Democracy Primer

What’s So Bad About First Past The Post?

Canadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag backgroundThis is the third in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

Lets start with the basics.

Sometimes human beings are loners, hermits who shun other humans. But that is rare.

Most human beings are social in nature.  We want to be together, to live in proximity to other humans.  We want to play together and we learn to work together.   In order for people to co-exist, human society requires some sort of boundaries. Rules.

Individual humans start out as part of a family unit.  The family unit fits into human society as part of some kind of tribe. In the modern world collections of tribes have come together to form countries. Each nation establishes its character in the style and form of policy and the framework of rules— laws— set down by its government.

There are two basic paths human beings have taken in our approach government.

Authoritarianism

Autocracy, OligarchyTotalitarianism, Dictatorship, Monarchy, Empire, Fascism… there are many different systems in which the government is all powerful and citizens are powerless.  Such governments might choose to treat citizens benevolently.  Or not.  The government decides and the citizens have no choice but to comply.

British Library illuminated medieval manuscript image of King Phillip Coronation

Democracy

Citizens very often prefer to have a say in their own governance, and this can be achieved with a democratic system of government.

According to political scientist Larry Diamond, it consists of four key elements: (a) A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; (b) The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; (c) Protection of the human rights of all citizens, and (d) A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.[3]

The term originates from the Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratía) “rule of the people”,[4] which was found from δῆμος (dêmos) “people” and κράτος (krátos) “power” or “rule”, in the 5th century BC to denote the political systems then existing in Greek city-states, notably Athens; the term is an antonym to ἀριστοκρατία (aristokratía) “rule of an elite”.

Wikipedia: Democracy

Democracy draws its power and legitimacy from the support and consent of its citizens.  There are two basic ways of achieving democracy.

Democracy

Direct Democracy

All qualified citizens have the right to represent their own interests in government.  In ancient Greece, each citizen spoke for themselves, making laws by “decree of the plebs” or plebiscite.

plebiscite (noun)

  1. a direct vote of the qualified voters of a state in regard to some important public question.
  2. the vote by which the people of a political unit determine autonomy or affiliation with another country.

In a country where qualified voters number in the millions, the closest we can get to direct democracy is through holding a special plebiscite in which all qualified citizens of a state can vote on an important issue.  As digital technology progresses, there may come a time when all Canadian voters will be both qualified and able to vote electronically on every issue directly. But in today’s world, the closest we come to this is through the difficult and expensive mechanism known as a referendum.

referendum (noun)

  1. the principle or practice of referring measures proposed or passed by a legislative body to the vote of the electorate for approval or rejection.
  2. a measure thus referred.
  3. a vote on such a measure.

Representative Democracy

Since it would be hard to fit millions of people into the Parliament Buildings, like most modern democracies, Canada uses a form of Representative Democracy.  Instead of speaking for ourselves, all qualified citizens have the right to elect a representative we believe will best represent our interests in Parliament.  Although some Canadians wish it were different, referendums are not a feature of the Canadian political system.  In nearly a century and a half, our government has had only three referendums: on prohibition (in 1898), conscription (World War II) and whether to accept the Charlottetown Accord (Constitutional Amendments).  Certainly our choice of voting system was not made through this mechanism.

The procedure by which qualified voters determine who our representative will be is called an electoral system.  The different elements that go together to make up an electoral system determine:

  • the structure of the ballot
  • how votes are cast
  • the way votes are counted, and
  • the criteria needed to win

Although I have been breaking this down for simplicity, there are many ways to design electoral systems.  Most (if not all) of the electoral systems in use around the world are hybrids, as ours here in Canada is.  Our representative democracy is part of a constitutional monarchy; we share England’s monarch. In understanding our options, the most crucial distinction between types of electoral systems comes down to which family they are in.

Representative Democracy can be broken down into two main families: Winner-take-all or Proportional Representation.

Winner-take-all

Just as it sounds, a winner-take-all election is an “all or nothing” proposition.  A election which can only have a single winner necessarily ends up with the single winner getting all the power.

And when elections can only produce a single winner, unless that winner achieved 100% of the votes, there will be losers, too.  The candidate(s) who fails to win loses.  Naturally, the citizens who didn’t vote for winner end up without any representation at all.  They’re losers too.

In Canada we use a winner-take-all single member plurality system better known as First Past The Post.  Although many Canadians believe this system produces majority government it doesn’t.

A majority is defined as 50% + 1.  If there are more than 2 candidates competing for a single seat, with First Past The Post the candidate doesn’t needs to win 50% + 1 ~ s/he just needs to win more votes than any of the others.

Because Canadians aren’t happy with only two political parties, very often we elect MPs with far fewer than 50% of the votes.  In the 2015 Canadian Federal Election, 28.99% of the votes cast were enough to elect Bernard Généreux Member of Parliament for the Montmagny—L’Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.  That’s a long way from 50% + 1.

But even 50% + 1 can leave as many as 49.9% of voters without representation at all.  That’s why I’ve become a fan of:

Proportional Representation

Vote_iconXProportional Representation isn’t the name of any single electoral system, it is a phrase that describes an electoral outcome where 39% of the vote can’t win 100% of the seats in Parliament.  Proportional Representation ensures 39% of the votes wins 39% of the seats.

Instead of polarizing citizens into winners and losers, a proportional system seeks to elect a government that reflects all citizens, by providing representation to all eligible voters.   More than 90 countries around the world (85% of OECD countries) use some form of Proportional Representation, so there is a great deal of information about how such systems work.

In Canada, over the last decade or so, Ten Canadian Commissions, Assemblies and Reports have recommended proportional representation for Canada.  In addition, Liberal MP Stéphane Dion developed his own P3 system, and later this year the Province of Prince Edward Island will consider adopting another newly devised proportional system, Sean Graham‘s Dual Member Mixed Proportional.

As this series progresses, I’ll look at the different electoral systems that have been or might reasonably be on offer for Canada.  If you aren’t already overwhelmed, I’ve provided links throughout the article so you can find out more detail from the supporting on your own.

And you might be interested in what Craig Scott had to say about Proportional Representation:

The great resource is the grass roots multi-partisan organization that advocates for meaningful Canadian electoral reform: Fair Vote Canada. You can check out their website, but you’ll also find chapters across Canada.  My local is the very active Fair Vote Waterloo Region Chapter.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Image Credits:

Medievalart on Tumblr led me to the gorgeous public domain image Detail of a miniature of the coronation ceremonies of Philip (Coronation of King Phillip).   This artwork is part of the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts the British Library generously makes available to the public online.

Found in Wikimedia Commons, Vote icon is an original artwork dedicated to the Public Domain by its creator openclipart.org.

My Families of Electoral Systems mini poster & Democracy Flags are original artwork dedicated to the Public Domain

What’s So Bad About First Past The Post?

Proportional Representation For Canada series so far:

• Proportional Representation for Canada
• What’s so bad about First Past The Post
• Democracy Primer
• Working for Democracy
• The Popular Vote
• Why Don’t We Have PR Already?
• Stability
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Entitlement
• Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote
• #ERRÉ #Q Committee
• #ERRÉ #Q Meetings & Transcripts
• Take The Poll ~ #ERRÉ #Q
Proportionality #ERRÉ #Q 
• The Poll’s The Thing 
• DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions
• What WE Can Do for ERRÉ
• #ERRÉ today and Gone Tomorrow (…er, Friday)
• Redistricting Roulette 
• #ERRÉ submission Deadline TONIGHT!
#ERRÉ Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm
• The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRÉ
FVC: Consultations Provide Strong Mandate for Proportional Representation #ERRÉ
PEI picks Proportional Representation
There is only one way to make every vote count #ERRÉ
Canada is Ready 4 Proportional Representation
Sign the Petition e-616
#ProportionalRepresentation Spin Cycle ~ #ERRÉ
• International Women’s Day 2017 ~ #IWD
• An Open Letter to ERRÉ Committee Liberals

and don’t forget to check out the PR4Canada Resources page!

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ACTA keeps chugging along

President  Felipe Calderón posed in front of a book lined backdrop
"We welcome all views, including criticism, except insults. They will be automaticly blocked. Greetings to the trolls" --President Calderón

Canada’s Heritage Minister James Moore blocks citizens from following the Twitter feed he uses in his capacity as a federal Cabinet Minister.

So far there are 60+ citizens who have been blocked. There are probably a great many more because Twitter users are not notified when they have been blocked.

If there is a possibility you have been blocked, the easiest way to find out is to go directly to @mpjamesmoore‘s Twitter page. If you’ve been following but now the green checkmark is gone, try pushing the “follow” button, If you have been blocked a drop down message will tell you so.

If you discover you have been blocked by the Heritage Minister, you can add your name to the list of Canadians Moore has blocked by following the @no_mpjamesmoore on Twitter. This twitter group was established as a public place for citizens to indicate they’ve been blocked by Mr. Moore.

Open Acta orange Padlock logo www.openacta.org

Extraordinarily this is not a problem unique to Canada. Mexico is having a similar problem with democratic accountability.

Last night on twitter I chatted about democracy with @StopActaNow, the voice of the OpenACTA Group of Mexico.

President Felipe Calderón chooses to block citizen access to his Twitter feed.

Concerned that the rights of petition, access to information and freedom of expression are threatened by this governmental disenfranchisement, Mexican citizens are currently investigating the option of legal action.

The 21st Century has been rough going for Democracy

In the meantime the ACTAsecret Trade Agreement just keeps chugging along.

The August 25th US version of the latest ACTA text was leaked to Knowledge Ecology International, who have published a transcribed PDF version which has also been made available as an HTML version.

ACTA has not been subject to constitutional scrutiny in ANY of the countries participating in the secret trade negotiations. Which is precisely why it is a secret treaty. As I understand it the constraints placed on participation were heavy duty non-disclosure provisions, which is why most elected representatives in most democratic governments of the countries participating are not informed of what is happening.

Laws like the US DMCA, the UK Digital Economy Act and our own misguided Bill C-32 will make it easier for the respective negotiators to sign on the ACTA dotted line. Most citizens still do not know about ACTA.

So tell the people you know. We need to spread the word.

WRITE TO OUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES.

Email is invisible and easily ignored. Ask people to send letters. Real letters. Paper letters that take up physical space. They probably won’t listen. They probably won’t actually read your letter, or entertain your ideas. The most compelling argument in the world probably won’t sway them. Our letters will simply remind them to send more propaganda form letters our way.

But enough letters will get their attention.

A minority government means that the majority of elected MPs are NOT part of the ruling party.
We can write letters to THEM, too.


If you’re having trouble deciding what to say and how to say it, the Digital Copyright Canada site offers sample letters and advice as well as information about copyright.

Canada’s World of Tomorrow is Here Today

(my Digital Economy Submission)

Canadian Flag

There is no doubt in my mind that Digital Content and Technologies will play an enormous role in Canada’s future, particularly since they have already achieved incredible importance. The rapidly changing face of digital technology, and in particular the Internet, has pulled Canada, along with the rest of the world into the digital future far more rapidly than any previous technological revolution.

It must also be remembered that change within all digital technologies is ongoing. The big idea or the hot website of the day can change in the blink of an eye. Government attempts to micromanage policies or businesses will simply impede the ability of Canadian businesses to adapt to the changes quickly enough to compete effectively.

This Digital Consultation is clearly focused on business. Yet business is only one of the elements that needs consideration. The Digital Economy doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it exists in an ecosystem populated by a wide range of consumers and citizens. Further, the Canadian Digital Economy connects to the rest of the world through the Internet.

In formulating a national digital economy agenda, Canada needs to take a good long look at Net Neutrality, FLOSS, Education, DRM/TPM, Culture and Accessibility. Care needs to be taken to formulate good policies and laws that reflect the world in which we live and allow Canadians to maximize our potential.

As a democratic nation, it is vitally important to consult with all the stakeholders and reach a reasonable consensus. Rushing to implement inadequate or ill advised policies or legislation is to no one’s benefit, and certainly won’t improve Canada’s Digital Economy.

Everything is connected.

This is the Internet.

Theme: Canada’s Digital Content

Since first learning about the impending imposition of Usage Based Billing I have been learning about many of these issues and blogging about them in my public service blog ‘Stop Usage Based Billing’.

As a writer returning to the work force, I’ve taught myself to create web pages and write blogs as a warm-up for my real work writing novels. For myself I find self publishing to be a very attractive alternative to signing a traditional deal with a traditional publishing house.

Although many of the issues I am addressing here are largely technical, as a writer, my greatest personal concern is for the future of digital content in Canada.

The primary focus of any Digital Economy policy should be removal of barriers to small business. Make it simple and create an environment conducive to innovation and competition, both at home and on the global stage. That is the kind of support that will help Canadian business thrive.

NET NEUTRALITY

The single most important thing the Government can and should do is to ensure Canada has real environment of Net Neutrality.

In the early days of the Internet, Canada had state of the art technology and reasonable prices, two very good reasons why initial Canadian rates of Internet adoption were good. In recent years, though, especially in the parts of the country without Independent ISPs, dramatically spiraling costs have certainly been a factor in the slowing rate of Canadian Internet adoption.

Unfortunately the Internet carriers appear to have done little more than basic maintenance of the infrastructure although Canadian Internet rates have risen to some of the highest in the world, leaving Canada faced with both a sagging infrastructure and high costs. Hardly an ideal environment for growth.

Canadian Internet Carriers also operate as Internet Service Providers. To foster competition and benefit Canadians, the Government mandated the Internet Infrastructure be opened up to Independent Internet Service Providers. These Independent ISPs access the Internet through the carriers’ infrastructure. As a result, the Independent ISPs are in direct competition with the carriers’ own ISP branches.

The CRTC is our Internet Regulator charged with protecting Canadian consumers. Yet they have been horribly remiss. At best they appear incapable of understanding the issues.

The CRTC ruled to allow Bell to impede the Internet connections of the Independent Service Providers’ customers. This legal discrimination is accomplished with Deep Packet Inspection technology, allowing Bell access to the content of all unencrypted Internet traffic that passes across the infrastructure they control. Due to privacy issues DPI is illegal in Europe, yet the CRTC sees no harm in allowing Bell this access, and has not even bothered to provide any oversight. This is the digital equivalent of providing Bell with our house keys. Even in the days when Bell equipment was stored in Canadian homes, no government felt it necessary to grant them such access.

The CRTC has also approved Bell’s application to charge Usage Based Billing against the customers of the Independent Internet Service Providers. This mind boggling economic concept essentially removes the Independent ISP’s ability to offer the pricing packages they choose. Instead they will be forced to impose Bell pricing, dramatic price increases to at least double consumer costs without the providing the tiniest increase in value.

The worst part about this decision is that the CRTC accepted this proposal as a ‘traffic management’ strategy for Bell the carrier. Bell’s stated intent is to reduce Canadian Internet use by making it expensive enough to deter Canadian consumers from using the Internet. In this way Bell can continue to reap huge profits from consumers without having to reinvest in infrastructure.

It seems to me that reducing Canadian Internet access should be the last thing that Canada needs if the Canadian Government goal is to nurture a Canadian Digital Economy. Discouraging Canadian consumers from shopping online will result in reduced business for Canadian companies, who will have increasing difficulty doing business at all as the Canadian infrastructure falls farther and farther behind.

For both these situations, the CRTC has abused its regulatory powers by allowing Bell to interfere in, and worse dictate, the business practices of direct competitors. This is an incredibly anti-competitive way of doing business, and hardly conducive to encouraging Canadian business. And the direct opposite of the principles of Net Neutrality.

The reason the Internet has spread across the globe with such speed is because the Internet was not regulated. Instead it has provided as close to a level playing field as the world has yet seen. Because anyone can play. All it takes is a computer and a connection.

Part of the problem is that the Internet Carriers are wearing too many hats. Perhaps it is time to separate the carrier and the ISPs. And the carrier from the content provider. After all, usage caps can be used to prevent a carrier’s ISP subscribers from accessing content elsewhere. As others in the Digital Economy Consultation have suggested, public ownership of the infrastructure may very well be the way to proceed.

The CRTC should not be permitted to facilitate damage to Canada’s ability to participate in the global digital economy. Since the CRTC appears incapable of understanding the issues, serious changes must be made before worse economic damage results.

ACCESS and INNOVATION

Where does innovation come from? A lot of it starts with ‘thinking outside the box.’

If I want to plant a lawn, I wouldn’t just plant a dozen grass seeds. I’d cover the ground with seeds. Some of the seeds may be duds, and the birds or squirrels may eat some more, but if I water it a reasonable amount, I will end up with a lawn. All Canadians

Canada is known throughout the world as a country rich in natural resources. Yet our single greatest natural resource is our children. If we are looking to maximize the potential of our education system, forcing post secondary institutions to turn their research arms into businesses is the wrong way to go.

It would be far better to lower or even remove existing financial barriers to higher education. Previously Canada offered government grants to students who would not otherwise be able to afford a college or university education. Today’s students who are unable to afford the cost of post secondary education can access government backed loans instead. The problem is that when these students leave school with their degree they also carry the burden of crushing personal debt.

The unfortunate result is that bright students who might benefit from a post secondary education may well choose immediate employment over debt. I submit that all Canadian students should have access to post secondary education whether or not they can afford it. The benefits Canada will reap from the resulting talent, creativity and innovation is a skilled and educated workforce. This would be an excellent way for Government to the digital skills necessary to compete, thrive and innovate in the digital economy,

The more access Canadians have, the more innovation there will be. The more Canadians participate in the various aspects of the Internet, the more small startups we’ll have. Certainly every attempt is not going to lead to a Blackberry, but the more startups the better. Some won’t t succeed, but some will.

Particularly in trying economic times, small businesses don’t have money to burn. They can’t afford expensive research, so they are unlikely to hire consultants to guide them in digital adoption strategies to enhance their business. Small businesses tend to do things for themselves, with owners or staff being more likely to play around online to get an idea of how they might proceed. All that’s necessary is an Internet connection. Trial and error is free (at least until UBB is implemented). Should they try out an Identi.ca account or a blog? Or see if FaceBook or MySpace or Kijiji or HotFrog can best help grow the business?

Canadian Government Adoption of Digital Technology

I have been impressed with the Canadian Government’s commitment and follow through in putting an increasing amount of information online. This is an invaluable path to allow Canadians access to publicly funded information. However, it must be accessible to all Canadians.

It is certainly time to consider removal of crown copyright. This is one area where the United States provides a shining example Canada ought to emulate. The American Government releases everything from NASA space photographs to Library of Congress historical documents directly into the public domain. Because the taxpayers have already paid for this material they don’t have to again. Yet in Canada the CBC won’t give permission to even the most non-commercial of bloggers to reproduce a CBC image in a public service blog.

All levels of Canadian Government need to rethink dependency on Adobe PDF files. To the Ministry of Industry’s credit, this site offers a viable alternative to PDFs. Government information should not be locked up in a PDF file. Some people think that exporting documents into PDF makes them secure, when in fact the PDF exists to lock the document’s format for printing. PDF files require the download of a special reader, which for some is an immediate barrier to accessibility. Even with the reader installed, PDF files are not always easily to read on a computer screens, which makes sense since they were designed for printing. Without special tools citizens can’t easily make use of the information stored in government generated PDFs. It isn’t possible to simply cut and paste the information from a PDF into a calendar, newsletter, blog or mailing list. People need to retype the information in order to make use of it. This is, after all, government information that citizens are entitled to. It should be easily accessible so it can be read from the screen or used as needed.

FLOSS (Free Libre Open Source Software) or Open Data formats make it possible to avoid dependency on proprietary software, and ensure accessibility.

Placing Canadian Government Data in software formats controlled by a corporation can result in forced upgrades to accommodate the corporate timetable, or worse, being left without support in the event that the software vendor chooses to withdraw support.

Some proprietary software like Microsoft Vista or Windows 7 cannot be prevented from ‘calling home.’ I don’t know what software or hardware is actually deployed in the halls of government, but the probability that it is foreign proprietary software is certainly high. Since the Government has access to private citizen information I wonder both about Privacy ramifications and National Security issues when the Corporations controlling this proprietary software are not Canadian.

Eventually ceasing Canadian Government use of foreign proprietary software could help safeguard Canadian government data. Should our Government switch to FLOSS, additionally it would result in savings. FLOSS adoption would accrue all the same benefits to small and medium sized business as it would to the government.

Much of this same proprietary software is being forced on our children under the public education system thanks to ‘donations’ from the manufacturer. High School students take courses called ‘programming’ but instead of learning programming often they are simply trained in the use of a particular kind of proprietary software. I’ve heard that some European countries mandate equal access to non-proprietary software in public education. That would be an excellent mandate for Canada.

All Canadians need to be able to access the Internet so they can participate fully in the digital economy. But it is the children and young people of today who require the most nurturing because they will be the innovators of tomorrow.

Access is crucial. Cost should not be a barrier.

COPYRIGHT: Digital Locks

Canadian DMCA

Bill C32 cannot possibly be allowed to pass as it stands. The provision to make it illegal to circumvent ‘Digital Rights Management/Technical Protection Measures,’ sometimes known as Digital Locks, at the expense of everything else is wrong.

Environmentally it would be a nightmare. Digital locks on media and/or devices means that repair would not be an option. Canadians would be forced to throw out perfectly good media and devices if they had DRM/TPM and it wasn’t working.

Making circumvention of digital locks illegal guarantees that Canadians will be legally prevented from modifications which may well lead to innovations.

The moment that anti circumvention of digital locks becomes law, every digital manufacturer in Canada, along with every digital manufacturer outside of Canada, will be loading DRM on all of their media and devices destined for sale here.

This will become even more restrictive than proprietary software for Canadian consumers. We’ll need dozens of different devices because there will be no inter-operability as every manufacturer strives to corner the market. And in the event that one does, like, say, VHS, and all the others go out of business, consumers who bought the wrong media will again be out of luck.

Consumers are shell shocked from all of the obsolete technologies we’ve been through.

Vinyl records;
8 track tapes,
cassette tapes,
video disks,
laser disks,
Sony betamax,
VHS,
CD,
DVD,
5.25″ floppy Disk,
3.5″ floppy disk….

If it is going to be illegal for us to preserve, repair or even use the media or devices we buy, consumers may well stop buying. Hardly a recipe for a thriving digital economy.

At minimum any device or media having DRM/TPM must be clearly marked to warn consumers. It must also be made illegal for the words “buy” “sell” and “purchase” to be used in these transactions, since clearly they no longer fall under the terms of property ownership, rendering usage of those words fraudulent.

copyright symbol over a red maple leaf

As a writer, I am aware that Canada already possesses strong copyright law. To my way of thinking it is, if anything our copyright is too strong, possibly to the point of being detrimental to creators. As a creator, my first priority is disseminating my work. I very much oppose the idea that my work will be locked up by copyright for fifty years after my death. I feel strongly enough about this to the extent that I choose to make use of Creative Commons licensing.

A large part my strong opposition to legislation which cedes supremacy to digital locks is tied to this. If I release my novels under a Creative Commons License, I most emphatically do not want my licensing choice superseded by the agenda of a manufacturer of digital e-book reader. And that’s what Bill C-32 will do if it is passed as it stands: the device manufacturer’s rights would override my rights over my own work.

As a writer, I should be free to exercise my right to control of the content I have created. Isn’t that why copyright was invented in the first place?

CONTENT: Culture and the Internet

I’m in the process of self-publishing my first novel, which is my personal digital content advantage. For a creator of any kind of digital media, the Internet offers wonderful opportunities because it is the world’s greatest distribution channel. If you can find an audience on the Internet, you can make a go of your creative endeavor. Canadians are intelligent, talented, competent, innovative and responsible citizens of the world; we are beginning to take advantage of these distribution channels.

One of the ways I plan to utilize the Internet is to serialize my novel on my personal website. Yet if I am successful in attracting readership, resultant heavy site traffic will penalize me if Usage Based Billing is implemented.

Everything is changing. It used to be that musicians needed to be signed by a major recording studio who could get them radio play and concert exposure to become known. Without studio backing there was virtually no possibility of becoming a star. In the fifty years or so before the Internet, the only independent recording artist to become a truly Canadian Superstar was Stompin’ Tom Connors. And that took an extraordinary amount of work over a very long time as he played and sang his way the length and breadth of this land over and over again.

Before the Internet virtually 100% of the Canadian music industry was controlled by CRIA. Today, 30% of Canadian recording artists are Independent. By not signing with the four major record labels, these independent Canadian musicians retain control of the copyright for their original work. Thirty percent of Canadian recording artists are recording their own music, their own way and distributing it online in various ways. This has been an enormous gain for Canadian culture.

Both movies and television programs are being made by amateurs and professional filmmakers alike for distribution in a variety of Internet release methods. There are even two ‘made for torrent’ video productions that I’m aware of you (thanks p2pnet: the Tunnel and thanks Robert X: Pioneer One

Although often implied otherwise, file sharing is legal, and it is very important that it remain so. What is in question is whether uploading or downloading copyright works for non-commercial purposes is legal. Sovereign nations around the world need to make their copyright laws address this.

File sharing using BitTorrent protocol is one of the most efficient ways of distributing large files to a great many people. Both the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and our own CBC have experimented with file sharing as a distribution method. The American Project Gutenberg distributes many of the public domain books they have digitized through file sharing. Feature films released under Creative Commons licenses are being released and distributed in this way as well. And Open Source and FLOSS software are often distributed in this way. I have attended a few Ubuntu ‘release parties’ that are held to distribute the FLOSS Operating system via BitTorrent.

And of course Canada’s newest registered political party, The Pirate Party of Canada, offers creators legal BitTorrent digital distribution to allow them to distribute their wares. Free.

The Internet makes it possible for artists to reach their audiences through these sometimes seemingly radical methods. We need to adapt to the new technology in much the same way that we adapted to the change from horse drawn buggies to automobiles.

The very worst thing the Canadian Government can do is to stifle Canadian creativity and innovation in attempting to legislate against progress.



Image Credits: Map of the Internet – photo by the Opte Project

NOTE: I don’t have time to add all the links it deserves… I’ll try to get to it later.



BONUS:

And just because you waded through that, you deserve a reward. So here for your viewing pleasure is an animated film by Nina Paley which very accessibly explains the internet issues the Electronic Frontier Foundation fights to change:
Nina Paley’s Animated Thank You to the EFF

*Warning: This film REALLY made me Laugh Out Loud

[Thanks @openuniverse]

Oh! G8/G20 Summit Madness

A post script to yesterday’s “Oh Canada” singing peaceful protesters: Oh! Toronto

Mother and child at Caribana a few years back
I have fond memories 0f living in Toronto.

Because Toronto is such a great city, this year’s summit madness bothers me so much.

Here is the other G8/G20 video that really got to me.

It bothers me deeply, partly because my sister lives nearby, partly because it’s Toronto, and partly because I’m a citizen.

Why is this happening here?

Canadian citizens, Toronto residents, have been confined to their homes and terrorized by a legal repressive regime.

This is Canada 2010

Canadians being intimidated by faceless black clad cops armed to the teeth. Tear gas. Ordered inside their own homes. Threatened for recording these government instigated breaches of the peace. This is madness. It sure as heck doesn’t look like anything that I recognize as democracy.

Canadian taxpayers… the same Canadian taxpayers and citizens being harassed and threatened and arrested on the streets of Toronto… are footing the bill.

Why? Did anyone ask citizens if we wanted to host these summit meetings? Did anyone ask if we wanted to foot the bill?

And what IS the bill?

Canadian Flag

The number being talked about for hosting the twin G8/G20 summits is

One billion dollars

$1,000,000,000.

That is a very large bite during a recession.

A lot of money a country with a total population of 34 million.

The thing to remember is:

the Billion Dollar price tag is
ONLY
for the security.

How much are they we spending wining and dining these world leaders.

At a time when many Canadians are unemployed or underemployed.
A time when many Canadians are homeless.
A time when poverty is such that food banks are feeding a great many hungry Canadian citizens:
because our government is not.

Surely this isn’t my Canada.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

[Thanks to Liana Russwurm for passing the video along, and Zack Gilbert taking the risks involved to record this terrible scene from the front porch.]

Canadian Constitutional Law

1997

Mape Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"My first exposure to legislative “regulations” was when I tried reading the Provincial Government’s proposed Bill 160 back in 1997.   Although I’m reasonably well educated and usually able to grasp the big picture, when reading through this proposed education legislation more than once I still couldn’t figure it out. At first I worried that my critical thinking had been impaired by motherhood. As it turned out, that was not the problem. The problem was that Bill 160 wasn’t complete, it was a framework.

Regulations are the details that get filled in later after the law has been passed. Regulations are decided behind closed doors by the cabinet. Bill 160 even specified that many of its regulations could be retroactive. As a citizen, this makes me nervous.

The point of our lawmaking procedure is to allow for laws to be made democratically in the light of day by elected representatives.
I can understand how it started… a government wanted to put through a law quickly, but they were missing a detail or two so they left a regulatory blank to be filled in later. But legislation made up of “regulations to be named later” bypasses the system of parliamentary legislation which is how our laws are supposed to be made. This is like signing a contract that hasn’t been filled in.

2010

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
One result of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s misuse of prorogation means that more than half of the legislation in the works has been killed.

From my perspective, it is rather a good thing that some of the laws were derailed. As it turns out, it is a very good thing that Bill C-6 Canada Consumer Product Safety Act was not actually passed.

Marketed under the Healthy Canadians Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan umbrella, this law has not yet passed. This law is being sold as “protecting you and your family'”.

Constitutional lawyer Shawn Buckley explains about legislative regulations at the federal level:

Regulations don’t have to go through parliament. There doesn’t have to be a vote. If you want to pass a regulation and you’re the government, you just publish it in the Canada Gazette Twice, and it becomes the law.
–Shawn Buckley YouTube Video: Part 1 Restricting Our Freedoms

Through a discussion board on the Facebook Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament CAPP site I first learned about Bill C-6. I was directed to National Health Products Protection Organization (NHPPA)‘s Constitutional lawyer Shawn Buckley, who speaks on the two YouTube videos I’ve included in this page.

Although his focus is National Health Products Protection he very clearly lays out a few very frightening things that are happening in this legislation. Mr. Buckley’s concern with the regulations within this proposed law because he believes once the law is passed the regulatory elements will be employed detrimentally.


PART 1 Restricting Our Freedoms – Shawn Buckley about Bill C-6

Bill C-6 abolishes the Law of Trespass

Our right to privacy, which Canadians enjoyed on our own land, or in our own homes, is abolished under this law. Established in British Common Law, Canada’s Law of Trespass is older than confederation. The legal protection it afforded citizens was that any invasion of our privacy by citizens or the state had remedies in law. This law is why it is necessary for law enforcement to have a search warrant before invading citizen’s homes. Currently all levels of Canadian law enforcement employ the standards laid out in the Canadian Criminal Code: there needs to be a substantial likelihood of evidence of a crime.

Shawn Buckley says that Bill C-6 will allow a Justice to grant a search warrant to a Health Canada Inspector to any place that is “likely to find something regulated by the act”. Being skeptical, I went and looked it up on the government’s own website:

Authority to enter place

20. (1) Subject to subsection 21(1), an inspector may, for the purpose of verifying compliance or preventing non-compliance with this Act or the regulations, at any reasonable time enter a place, including a conveyance, in which they have reasonable grounds to believe that a consumer product is manufactured, imported, packaged, stored, advertised, sold, labelled, tested or transported, or a document relating to the administration of this Act or the regulations is located.
Bill C-6 – As Passed by the House of Commons Version

Exerpting the scary bit: “reasonable grounds to believe that a consumer product is … stored.”

My house has stored consumer products in it.   Every house does.   He’s right.

This law means that no one’s home is safe.

Of course, law enforcement isn’t going to be breaking down doors willy nilly… would they?

The Rule of Law

Canadian Flag
The Rule of Law is one of my favorites. Currently, the state needs to go through the court before it can deprive us of our liberty or our property. The court only grants the state the right to deprive us of these things if there is the provision of a crime or a legal judgement.

Bill C-6 allows a Health Canada Inspector to seize your property without going to court for a warrant.

Under current law, anything that is seized under a warrant must be (a) reported to the court immediately, and (b) the enforcement agent must apply to the court to keep it. The court may decide the seizure was improper and order it’s return.

Bill C-6 allows property seizure without having to bother with the court.

Worse, it allows the person whose property was seized can be billed for storage of their seized property. Or the Inspector can decide to destroy the property.

Keeping it cozy, the ministry that charges you keeps the goods they have seized.

So, in the name of “safety”, a warrant may be obtained without evidence, goods may be seized without a warrant, and then kept, disposed of or destroyed without a court order.


PART 2 Restricting Our Freedoms – Shawn Buckley about Bill C-6

I know that I am not Shawn Buckley’s intended audience because my only connection with the National Health Products Protection Organization would be as a consumer.   I’m just a citizen.   There are some really good laws in place currently protecting consumers.

If the inspectors are having trouble doing their job within Canada’s existing laws, perhaps the real problem is that there are not enough inspectors to be able to do the job properly. Rectifying that problem would be beneficial to consumers.

As a reader and writer I can see all too clearly the realms of abuse that laws like this will open up. And once a law like this passes, it will be that much easier to pass others as bad or worse.

There are really good reasons to afford citizens protection from the state. That’s why our legal system evolved the way it has… to ensure that the powerful state does not wantonly abuse its citizens. Citizens must be considered innocent until proven guilty. That’s important.

This law will strip centuries old legal protections from me and my family. That’s not good for us… that’s bad.

Prorogation killed this law. We’re safe from it now.

Well, no.

Bill C-6 was originally Bill C-52. It didn’t get passed and it has come back. A hair’s breath from being a law. So when parliament reconvenes it will no doubt be back. And this time, it will most likely be pushed through on a fast track.

We can get some good out of this prorogation if we can work to stop further erosion of our civil rights. Lets make democracy work for us.

Canadian House of Commons