Waiting for a verdict

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

I hadn’t planned on blogging about Byron Sonne again until after Judge Nancy Spies gave a verdict. I thought I’d just check the #freeByron hashtag today to find out the status of the verdict. Still scheduled for tomorrow at 10:00 am Ontario Superior Court (361 University Ave., Toronto)

I’m actually hopeful, because Judge Spies seems to be a very good judge. Although she wasn’t particularly conversant with the technology involved with Byron’s case, she has clearly made it her business to come to terms with it. Even better, she has clearly not accepted everything the Crown Attorney has put forth as gospel. I’ve come to that conclusion from out here in the cheap seats because she’s been asking good questions.

A few days after the court had adjourned for the Judge’s deliberations, the Toronto Police staged an absurd production of security theatre. News reports indicated that Detective Bui was instrumental in the latest mammoth waste of taxpayer dollars, wherein:

As Mostly Water points out in Tickling the Dragon: Byron Sonne and the Crown’s Prosecution:

The question is: why did police wait so long to excavate the backyard? They had the chat log evidence that they used to justify the search in their possession for years. It is suspicious timing that the chat ‘came to their attention’ only after the trial was done and the judge was deliberating.

The role of the Defence is to obtain the best possible outcome for the defendant. Although ours is an adversarial system, the Crown’s role is not to win at any cost, but to obtain the best possible outcome for the public good. The Crown’s duty is to safeguard the public, which means allowing the innocent to walk free. The presumption of innocence means that the Crown must prove the guilt of the accused.

And I don’t think they did that. Not even close.

The defence case provided far more than reasonable doubt. Even though I’m not a lawyer, I think the reason for staging the security theatre was an attempt to muddy the water because the Crown doesn’t actually have a case.

In a perfect world, the justice system should seek justice. But in the real world, egos and reputation are part of the mix. Perhaps Detective Bui thought injecting a little drama might increase public fear and pressure the judge into convicting Byron in spite of his innocence. In practice the publicity stunt may have backfired since the judge seemed singularly unimpressed.

profile

The entire case has had surreal elements. As far back as 2008, comic novelist Janet Evanovich knew a potato gun wasn’t a serious weapon, but in Canada a potato gun resulted in a weapons charge against Byron.   The Internet isn’t some mystical place, but part of the real world. The rules of hearsay must apply to conversation on Twitter the same way they apply to people having a face to face verbal conversation.

fireworks

A great deal of the morass of “circumstantial evidence” that Crown Attorney Elizabeth Nadeau offered the court was meaningless. It was almost painful listening to discussion of every digital photograph, every file, every bookmark. In short, every scrap of Byron Sonne’s digital life that was found on his computer. I expect that there would be more chance of finding evidence of wrong doing on the average teenager’s computer.

There has been speculation suggesting Byron’s denial of bail and subsequent incarceration for nearly a year was purely political. But I have to wonder, how much of the whole fiasco is because Detective Bui is determined to come out of it a hero rather than a heel? And how much is because the Crown Attorney simply doesn’t understand that explosions are neat?

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Activism and Fund$

A poppy with a "free Byron" center

I have written something similar to this letter more than once, which made me think I should post it publicly. I understand that even activist organizations need operating expenses. I don’t have the slightest qualms about whether an organization I support accepts “dirty money.” If a person, corporation or gun runner wants to support good causes out of guilt or whatever, great. It won’t improve my opinion of the donor, nor will it make me think less of the recipient.

But that is a different thing than using PayPal, or worse, than
using *only* PayPal. If you have a PayPal account you agree to allow PayPal control over your finances. Where I might accept a Nobel Prize I would not give gun runners or terrorists access to my bank account. See the difference?

Doing business with PayPal actively supports this American Corporation which has shown willingness to mess with Canadian sovereignty, and worse, Canadian democracy.

Not cool.

Here’s the body of my letter:

Dear ——:

I understand and support what you are trying to do. What I can’t understand is why you deal with PayPal.

Just prior to the beginning of his trial, G20 activist Byron Sonne‘s defense account was summarily cut off by PayPal.

Previously, PayPal arbitrarily froze Pirate Party of Canada funds when they were gearing up for an election.

PayPal has also cut off Wikileaks, an international organization that not only has not broken a single law anywhere in the world, but also has not been charged with anything in any jurisdiction in the world. [Should the United States alter any of their laws in future solely to muzzle Wikileaks, well, that won’t count.]

And that doesn’t say anything about all the people around the world who have set up a PayPal account for some reason or other only to have PayPal arbitrarily decide to freeze their funds.

Aside from the fact that it is dangerous for any person or group involved in any type of political reform to trust any part of their income to this corporation which has a track record of selectively discriminating against same, the ethics of many citizens like myself will not allow us to deal with PayPal under any circumstances.

I understand why a new organization would sign up with Paypal – everyone knows the name and they make it easy to sign up – but you should understand that dealing with PayPal says that your organization is willing to deal with a corporate entity with a track record of bullying customers and assisting government repression.

Personally, like many people, I will not use Paypal no matter how good the cause. Nor would I feel comfortable forwarding your email to anyone else so long as you request donations that can only be made through PayPal.

If your organization wants the support of people with conscience, it needs to respect our choices.

I am sure there are more alternatives to PayPal but the only ones I am currently aware of are WePay, and Ogone allows for straight credit card payments in Europe [I don’t know if they operate in North America].

Just thought you should be aware of this important issue.

Regards,
Laurel L. Russwurm

Which reminds me… I need to cut a cheque so I can post my small contribution for Byron Sonne’s defense.

Every bit helps. #freebyron

a pile of canadian money

Fighting for Our Freedom

Maybe it’s because of movies I’ve seen, or possibly because of my interest in history, or both, but Remembrance Day has always been important to me.

When I was a kid I borrowed the vinyl LP “Billy Bishop Goes To War” from the local public library. More than once.
This masterpiece of Canadian theatre has everything that a good war story ought to have. Humour. Drama. A valient hero. Politics. And tragedy. Later I bought my own copy, which I played for my child on Remembrance Day.

One of the most haunting songs I’ve ever heard is Chris DeBurgh’s “This Song For You.”

And the best war movies I’ve seen were William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives, Hal Ashby’s Coming Home , and, best of all, Peter Weir’s Gallipoli

All are powerful works of art, each carrying the clear message that wars should be avoided.

On past Remembrance Days I’ve written about copyright in The Eleventh Minute, the Eleventh Hour, the Eleventh Day and the tragic monument at the University of Toronto: In Flanders Fields….

If ye break faith with us who die
“ If ye break faith with us who die ” — In Flanders Fields, John McCrae

Sadly, the wrongs that I wrote about have not yet been righted. Earlier this week my friend Satipera shared this powerful article from the UK which looks closely at the wearing of the poppy Robert Fisk: Do those who flaunt the poppy on their lapels know that they mock the war dead?

I very much doubt that a single Canadian politician anywhere in the world will be without a poppy today. Yet who, more than they, hold the responsibility for the continued sacrifice of a new crop of young Canadians soldiers engaged in a war because … ?

“Since 2001, 158 Canadians have died in Afghanistan and another 6,700 are collecting disability payments from Veterans Affairs, about 130 of them under the age of 25. ”

— Tamsin McMahon ~ National Post: “Canada’s newest veterans having trouble accepting the label

A poppy with a "free Byron" center

Canada has been involved in an almost invisible war for nearly a decade. It is barely spoken of, but young Canadians fight and die and I can’t tell you why. I suspect they can’t, either. Unlike the glamorous Great War, or the Second World War, the only citizens who are really involved and affected are the Canadians whose children are overseas, fighting and dying. Has a decade of this fixed anything? Has anything good come of this war? A war that Canada is supposed to be withdrawing from by the end of this year. Will we really withdraw?

I can’t begin to count the times in my life that I’ve heard it said that our soldiers fought for our freedom. But there is much less freedom now than there was when I was young.

The erosion of civil rights that the blood of our soldiers was to have bought for us was never more clear than in the events around last year’s G20 Summit in Toronto.

Today, Canadians across the country are organizing and participating in the “Occupy” movement.

And Byron Sonne is on trial in Toronto.  He’s fighting for his freedom, and ours.

Where did our freedom go?

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Image credits

Airfield to Salute” photograph by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Aramis X. Ramirez
Wikipedia: KANDAHAR, Afghanistan–Troops deployed to International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Regional Command South gathered on the flightline of Kandahar Air Field to salute fallen Canadian servicemember Sapper Sean David Greenfield on February 1, 2009. Greenfield, who was deployed as part of the 24 Field Engineers Squadron out of Petawawa, Ontario, was killed in action in the Zhari District of Kandahar Province on Jan. 31, 2009 ISAF photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Aramis X. Ramirez (RELEASED). ~ This file is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made during the course of the person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

freebyron poppy cc by laurelrusswurm

Free Byron

Yellow Square bearing the words Free Byron in black text

Today was the first day of Byron Sonne’s trial.

Byron was arrested on June 22nd, 2010, before the Toronto G20. 

On June 29th, Jesse Brown did a SearchEngine interview that would have made me question the story if I’d heard it. 

But I don’t live in Toronto, and it wasn’t until much later that I learned about Byron Sonne.

Denise Balkissoon, the writer who wrote the Toronto Life cover story blogged about the publication ban: “EXPLAINER: What we can and can’t say about the Byron Sonne Trial

Today’s Globe and Mail reported on the first day G20 trial begins for man charged with possessing explosives. The way the headline reads reveals the Globe’s corporate bias (if there was any doubt).

What struck me the most about the Globe article was the reporter’s statement:

 

Supporters have organized a “Free Byron” movement.”

— Colin Perkel, G20 trial begins for man charged with possessing explosives

In many ways, Byron’s arrest before the Toronto G20 summit even began served to separate his story from all the other stories of G20 protest. The Toronto G20 protests might be considered a “movement,” but I don’t think that the support for Byron Sonne can be thought of in that light.

Byron Sonne’s friends and community have tried to support him the best they can. That’s what friends do if they believe in you, and it’s why humans belong to communities. Byron Sonne’s friends know him as a person, and they believe in him. It says a lot about Byron and his friends that they have stuck by him all through this. Because standing up for someone facing the kind of charges levelled against Byron Sonne takes guts. After all, people are often judged on who their friends are.

His friends and supporters set up a webpage to allow interested people to follow what happens to Byron. They have distributed stickers and buttons and asked interested people to post “Free Byron” badges on their blogs. I haven’t seen anything I could characterize as a “movement,” just people supporting a friend and member of their community.

Sure, there are people like me who care what happens to Byron. When I saw a “Free Bryron” button and asked what it was for, I ended up becoming a Free Byron supporter. I am not Byron’s friend, having never actually met him, although we’ve exchanged a couple of letters, and I watched a few days of one of his hearings.

I’m not a lawyer, nor am I in possession of all the facts. Still, I don’t believe Bryon Sonne is a terrorist, or anything like it. I think Byron is a good person who tried to stand up for what he believed was right.

I think Byron believed the protections in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms would protect him. So far they haven’t much, and that scares me. That’s the main reason why I support Byron Sonne.

But I’m not part of “a movement,” just a citizen who hopes Canada is the country that I think it is, and that justice will prevail.

Byron Sonne has lost his wife, his home, his business, his reputation, his privacy and his liberty.

And I wonder what he has done to deserve this.

Human Rights Day #freebyron #chargeflanagan

I’m not a lawyer, so I mistakenly thought the Straight.com article meant that University of Calgary Professor Tom Flanagan would be charged once the complaint was filed.

Article 7.

* All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

the Universal Declaration of Human Rights>

Ordinary people may be able to make such comments as calling on Presidents to assassinate people as a “joke,” but people with strong ties to a sitting government should not be making such statements on news magazine programs that are being broadcast across Canadian’s national television broadcaster, CBC.

No doubt Mr. Flanagan was on the program in question because of his strong ties to the Canadian government.

For a political scientist employed at a Canadian University professor teaching young Canadians it was an unconscionable thing to say.

This reflects badly on all Canadians. I do not want my government either condoning (if serious) or trivializing (if not) something as heinous as assassination. If nothing is done about it, the implication left with the world is that this is how Canada is run. Not my Canada.

But it’s an unusual case, so no one really seems to know how to proceed with it. And it was couched as a “joke”, so some people don’t take it seriously.

Yet the man whose assassination Tom Flanagan has called for is under attack from all sides right now. Other threats to his life and liberty and his family have been leveled at him. I doubt he finds it a laughing matter. I am horrified at the thought that my country would condone such a thing.

Yet nothing is being done about it. No one seems to want to do anything about it.

I wrote to Gail Davidson of the Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), the lawyer who made the complaint. Ms. Davidson initially tried to report to the RCMP, but they referred her to the Vancouver Police Department, where she made her complaint, which was assigned a file number (10-206617).

464 Except where otherwise expressly provided by law, the following provisions apply in respect of persons who counsel other persons to commit offences, namely,
(a) every one who counsels another person to commit an indictable offence is, if the offence is not committed, guilty of an indictable offence and liable to the same punishment to which a person who attempts to commit that offence is liable; and
(b) every one who counsels another person to commit an offence punishable on summary conviction is, if the offence is not committed, guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

464. Criminal Code (R.S., 1985, c. C-46).”

Gail Davidson has since learned that the Calgary Police Department (Tom Flanagan’s current location) has opened a file. From the RCMP, to the Vancouver Police Department to The Calgary Police Department, no one seems to want to do something. Is it because they don’t know how to proceed? Or is it that there is no law to cover it?

equal before the law

Yet the authorities managed to arrest and charge Canadian businessman Byron Sonne on the basis of Twitter remarks protesting the G20.

Byron Sonne is currently being held without bail, and may remain so incarcerated,

deprived of his liberty maybe for years pending trial.

Without having been convicted of anything.

The question then becomes: is it that there is no will to proceed because Mr. Flanagan has strong ties to our government? Charges are not even brought against one man, while another man without such ties is deprived of his liberty.

Maybe a court would find one or both guilty. Maybe not. I don’t know. The point is this issue is serious enough that a court must try.

How does it look to the world?

Canadians engaging in peaceful protest are arrested and brutalized during the G20. Citizens expressing dissent like Byron Sonne are punitively incarcerated.

While a University Professor calling for the assassination of Julian Assange – on National television – in an infamous clip seen around the world, is given a free pass.

Canada looks very very bad indeed.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Making it even worse:

According to this CTV article a Toronto woman received threatening email from Mr. Flanagan, but the police in Calgary will not do anything about it unless she makes a complaint in person:

Woman felt threatened by Flanagan email

To lend your support to the complaint against Tom Flanagan, you can contact:

Vancouver Police Department,
or the Calgary Police Department.

Free Byron

No Bail #freejulian #freebyron

I’m pleased to report that Tom Flanagan has been charged for calling for the assassination of Julian Assange on CBC. Apologies. A complaint has been filed, I have no word that charges have been made at this time. All manner of threats have been leveled at Julian Assange, including a threat to kidnap his son.

Julian Assange, wikileaks logo and planet earth titled KEEP US STRONG

#freejulian – WikiLeaks

I am not happy to report that Julian Assange has today been arrested and is being held without bail in London. Julian Assange will be remanded in custody till 14 December, charged on behalf of the Swedish authorities with of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape. He denies the charges.

The charges against Julian Assange were originally brought in August of this year and then withdrawn.

Considering the vast array of government and corporate attacks being leveled at both Assange and WikiLeaks since the beginning of the release of the Cablegate cables, it is difficult to view these charges with anything beyond skepticism. I am working on an article examining that issue for my personal blog.

#freebyron – G20

Rather like our own Byron Sonne.

Byron’s not as famous as Julian Assange, but he’s just as much a political prisoner. I don’t believe Byron’s name even came up yesterday when Canada had the last day of our mini G8/G20 inquiry, probably because Byron was arrested and charged before the G20 summit even began.

Byron hasn’t been convicted of anything, and it is unlikely that he will be after he has his day in court. The problem is, that he has been denied bail, and it may be years before his case comes to trial. That is an awfully long time for a citizen to be stripped of his liberty in answer to an unproven accusation. The traditional reasons for denying bail are danger and risk of flight, neither of which applied in this middle aged businessman’s case.

Byron Sonne’s bail was denied as a punitive measure.

This an unacceptable abuse of power in a democracy. Stifling dissent is a giant step toward the loss of democracy.

Free Byron

what now?

Neither of these men have had their day in court, but both have been deprived of their liberty. It’s hard to say whose situation is worse.

Julian Assange is under concerted attack from governments and corporations. If he lives through the incarceration, he’ll come out the other side at least a hero.

What about Byron Sonne? In many ways Byron is all but forgotten by everyone but his family and community. I only learned of his situation by accident. After two years of punitive incarceration, even assuming full exoneration, I guess there will be little or no chance that his life will still be intact.

I believe that both of these men were working for the good of society. To make the world a better place than it was.

Both cases represent a serious miscarriage of justice.

“We live in a democratic state, we do not live in a police state. We live in a country that’s supposed to be governed by the rule of law, not the rule of force,” Davies said. “(A public inquiry) is about getting at the truth, holding people accountable and defending our constitutional rights. They are worth fighting for.”

–MP Don Davies, Ottawa Sun: NDP renews call for G20 inquiry

Yesterday marked the last day of the woefully underfunded committee looking into the G20. The conclusion drawn by the committee investigating G20 security malfeasance is that a Public Inquiry is necessary.

It can’t come too soon.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves