Posts Tagged ‘Canada’
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!
Last weekend I attended the Tiger Boys Fly-In at the Guelph airport. Named for the famed “Tiger Moth” biplane, the Tiger Boys are a flying club; pilots and warplane enthusiasts who maintain, repair and fly warplanes which are relics of Canadian history. They hold an annual “Fly Day,” where ordinary people can come out and see these machines and even pay to go up for a ride in them. What an amazing way to bring our history to life.
Historical societies across Canada toil to preserve our heritage because it is important to Canadians. Yet while ordinary people like these care enough to preserve our history, I was stunned to learn that our government can’t seem to manage to spend less than ten million dollars to preserve our documentary heritage.
Ten million dollars is more than we can easily manage at the local level, so it may sound like a lot. Until you look at other budget entries. How much does the Federal government spend on, say, advertising? Or maybe a submarine. Or a helicopters. How much does every day our troops are at war cost us? How much did they spend on the Toronto G20?
How much did they spend ~ of our tax money ~ to quietly bail out the banks and the bankers? Hmmm.
And when all is said and done, who will have the money to be able to afford these priceless Canadian historical artifacts. Artifacts that rightly belong to all Canadians?
Photographs and heirlooms, some bought by Canadian governments with our tax dollars, and some donated, like the world famous Yousuf Karsh photographic legacy.
This is our heritage.
This is not only incredibly short sighted, but much worse, this is a crime against our children. And our children’s children. Canada’s shared history is our national photo album.
The story of where we’ve come from, and why we are where we are. I am really lucky that my family has some of our own heritage photographs, but not every family does. I’ve begun creating my own little heritage project, The Russwurm Family website.
The contents of Library and Archives Canada belong to all Canadians, past and future.
I don’t believe that any government should have the right to sell it off. Yet this is the kind of tragedy that can happen with an antiquated electoral system like ours. Still, there isn’t time to change that in time, this must be stopped,
Because these artifacts that our government plans to sell off to private collectors — our heritage — are unique.
These artifacts are irreplacable.
There is a petition:
Or you can write a letter on the Save Library and Archives Canada website, where you can use their system to write a letter to the man who has been entrusted with preserving Canada’s heritage, Heritage Minister James Moore.
Of course, you can write your own letter:
The Hon. James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
House of Commons
K1A 0A6 James Moore:
You can ~ and should ~ also write a letter to your own MP [Find your MP.] Under our “winner-take-all” electoral system, our MP is supposed to represent our interests in Ottawa. Whether she/he is a back bencher or Minister. Whether or not we voted for him/her.
Please share this with every Canadian you know.
The Cooperate for Canada panel discussion was quite interesting. I’ll blog more about it when I’m a little more awake
From left to right:
David Merner, prospective Liberal Party of Canada cooperation leadership candidate, former President of the B.C. Liberal Part
Cathy Maclellan, Energy Critic for the Green Party of Canada, past Green Party federal candidate for Kitchener-Waterloo
James Gordon, past provincial Guelph NDP candidate, well known singer-songwriter, entrepreneur and community activist
The fourth member of the panel, Stuart Parker, attended via Skype from Vancouver
Check the Poliblog for further information on the Democracy Week events in Waterloo Region.
As a child, I spent many an hour watching shows like “The Lone Ranger” and “Zorro” with my dad. My father made sure we were all grounded in super hero lore, where you will find ample justification for secret identities.
When I progressed from comics to real books I continued on in the same vein, reading the Scarlet Pimpernel books when I could get hold of them in high school. Maybe that’s why I have never questioned the validity of the idea that anonymity is so important for freedom.
Anonymity offers protection; we can say what needs to be said Without anonymity, fear of repercussion can silence the truth. Without a shield of anonymity, people must first weigh the harm speaking out can cause themselves and their families. For many the risk is too great.
It is the goal of repressive government to silence dissent, but it is positively disturbing to find this in our democratic governments.
In case you’re new to Byron’s story, he was a young man who had everything: a beautiful wife, a beautiful home, and a challenging security business. He lost all those things, along with his liberty for nearly a year, because he chose to protest the G20. Byron is fortunate, however, because he hasn’t lost everything, he still has the trust and strong support of his friends and family. The crown has dropped almost all the charges against him. Yet although the remaining charges appear dubious, they keep the sword of Damocles hanging over his head, with the possibility of possible further incarceration. As well the charges provide the basis for keeping Byron restrained under onerous bail conditions which compromise Byron’s ability to work in his chosen profession to earn needed funds to pay for his defence, among other things. And making things harder still, PayPal summarily closed Byron’s donation account, but it is still possible to make donations.
Byron Sonne did not wear a mask. He went about his business openly, broadcasting words and images on publicly accessible Internet venues like Flickr and Twitter. I very much doubt Byron was trying to hide his identity online; he certainly had the technical expertise to do so had that been his intent. He wouldn’t have lasted two minutes in the computer security business without the ability to cover his digital tracks online. I believe that it is telling that he made no real effort to do so.
The way our legal system has dealt with Byron Sonne raises disturbing questions:
- Is justice blind, or are some Canadian citizens treated differently under the law?
- Are Canadian citizens allowed to question what our government does?
- Are we allowed to observe the actions our government and its representatives?
- If we take photographs of police will we be arrested?
- Are citizens allowed anonymity or can we be compelled to provide identity papers without cause?
- Are we allowed to hold our government accountable?
- Do citizens still have any civil liberties?
- Are Canadians even allowed to discuss such things?
In Canada Private Member’s Bill 309 seeks to criminalize the act of covering your face. There are many legitimate reasons to cover a human face. Hallowe’en masks are common today, but human beings have found cause to wear masks much longer, over centuries, religions and cultures.
Sometimes actors wear masks.
Allergy sufferers often wear masks to protect themselves from airborne allergens.
There are many cultures and religions requiring the covering of various parts of the human head.
Let us not forget, this is Canada. Many Canadians have had cause to wear hoods, hats and scarves to protect our heads from the elements.
All of these are excellent reasons for this Private Member’s bill to fail. After all, how often do Private Member’s Bill’s get passed, anyway? But Canada currently has a majority government, so it is very likely that this law will be passed.
If the wearing of a mask ~ or more telling, the covering of a face ~ in itself becomes a crime, it will be a horrendous blow to free speech in Canada. Some might feel that this law isn’t so bad, because Bill 309 would only make it illegal in certain circumstances. Except that the definition is broad enough it can be applied to any circumstance.
And the government gets to decide. The result of such legislation will make it far more dangerous for citizens to attend any sort of political protest at all. Even if you attend a peaceful protest without wearing a mask, things might get out of hand. You might not even be attending such a protest, but walking along the public streets minding your own business, yet may find yourself swept up and kettled by the police. This happened to many uninvolved Toronto residents during the G20.
If Bill 309 becomes law, the simple act of covering your face with your sleeve against tear gas in the air could lead to criminal charges.
Ironically there have been far too many instances of police officers removing their badges – and thus, choosing anonymity – prior to exceeding the scope of their legal authority and behaving in a criminal manner. Yet this far more dangerous behaviour (and evidence of premeditation) has resulted in little if any repercussion and is not covered in this bill.
It isn’t possible to have a healthy democracy unless citizens have the right to free speech and peaceful protest.
LegisInfo: House Government Bill 41st Parliament, 1st Session June 2, 2011 – Present Text of the Bill Latest Publication: As passed by the House of Commons:
C-10 An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts
You can read Bill C10 here.
I had hoped the Senate would fulfil its legislative function and provide oversight by preventing the passage of this law that hasn’t even been properly costed out, let alone justified.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Union calls Bill C-10, The Omnibus Crime Bill Unwise, Unjust, Unconstitutional
What I don’t understand is why our government would spend money we don’t have on jails we don’t need.
I have the dubious distinction of being an expert on this issue, having spent far too many years without a family doctor in this land of supposed universal health care. When you don’t have an MD, there are only two options: Walk-In Clinics, or Emergency Rooms.
It isn’t an issue if you’re healthy; and so, by and large, most people don’t really understand, because it doesn’t directly affect them. But it is a terrible thing when you’re ill; but it is far far worse when your child is sick.
This issue is destined to become much worse, very soon. Even if you have a family doctor, ask yourself when your MD will be retiring. Presently the largest demographic of MDs is the same as it is in every other part of society: most of Ontario’s doctors are baby boomers.
waiting list blues
When I moved here the waiting list I wanted to sign with was a year. They had 2.5 doctors, with the “half” doctor practising half the time here, and half in another municipality. But he was getting tired of commuting, and so gave both clinics the option of employing him full time. Our clinic lost. And after 10 years on the waiting list, they called to ask if I wanted to remain on it.
When I first moved to Waterloo Region more than a decade ago, it wasn’t that big a deal. We could go to the walk-in clinic near Fairview Mall. They had a really cool set up of plexiglass display cases where model trains would chug along the tracks between the waiting room and though the examination rooms. Back then, they were open 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. These days the hours have been cut back. If you arrive after 1:00pm on a weekend, chances are they will have closed the day’s intake. Not because they want to, but because they don’t have enough doctors. Oh, and sad to say, I haven’t seen the trains run in years, either.
In Canada, Health Care is a provincial responsibility, but the money comes from the federal government. Federal funding was cut dramatically several governments ago, and although the funding has since increased, I suspect levels are still well below where they were.
doctor shortage: bad to worse
Doctors all over are retiring much faster than they can be replaced. It used to be hospitals had waiting lists for family doctors. Not any more. You can search the Ontario College of Physicians Website, but if you find an MD anywhere close, chances are they have stopped accepting patients by the time you call.
Over the years I’ve watched our once great health system get starved into the shell we have today. The example of Canada’s health care success has long been a thorn in the side of the private insurance lobby in the United States… and look what damage that caused. Now the American Government has had to step in and implement their own public system. The big insurance companies don’t like government meddling, because they only get a fraction of the profit they do with private health care. Canada’s health care system – covering every citizen – costs less per capita than the American system that only covered a small fraction of their population.
Canadians only got universal health care due to minority government horse trading. My theory is that the ruling parties (and their corporate backers) don’t actually want universal health care, but they know citizens do, so they don’t dare dismantle it. Instead of attacking it head on, they have let it waste away.
Some years ago Ontario capped the amount of money any single doctor could make from OHIP in a year. From a budgetary standpoint, that limits the amount of money the province has to pay to doctors. Doctors near the US border have been known to go south after they hit their Ontario cap. In under serviced areas, some doctors have even been known to tend patients without OHIP remuneration. Other doctors have taken to charging patients for things not covered by OHIP. And many stay on past the time when they would have retired because there is no one to take over their patient load.
We have a serious doctor shortage right now, but only a trickle of new doctors coming in. I think this is because the government prefers it this way. If there were enough doctors, the total amount of money the Provincial Government would be paying out would increase dramatically.
In the meantime, if you don’t have a family doctor, chances are good you don’t see a doctor until you’re good and sick, and probably have been for a long time. Sitting for hours in ER or a clinic is a last resort. Of course, this means there’s less chance of catching things early. And prevention? Forget it. Which means that many of us are less productive, and when we do go in, the procedures often cost much more.
Since so many of us are without an MD, we have no choice but to go to a walk-in clinic. Finding a walk-in clinic in the very under serviced Waterloo Region can be a challenge. And when you need one, you need one NOW.
Yet the yellow pages aren’t a big help, nor is the government website Walk-In Clinics – The Ministry of Health Can Help You: Find The Closest Walk In Clinic that popped up at the top of the Google Search.
The most comprehensive list of walk-in clinics is from the Region of Waterloo Public Health department:
Cambridge Walk-in Clinic
980 Franklin Blvd.
The Doctor’s Office
170 University Ave West
Weber Street Medical Centre
5A-1400 Weber Street East
Laurentian Walk-in Clinic
750 Ottawa Street South
Canadian Medical Clinic
100 The Boardwalk
Urgent Care Clinic
385 Fairway Road S.
Urgent Care Clinic
751 Victoria Street S.
This is the list today, 13 March, 2012. For the most current version check the Public Health Department’s page.
[note: edited for clarity.]
The aftermath of the Toronto G20 police repression, including mass arrests, and citizens placed under restrictive bail conditions including prevention of free speech are continuing cause for concern.
The recent “Occupy” protests across Canada have met with rough treatment by police.
Guelph poverty activist Julian Ichim, after being intensely investigated and charged prior to the Toronto G20, has had the charges against him dropped. Yet on the second day of his new blog, he was told by police to remove a blog post. Ichim protested, now the court has ordered him to remove the name – which isn’t even the real name, but the psuedonym – of the undercover police officer who insinuated himself into Mr. Ichim’s friendship, and spent a year and a half trying to get evidence, but the best he could do was call Julian Ichim a sociopath in court. Apparently it doesn’t matter that what Julian Ichim writes in his blog is true, it is illegal to expose an undercover RCMP officer or any security agency, which I learned from Joe Bowser’s stunning presentation Counselling Mischief as Thought Crime – CCCamp 2011
Media Coop Occupy offers Canadians the opportunity to Download the G20 Papers received through Freedom of Information requests.
Whatever happened to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
When I was a kid there was an excellent Canadian news magazine television series called W5 which taught me (and probably other Canadian watching) about the five spokes of journalistic inquiry.
Since the mainstream news media has declined to cover ACTA in any meaningful way, I thought I’d say a few words here.
Participating in ACTA
- the European Union
- South Korea
- New Zealand
- United States
ACTA came with heavy duty Non-Disclosure penalties. Which is why most if not all of the elected representatives of the participating governments were kept in the dark about what was even on the table. This includes elected representatives of the American Government. If they were made privvy to the negotiations, they were legally restrained from talking about it. Not very democratic, eh?
Of the few Americans who were at all aware of ACTA, most believed that Congressional oversight would protect them, and if conditions were untenable to American citizens it would have been possible to stop ACTA at that point. The problem was, however, that ACTA was proceeding under an executive order, so only the president’s signature would be necessary for ratification.
ACTA stands for Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
The problem is, that is only part of it. The scope of ACTA is actually much wider.
ACTA was supposed to be negotiated in secret.
Presumably to keep out the riff raff (i.e. citizens, consumer interest groups)
Although deliberately not mentioned in the title, it seems clear that the primary purpose of ACTA was always to deal with copyright enforcement. The intent was to do an end run around WIPO, the successor to Berne, which was previously the International means of achieving copyright treaties. The WIPO process was transparent, so that everyone knew what was being negotiated. ACTA was secret, so that no one would know.
The United States Trade Representative (USTR) selected the countries they believed it would be possible to pressure into signing an agreement beneficial to certain American Corporate Interests.
The negotiation “rounds” took place around the world.
Begun by the Bush administration in 2007, continuing until now, ACTA has been pushed equally hard by the Obama administration, and in the current president invoked national security as a means of keeping the terms secret.
ACTA was put on a fast track in an effort to shoehorn it’s passage in time for it to become a “done deal” before the American federal elections in November.
The USTR wants the entire world to conform to their agenda, which is dictated by American corporate interests.
Issues the United States would not give in on included recognizing and paying royalties for American use of European geographical trademarked names for types of cheese (like “Parmesan”) or alcoholic beverages (“Cognac” or “Champagne”)
The copyright terms of ACTA appear to have been largely dictated by the MPAA and RIAA, and in many ways seek to impose DMCA like copyright conditions on the rest of the world. Yet the DMCA has not actually been good for American citizens or culture, in fact causing many unintended chilling effects. Over the course of the DMCA’s existence, it has undergone repeated constitutional challenges which has resulted in changes that lessen it’s grip.
In the mean time, there has been an unprecedented amount of American lobbying efforts directed at influencing the copyright law of other countries, I think to alter their domestic copyright law in order to make signing ACTA work. The Digital Economy Act was rushed though the U.K. Parliament without the usual level of democratic scrutiny or debate under the “wash-up” process.
Canada has been subject to USTR pressure and lobbying efforts for nearly a decade. Repeated spurious inclusion on the USTR’s piracy watch list has provided a patina of legitimacy to completely unfounded rumours of Canadian copyright infringement, when in fact a growing body of evidence indicates Canada’s incidence of copyright piracy is far lower than American. As well, this false allegation has been used over and over again to fuel misinformation and propaganda in lobbying attempts to force Canada to rewrite our copyright law to American specifications.
Nowhere is this more clearly evident than in the fact that first the Liberal Party of Canada and then the Conservative Party of Canada have tabled draft legislation that mirrors American copyright law. Some have said these three are close enough to the American DMCA to be themselves considered infringing on it’s copyright.
Yet that isn’t really a charge that could stick, because unlike Canada, the United States does not have “Crown Copyright.” Any Intellectual Property generated by the American Government goes directly into the public domain under the assumption that having alreasdy been paid for, it should not be paid for again. In this way everything from NASA photos to American legislation are not protected by copyright.
This is just one of the ways American copyright law is “weaker” than Canadian existing copyright law.
the real “why”
Commercial counterfeiting, also called “bootlegging” most probably does cut into MPAA/RIAA profits. And like me, most people opposing ACTA and laws like the UK DEA or Canada’s Bill C-32 don’t have a problem with cracking down on commercial bootlegging.
My problem is they are trying to change the laws of ownership to make sharing illegal.
The people pushing for these laws have indicated they think personal back-ups and format shifting should be illegal. I’ve also heard it said that consumers shouldn’t be allowed to lend their digital books or CDs or DVDs to others; the Industries want every person who gets access to these works of “Intellectual Property” to pay for the access. In the extreme this means that both parent and child will require a license in order for the parent to read their child a story.
Some would say that this is the extreme, and that it hasn’t yet happened under the DMCA.
But ACTA has NOT passed.
Once laws like this are universal those things will start becoming accepted. ludicrous or not. The fact that a young Chicago woman spent two nights in jail for videotaping her sister’s birthday party under the existing DMCA is proof enough for me.
From an industry standpoint, that would be the icing on the cake, but is not the real goal.
Stopping “piracy” is another red herring.
While Industry studies may show vast losses of income due to peer to peer (p2p) filesharing, independent studies have shown that p2p actually increases industry profits because it increases exposure. The same way that radio airplay increases exposure and sold records, and now CDs.
The real goal of draconian copyright measures being contemplated or implemented is to stop independent access to distribution.
The combination of vast decrease in the costs to production of digital media with the ease of Internet distribution is the true menace to the media giants represented by the MPAA and the RIAA.
In Canada almost a year ago, This Magazine reported that 30% of the Canadian Recording Industry is now Independent. Independent Canadian Artists no longer have to barter away their copyright in order to record or distribute their music. This is the real threat to the Incumbents. Ultimately the goal of the copyright law they want to pass is to stop this Independent erosion of their control of these Industries.
This trend is not confined to music. Internet video productions are beginning to become more common, and excellent feature films like Sita Sings the Blues and Die Beauty are being made by independent creators and distributed legally via p2p online.
It’s the LEGAL p2p traffic that they really need to stop.
Because the best way for Independent Artists to distribute their digital wares is through the Internet.
Which is why ACTA is bad.
This is why p2p is actually good for culture, and Net Neutrality must be protected.
[note: if you don't know what the fuss is about, a lovely short film explains concisely here.]
The ZeroPaid article ACTA Still Hasn’t Been Seen by Any UK MPs makes the excellent point that ACTA negotiations are ongoing, continuing on their fast track with the intent of being concluded by the end of October prior to the American US election.
“There has been no democratic scrutiny of the text, Parliament has been shut out of this process,” laments the UK’s Open Rights Group (ORG). “This draft agreement lacks legitimacy before it is even agreed.”
— Zeropaid ACTA Still Hasn’t Been Seen by Any UK MPs
isn’t the same true in Canada? Parliament hasn’t seen it, I don’t know if any ordinary MPs have. I recall MP Charlie Angus pressing Industry Minister Tony Clement to make ACTA public, but it hasn’t been, probably because of the stringent non-disclosure requirements. In fact, none of the elected governments of the ‘democratic’ countries involved in ACTA negotiations have been made privy to ACTA. This means that our elected representatives don’t have any idea what is actually being negotiated.
That in itself ought to have been a red flag. In fact, Canada’s ACTA negotiators were working for ACTA even when our Government was prorogued early in the year.
Of course there’s nothing stopping politicians and citizens from reading Michael Geist’s blog (as our Minister of Industry himself advised. To that end, yesterday Michael Geist launched a new public service ACTAwatch blog. Still, that is no substitute for democratic scrutiny.
The main European ACTA site, La Quadrature du Net, along with the openACTA: Stop ACTA Now site from Mexico have been working tirelessly to keep citizens informed. We have been fortunate that in spite of powerful disincentives, there has been a steady stream of leaks from within the ACTA negotiations, so the secret treaty is not as secret as they would have liked.
As ZeroPaid points out, The European Parliament adopted Written Declaration 12, yet still ACTA marches on.
Particularly disturbing in all of the “copyright law” being peddled these days is the eagerness to throw out previously existing legal safeguards that have evolved over decades or centuries of democratic law. Like this:
ACTA in Art 2.7 (Ex-Officio Action) would also establish a ‘IP border police’,” adds the ORG. “It goes beyond the provision in existing international agreements such as TRIPs which provides that prima facie evidence is required to seize goods (Art 58). It also limits the time the border authority can seize goods for to ten days (Art 55). ACTA has none of these safeguards.”
I’d like to think that Canada’s ACTA involvement was done to exert a calming effect and to make sure what comes out the other end would be sane and balanced. Sadly, the fact that our government is continuing to push Bill C-32 in the face of near universal citizen opposition has disabused me of the notion.
The WIPO process wasn’t perfect, but at least it was transparent. Secret trade treaties have no business in democratic nations. I always thought that a key element of lawmaking in a democracy was to ensure any new law would reflect accepted societal norms.
We are still a democratic nation.