Acquaintance of Games critic
queried by RCMP

Rebecca Lindell, Globe and Mail, Oct. 7, 2009


Anti-Olympic activist Christopher Shaw says he is frustrated by police surveillance of his friends and family

Acquaintances of one of Vancouver’s most outspoken anti-Olympic activists have become the targets of RCMP questioning.

Two RCMP officers from the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit approached Danika Surm, a pre-nursing student at Langara College, outside her classroom on Sept. 29. Ms. Surm told the officers she had a quiz and couldn’t talk, but they waited until she finished and escorted her to an empty classroom to chat.

“They basically asked me to tell them anything I could about Christopher Shaw,” said Ms. Surm, who met the 2010 Olympic Games critic a year ago through a job unrelated to the Games. “What did I know about his anti-Olympic work? Was there anything dangerous, illegal or anything of that nature about his anti-Olympic work?”

Mr. Shaw is the lead spokesman for 2010 Watch and wrote a book called Five Ring Circus! , which takes a critical look at Vancouver’s Olympic bid.

“I think that it is valid to be concerned about security, but I thought that their questions being directed to a friend of [Mr. Shaw’s], who has no connection to the Olympics, is starting to get creepy,” Ms. Surm said.

She said she was even more concerned after the same RCMP officer called her cellphone the following day. Ms. Surm had refused to disclose the number in their face-to-face meeting, and she wants to know how the police got it, as well as her class schedule.

Mr. Shaw, who has also been questioned by police, is frustrated with police surveillance of his friends and family — including people he said have no association with the Olympics. The police questioned Mr. Shaw’s former wife last week.

“This is getting totally creepy,” Mr. Shaw said. “They are so far down in the weeds I don’t even think they know what they are looking for. They are just hoping they will come across a weapon of mass destruction.”

If the police want to hear about his plans, Mr. Shaw said they can call his lawyer to set up a meeting.

“Looking at people who are only peripherally involved is not acceptable,” Mr. Shaw said.

The RCMP is well within the boundaries of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, said Constable Mandy Edwards, an RCMP spokeswoman.

“It’s important that people keep in mind that the police have a right to ask questions and gather information,” Constable Edwards said. “We are looking to speak to anyone who has information on any threats or plans to disrupt the Games. We are doing our due diligence in protecting the safety and security of Canadians and visitors to Canada during the Games.”

But according to David Eby of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the RCMP is coming close to harassment and to infringing on the right to freedom of speech under the Charter.

“There is such a thing as freedom of speech. Criticizing government policy alone should not be enough to draw the attention of the RCMP,” Mr. Eby said.

He said police questioning could create a chilling effect that would stop people from speaking out.

According to Mr. Shaw, the police visit sent a clear message: “If you are going to protest 2010, you are going to pay a price and the price is that you will be surveyed by police.”

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