Can hacking ever be justified for the good of society?
Tentatively, yes. But only when the government fails to protect its citizens.
Recently, European hackers leaked the names and personal information of scores of alleged white supremacists living in Canada.
In an interview with CBC, University of Winnipeg sociology professor Helmut-Harry Loewen lauded the results, claiming, "We can now begin to piece together a more accurate picture in terms of the distribution of these types of racist groups across Canada." The exposure of these individuals and groups, he argues, represents a severe blow to how these groups organize and where they are located.
Canadians shouldn't be shocked that white supremacist groups such as Volksfront and Blood and Honour are able to thrive in our "home and native land." Indeed, in December, three alleged members of Blood and Honour were charged with attacking five individuals of visible minority status.
But if this incident is indeed a blow, as Loewen asserts, the hackers haven't merely (and controversially) exposed the personal information of members of white supremacist organizations.
Rather, they've unearthed a more serious problem: The federal government is clearly not doing its job in fighting racism and discrimination.
In fact, under the Harper government, hate crimes have only risen in recent years.
According to Statistics Canada, there was a 42 per cent increase in hate crimes in 2009, which followed a 35 per cent increase in the preceding year. While the majority of these crimes were fueled by racial and ethnic markers, religiously-motivated hate crimes rose 55 per cent, with attacks against Jews (70 per cent) leading the way by a far margin.
Let's not forget the 13 per cent attacked for their sexual orientation, or the fact that homophobic and sexual harassment is an integral part of the Canadian educational experience. Given that these statistics rely on police data, we can safely assume that many other attacks cannot be accounted for.
These attacks are not occurring in the country's backwaters, but in large, pluralistic metropolitan areas: Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, and Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge.
Statistics Canada reported these most recent figures back in June 2011.
Why, in 2012, should the location of white supremacists come as a surprise, let alone a blow? After all, despite the limitless geographic possibilities that online networking offers, shouldn't we expect a correlation between the number of attacks in a city and the number of self-identified white supremacists living there? Shouldn't federal funding, in turn, be earmarked to fund anti-discrimination policies and practices in these areas?
Canada is not the tolerant country Canadians like to believe it is. I was shocked to hear it described as "racist," "xenophobic," and "homophobic" in both interviews on the BBC and on the streets of major American cities.
If the current government does not actively do more to combat these kinds of groups, hate crimes will increase.
If citizens do not hold the government accountable, hate crimes will increase.
If these hate crimes continue to increase, Canada will cease to be the safe and tolerant country of our ideals.
In the interim, I salute the hackers who have made the discrepancy between our national ideals and reality clear to us all.