When I went through primary inspection, the female agent wrote the number "1< on my declaration. I was immediately signaled over after I had picked up my luggage."
Paul Fromm described his most unpleasant experience.
"The secondary inspection took place in a long hall with 17 stations with stainless steel examining tables. I was first dealt with by two East Indian males agents who refused to give me their names. My briefcase was examined piece of paper by piece of paper. I objected to the agent reading a note from an elderly supporter in Edmonton. I objected as this note praising one of our recent newsletters was utterly outside their mandate."
It was not drugs. It was not weapons. It was not undeclared merchandize or currency over $10,000. Their behavior was bullying, humiliating and intrusive. http://www.radicalpress.com/?p=224
Next, Paul was escorted by a female agent into a cubicle. He was forced to empty all his pockets and to turn them inside out. Fromm's objection to the prolonged search fell on deaf ears. The agents were not interested in what he had to say.
Apparently, this is not the first time Mr. Fromm has been harassed at the border. The last time, his laptop was seized was in Vancouver in August, 2005.
"Afterwards, it had to be debugged from whatever had been placed on it or happened to it. After a long examination, it was returned to me." Mr. Fromm shared.
Interestingly, they had seized his mouse and battery pack.
"Why?" I wondered. Paul remarked "A mouse couldn't possibly contain hate propaganda".
Mr. Fromm's ordeal lasted a total of more than two hours.
"It is clear that the theft of my laptop, vital to my livelihood is a form of outright political persecution."
The following day, Paul Fromm contacted Canada Border Services Agency at Vancouver Airport to track his stolen goods. I eventually was directed to the 'seizure control office' with the ominous phone number of 604-666-1811. At first, and you get used to this with government offices, no one would answer and I had to leave a message. I was persistent and eventually got a FAX number out the nameless woman who answered. I pointed out that, once before my laptop had been seized and my lawyer got it returned within a few days."
Lawyer Barbara Kulazska wrote on October 11:"It is clear that the seizure of my client's laptop was not made on any determination that it contained hate propaganda. My client informs me that the laptop contained only software that he uses on a daily basis for writing and some private e-mails. Hate propaganda, by definition, is a matter that is in the public domain and intended for public consumption, by sale or distribution. My client's private e-mails and software are NOT for sale or for reading by any person other than those private individuals they are sent to."
The laptop computer should have been returned immediately. There were no grounds for its legal detention. Obviously, The Canada Border Services Agency had more clandestine reasons for Paul Fromm's detention.
Several years ago, the members of The Canada Border Services Agency were involved in a complete breech of trust in a narcotics smuggling ring through Pearson Airport in Toronto. In addition, on a number of occasions, in both Ontario and British Columbia, agents fled their posts when they learned an armed American fugitive 'might' be headed for the border.
Too add insult to injury, these political police are allowed to operate anonymously.
"This is a recipe for tyranny" Fromm remarked. "They don't 'stand on guard' for Canada. Few visitors are checked by the agents who seem to spend long periods of time sipping coffee. Liars are greeted and allowed in while political dissidents have their possessions looted."
On Monday, Mr. Fromm was contacted by Brian Roos of the Orwellian "prohibited importations unit" of Customs and ordered to provide all passwords so that Customs can get around the encryption program that guards his computer: "Please note that this laptop computer will continue to be held until a thorough review and determination is completed," he threatened. Give up the passwords or Customs steals Mr. Fromm's computer.
Are you as appalled as I am, dear readers? Are you busily convincing yourself that the Canada Border Services Agency is making your life more secure or are you honest enough to admit that something is drastically wrong with this picture?
I do not know whether you are in agreement with Mr. Fromm's politics, nor do I care. What I am addressing is Mr. Fromm's civil rights. Suspend your belief systems, distance yourself from your pet prejudices and look at this man. He is a human being who was guilty of no crime. (unless you feel that disagreeing with you is a crime) His rights have been violated. Can't you feel the injustice?
New phrases are being introduced everyday and they are frightening phrases indeed. People talk about "Hate crimes" and "thought crimes". On closer inspection, these phrases merely describe a difference of opinion. Who determines what is "politically correct"? Who determines which people are going to be tyrannized? Who determines which people are going to be imprisoned? Who? If you are feeling complacent because you are in disagreement with Mr. Fromm, I implore you not to get too relaxed. You are careening down a slippery slope and your sense of security is a false one. You may very well be the next target.
"Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice." Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Copyright Judy Andreas 2006