2012-04-18

Reason to vote Red Redford out of office: they asked the Hells Angles to collect your personal information

As you may or may not know, an Alberta election is underway. As its looking like there's a real solid chance that the Wildrose party can seize the reigns of power away from Alison "Red" Redford and her "Progressive" "Conservative" Party, I felt this would be a good time to bring up some of the disastrous legislation enacted by Red Redford's party.

Today this trip down memory lane takes us to 2009, and the day that the Alberta Government decided was a good time to break its own much-ballyhooed privacy legislation. You can read the disgusting legislation here.

A few years back, when the silly bar practice of scanning IDs started going around, a Calgary bar patron decided to raise a complaint to the Alberta Privacy Commissioner, who agreed that collecting high quality digital images of people's drivers licenses was not exactly a foolproof way of making bars safer. Indeed, and I think I've mentioned this before, the bars that have the most trouble tend to also have the fancy license scanners. Purple Onion, which must have had as many criminals per square foot as any other bar in Edmonton, had no license scanning. Neither does Blues on Whyte, where you can have a crack addict on 11 outstanding warrants talking up a hot 26 year old. But if you want to go to Empire or to Cowboys, you're gonna have to surrender your personal information. You know, to keep things safe.

Besides the semi-obvious problem (actual troublemakers could just pay off the bouncer, or as was more common, just be let in as friends of the bouncer/owner/manager), this information was collected forever. They never gave it up. Soon after, you started getting junk mail addressed to the exact way your address was formatted on your driver's license. The Privacy Commish was rumoured to be close to ruling in favour of shutting the whole thing down.

Then, in 2009, the Stelmach government gave the mailing list people a gift: as of now, bars would be permitted by law to violate those privacy rights that the government had in the early aughts been bragging about. You know, because they had "teeth". In fact, another right had to be sacrificed for this law: additional demands were placed on bars that the Minister decided needed keeping a little extra control over. Now the government may force a bar to bring it in. I'd make a little note about this law when it happened, but sort of forgot about it except every time I was hauled to Empire and had to experience it again.

Then, a couple months ago, we went out to Showgirls to celebrate a birthday.

Showgirls, for those who don't know, is one of Edmonton's grubbiest (and oldest) strip clubs. Famous for, amoung other things, advertising being open "7 Nights a Week" and then being closed Sundays.

No, seriously, they do.

One of those "other things" it happens to be famous for? Being owned by the Hell's Angels. The Hell's Angels who run prostitution out of the club. The Hell's Angels who don't allow racial diversity in their organization. The Hell's Angels who murder people.

Red Redford's government lets them collect your personal information.

In fact, at one point of the night while we were in there, three HA's in full gang colours showed up and walked around the bar with the manager, supervising what was going on. They entered the backstage area with the girls. Did they have to scan their ID into a computer system? I think we know the answer to that.

Yet why is this even happening? well, the law says...
Risks to public order and safety in licensed premises — gangs
69.1(1) In this section,
(a) “gang” means a group of people engaged in a pattern of unlawful behaviour or in creating an atmosphere of fear or intimidation in a community;
(b) “unlawful behaviour” means
(i) production, sale, importation, exportation or trafficking of a controlled substance within the meaning of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Canada),
(ii) prostitution or living on the avails of prostitution,
(iii) unlawful possession or transfer of firearms, or
(iv) violence, threats, extortion or intimidation.
(2) For the purposes of this section, a person is associated with a gang if the person
(a) is a member of the gang,
(b) supports, facilitates or participates in the gang’s activities, or
(c) is in the company of a person described in clause (a) or (b).
(3) A police officer may exclude or remove from licensed premises any person the police officer believes to be associated with a gang.
(4) A police officer need not rely on personal knowledge in concluding that a person is associated with a gang but may rely on information from others, including but not limited to
(a) information regarding
(i) any admission of association with a gang,
(ii) use of names, signs, symbols or other representations
used by a gang,
(iii) a person’s presence at the scene of unlawful behaviour by a gang, regardless of whether the person participated in the unlawful behaviour,
(iv) receipt of benefits from a gang, and
(v) frequent association with persons associated with a gang,
and
(b) any other categories of information set out in the regulations.
(5) For greater certainty, a police officer’s good faith belief that a person is associated with a gang is itself sufficient grounds for the exclusion or removal of the person from licensed premises under this section.
(6) Every person who is directed to leave licensed premises by a police officer acting under subsection (3) shall comply with the direction.
(7) A person who contravenes subsection (6) is a trespasser on the licensed premises.
16 The following is added before section 70:
Collection of personal information by licensee
69.2(1) A licensee may, before allowing a person to enter licensed premises, collect the person’s name, age and photograph.
(2) If a licensee has personal knowledge or reasonably believes that a person referred to in subsection (1) has, at any time within the preceding year, engaged in an activity referred to in section 69(1) or (2), the licensee may, in good faith, disclose the person’s name, age and photograph to other licensees for the purpose of allowing them to determine whether they wish to allow the person to enter licensed premises.
(3) A licensee must, as soon as possible after a request is made by a police officer, disclose to the police officer any information collected under subsection (1).
So you see the whole point of this legislation is for bar owners to communicate with the police and each other when a gang member or suspected gang member enters their facility. I'm not 100% sure on this, but I'm pretty sure a guy sporting his Hell's Angel patches is a suspected gang member. So did the licensee follow their legal instructions in this matter? Are you ready for a shocker? The motorcycle gang didn't! Is Jonathon Denis, former Solicitor General in Red Redford's cabinet, okay with this? Is Redford herself?

Meanwhile, what's with all the rights and privileges provided to a police officer here? Is he required to prove his good faith? And as with the impaired driving issue I brought up earlier this week, what if he lies or defames you? For that matter, what if the bar who kicks you out defames you? They said that you were a troublemaker when the bar manager's sister didn't like how you hit on her.

Is there an appeal to this state-sponsored database that communicates your behaviour? If you're kicked out for a misunderstanding and cannot get into bars because you're branded a troublemaker, do you have legal recourse? Are you not being libeled by the bar owner using resources he installed at the behest of the provincial government? Does anybody else not see how crazy this is? We've been doing a lot of scenarios here, let's look at this one:

Let's say you're of an ethnic minority that the HA don't approve of (which is to say, any of them). While at Showgirls with friends, you look at the HA guy the wrong way and he beats the snot out of you. To add insult to injury, you get kicked out and they flag you in the system as a bad apple. That's the violent motorcycle gang calling you a bad seed, remember. Two weeks later, you and your friends decide you're going to go to The Billiard's Club on Whyte Avenue. But when you get your ID scanned, you're identified as a troublemaker. You try to explain to the bouncer that you were the victim of a racially motivated attack at Showgirls and were therefore blacklisted. The bouncer doesn't buy your story, and a passing police officeris flagged down to inform you that you are being kicked off the premises under penalty of a trespassing charge. State agents operating at the behest of the Government of Alberta are now enforcing the racist attitudes of a criminal enterprise by removing you from the premises of a neutral third party who didn't want to scan your ID to determine you were on an 81-naughty list, but was ordered to do so by that same government.

This is the "Progressive" "Conservative"'s idea of a gang fighting initiative? Letting criminals lie about you and then ordering police to act on that information? That's crazy!

Yet to Red Redford's government, this is just par for the course. Gangs are tough to deal with. Sometimes you have to either get hard on ordinary people's rights just to bring the gang down, other times you have to let gangs get away with a fair bit because of the freedoms that all people enjoy. Typically both scenarios play out under various initiatives at the same time. It certainly, however, is a shock to see that gangs are both not controlled under this new law but you the ordinary citizen has to give up control of those rights.

Keeping gangs out of bars? In Alberta gangs own bars! A gang member is going to be collecting ID's of people right here and right now -- there's no oversight of who is collecting this information and who sucks information out of this privately-owned/government-operated database.

Fortunately, there is a way to punish the "Progressive" "Conservative" Party and Alison "Red" Redford for this (and other) bad pieces of legislation put out by her party since the dawn of the millennium: vote them out.

There is a strong right-wing alternative: Danielle Smith's Wildrose Party of Alberta. The Wildrose Party has come down hard on Red Redford's abuse of property rights. Demanding that private enterprises shares information of any kind with criminal motorcycle gangs is an outrage, and is exactly the kind of heavy-handed abuse of the fruits of your labours for dubious benefit under what is charitably mistaken as the "public good".

You don't want the Hell's Angels being given a legal tool to monitor and harass you while their own members get a free pass, right? If you agree, you should vote Wildrose on April 23rd.