The widespread prominence and popularity of viral media does more than merely entertain; it provides a valuable forum where activists and filmmakers can address key issues and affect tangible change. So it is with the new documentary Whoa Canada, a scathing but humorous look at the disastrous policies and practices of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
It all begins with Shit Harper Did, otherwise referred to as the SHD, a self-described band of digital pranksters determined to wreak havoc on Harper's polished public image. Through viral videos and social media platforms, the SHD group has exposed many questionable and offensive practices not only of Harper's administration, but throughout the history of their home country as well. Whoa Canada serves as a culmination of their efforts in documentary form during the thick of Harper's re-election campaign.
One of the most egregious of these offenses involves the government's unprecedented surveillance program. The film contends that the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) building - housed in the most expensive government structure in Canada's history - employs thousands of spies whose job it is to hack online communications and listen in on private phone calls. The targets of many of those surveillance activities, however, are ordinary citizens who aren't afraid to speak truth to power, yet otherwise pose no legitimate threat. In fact, the citizens who dare to protest the country's surveillance tactics are usually the chief recipients of the agency's watchful eye.
As the film points out, Canada's history of surveillance is nothing new; it actually dates back to the beginnings of the practice itself during the women's suffrage movement in the early 1900's. The country's oppression of women is surpassed only by its history of racist discrimination in the form of rights denials and rigged elections.
SHD has amassed a legion of dedicated activists who yearn for a sense of empowerment on how they are governed. Through their online campaigns, and the enthralling efforts on display in Whoa Canada, they bring to light many facets of government that those in power would prefer to keep hidden, and in so doing they set the stage for a new Canada that fully represents the interests of its citizens.