I recently celebrated my fifth anniversary of freedom from all things “American.” Ironically, it coincided with the inauguration of Donald J Trump as POTUS. I’ve been a bit distracted by the confirmation hearings and the immediate movement via Executive Orders on some of the less than charming policies that to my mind and heart, are completely un-American. Oddly enough, it reminds me of the beginning of my expat saga, with the all-too-familiar horror of how vicious and unrelenting the US has become. The main thing that becomes apparent, is how important Brock has become, not only to all of you, but also, to me.
Looking back, it is hard to imagine any part of my expat experience that does not include Brock (probably about 6 weeks total). The site has been so much more than we anticipated. We developed our knowledge and outlook through combined research, in order to protect ourselves from the “alternative facts” being promoted at the time by the tax compliance industry, the media and government figures like Levin and Shulman. Secondly, it was the ONLY place expats could go for support; to get reassurance that this was not imagined or exaggerated. Everything about the OMG moment was 100% true. People leaned on people for the support they didn’t get from their spouses, parents, families, friends, employers or representatives. Without Brock, I don’t think there would be ADCS-ADCS or the Canadian lawsuit. There would not have been the network of people to help with and promote the Information Sessions. There would not have been such a massive submission to the Senate Finance Committee. No Brock SWAT team on the endless comment sections of articles. (SWAT=”Special Writers and Thinkers). No expansion into the various FB groups and Twitter accounts. No ADCT. No mini
protests. No “We Are Not a Myth.” No submission to the United Nations. No campaigns to reach out to journalists, mayors, other expats, etc. I am probably missing things but you get the idea.
Perhaps one of the most unexpected directions Brock took was to be the focal point for donations for the ADCS-ADSC lawsuit in Canada. It is probably this that changed Brock more than anything else; Brock is not at all the same as it was in the beginning. This is hard to explain to newer people but it is true all the same. And over time, Brock has developed an international visibility. It is a place where letter writing campaigns and Twitter rallies are organized. It is a place where the more “shocking” ideas are explored (shocking to the Homelander-American exceptionalist viewpoint). It was, I believe, from Brock, that the strongest “screaming” became evident and which helped push certain changes that have occurred in the last five years. The fact we were not “politically correct,” not afraid to speak out against US policy, Shulman, Levin, Obama, et al is what made us different. Things we started with (renunciation, remaining full-ostrich) were so taboo five years ago. I remember being shocked at renounceuscitizenship’s blog -wincing at the very title (even though I had already decided that was what I was going to do)! These developments were what didn’t happen in the other expat forums, groups (or considered by the professionals) and absolutely what needed to happen. There is not one shred of doubt in my mind that Brock is what made the now common renunciation movement, possible. We own that.
As is to be expected, whenever a group of people interact, there are problems, issues, difficult moments and so on. There have been a number of situations in the past few months that have motivated the Committee to review and re-evaluate what is happening here. We recognize that we’ve (everybody) all worked hard to make Brock what it is. There have always been (and still are) only two main “rules” here.
1) Use only one alias. When people write under multiple identities, they undermine the integrity of our conversations. It is dishonest and shows a callous lack of respect for the other people taking part. There have been incidents where such a person “talks” to him/herself as a different person. This is simply misusing precious anonymity (which most here rely upon) as a way to promote one’s own way of thinking. If you decide you want to change your alias, just let us know and then use the new one (only).
2) No personal attacks. This is an area where we have not always “been on top” of what has gone on. In the past, many such exchanges have taken place. Going forward we all need to be on the same page, being aware of two different situations before letting loose.
Firstly, we have attacks that occur within our Brock community (which naturally extends to our broader sphere such as “lurkers” and people who drop in to check out the site, look for info etc). Comments where one person swears at another, threatens them or their family, is aggressive, makes accusations, harps on endlessly with non-constructive intent etc, will be removed and ongoing comments put in immediate moderation. (Moderation does not mean changing content; it means future comments have to be approved; we do not make changes to comments unless asked to by the author). These types of attacks are negative, unsupportive and generally not the sort that lead to more understanding or knowledge. In other words, they serve no real purpose other than one asserting themselves against another person. Often the same people pushing the same people’s buttons over and over and over again…….
Secondly, we have the issue of real persons outside of our immediate community and the issue of defamation. Tax compliance professionals, judges and lawyers involved in our case, etc. This is where we need to take note of the fact that things everyone says makes Brock (i.e., Peter and possibly the rest of the Committee as well as the commenter) liable to be sued. Should that happen, it would likely be the end of Brock. “Real people” means those whose real names are used, reference made to their profession etc. Singled out, not protected by an alias. People some of us will run into in the course of things. No matter how justified one may feel, to call such a person a derogatory term, criticize without direct proof etc, puts Brock in jeopardy. In this regard, the risk Peter et al. takes is similar to that which Ginny, Gwenny and Katia take. All are taking a chance of being personally financially responsible for an undefined level of punitive action. No one would do anything that would put our plaintiffs in a compromised position. It is reasonable for the members of the Committee to take steps to protect themselves. So please, before making any kind of comment that could be defamatory, make sure you have real, true information (not just opinion) and that you demonstrate/reference it. If there are substantiated facts to support criticism of a point of view, that is one thing. Developing a sound well-reasoned perspective need not involve any sense of attacking someone else. Calling someone a degrading name, threatening to harass them or their firm, will result in the comment being deleted and ongoing comments put in immediate moderation. That kind of behavior has nothing to do with improving our situation.
What is wanted is to create a place where people want to come to, participate in, and hopefully, become more involved in what we are doing. The tone of comments and type of language used has affected things such as donations to the lawsuit. People have given so much in terms of time, energy and money. In other words, Brock is bigger than any one of us-why hurt the cause?
Much is expected
Brock has played a large role in the expat movement over the last five years. It might be that we sometimes don’t appreciate that because we are so used to having it at our fingertips. But please do consider whether your words and actions are positive in tone and intent-this is how we can have the greatest impact on this ongoing dilemma of unwanted U.S. persecution.
And I renounced 2 years ago. Information and sharing both at Brock and the Maple Sandbox sites have been tremendously helpful to me. Let’s also remember John Richardson’s information sessions which somehow gave me the strength to make the right decision. We can all use a reminder to remain civil on these highly difficult/reactive topics (FATCA, CBT, etc.)
@ George O
A previous POTUS made Canada pay the entire cost ($2.1B) of a bridge between our two countries PLUS $250M for the required US customs “plaza”. The new POTUS just might be able to make Mexico pay for a border wall. If he doesn’t then maybe we should be asking for a new deal on that bridge where the US at least pays for its own damn building. Why-o-why is Canada such a terrible deal maker? FATCA was a bridge too far.
Embee, I won’t bore the readers here but the USA/CAN bridge across that one mile river is far worse than that. The province of Ontario and the city of Windsor have spent millions updating the highways and expressways which lead to what we locals call the highway to nowhere.
But there is no doubt a new bridge is needed as this is the major transport hub for the highest trade truck traffic moving goods between the two nations. However it still is a fiasco, and a complete failure on the part of both international governments who have made too many ( legal) errors to count.
I am a child of the hippie era with all that anti-authoritarianism. I think my generation went a step too far. Any good site needs good moderation. Human beings are just not cut out for total freedom- they raise havoc with it in the long run. In the same vein- GOOD government is needed and not a total lack of government. There are good laws too which help to protect us all.
I renounced and paid up- still I look to Brock for all the newest information on repeal of FATCA and the goal of RBT, because anything else just goes against human rights.
@George (TOR – love that!)
Thank you. I did not think it might be the smartest thing to do – i.e., giving them ideas. But how could we expect anything less from the best ally and friend of every nation on earth?
I renounced a few years back (tried to relinquish, but US Embassy wouldn’t let me because I’d travelled on my US passport once – talk about trivial and petty!).
Anyway, I did just wonder if anyone had anything to offer about Trump’s attitudes towards FATCA and the IRS’s global income tax. Is there any hope he is against both? If so, would be too ambitious to imagine he may enable some sort of “re-institution” policy for Americans who renounced under this unfair persecution of our liberties?
I guess if enough petitioned for reinstatement it could happen, if Lee Harvey Oswald managed it then anything is possible.
BUT with CBT still in place, would you ever trust them again?
This is where we’re at and part of the reason why many of us are still here despite having relinquished/renounced/surrendered even long expired greencards;
‘Transfer of Records from CRA to IRS Doubled to 315,000’
Bravo and grateful thanks to Lynne. Hope to see a link to her recent CBC radio interview as well.
Canada is a sovereign and autonomous nation and should not be defending illegal US extraterritorial incursions into its territory even under threats of economic sanctions/extortion, and enacting agreements with foreign countries like the US, that savage the constitutional, human, international and Charter rights of its citizens and residents.
I also expect that overreporting and recent US events like this ‘ Trump’s Executive Order Eliminates Privacy Act Protections for Foreigners January 26, 2017 http://www.michaelgeist.ca/2017/01/trumps-executive-order-eliminates-privacy-act-protections-for-foreigners/ will provide new impetus for resistance to FATCA in the EU which is already wrestling with the effect of US incursions on EU residents and citizen’s rights to data protection and privacy http://www.sophieintveld.eu/liberals-and-democrats-concerned-about-loopholes-in-eu-us-data-protection-umbrella-agreement/ .
We need our local national politicians in Canada and elsewhere to be raising questions and issues of our data privacy rights like this EU MEP does regularly.
For those in the EU, you might want to contact MEP Sophie in’t Veld to thank her for raising these concerns on your behalf despite the failure of local governments to do so and to uphold the rights of their citizens and residents;
“……..President Trump signed on 25th January 2017 a new Executive Order on “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States”, which in its section 14 about the Privacy Act states that “Agencies shall, to the extent consistent with applicable law, ensure that their privacy policies exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents from the protections of the Privacy Act regarding personally identifiable information.” Such a decision not only undermines further the compliance with the terms of the EU-US Umbrella Agreement, but also contradicts some of the “written assurance” provided by the U.S. Authorities under the Privacy Shield.
As Guardian of the Treaties and responsible for the application of EU law, it is the duty of the European Commission to ensure that it’s decision and the obligations derived from international agreement it has concluded are fully implemented, enacted and respected. It is therefore urgent that the Commission provides clear answers with regards to the exemptions to the US Privacy Act and their impact on the legality of transatlantic transfer of personal data.” from http://www.sophieintveld.eu/letter-to-eu-commission-what-impact-has-trump-decisions-on-privacy-shield-and-umbrella-agreement/
I see no reason to be complacent and accept the CRA/Finance Minister that the FATCA data is ‘only’ to be used for tax purposes, particularly since you might remember that the FATCAfather Richard ‘Dick’ Harvey said that FATCA might be made more palatable if rationalized in terms of fighting terror, and not only confined to taxation ( “…Harvey suggests that Treasury and the IRS may want to increase coordination with Treasury’s anti-money-laundering/terrorist financing arm. Detailed customer due diligence may be easier to justify if it is being done for both tax and anti-terrorist or anti-money-laundering reasons” from ‘FATCA — A Report From the Front Lines’ by J. Richard Harvey Jr. https://ssrn.com/abstract=2122491 .
As you might remember, and has been posted before, US Senator Levin tried to push FATCA’s boundaries in order to authorize wider and broader sharing of the data collected for the purposes of law enforcement; “….. Foreign account information is too important to a wide range of civil and criminal law enforcement and national security efforts to be designated as tax return information bound by Section 6103’s severe restrictions on access….” http://www.citizenshipsolutions.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/CarlLevin.pdf
Any weakening of privacy and data protection is sure to be used in multiple areas – rationalized by efforts by people like Harvey and Levin to extend arguments that use anti-terrorism arguments to legitimate erosion of our rights in other areas.
Seems as good a place as any to put this …
Right now I’m feeling the need for some relief from the Brock bickering because it is making me weary and sad. I am oldstock Brock and will continue to watch for updates on the progress of the Canadian trial (my heart is committed to that challenge) but I’ll try to leave the commenting to the newstock Brockers. I sometimes wonder if there is some Tavistock-like undermining or manipulation going on here because the atmosphere has changed. If the site managers ever feel they’ve had enough and elect to shut down Brock I would completely understand. However I want them to know how much I appreciate all the work they have done behind the scenes since all the way back to 2011. My how time flies and ever more quickly as you get older (read an article recently attempting to explain why this is so). Anyway I wish everyone well and thank everyone who has worked or is still working to make things right for those who are threatened by the US tax regime. I’m particularly mindful of those who passed away during the struggle. The cause is just. It always will be.
@ Patricia Moon, thank you for your thoughtful post and the reminder that people need to be kind when posting. I have been somewhat uncomfortable with some of the language and personal attacks recently and so appreciate the steps the committee has taken.
@ EmBee I hear you, hope you can re-fresh and come back. I’ve always valued your interventions.
To all Brockers, I would never have been able to relinquish without this website. It is a vital resources for all those who may need to relinquish/renounce. Let’s not threaten this site with bad behaviour.
Like Proud Canadian, I could not have come through last 3 yrs, to renunciation without this site. But it is not just about me; I keep meeting persons who need help. Example: last weekend, woman seated next to me on train, Canadian who, when in Chicago to work in ’90s, had two children. She knew they were dual but uninformed about FATCA, CBT. I was grateful to be able to direct her here.
There is of course the broader picture: CBT, FATCA. Let’s keep Brock focused and relevant.
Thank you, Patricia… I don’t have words for how much you have helped.
I almost think that woman and her kids might have been better off not knowing. The US won’t ever tax them, but now they’ll worry about it. But as long as they don’t panic and start filing, all good.
And of course they might have panicked if they found out about it somewhere else.