Whoa! Canada

laurel l. russwurm's political musings

Posts Tagged ‘Toronto Community Mobilization Network

thoughtcrime … in Canada ?

leave a comment »

goat tethered on a hill

Byron Sonne’s trial is proceeding. Yesterday the Crown rested its case. As a citizen of this fair nation, I have some concerns.

Criminal prosecution is quite expensive, yet the Crown spent a fair bit of effort trying to explain Byron’s use of the word “goat” in his various online nick names. In much the same way truck drivers assumed CB radio “handles,” computer users have been adopting nicknames as their personal brands even before the Internet became publicly accessible in the 1990s.

It seems that Byron has quite a collection of pictures of goats on his computer. (It isn’t at all hard to find a picture of a goat on the Internet⇒) The police witness told the court that the acronym “G.O.A.T.” stands for “Greatest Of All Time” made popular by hockey star Wayne Gretsky. The Crown seems to want this on the record as a indication of Byron Sonne’s ego. Even though this explanation is a guess. No credible evidence was presented to explain why Byron’s personal brand is “goat.” The only one who can factually explain the selection of the nick name would be Byron Sonne himself.

Did I miss the part where the Crown presented evidence that Byron was even a hockey fan? (Although the police witness seems to be.)   The Crown suggests this explanation will characterize Byron as an egotistical hacker.  Now, I’m not a lawyer, but I really don’t understand what the point of this is.   If, by some amazing coincidence, the police guess about why Byron chose the word goat was correct, what exactly would it be evidence of?

More disturbing is what appears to be the “guilt by association” vibe promoted by the Crown. Receiving emails or a digital newsletter from people who are later arrested isn’t a criminal offence. Or, if it is, it should not be.

June 2010 poster: Toronto Resist G8/20

Reading, attending meetings and/or talking about political participation, even if such participation is or leads to protest or dissent should not be a criminal offence. Or, if it is, it shouldn’t be. George Orwell called government repression of ideas “thoughtcrime.” Is that what this is?

As far as I know, TCMN (Toronto Community Mobilization Network) is a congregation of a variety of activist groups that came together due to shared concerns about the G20.   Personally, I don’t even live in Toronto, but what I read made me concerned about the G20 even before it happened.

As well as not liking the TCMN, or convicted activists, apparently the Crown also doesn’t like anarchists organizations like SOAR (Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance). As far as I know, it isn’t illegal to be an anarchist.

Just as it isn’t illegal to be a liberal. Or a conservative. Or even a hacker.

Because freedom of association is protected by the Charter.

Reading and thinking aren’t illegal in Canada. There’s even a whole genre called “true crime” but reading about crime doesn’t make you a criminal. Thinking radical thoughts isn’t a crime.

Committing criminal acts is.

Even so, criminal acts are defined by laws. If our lawmakers were to designate walking on the grass a felony, then walking on the grass would become a criminal act. This is one reason why dissent is so important for a free society; citizens need to be able to complain if government passes laws that are contrary to what society holds as acceptable. As well, the practical application of the laws that define and confine us are interpreted and tested out through court cases like this one.

So it’s worrisome to know that Byron’s Charter rights were ignored.

But it is more troubling to me that Canadian law enforcement invested so much in building a case seemingly based on association and innuendo.

Just as it is a concern that law enforcement has such a tenuous grasp of technical issues important to this case.

Judge Spies had never heard of Linux before, yet Crown attempts to dazzle and/or confuse with reams of detail aren’t working; the Judge may not use Twitter, or understand the difference between a .jpg or a .png, but she doesn’t have to — they’re both photographs.

Judge: Let me see if I’ve got this all right. Mr. Sonne is on the mailing list for the TCMN. He gets an email about a presentation where Hiscocks and Henderson were going to speak about “black block or diversity of tactics”. We have no evidence that Mr. Sonne attended or that he associated with these women. Those emails are in, whatever they mean. Now you want me to accept their guilty pleas and use that to infer about the nature of the talk?
Unofficial Byron Sonne Trial Notes

Charter rights are supposed to protect citizens; they should not be so easily cast aside. It is reassuring that although Judge Spies isn’t tech savvy, she appears to see the big picture. Still, the smell of politics is strong in this one, and I don’t know how this will play out, and so I worry about the future. For my family, my community, my country.


Image Credits

Tethered Goat” by ceridwen released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Glossary

The Crown
refers to the Crown Attorney (the title of the government’s lawyer prosecuting the case under Canadian law) and/or the focus of the prosecution in the Canadian legal system.
["Prosecutor" or "District Attorney" would be the American equivalent]

The Charter
is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which is supposed to protect the human rights of Canadian citizens from government or justice system abuses.

Linux
(sometimes called GNU/Linux) is a free software computer operating system (OS), a software program (similar to Windows or MacOS) that allows a computer to function. Although there are basic differences in the way Linux systems operate, many technical people use Linux systems because they are free to customize them.

Hacker
There are two opposing definitions for the word “hacker.” The pejorative definition embraced by the mainstream media is as someone who subverts computer security. Yet for many in the computer security and programming subculture the word hacker is the highest accolade bestowed on verhttps://github.com/colah/ByronTrialNotes/blob/master/daily-notes/day27.mdy clever and often playful innovators and problem solvers. Among such programmers the word “cracker” is used to describe criminals who engage in criminal computer security breaches.

Twitter
an online network that allows two way sharing of information and/or conversation with friends and/or total strangers, best viewed on the Twitter site, not in a proprietary spreadsheet.


Must Listen:
Jesse Brown interviews security expert Dr. Kate Milberry on today’s Search Engine Audio Podcast #130:
The Legacy of the G-20: #Toronto’s #G20 Hangover

Post Script: Today the Crown cross examined the Defence witness. The evidence phase is over and court will resume Thursday at 10:30, 361 University Avenue, Toronto. Today’s Trial Notes are online.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Byron Sonne is “still quite a ways away from being free”

with 4 comments

Canadian Flag, Old City Hall, Toronto

Is Canada a free country?

Or is Canada a banana republic?

Today was Byron Sonne’s 331st day in custody. On Monday bail was finally granted, yet Byron had to remain locked up until today, when there was to be a final Bail Hearing where the Crown Attorney would get an opportunity to contest the grounds of Byron’s release.

What has happened to Byron Sonne has exposed injustice in our so called justice system. The reason democratic nations enact laws to protect the rights of citizens is to counter balance the government’s power to crush citizens.

For a nation to be a free country, citizens must be free to both question and criticize.

Without guaranteed civil rights, any citizen can be deprived of liberty. You can wind up in a Gulag. You don’t even have to be protesting anything.

on the 2010 Toronto G20:

“The result was a massive breach of human rights on a scale never before seen in modern Canadian society. “

—André Marin, Promoting Good Governance and Human Rights: The Ontario Ombudsman’s Investigation of Events Surrounding the G20 Summit in Toronto

Among those rounded up in the G20 mass arrests were a many people who were shopping, working, going somewhere else, but uninvolved in the protests. Yet they were rounded up and deprived of the civil rights Canadians expect just the same. Simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Byron has today been released under extremely stringent bail restrictions. The conditions are draconian, and somewhat bizarre. According to the Toronto Star:

“He must also have no contact with anyone accused with G20 conspiracy crimes or anyone associated with a number of anarchist groups or the Toronto Community Mobilization Network. There are no allegations that Sonne has ever associated with those people or groups.”

– Brendan Kennedy, Toronto Star: G20 accused Sonne out on bail; strict limits on Web use, leaving home

That last bit sounds like a smear… the very terms of the release are deliberately inflammatory. By prohibiting Byron Sonne contact with people and organizations there is no evidence he has ever any contact with, an association is implied. This is rather like prohibiting Byron Sonne from contact with Adolph Hitler. Except, if you read the Globe and Mail’s heavily biased account it says there is some evidence of Byron “downloading literature of both the far right (Mein Kampf) and the far left (Das Kapital).” Which seems to forge a stronger evidentiary link to Adolph Hitler, or Karl Marx. Who scares you the most?

It simply seems to be an attempt to make Byron Sonne look bad.

The group named by the Star that Byron must not associate with is the Toronto Community Mobilization Network which appears to be a collection of activists advocating for the civil rights for groups ranging from the disabled to indigenous peoples.  This seems at minimum to run contrary to Section Two of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Something that has disturbed me from the outset is that the denial of bail appears to be punitive. Is this a case of Canada’s Crown prosecution ensuring that an innocent man will pay the price of incarceration before trial since the trial is likely to exonerate him? In fact, our federal government has published statistics indicating an increase of the use if the remand process which could well indicate that the process is being deployed as punishment rather than waiting for a judicial finding of guilt, particularly when it is unlikely to happen at all.

You can read the rest of the extremely severe bail conditions in the Toronto Star.

I’m fairly new to social media, but something I have noticed is that some tweets about Byron use the #g20report hashtag. I initially assumed that some organization or group might be keeping track of the facts for the hoped for G20 inquiry.

Then I discovered Byron’s own Twitter feed and discovered that Byron himself seems to have invented that hashtag, using it to indicate the tweets he made documenting the G20 security.

This adds a huge amount of credence to the idea Byron Sonne was working as a citizen journalist.

It is also quite interesting that the @torontogoat is still online. We can read through it and see what Byron tweeted in his own words. Read it through and see what you think.

The Best Source

For information about Byron Sonne case is the FreeByron website, created and maintained by his friends and supporters.

recent articles

Jesse Brown: Byron Sonne gets bail. Finally.

Brendan Kennedy: G20 ‘geek’ Byron Sonne granted bail

Megan O’Toole: Man charged with possessing explosives before G20 granted bail

Toronto Mobilize: Court Support Needed for Byron Sonne

Tim McSorley: Byron Sonne granted bail; Crown to challenge conditions of his release

Denise Balkissoon: How Byron Sonne’s obsession with the G20 security apparatus cost him everything

David Harvey: Byron Sonne, Canada’s Political Prisoner

I got my title for this post from a tweet I found  under the #freeByron hashtag

@dr_kiwano (Kris Coward) says #FreeByron got bail, but is still quite a ways away from being free

Byron Sonne leaves courthouse
For those with Flash accessibility issues, I am also hosting the OGG version here.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,658 other followers