Security Certificates vs Human Rights

The first time I heard about Security Certificates was when a young woman stood up at the anti Bill C-51 Rally at Kitchener City Hall to talk about The Secret Trial Five documentary.

I didn’t really understand what the young woman who spoke was talking about, so I went to see the documentary.  And I was aghast.  Still am, in fact.

Adil Charkaoui and Hassan Almrei are the two Secret Trial 5 victims who have finally been released from this ordeal.

Canada’s pre-9/11 Security Certificate system was designed to give authorities the ability to quickly deport suspected terrorists.  The problem is that it does this without anything resembling legal process.   And at the end of the day, Canada can’t deport anyone to torture without breaking International Law or violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Canada prides itself on being a “rule of law” country.

The Rule of Law: Common Definitions
1. a government bound by and ruled by law;
2. equality before the law;
3. the establishment of law and order;
4. the efficient and predictable application of justice; and
5. the protection of human rights.

Rachel Kleinfeld Belton

How can secret trials even happen under a rule of law?

One of the legal protections Canadians hold dear is the presumption of innocence.  It doesn’t matter if they charge us with a crime: in the eyes of the law, we are innocent until proven guilty.  But here, the accused must prove themselves innocent without even knowing what they’re accused of.

If someone accuses we want to face our accusers.  Don’t we have that right?

Even more important, we need to know what we are accused of… without knowing that, how can anyone defend themselves?

Three of the Secret Trial 5 continue to live in this legal hell which ought not be possible in any country claiming to operate under the rule of law.

Mahmoud Jaballah

Mohammad Zeki Mahjoub

Mohamed Harkat

Lillian Boctor‘s earlier documentary, “Secret Canada” dates back to 2012.  Watch the whole video here:

After nearly two decades of Canadian Government persecution, Sophie LaMarch Harkat wants the Security Certificate that could deport her husband to torture removed.

Please Sign Petition to Stop
My Husband’s Deportation to Torture

If you agree this should not be happening in Canada, please sign Sophie Harkat’s petition (above) and call or write to the government officials who have the power to change this.

You can use this handy form to send a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Goodale, with copies going to your MP, The  Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Phone: 613-992-4211
Fax: 613-941-6099
email: justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca
mailing address:
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A2

Ralph Goodale
Phone: 613-947-1153
email: ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca
mailing address:
House of Commons
Ottawa. ON K1A 0A6

Ahmed Hussen MP, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
email:  ahmed.hussen@parl.gc.ca
mailing address:
House of Commons
Ottawa. ON K1A 0A6

Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice, Attorney General of Canada
email:  jody.wilson-raybould@parl.gc.ca
mailing address:
House of Commons
Ottawa. ON K1A 0A6

Advertisements

Kitchener Stop Bill C-51 Info Picket at 11am Saturday

Kitchener City Hall Stop Bill C-51 Rally

Despite widespread opposition to Harper’s so called anti terror bill, Harper is pushing forward this piece of legislation which aims at criminalizing dissent and although this legislation will affect all it will specifically be used to target native peoples just struggle for self-determination, muslims and immigrants. As such all should take a stand in defence of the rights of all!!!!

Julian Ichim

Come out and stand up for our civil rights before they’re gone…
if they Pass Bill C-51 the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms will be only a memory.

Where: KITCHENER CITY HALL
When: Saturday April 18th, 2015
Time: 11:00 am

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

The Rise of the Canadian Surveillance State

I’ve been trying to put my thoughts about the Ottawa shootings down, and then I happened upon Russell Brand’s energetic assessment, not only of the situation, but how it is being spun.  Yes, it is terrible that a soldier died.  And that another soldier died in a completely unrelated incident earlier. But there is no question in my mind that the murders of these two men is being “spun.”

Canadian Civil Rights

The personal privacy of Canadians is supposed to be protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Maybe it was true once, but it doesn’t seem very true now.  And yet we value our Charter highly.

“The consultation also asked which of Canada’s accomplishments of the last 150 years “make you most proud to be a Canadian?”

Medicare topped that list, followed by peacekeeping, then the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms at No. 3.”

— Harper government poll for Canada’s 150th birthday cites Liberal, NDP icons

Failures

Security professional Byron Sonne was arrested before the G20 Summit, an event on which the Canadian government lavished a great deal of money on security.   Byron was concerned about the implications of the introduction of an influx of a host of new CCTV cameras in downtown Toronto,  so he took a look at the security being provided by his tax dollars (and yours).   Apparently citizens were supposed to keep their eyes closed.  Police violated Byron’s Charter rights; he was arrested and punitively denied bail for almost a year.  When he was finally released into his parents’ custody for almost another year, the draconian bail conditions obliged his parents to waive their own Charter privacy rights.

Byron lost his home, his business and his wife; and yet he was finally exonerated because, as hard as the authorities looked, there was no credible evidence.  At one of the court proceedings I attended, a law enforcement expert witness explained that their inability to break the encryption on one of Byron’s computers meant that even if acquitted, Byron would always be considered a person of interest.

The back entrance, steps away from where the Occupy Toronto protesters were brutalized by the police

 

Apparently these days, Canadians are guilty until proven innocent.

And the G20 Summit? Well, that event was marked by a great deal of violence… but not violence perpetrated by peaceful protesters, this was violence perpetrated by the “security forces” against citizens, as citizen journalists posted masses of video of such incidents to YouTube.  There were so many unlawful arrests and Charter violations that a great many voices called for a proper inquiry… which never actually happened.   The government didn’t want to be bothered investigating abuses it was responsible for. Funny that.

(I kind of think Byron was held for so long because they needed a “bad guy” in jail to justify the ridiculous amount of tax dollars spent, and hopefully distract from the civil rights abuses…)

Julian Ichim carries a red flag at one of the Kitchener "Casseroles" protests in support of Quebec students.
Julian Ichim in solidarity with the Quebec student protest, at “Kitchener Casseroles”

Canadian tax dollars paid for a whole year of an undercover officer’s infiltration of poverty activist Julian Ichims life.

Even after they were unable to prove any wrong doing against him, (Julian is, after all, an activist, not a criminal), absent evidence the undercover agent tried to convict Mr. Ichim with character assassination and innuendo.  No matter what you think about Mr. Ichim and his methods, there is no question he is sincere.  And yet, law enforcement agencies continue to harass and try to intimidate the young man.

In well over a decade of activism, working in the trenches to fight poverty and injustice in constructive ways, it seems the only “violent” act Mr. Ichim has ever performed was the act of throwing milk at politician Stockwell Day in his student days.   And yet law enforcement considers him a threat.

You should really listen to this CBC radio interview (including the bits that come after Mr. Ichim) to gain some insight into The ethics of police infiltration

Omar Khadr‘s rights are still being denied. As a child put in harm’s way by a parent, maybe he was a child soldier, or maybe he was an innocent bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time; but either way he was a victim who should have been treated better.  This 15 year old child certainly should not have been abandoned by the Canadian authorities after being dug out of the rubble nearly dead; nor should he have been delivered to the infamous Bagram then tortured and left to languish at Guantanamo Bay for years where he was convicted in what can only be described as a travesty of “justice.”  Even back in Canada this young man is still being victimized.  What happened to his Charter rights?

The Canadian Government, our government, has been chipping away at our civil rights since 9-11.  Since we are now apparently all guilty until proven innocent, our “security services” are investigating all of us all of the time… okay, our Charter Rights aren’t being chipped away, they are being steam rollered and dismantled.

Julian Ichim in the Kitchener Casseroles parade

The awesome powers of the state are being deployed, not against terrorists, but against activists trying to make Canada a better place, which often means disagreeing with government policy.  But peaceful protest and dissent are considered to be crucial elements of democracy, which is why these activities are enshrined in the Charter.

“Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms forms the first part of the Constitution Act, 1982. Here are some protections that the Charter guarantees:

  • freedom of religion, of thought, of expression, of the press and of peaceful assembly
  • the right to participate in political activities and the right to a democratic government
  • the freedom to move around and live within Canada, and to leave Canada
  • legal rights such as the right to life, liberty and security
  • equality rights
  • language rights”

— Our Country, Our Parliament (government publication)

How many of our Charter Rights have been violated in my examples?  I am not a civil rights lawyer, I’m a suburban mom who writes novels– how do I know about these things?   The Internet has made “citizen journalism” possible, so we are no longer limited to knowing what the mainstream “news media” decides we should know.   And the mainstream media has been so quiet about these issues that I’m inclined to agree with Glenn Greenwald’s assertion that our “news media” mostly functions as the propaganda arm of our government.

The examples I have cited do not exist in a vacuum; they are the result of government policy.

What it boils down to is that the government tells us they need to take away our rights, to limit them in the name of security.  To fight terrorism.  There is credible evidence to suggest law enforcement has been engaging in mass surveillance.

And yet this has done nothing to stop terrorism.

Civil Rights exist to protect citizens.  Removing or suppressing them doesn’t make us safe, it makes us unsafe.

It used to be that agents of law enforcement agents were not given permission to wiretap citizens, or to search people’s homes, or seize their goods without a warrant.  A judge had to be convinced of a reasonable probability — “probable cause” — that there was credible evidence to suggest the subject of the warrant was engaged in criminal activity.  There had to be good reason to invade anyone’s privacy.

Certainly, there would be some judges more inclined to sympathize with law enforcement agents than others, but even they wouldn’t sign warrants that could be ruled unconstitutional by higher courts.  This system wasn’t perfect, but it struck a reasonable balance between the needs of the state to be secure and the needs of the citizens to not be harassed.   Because such laws were in place to protect citizens, when an abuse did happen, the citizen had legal grounds for redress against state harassment (or worse).

Lawful Access quashes our civil rights

Since 9-11 the Canadian Government has been trying to pass “Lawful Access” legislation.  This would allow the government to spy on Canadian citizens all the time for no reason, with no judicial oversight.

This would be a huge blow to our Charter Rights that protect citizens from abuse by the power of the state.

Initially Canadians were protected from such legislation by a string of minority governments, which is about as close to democracy as we can get under our unfair electoral system.  In a minority, no party can unilaterally impose laws; laws can be passed without achieving enough consensus.   Back then I think the alarm was raised by lawyers who understood what was being proposed.  The unease spread through the tech communities, because people who understood how computers and the Internet worked could better understand how this technology could be made to work against personal freedom.  By the time Vic Toews tried to sell the idea that government spying was a good thing, enough ordinary citizens had twigged to the problem to mount the #tellviceverything Twitter campaign. There was too much bad publicity; the Minister, and indeed the government looked ridiculous.  So they backed down.

But they didn’t stop trying, because the legal authority to spy on all the citizens all the time is very powerful indeed. The most recent attempt has been Bill C-13, in which lawful access (aka unfettered spying on citizens) was dressed up as an anti-bullying measure inspired by the Amanda Todd tragedy.

Elizabeth May spoke eloquently against C13, as did Amanda Todd’s mother, Carol Todd, who said:

“We should not have to choose between our privacy and our safety.  We should not have to sacrifice our children’s privacy rights to make them safe from cyberbullying, ‘sextortion’ and revenge pornography.”

— Carol Todd, Amanda Todd’s mother raises concerns about cyberbullying bill

And, of course, Bill C-13 does in no way limit its invasion of privacy to children, or cyber bullies.  In the light of the Snowden revelations, the pressure on the Harper Government to get this law passed (to make all the illegal spying on citizens that CSIS and CSEC seem to engage in, alone and/or in conjunction with Five Eyes partner agencies) must have been enormous.

Something no one ever seems to consider is that, even in the unlikely event that our government would not abuse such powers, how do we know that faceless government agents with lawful access to the recordings they make of so many aspects of our intimate personal lives— how do we know that agents with the right to spy on us and our children are not themselves voyeurs, pornographers and pedophiles?

The University of Ottawa’s Michael Geist discussed inadequacies in Bill C13 before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, concluding that:

“This kind of privacy harm can victimize anyone. We know that information from at least 750,000 Canadian user accounts are voluntarily disclosed every year.  It is why we need to ensure that the law has appropriate safeguards against misuse of our personal information and why C-13 should be amended. I’ll stop there and welcome your questions.”

— Michael Geist, The Trouble With Bill C-13: My Appearance before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights

But now, under cover of the alleged “terrorist acts” of the last few days, Mr. Harper’s government seems to have quietly passed this most controversial of laws, which shreds much of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that Canadians depend on.  According to the government website it may still need one more Senate vote before getting the Assent that will make it the law of the land.

Will this make Canadians more safe?

Without consulting with Canadians, our government squandered vast sums of money to build and equip the most expensive Canadian building in history to spy on us all the time.  In spite of this, our security forces were caught flat footed by the Ottawa shooting.

In the old days, when Canadian civil rights ensured law enforcement agents had to provide reasonable grounds before a court would issue a warrant to violate anyone’s rights– they did a better job of providing national security. Instead of catching terrorists, the Harper Government is busy watching the birdwatchers who dare speak against current environmental policy.  This doesn’t make Canada safe.

Nor will misidentifying disturbed individuals who “go postal” as “terrorists” keep Canadians safe.   Addressing the root causes– making the appropriate medical help available to disturbed individuals, for instance, would do much much more to keep Canadians safe.

SWAT teams shouldn’t break into the homes of law abiding families enjoying Sunday dinner.  It was acceptable and legal in Nazi Germany, but should it really be legal in Canada?

Spying on citizens was legal and accepted in Russia when the Tsar’s security forces did it.  Oddly enough, it didn’t keep the Tsar and his family safe.

Later, it was still legal in the Soviet Union when the KGB did it.  Material collected by such surveillance could lead to an ominous knock on the door in the middle of the night.  People who dared express concern or disagreement with State policy were often dragged from their beds and whisked away to the Gulag for “preventative detention.”  Not because they had done anything illegal, but because somebody decided that they might.  Citizens were guilty until proven innocent, rather like medieval laws that put accused witches on trial by being tied to a chair and dropped in the lake– if she floated, she was a witch (who could then be burned at the stake) but if she sank and drowned she was proven innocent.    Do we really want laws like this?  In Canada?

And, of course, as Glen Greenwald has pointed out:

“It is always stunning when a country that has brought violence and military force to numerous countries acts shocked and bewildered when someone brings a tiny fraction of that violence back to that country. Regardless of one’s views on the justifiability of Canada’s lengthy military actions, it’s not the slightest bit surprising or difficult to understand why people who identify with those on the other end of Canadian bombs and bullets would decide to attack the military responsible for that violence.”

— Glenn Greenwald, CANADA, AT WAR FOR 13 YEARS, SHOCKED THAT ‘A TERRORIST’ ATTACKED ITS SOLDIERS

And now that the Lawful Access bill has been passed by the House of Commons, the Conservative dominated Senate is the only thing standing in its way.  Will it legitimize the government’s ability to spy on us all, all the time? .

And you know how the story goes, if you give a mouse a cookie…   Apparently it works the same way for governments.  Lawful Access is the foundation, but even that is not enough.

Mr. Harper envisions curtailing our rights even more.  He is considering laws of ‘preventative detention‘ in wake of Ottawa attack.

Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the Commons that laws and police powers would “need to be strengthened in the area of surveillance, detention and arrest.” He pledged to bring forward legislation in an expedited fashion.”

Huffington Post: Tories Reject Call For All-Party National Security Oversight Committee

My maternal grandparents escaped from Russia before the Iron Curtain slammed down.  I’d always been grateful for their foresight in relocating to a better place.  Movies like Gorky Park, or The Lives of Others have made me appreciate how important this was.  And now it seems it was all for nought.

Isn’t the purpose of terrorism is to spread terror?  Although there seems to be international disagreement on what terrorism actually is, the United nations seems to agree with me:

“Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.”

United Nations Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism annex to UN General Assembly resolution 49/60,”Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism”, December 9, 1994

Of course, when governments engage in criminal acts, all they need to do is change the laws to make it legal.

The news media is whipping up fear because it supports the status quo.  And it certainly seems as though our “watchdog press” has risen from the dead to become the propaganda arm of our government.

If the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize a population, oddly enough, our government and news media seem to be doing this far more successfully than anyone committing criminal acts.

But they are doing it because it is to their advantage to do it.

Not to keep us safe.


The text of Elizabeth May’s C-13 comments in Parliament can be found here.

MUST READS:
The Intercept: CANADA, AT WAR FOR 13 YEARS, SHOCKED THAT ‘A TERRORIST’ ATTACKED ITS SOLDIERS

Free The Press Canada: Government Passes Anti-Constitutional Surveillance Law During Ottawa Shooting

The Huffington Post: Glenn Greenwald Predicts Security Crackdown, More Canadian Secrecy

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Omnibudget Meets Kitchener Casseroles ~ June 13th

Although I support Fairvote Canada I’m not a member, as I’m not a member of any political party. I feel this is necessary for me as a citizen journalist, because it is important I speak only for myself, retaining the freedom to speak out against what I think are bad policies even from organizations I may otherwise support. I’m a writer, not a leader.

But I will attend and even photograph protests I find important. And occasionally I’ll stick my oar in. As now.

On Wednesday there will be another round of “Black Mark Budget” protests against the federal government’s Omnibus budget. Because we are currently cursed with a majority government, the only way this budget can be stopped is by convincing 13 sitting conservative MPs to be heroes and vote against it.

In Waterloo Region, two such events are planned for

Wednesday June 13, 5:30 PM

1) Peter Braid’s office,
22 King St. South, Waterloo

and

2) Stephen Woodworth’s office,
300 Victoria St. North, Kitchener

Wednesday night will also be Day 122 of the Quebec Student Strike, and so will be the third Casseroles Night In Canada.

This protest is to support the students fighting for education for all, as well as to protest Quebec’s unconstitutional Bill 78, which contravenes civil rights guaranteed Canadians under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as breaches Canada’s international human rights obligations.

my idea

I’m throwing this out there in case it’s useful, but it’s about as much organizing as I can do.  If the two protests at the MPs offices incorporate the music of clanging pots and pans, after perhaps half an hour, at, say, 6:00, the protest chould turn into two parts of a casseroles parade heading toward Victoria Park for a last bit of citizen musicale and any speechifying anyone cares to do could take place.

The marchers will probably arrive at the park long before 8:00, so I think the Casseroles time should be moved back to 7:00 pm. Maybe people can bring a lunch (everyone should have water) and make it a picnic at the park.

I think it will continue to be family friendly, and, like the previous Casseroles protests, will be untroubled by police, especially if the march manages to stay on the sidewalk.

Possible route:


My idea is offered as a suggestion because I think both groups would benefit from cross pollinization. Maybe the distance is too far for a walk, especially on a hot day.  Feel free to take the idea and run with it.  Or not.  The point is that we *all* have a voice.

My reasons for supporting both initiatives can be found in my previous article Two Protests for June 2nd, 2011

I’ll leave you with Elizabeth May’s attempt to summarize the horrific environmental problems with the Omnibudget:

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Student Strike: Have Quebeckers have taken leave of their senses?

It is beneath contempt for the government to play fast and loose with our civil rights and liberties in order to deal with the results of its own abject failure to govern.”

— Daniel Weinstock

When I went to college in Ontario in the ’80’s, anyone could access higher education. Ontario provided loans and grants to qualified students. If you (or your family) were wealthy, it might be all loans; if you and your family were of low income, it might be entirely grants. The difference is that grants don’t have to be paid back, ever.

This seemed reasonable.  Among other things, that system ensured that people  best suited to being doctors don’t end up driving cab. My friend Malcolm says “50% of all doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class.”   That is even worse when the pool of potential doctors is reduced as it has been.   How many Canadians right now are putting up with bad doctors because they dare not complain and risk going doctorless?

Back in the ’80’s, I went on a demonstration at Queens Park to protest the round of education cuts Ontario was starting, just as I was just finishing.  But the government didn’t listen, and over time went on to entirely abolish grants in the years since.  Ironically, Ontario is just now reintroducing grants.

There are countries in the world that make higher education entirely free to citizens.  I think that’s not only civilized, but smart policy.  It’s good for any society, because it means that citizens can be fully engaged.  It means that society is making best use of resources, because the most important resource is our citizens.  You can probably tell that’s what I think that’s what we should be doing. [Yes, I know, they always say there is no money; but that is hogwash. They can find the money if they want to, since they can always find it for stupid things.]

I do, however, believe in democracy.   And even if Canada doesn’t go that route, it is something that should be decided by Canadians, not dictated by government.  So what is happening in Quebec is very disturbing.

I’ve heard that most Quebecers disagree with the strike, but of course, that is information obtained by polls, and polls can be gamed. And the mainstream media has descended into entertainment, so “the news” needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  I myself look to the Internet for my news.  The following open letter I share with you here was referenced by @ryanweal in a conversation on Identi.ca

An open letter to my English-Canadian friends. Please circulate in your networks as you see fit.

“You may have heard that there has been some turmoil in Quebec in recent weeks. There have been demonstrations in the streets of Montreal every night for almost a month now, and a massive demonstration will be happening tomorrow, which I will be attending, along with my wife, Elizabeth Elbourne, and my eldest daughter Emma.

“Reading the Anglo-Canadian press, it strikes me that you have been getting a very fragmented and biased picture of what is going on. Given the gulf that has already emerged between Quebec and the rest of Canada in the wake of the 2011 election, it is important that the issues under discussion here at least be represented clearly. You may decide at the end of the day that we are crazy, but at least you should reach that decision on the basis of the facts, rather than of the distortions that have been served up by the G&M and other outlets.

“First, the matter of the tuition hikes, which touched off this mess. The rest of the country seems to have reached the conclusion that the students are spoiled, selfish brats, who would still be paying the lowest tuition fees even if the whole of the proposed increase went through.

“The first thing to say is that this is an odd conception of selfishness. Students have been sticking with the strikes even knowing that they may suffer deleterious consequences, both financial and academic. They have been marching every night despite the threat of beatings, tear-gas, rubber bullets, and arrests. It is, of course, easier for the right-wing media to dismiss them if they can be portrayed as selfish kids to whom no -one has ever said “no”. But there is clearly an issue of principle here.

“OK, then. But maybe the principle is the wrong one. Free tuition may just be a pie-in-the sky idea that mature people give up on when they put away childish things. And besides, why should other people pay for the students’ “free” tuition? There is no such thing as “free” education. Someone, somewhere, has to pay. And the students, the criticism continues, are simply refusing to pay their “fair share”.

“Why is that criticism simplistic? Because the students’ claim has never been that they should not pay for education. The question is whether they should do so up front, before they have income, or later, as taxpayers in a progressive taxation scheme. Another question has to do with the degree to which Universities should be funded by everyone, or primarily by those who attend them. So the issue of how to fund Universities justly is complicated. We have to figure out at what point in people’s lives they should be paying for their education, and we also have to figure out how much of the bill should be footed by those who do not attend, but who benefit from a University-educated work force of doctors, lawyers, etc. The students’ answer to this question may not be the best, but then it does not strike me that the government’s is all that thought out either.

“And at least the students have been trying to make ARGUMENTS and to engage the government and the rest of society in debate, whereas the government’s attitude, other than to invoke the in-this-context-meaningless “everyone pays their faire share” argument like a mantra, has been to say “Shut up, and obey”.

“What strikes the balance in the students’ favour in the Quebec context is that the ideal of no up-front financial hurdles to University access is enshrined in some of the most foundational documents of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, in particular the Parent Commission Report, which wrested control of schools from the Church and created the modern Quebec education system, a cornerstone of the kind of society that many Quebeckers see themselves as aspiring to. Now, it could be that that ideal is no longer viable, or that we may no longer want to subscribe to it. But moving away from it, as Charest’s measures have done, at least requires a debate, analogous to the debate that would have to be had if the Feds proposed to scrap the Canada Health Act. It is clearly not just an administrative measure. It is political through and through. Indeed it strikes at fundamental questions about the kind of society we want to live in. If this isn’t the sort of thing that requires democratic debate, I don’t know what is.

“The government has met the very reasonable request that this issue, and broader issues of University governance, be at least addressed in some suitably open and democratic manner with silence, then derision, then injunctions, and now, with the most odious “law” that I have seen voted by the Quebec National Assembly in my adult memory. It places the right of all Quebec citizens to assemble, but also to talk and discuss about these issues, under severe limitations. It includes that most odious of categories: crimes of omission, as in, you can get fined for omitting to attempt to prevent someone from taking part in an act judged illegal by the law. In principle, the simple wearing of the by-now iconic red square can be subject to a fine. The government has also made the student leaders absurdly and ruinously responsible for any action that is ostensibly carried out under the banners of their organizations. The students groups can be fined $125000 whenever someone claiming to be “part” of the movement throws a rock through a window. And so on. It is truly a thing to behold.

“The government is clearly aware that this “law” would not withstand a millisecond of Charter scrutiny. It actually expires in July 2013, well before challenges could actually wind their way through the Courts. The intention is thus clearly just to bring down the hammer on this particular movement by using methods that the government knows to be contrary to basic liberal-democratic rule-of-law principles. The cynicism is jaw-dropping. It is beneath contempt for the government to play fast and loose with our civil rights and liberties in order to deal with the results of its own abject failure to govern.

“So that is why tomorrow I will be taking a walk in downtown Montreal with (hopefully!) hundreds of thousands of my fellow citizens. Again, you are all free to disagree, but at least don’t let it be because of the completely distorted picture of what is going on here that you have been getting from media outlets, including some from which we might have expected more.”

— Daniel Weinstock An Open Letter to English-Canadians, who might be feeling that Quebeckers have taken leave of their senses.

“An addendum: one of the more egregious aspects of the law, which penalized omissions to deter, has been removed from the final version. That is better, which is not to say that it is any good, because vast tracts of discourse are still at least potentially under the microscope. Many have responded by saying that law-enforcers and judges will be prudent in applying these broad-reaching provisions. Perhaps. In Madisonian spirit, I say that it is best to economize on virtue, that is to make laws and institutions that do not depend on relevant actors rescinding from doing what the law actually allows them to do.”

Further reading: Resisting Bill 78 in 15 points: Concordia Full-Time Faculty Member

Winnipeg Free Press: Protesters defy new Quebec law; Event marks 100th day of student-led strikes

Personally, I’m proud of the students and their supporters for standing up for their beliefs ~ and what’s right.  I hope these young citizens remain involved and continue to work for electoral reform in the future, and maybe we can have a more democratic Canada.

Jean Charest’s government ought to be ashamed of themselves.
a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

The Emperor Has No Clothes ~ FreeByron

What would you call a professional security consultant who tests the vaunted security apparatus of the billion Dollar G20 Summit that descended on Toronto like a pall last year?

You’d call him Byron Sonne.

A Canadian flag flies at half mast against a blue sky

In the children’s story I reference in the title, the child that pointed out the deficiencies in the Emperor’s wardrobe was listened to.

In Canada, for doing much the same thing — pointing out the deficiencies of the G20 security apparatus — Byron Sonne was arrested, incarcerated without bail for nearly a year, and is now undergoing the rigors of a trial.

the trial

Three days were scheduled for the Charter arguments — to decide whether the protections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms have been breached by law enforcement in this case. The Charter argument has stretched into two weeks.

The Toronto Star has released a video of one of Byron’s interrogations by Detective Tam Bui a day after his arrest on June 22nd last year. Watching this video is an up close and personal look at the Canadian justice system.

The reason citizens need some kind of protection from the law is that the law is far more powerful than most citizens will ever be.

In the video, we see the detective ask Byron about a whole host of things that he did.

  • Taking photographs in public places and posting them on Flickr.
  • Posting comments about the increased police presence for the G20 on Twitter.
  • Owning a potato cannon and air guns.
  • Possessing a variety of chemicals for various purposes that might be combined to make bombs.

“…why don’t you go down to Canadian Tire, why don’t you arrest them because they have all the ingredients…”

—Byron Sonne interrogation video released by the Toronto Star

I’m not a lawyer, but I didn’t think that any of these things are illegal.

Taking photographs in the public spaces of the municipality where you live isn’t illegal. Or, it didn’t used to be.

And when did taking photographs of law enforcement officers become illegal?

Back when I was in the seventh grade, I was on a class trip with my first camera when I happened across an RCMP officer dressed in the distinctive Red Serge “Review Order” dress uniform. I asked him to pose for me. And he did.

Now I’m an adult who takes plenty of photographs everywhere I go with my digital camera. And I post photographs on Flickr too. But these days, when I find myself photographing police officers, at the KW Multicultural festival for instance, I wonder: is this going to get me arrested?

I post comments about things that I perceive to be threats to democracy on Identi.ca, Twitter and Facebook all the time. I blog a lot, too. Is this going to get me arrested?

Personally, I’ve never owned anything like a potato cannon or an air gun. My older brother wanted an air rifle, just like Ralphie, when he was a kid. When he didn’t get one, he built himself a slingshot that I lacked the strength to use. But I’ve seen children using working trebuchets built by amateur enthusiasts at medieval festivals. The incredibly popular “Angry Birds” computer game involves shooting birds out of catapults to knock things down. How many people like playing shoot’em-up video games? . Clearly, people like shooting things.

Years ago I allowed my brother-in-law to put a plaster head I’d sculpted in my high school art class on a cedar rail fence and shoot it into plaster dust with his real hunting rifle. You know, one of those long guns that the Federal Government doesn’t want to have registered?

As a life long mystery buff. I’ve been reading and watching mysteries my whole life. I recall a Columbo episode that involved a chef killing someone with a frozen fish, then defrosting it and feeding the murder weapon to the guests at a dinner party. Most anything can become a murder weapon.

And if we are going to start talking about possessing chemicals that are legal to own, but that can then be combined to make a bomb, that covers an awful lot of ground. If you know anything about chemicals, you know that cleaning supplies can be used in many ways their manufacturers did not intended. I know never to mix bleach and ammonia because combined they make poison gas. Many perfectly useful things can be combined to make explosives.

Detective Bui:
This is a very structured, organized shelf of chemicals you have here. My understanding is that ammonium nitrate can be used in the construction of an incendiary device or an explosive device, is that correct?

Byron Sonne:
Yeah, but so can lighter fluid, so can your barbeque tank in your back yard, so can cooking oil in your house.

Detective Bui:
You’re a chemist, or an engineer or you definitely have a chemical background…

Byron Sonne:
not a licensed engineer

Detective Bui
OK. Do you have elements here that could be combined to make an explosive device?

Byron Sonne:
Ah, No, because I would not combine them into an explosive device.

Detective Bui:
But that wasn’t exactly my question. I’m asking do the elements exist. When we take a laundry list of items out of your house, and if we combine them in a certain manner could create an explosive device.

Byron Sonne:
I think that this interview might be over officer.

interrogation video released the Toronto Star

Boing Boing said it best: Law prof and cop agree: never ever ever ever ever ever ever talk to the cops about a crime, even if you’re innocent

If you watch the interview closely, you will see that Byron and the Detective are in agreement that none of the bits of “evidence” the detective asks Byron about are in and of themselves illegal. The detective doesn’t question that, instead, what he does is to try to get Byron to agree that the chemicals could be used to make a bomb, and that the cumulative effect of the evidence is how bad things look, and what other people might think of this or that.

Have I missed something? I thought that our legal system was based on facts and evidence, not innuendo.

What did Byron Sonne actually do?

He took photographs documenting the G20’s massive influx of security cameras, the deployment of security fences around public buildings, and police officers visible on public streets.

Byron Sonne pointed out security flaws in the G20 security apparatus.

And now he’s pointing out flaws in the Canadian justice system.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

further reading

For an idea of what has been happening in court, read the notes published here: colah / ByronTrialNotes

Read Byron Sonne’s Twitter stream @torontogoat

See Byron Sonne’s toronto_goat’s photostream on Flickr.

P.S. Follow

The Daily Ruse

as it chronicles the story of law and democracy in Canada.

~ laurelrusswurm, 19 November, 2011