Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category
There are good reasons to safeguard our privacy.
Privacy is important for creativity . . . for learning . . . for innovation.
For most of us, it’s hard to create something with someone looking over your shoulder. For many of us, it is hard to learn when we feel we are being watched. It’s even difficult to invent something new. All of these things are true because we can’t create, learn or innovate without taking a risk, whether it’s the risk of being judged, the risk of appearing stupid or the risk of being wrong.
Privacy is important for free speech.
Without the right to privacy people can’t safely discuss controversial topics — much less change the world — without exposing ourselves to repercussions. If we aren’t free to think what we want, if what we say can cost us our livelihood, or even our freedom, most of us will keep silent.
Privacy is important for intimacy.
Human beings need to be able to share our innermost thoughts with friends and loved ones.
Most important of all, privacy is important for our personal security.
We want to protect our possessions, but it is even more important to protect ourselves and our families.
That’s why we have curtains on our windows. And locks on the doors of our homes. It’s why we seal our mail. And lock our phones. It’s why we use passwords online.
Our privacy Canadians is supposed to be protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But we now know governments and law enforcement agencies are using technology to spy on citizens. Without warrants.
Canada’s CSEC is part of NSA’s Five Eyes spy network. They’re not spying on bad guys, they are spying on us.
Today many websites around the world joined together to protest the NSA’s practice of spying on the online activities of innocent people in the United States and around the world. The American NSA (National Security Agency) is joined in these activities by its Five Eyes partners, England’s GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), Australia’a ASD (Australian Signals Directorate), New Zealand’s (GCSD (Government Communications Security Bureau), and Canada’s own CSEC (Communications Security Establishment Canada).
Instead of using the one provided by www.thedaywefightback.org, I decided to create my own Canadian graphic using a darkened photo of CSEC’s current headquarters, rather than the NSA’s.
Being Canadian, my own protest is not directed at NSA; that is an agency of the Government of the United States. The USA has little motivation to pay any heed at all to non-Americans. On the other hand, The Government of Canada and CSEC are supposed to be working for Canadians; they should have reason to listen to the voices of Canadians.
Most of those Canadians aware of the existence of Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) prior to the Snowden revelations believed our premier spy agency existed to spy for us, not on us. In spite of evidence provided by Edward Snowden and responsibly reported by Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, CSEC protests it’s innocence.
Join me in signing Open Media’s Protect Our Privacy petition.
Even better: contact your member of parliament (see “Find Your Member of Parliament” in the sidebar) and letting him or her know we would be better served if the billions squandered spying on innocent Canadians was invested in something worthwhile instead, like:
- replenishing the CPP, or
- fully funding Library and Archives Canada, or
- providing adequate education and health care to First Nations peoples, or
- creating a postal service that actually delivers mail,
- ensuring Canadian veterans get a fair shake, or
- investing in green energy, or
- improving health care, or
- making a university education available to all qualified Canadians.
I’ll bet you can think of a dozen places you would rather see Canadian tax dollars being spent.
The CSE Commissioner has never found CSE to have acted unlawfully. In fact, he has specifically noted CSE’s culture of lawful compliance and genuine concern for protecting the privacy of Canadians.
With no such budgetary restraints of its own, CSEC took over the luxury digs. While a case can be made that CBC needs impressive offices in an industry where image is everything, it is hard to explain why a Government Industry operating in the shadows should need opulent digs. As it turns out even this spacious architecturally significant Ottawa building was not enough for Canada’s spy agency.
CSEC is spending 1.2 billion to construct the most expensive Canadian government building ever. And although Canadian taxpayers are footing the bill, most will never be allowed to set foot in it.
Canada’s cryptologic agency is part of the 5 Eyes spy consortium that shares intelligence.
CSE is mandated to collect foreign signals intelligence to protect Canada and Canadians, and by law, only directs its foreign intelligence activities at foreign entities.
In order to fulfill this key foreign intelligence role for the country, CSE is legally authorized to collect and analyze metadata. In simple terms, metadata is technical information used to route communications, and not the contents of a communication.”
— CSE statement re: January 30 CBC story
CSEC’s claims (like the other Five Eyes claims) that it limits itself to metadata rings hollow. Reporter Glenn Greenwald makes a convincing case that metadata collection is even more invasive than having the our email read.
For years now, our Canadian Government has been working hard to make such spying on citizens legal by passing “lawful access” legislation, which would make it legal for government to spy on innocent citizens without having to convince a judge that there is a good reason to invade citizen privacy.
After 9/11 the Liberal Government first introduced “lawful access” legislation which failed to pass. The second try at legalizing unfettered citizen surveillance was made by the Conservative government, but was one of the laws lost to premature prorogation.
The third attempt is the one we started hearing about; because it was misleadingly titled Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, yet it neglected to even mention children or internet predators anywhere except in its title. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews infamously told an opposition MP that he could “either stand with us or with the child pornographers” during a debate.
Despite promises not to revisit the issue, the Harper Government’s new Justice Minister Peter MacKay has introduced yet another incarnation, “Bill C-13, The Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act,” which will effectively allow unprecedented digital surveillance. Which would look very much like the things are being revealed through Edward Snowden’s leaked documents. If Bill C-13 becomes law, our spy agencies would be legally allowed to spy on Canadians who happened to use airport WiFi, or read our email, collect our metadata. There would be no legal means for citizens to protest being watched 24/7.
I have spent my entire life being grateful that my maternal grandparents fled the Russian Revolution and emigrated to Canada. This saved me from growing up in the Soviet Union, where citizens didn’t have civil rights. Where the government decided where you went to school, or if you did; and what work you do, and where you lived. Where people were correct in assuming they were being listened to when they spoke on the telephone. Or even when they didn’t.
Even if the education you receive led to the career you always wanted, not being able to say what you think, or even think aloud, without risking instant relocation to Siberia, makes such a system hard to take.
If you don’t think its such a bad idea, try to imagine what it would be like to spend every minute of every day with your mother. No matter how much you love your mom, no matter how good your relationship, chances are good there are things you won’t want to say out loud, or emails you won’t be comfortable writing if you know she is going to read it.
Now think about doing the same thing, but this time instead of your mother, you are now going to spend every minute of every day of the rest of your life with the most annoying person you have ever known. Maybe it’s the whiny little kid who followed you around in the third grade and wanted to be included in everything you did. Or maybe it’s the bully who jumped out of the bushes every day and stole your lunch money.
If all of our digital communications are subject to surveillance after such a law eliminates oversight, the civil liberties promised by the Canadian Charter of Rights And Freedoms won’t be worth the paper its printed on.
If Bill C-13 Lawful Access legislation should become law, Canadians will find ourselves tripping over the government in our bedrooms after all.
Edward Drake Building has been released into the public domain by its author, Vanished User
The Harper Government is rushing the so called “Fair Elections Act” 242-page Omnibus Bill through the House of Commons at breakneck speed. The sweeping changes this ill advised draft legislation seeks to implement are raising alarms among Canadians about the future of Canadian democracy.
You can read the full text of Bill C-23 here.
So far there are two petitions in opposition to the ill advised “Fair Election Act” the Harper Government is rushing through the House of Commons.
The first is being mounted by the online advocacy group Leadnow, who are particularly concerned with the aspects of the bill which will serve to disenfranchise many Canadians, including First Nations peoples, Canadian young people, and the growing ranks of the Canadian poor.
PETITION: Stop US Style Voter Suppression From Becoming Canadian Law
The second petition is from The Council of Canadians, who are particularly concerned with the undemocratic changes this law would make to our electoral system.
PETITION: Investigate and prevent electoral fraud with a truly fair Elections Act
My previous article looked at the “Fair Elections Act” but there are so many things wrong with C-23 there have been a flurry of articles already:
- SLAW: “Why the Conservatives’ “Fair Elections Act” Could Be Unconstitutional” by Adam Goldenberg
- CBC: “Election reform bill an affront to democracy, Marc Mayrand says” By Susana Mas
- Andrew Coyne: “What problems are the Conservatives really trying to solve with bizarre Fair Elections Act?”
- Globe and Mail Editorial: “Why the hurry to pass the Fair Elections Act?”
- The ChronicleHerald: “McILVEEN: New Fair Election Act: not exactly as advertised”
- Huffington Post: “Fair Elections Act Will Prevent Young And Low-Income Canadians From Voting, NDP Charge” by Althia Raj
- Huffington Post: “Not Much Fairness in the “Fair Elections Act” by Brent Rathgeber
- Ottawa Citizen: “The Fair Elections Act hinders whistle-blowing” by Stephen Shrybman
- Macleans: “The Fair Elections Act” by Aaron Wherry
- Ottawa Citizen: “Conservatives’ Fair Elections Act eliminates the referee, Marc Mayrand says ~ Chief Electoral Officer also worried legislation will make it harder for some people to vote”
- Democracy Under Fire: “The (UN)Fair Elections Act”
- UFCW “The “Fair” Elections Act?”
- “Fair Election act? —>Voter Suppression act of 2014.“
- Elizabeth May “A real ‘Fair Elections Act’ would start with getting rid of First Past the Post”
- “Five things you need to know about the Fair Elections Act”
- “Creekside: The Fair Elections Act”
- “Conservative Fair Elections Act – Completely Un-Fair to Young People”
- Reddit: “Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand denounces Conservatives’ Fair Elections Act”
- Foundation for Democratic Advancement: “CPC Bill C-23 “Fair Elections Act”
- The Fair Elections Act benefits the Conservatives, and hurts everyone else.
Elections Canada is the independent, non-partisan agency responsible for conducting federal elections and referendums. Once appointed by the House of Commons, the Chief Electoral Officer reports directly to Parliament and serves until retirement at age 65 or until he or she resigns. She can only be removed from the position by the Governor General of Canada for cause in a process requiring a joint motion and majority vote in both the House of Commons and the Senate.
Elections Canada is charged with running fair elections. It provides the public with information about our election system, ensures eligible voters are registered and can vote, registers political parties, monitors election spending and helping adjust federal riding boundaries, and enforces election legislation.
Well, that’s what it did until now.
Yesterday, February 4th, 2014, was a bad day for Canada, when the Harper Government unveiled Bill C-23, the so-called “Fair Elections Act.”
Appointed in 2007, our current Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand was unanimously approved by the House of Commons in 2007. [post script: every single Member of Parliament in every party, including Mr. Harper during the last Harper Government minority, supported the choice of Mark Mayrand. ] Throughout Mayrand’s term of office, there have been what seems an never ending list of electoral scandals, ranging from creative financing all the way up to the Robocalls. Here are a few of the highlights:
- In and Out scandal
- U of Guelph ballots valid: Elections Canada
- Jim Harris: Harper Conquers Canada, One Robocall at a Time
Conservative Minister for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre was quoted as saying, “The referee should not be wearing a team jersey,” a clear indication the Harper Government feels Elections Canada has been unfairly targeting Conservatives.
And while Prime Minister Harper can’t remove Marc Mayrand from his job, it seems he can remove half of Elections Canada. It certainly looks like revenge to me. My own opinion is that Elections Canada’s has been treating the Harper Government with kid gloves.
“The reason I doubt anything the Conservatives say on electoral matters is they have a proven track record of consistently cheating in elections,” NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said outside the Commons
This law aims to crack down on voter fraud by making it harder for Canadians to vote. There are many good reasons for citizens eligible to vote to lack sufficient credentials. Not everyone has photo ID. Wallets are stolen, people who have just moved often lack proof of residence. In the past, such situations could be overcome by having a voter with the correct credentials vouch for you. It is estimated that this change will prevent thousands of Canadians from voting. This change will hit the young and the homeless hardest.
There have been suggestions that this Law will create an independent Electoral Commissioner, but in reality, the Independent Commissioner exists already; they are simply moving him. [post script: The current system protects the Election Commissioner and the process of policing the Elections Act from partisan interference. Placing the Commissioner of Elections under the authority of the Public Prosecutor, who is himself a political party appointee, would appear to remove such protection. If I am correct, this law will effectively remove any accountability in Canadian electoral law.]
The idea is supposed to be to hold those responsible for electoral fraud accountable. But how are they planning to find these frauds? Well, it seems political parties engaging in Robocalls will be required to register and submit their scripts to the CRTC. This is voluntary registration is supposed to protect citizens from being deliberately disenfranchised by fraudulent robocalls that send them to non-existent polling stations.
If someone wants to commit robocall fraud, are they really going to turn themselves in to the CRTC ahead of time? I think not.
The Green Party’s Democratic Reform Critic, Bruce Hyer, said,
If the Conservatives were serious about electoral reform, we would be talking about ending First Past the Post and introducing Proportional Representation, reforming our unelected and unaccountable Senate, and ending the practice of having party leaders sign off on candidates’ nomination forms. Unlike Michael Chong’s important Reform Act, this is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Elizabeth May by Mike Gifford released under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license
Plain Text: “In Canada, our problem isn’t people voting more than once, it’s people voting less than once.” ` Elizabeth May
If we want Canada to be governed democratically, we need to adopt Proportional Representation. Our inequitable winner-take-all electoral system (that predates confederation) gives 100% of the power to the “winners”, and leaves a majority of Canadians the “losers” ~ citizens without meaningful representation in parliament.
Fair Vote Canada is a grass roots multi-partisan organisation that advocates meaningful electoral reform to Proportional Representation. Right now Canadian MPs are in their home ridings, so this is an excellent time to visit their constituency office and suggest they support Proportional Representation.
If you sign up for the Fair Vote initiative they’ll send you a package including background information, suggestions of what to say and do in your meeting, and information to leave with your MP.
This isn’t a single party issue; Proportional Representation would benefit all Canadians. Some Conservative MPs are listening with interest. Our current electoral system is so badly broken that one Alberta Conservative MP reportedly told a constituent:
In Alberta, the Conservatives could run a poster on a tree,
and the tree would win.
That pretty much sums up why we need Proportional Representation so badly. The votes of all Canadians should count.
When you look at what is happening in Canada, it’s easy to to be overwhelmed by all the things that are wrong. In particular, all the things that aren’t working the way we think they work.
At the heart of the problem is the democratic deficit Canada struggles under. My researches over the past several years have made me conclude the only meaningful solution open to Canada is to repair the shaky foundation of our electoral system. Winner-take-all electoral systems like First Past The Post divide Canadians into winners (who elect the government) and losers (without representation). The whole country suffers from the unstable policies that result as the electoral pendulum swings back and forth between parties.
Most Canadians want the stable policy that would result from more democratic government, but we won’t get that without Proportional Representation. That makes it important for all of Canada’s political parties to commit to meaningful electoral reform so that all Canadians can be represented in parliament.
Some of my Liberal friends hope to help their Party membership change their electoral policy at the next Montreal convention, so I helped them make this small film called “The Foundation.”
p.s. You can stream or share it from YouTube, but if you want to download it visit the new Libreleft Films page. Please share it anywhere that may do some good.
Do you remember NAFTA?
Canadians exercised our democratic right to fire Brian Mulroney and his entire political party (save 2) for inflicting NAFTA on Canada. We said NO to NAFTA.
In decimating the Progressive Conservative Party, we replaced Mulroney with a new Liberal Prime Minister. PM Jean Chrétien took office with a decisive majority, because he had:
“…campaigned on a promise to renegotiate or abrogate NAFTA; however, Chrétien subsequently negotiated two supplemental agreements with the new US president.”
No one doubted that the majority of Canadians emphatically said NO. We did what we are supposed to: we changed the government to make our point. Yet it didn’t help. NAFTA is alive and well in Canada.
[And people wonder why so many Canadians don't vote.]
It’s no wonder governments seek to negotiate trade agreements in secret; citizens might vote them out if we knew what they were doing. Even our protests might slow them down.
In spite of onerous non-disclosure agreements, information about the dreadful secret trade agreement ACTA (the so-called “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement”) kept leaking out. I blogged extensively about ACTA in my interweb freedom blog. Enough was known about it to frighten Europeans into taking to the streets. The result was that ACTA was rejected emphatically after European citizens took to the streets to tell their governments “NO!”
The ACTA agreement crumbled, or so the world thought . . .
The agreement was signed in October 2011 by Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States. In 2012, Mexico, the European Union and 22 countries which are member states of the European Union signed as well. One signatory (Japan) has ratified (formally approved) the agreement, which would come into force in countries that ratified it after ratification by six countries.
Although many people believe the world rejected ACTA, Canada has not. Some of the worst of the laws that erode civil rights that are being forged by Canada’s “majority government” are in service of the ACTA trade agreement. ACTA is alive and well in Canada.
And now the The TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership is coming.
Governments and special interests pursue these treaties in secret because the terms are detrimental to citizen interests. They then use the existence of such “trade treaties” to justify draconian changes they then make to our domestic laws. We are told they “have to do it” because of the treaty commitment. Funny how the Harper Government doesn’t “have to” live up to Canada’s Kyoto commitment.
Make A Difference
The Inter-Continental Day of Action, 31 January 2013 is gearing up across Canada, the United States and Mexico to protest the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement (TPP), the latest in the dizzying proliferation of “trade agreements” that sacrifice the public good in the interests of servicing the objectives of corporations.
Find your local event, or start your own!
Canada Post was created to provide a service to Canadians. It should not be expected to be a “for profit” enterprise, it is a government monopoly because it is a public utility. It should allow Canadians to stay in touch and enable our mail order businesses to compete in a global market.
Rather than considering the decades of erosion of service, the blame for the high cost of Canada Post is always laid at the feet of its employees. Rather slashing benefits or bringing the wages of the Postal Employees down to match those paid by sweatshops, some kind of accommodation may be necessary, perhaps something like the reduction of mail delivery from 5 days a week to three. Whatever is done, Negotiations and accommodations must be arrived at through consultation with postal workers.
There is a huge misconception that digital business will replace real world businesses. This may be true at some point in the far future, if someone invents Star Trek like transporters to ship goods, or machines to generate goods out of the air, but that is not happening now, or any time soon. (3-D printers are not magic; like photocopiers they require both something to copy and the raw materials necessary to create the copy.)
We live in a global economy. In order to compete, we need a postal service that empowers Canadian businesses to ship our physical goods around the world.
The Internet allows individuals and independents to market and sell our wares online. But whether we sell our physical goods from our own website, or through eBay or Etsy, if the cost of shipping is twice the cost of manufacture, Canadian small business — our best form of growth — are priced out of the market for anything but high ticket items.
Fixing Canada Post
The way to fix Canada Post is to increase and improve service, not to slash it.
- Remove Canada Post’s top brass
If a service can’t be properly provided by a monopoly, the fault can be laid at the door of the executives incapable of properly managing it. The only exception is that whoever was responsible for Canada Post’s only intelligent decision in decades, the “Permanent Stamp” should be kept on— assuming they’ve not already been let go.
- Resume Core Service
- Re-introduce reduced rates for postcards, which should be no more than half the cost of regular mail.
- Re-introduce reduced rates for unsealed Christmas Cards.
- Re-establish graduated rates, both for letter mail and parcels. In particular it is crucial to provide a slow but inexpensive option for Canadians and Canadian mail-order businesses.
- Scrap super boxes and resume home delivery. Any place home delivery is unfeasible must provide an accessible local post office branch.
- Instead of making up rates daily on an individual basis, it is important to Publish a Rate Schedule, at least quarterly (although annually would be better). This would make the service more appealing for private citizens; allowing people mail gifts to family and friends, as well as facilitate the shipping needs of Canadian mail order businesses, enabling them to reasonably budget for shipping costs.
- Stop trying to compete with same day courier services. Once the core service is running well, there may be room for expansion in this direction, but not before, and never at the expense of the core business of delivering the mail.
- Stop trying to break into the email market. Many Canadians receive our bills online and pay them online. We do this already; we certainly don’t require Canada Post to facilitate these transactions. If at some point Canada Post can offer some innovation to this, it would be worth considering. But again, not at the expense of the core service.
- Provide customer service. Stop limiting Canadians wishing to make complaints to telephone or email; provide a postal mail address for complaints and queries, and respond to all complaints reasonably and in a timely manner.
There is no good reason why Canada Post can not again be a vibrant service; Canadians love to get mail.
Canada Post 1851 Queen Victoria Stamp is in the Public Domain ~ via Wikipedia