In the early 1900’s, the Black Hand was a type of extortion racket that involved sending a threatening letter to a victim and demanding a specified amount of money to prevent the threats from being carried out. According to an article published in the New York Times on March 26, 1910, famous tenor Enrico Caruso paid $1500 – $2000 to the Black Hand to “purchase peace for himself”. Despite the payment, Caruso continued to receive letters in which he was threatened with every conceivable kind of bodily harm unless he promptly paid more. That is the problem with acquiescing to the demands of an extortionist, you are identified as an “easy mark” and leave yourself susceptible to future acts of extortion.
The Criminal Code of Canada states in section 346(1): Every one commits extortion who, without reasonable justification or excuse and with intent to obtain anything, by threats, accusations, menaces or violence induces or attempts to induce any person, whether or not he is the person threatened, accused or menaced or to whom violence is shown, to do anything or cause anything to be done.
Recently, the government of the US committed extortion with intent to obtain Canadian banking records. They threatened the Canadian government with crippling economic sanctions to induce the Canadian government to provide those records in violation of numerous Canadian laws. The Canadian government stood to gain NOTHING in these negotiations, only to maintain the status quo (and avoid the threatened crippling economic sanctions). There is no reciprocity in the IGA, and it appears that the US will never be able to provide Canada with the same information that they are demanding from Canada.
Canada would do well to learn from the experiences of Enrico Caruso. Once they officially pass this travesty, they will confirm that Canada is an easy mark which can be bullied at will. Undoubtedly, there will be demands to provide more in the future. This will be a sad day in our once great country – the day we gave in to the demands of an extortionist and sacrificed our sovereignty because our current government does not have the confidence or the intestinal fortitude to stand up for itself. In order to prevent Canadian citizens who the US deems “US persons” from having the protections afforded all other Canadians, the Canadian government will make this IGA supersede all other Canadian laws except the Charter. It appears our laws now come straight from the extortionists in Washington and are rubber stamped by the easy mark in Ottawa.
Extortion rackets are common in US politics. On October 21, 2013, Peter Schweizer wrote an editorial in the New York Times titled “Politicians’ Extortion Racket” that describes how these rackets work.
As a conservative and former supporter of the current Canadian government, I am particularly appalled by their actions. In my lifetime, I cannot recall ever before experiencing such a profound sense of disgust, disappointment and betrayal at the hands of a Canadian government. If the Harper government had any interest in doing what is right, they would stand up to the extortionist. Should the US impose the threatened sanctions, it might even have political benefits, as no one likes a bully and Canadians of all political stripes might rally together against the extortionists in Washington.