WINNIPEG — Whistle blower Edward Snowden spoke to three Canadian universities Tuesday evening, including two in Manitoba.
The lecture kicked off at 6 p.m. with a half-hour lecture followed by a question-and-answer period. The University of Winnipeg, Brandon University and the University of Lethbridge streamed the lecture from Snowden via web link from Russia, where is receiving asylum.
“If our strategy to fend off each new threat is to do away with the very values that in previous years differentiated the free from the oppressed, we have protected nothing,” Snowden said. “If we allow the preferences of a few officials to replace these basic principles upon which our societies are founded, we are no longer citizens. We are reduced to subjects”
Snowden, a United States citizen, is a former intelligence officer who is known for leaking documents from the National Security Agency in 2013 that showed the organization was monitoring U.S. citizens.
“I believed in my work. I believed I was signing up for a just cause. I may not be able to come home to my family in the US, but I can go to bed every night proud of the choices that I’ve made and recognize that it doesn’t matter what happens tomorrow. I’m satisfied with the choices that I’ve made today.”
Snowden also talked about mass surveillance and the role of higher education.
“Mass surveillance is not about saving lives and it never has been. Mass surveillance is justified on the basis of counter-terrorism, but now we have evidence, now we know those programs don’t work.”
The talk began at 2 a.m. Moscow time, and it wasn’t even Snowden’s last speaking engagement of the day. Lectures and keynote speeches are his main source of income since he is stuck in Russia, but he tried to leave the students with a message of inspiration.
“When you see an injustice, when you see a potential for improvement, if you want that better world to come into being, it won’t happen just by waiting. There are no heroes. The person you are waiting for is you.”