Posts Tagged ‘Michael Geist’
The Trudeau government won’t be pressured by the Conservatives or business lobbies into ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal until the public has been consulted about it, says Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.
She told Conservative trade critic Gerry Ritz in the Commons that the deal is not even open yet for ratification or a signature. A tentative agreement was reached among 12 countries during the Oct. 19 election campaign.
Trade experts have said the TPP deal, which hinges on U.S. congressional approval, likely won’t have to be approved until 2017.
The Liberal government supports free trade, Freeland said. “We understand that on a deal this big, it is essential to consult Canadians and have a full parliamentary debate.” The Liberals have yet to indicate how they plan to consult the public.
Did I miss something? Because suddenly Ms. Freeland is saying:
“It is clear that many feel the TPP presents significant opportunities, while others have concerns,” Freeland wrote.”Many Canadians still have not made up their minds and many more still have questions.”
Um. Well, of course Canadians have concerns and questions… although it’s been in negotiation for 5 years, it’s been in secret– well, at least to most Canadians, citizens and parliamentarians alike. But while we are all scrambling to catch up with this, big industry has been not only involved but fully informed from the start. They’ve had years to study and influence the content of the TPP. But for the rest of Canada? We’ve been given no opportunity at all to influence the thing, it’s thousands of pages long, it’s only just been made public and we have been presented with an ultimatum. Either Canada can sign on to the TPP as is, or we can pass.
While it’s true the new Liberal government did not negotiate this deal, the Conservative Party that did continues to support it, its current leader claims:
The reality is that it doesn’t actually matter which government negotiated the TPP, if Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government signs the TPP, it will bear the brunt of the responsibility for the thing. And I have yet to hear any evidence that this agreement will be beneficial to Canada. Oh, sure, I have no doubt Ms. Ambrose is correct–there will be enormous opportunities to be had by signing the TPP. Just none of them will benefit the public good. If Canada signs the TPP, we will be on the hook. The government that signs it will effectively abdicating our sovereign power to unaccountable corporate tribunals (via ISDS)
But Michael Geist disagrees. Michael is the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University, and he’ so concerned about the TPP that he’s been blogging a daily series about its many pitfalls:
The Trouble With the TPP
Day 1: U.S. Blocks Balancing Objectives
Day 2: Locking in Digital Locks
Day 3: Copyright Term Extension
Day 4: Copyright Notice and Takedown Rules
Day 5: Rights Holders “Shall” vs. Users “May”
Day 6: Price of Entry
Day 7: Patent Term Extensions
Day 8: Locking In Biologics Protection
Day 9: Limits on Medical Devices & Pharma Data Collection
Day 10: Criminalization of Trade Secret Law
Day 11: Weak Privacy Standards
Day 12: Restrictions on Data Localization Requirements
Day 13: Ban on Data Transfer Restrictions
Day 14: No U.S. Assurances for Canada on Privacy
Day 15: Weak Anti-Spam Law Standards
Day 16: Intervening in Internet Governance
If that’s not enough, we know Jim Balsillie fears TPP could cost Canada billions and become worst-ever policy move
And then there’s the just released Tufts’ Global Development and Environment Institute report which estimates “the 12 countries involved in the proposed free trade deal would lose a net total of 771,000 jobs in the 10 years after the deal comes into force.
All of this raises many many questions. All the evidence I’ve seen suggests signing the TPP will cause actual harm to Canada, so I can see no good reason to sign the thing. And besides, didn’t we just vote out the government that got us into this spot? Didn’t we vote for real change?
And what happened to the promised consultations?
Not local police. Not Provincial Police.
Not even CSIS.
In fact, Canadian Law enforcement “already has many powers to target terrorism and terrorist activities in Canada.”
So why did the federal government put forth Bill C-51?
Oversight vs Auditing
In 2012 Eva Plunkett, the Inspector General of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service retired. The role of the Inspector General was the CSIS Watchdog, and provided the only independent oversight for the CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service).
Rather than replacing her with a new Inspector General, the Harper Government took the unusual step of dismantling the position of Inspector General of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. This was quietly accomplished with the controversial Omnibus Budget Bill C-38.
Division 15 of Part 4 amends the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act to(a) remove the office of the Inspector General;(b) require the Security Intelligence Review Committee to submit to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness a certificate on the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s annual report; and(c) increase the information on the Service’s activities to be provided by that Committee to that Minister.”
The Harper Government has taken the position that SIRC (the Security Intelligence Review Committee) provides oversight, but in fact, SIRC does not ensure CSIS does not stray over the line into illegal behaviour (such as actions which would infringe on the civil rights Canadians are guaranteed by The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms).
While SIRC does perform an important function, the reality is that it is a committee of part timers with limited resources that only finds out what CSIS has done after it has done it. If then. While CSIS itself has become a massive bureaucracy, apparently the most lavishly funded of all government agencies; SIRC only has the resources to investigate a small fraction of CSIS actions. Rather than providing sufficient oversight, SIRC doesn’t provide oversight at all, it simply audits and recommends CSIS improvements after the fact.
SIRC is a public forum for people to complain. It’s also a forum to make the public aware of problems,” Plunkett said. “The [Inspector General’s] office was, get in there and identify the problems and point them out to the minister and say, ‘You have to fix this before it becomes an issue for the public.’
“There’s no minister that’s going to be able to know everything about everything. And I can guarantee you that no director (of CSIS) will point out the flaws.”
— Eva Plunkett, retired Inspector General, CBC: CSIS watchdog to be cut in budget
Yes, we know that this government is extremely thin-skinned. But the inspector-general for CSIS isn’t an office that criticizes government. It critiques CSIS behaviour on behalf of the government. Its role is to ensure that the government doesn’t get blindsided by shady behaviour on the part of its intelligence agents.
Or, in the words of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, spoken in 2010, “The inspector-general performs an important review function that supports me in my role as minister and ensures that CSIS is operating within the law and complying with current policies.”
— Colin Kenny, Globe and Mail: “Dismantling the CSIS inspector-general’s office is dumb”
So why would the government eliminate the Office of the Inspector General?So why did the federal government put forth Bill C-51?
Even before the Office of Inspector General was eliminated, despite limited resources for both the IG’s oversight and SIRC’s review, the IG raised serious questions about CSIS activity.
The inspector general’s key function was to produce an annual certificate stating whether CSIS had strayed outside the law, contravened ministerial direction or exercised its powers unreasonably. In her final certificate, Plunkett found CSIS continued to flout policy and made a serious number of reporting errors. She warned that CSIS’s reputation and effectiveness would suffer if the problems weren’t addressed.”
Following the abolition of the Office of Inspector General, it’s website was taken down, so only IG certificates up to 2010 are posted online by way of the Centre for International Policy Studies archive of CSIS Inspector General Certificate Reports. Plunkett’s final certificate does not appear to be online.
Colin Kenny, the former Chair of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence argued that instead of eliminating the IG, Canada would be much better served by significantly expanding its scope:
If Mr. Toews had wanted to do something useful, he would have expanded the concept of inspector-general of CSIS to other federal intelligence-gatherers, of which there are roughly a dozen, including the RCMP. Most of these intelligence operations are inadequately scrutinized. Setting up an inspector-general-type of agency to oversee all of them would have been a great move. It would have reassured the public that while this government is serious about law and order, it is also serious about maintaining the legality and integrity of the federal institutions involved in law and order. Instead, it is neutering its only oversight structure that works well.”
— Colin Kenny, Globe and Mail: “Dismantling the CSIS inspector-general’s office is dumb”
Since then, there have been serious questions raised about the appalling lack of oversight over Canadian intelligence services.
Eroding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
The breaches of civil rights around the Toronto G20 were my wake up call. An unreasonable quantity of Canadian tax dollars were employed in a widespread supression of Canadian civil rights, resulting in mass arrests, none of which justified such repression. The case of Byron Sonne, a young man whose Charter Rights were breached from the beginning demonstrates the ease with which law can and will be abused.
Even though Mr. Sonne was acquitted, an intelligence agency witness said Mr. Sonne will always be a “person of interest.”
Not because there was probable cause. Not because there was evidence.
The reason Mr. Sonne will spend the remainder of his life under surveillance is solely because, after almost two years of trying, they were unable to break the encryption on one of Mr. Sonne’s impounded computers. Canada’s intelligence apparatus exhibits a frightening sense of entitlement exhibited after having been allowed to act as if mass surveillance on all Canadians all the time is within its mandate.
In contravention of the Charter.
In 2013 Judge Richard Mosley Canadian found that CSIS deliberately breached its “duty of candour” to the courts by withholding information to get warrants with “a deliberate decision to keep the court in the dark about the scope and extent of the foreign collection efforts that would flow from the court’s issuance of a warrant.” [Toronto Star: Spy Agency Withheld Information from Court to Get Warrants, Judge Says]
In spite of this, the Harper Government fast tracked Bill C-51s sister bill, Bill C-44: An Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other Acts .
It is imperative that the Canadian public trust that CSIS is not acting in a lawless manner. And while improving how SIRC functions, or adding Parliamentary review, could regain or maintain that trust, a more cost-sensitive approach could involve statutory reporting. Regardless, something must be done to ensure that CSIS’ actions remain fully accountable to the public, especially given the new powers the Service may soon enjoy. Doing anything less would irresponsibly expand the state’s surveillance capabilities and threaten to dilute the public’s trust in its intelligence and security service.”
— Christopher Parsons, CSIS’s New Powers Demand New Accountability Mechanisms
The Edward Snowden revelations have shown our intelligence agencies have exhibited serious legal deficiencies. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was shown to have been breached through mass surveillance of WiFi:
The thought that everything you’re doing is being monitored when there’s no need for it, when there’s no reason to believe you’ve done anything wrong, it completely goes against everything we’ve built our criminal justice system on,” said Borg in a telephone interview with Metro in March. “If you think that we’re just spying on everyone, well maybe it takes away that platform of being able to discuss social issues because you’re scared of what the repercussions might be and I think that’s very worrisome.”
— Charmaine Borg, Opposition Digital Issues Critic Metro: Canadians ‘should be outraged’ by WiFi spy allegations: Borg
Who is Watching The Watchers?
Christopher Parsons discusses the ramifications of these intelligence agency actions in depth in Accountability and Government Surveillance. Before any new laws expanding the powers of the Canadian intelligence apparatus at the expense of Canadian civil rights, Mr. Parsons poses some questions that need to be addressed:
In turning to CSIS, we see that the Service has a highly specific understanding of what laws compel it to disclose information about its practices and collection of Canadians’ personal information. The Service failed to provide a rationale to MP Borg as to why, specifically, questions placed on the Parliamentary Order Paper are insufficient to compel a meaningful response: to whom, specifically, would CSIS provide this information? And under what laws? If the Service is unaccountable to Parliamentarians then who, specifically, does it hold itself genuinely accountable to?”
— Christopher Parsons, Accountability and Government Surveillance.
Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law wrote,
The deliberate attempt to mislead the key oversight body by omitting relevant information should anger more than just Mosley, who clearly felt that he was duped by CSIS. In response, the government should commission an independent review thttps://www.christopher-parsons.com/accountability-and-government-surveillance/o examine current oversight mechanisms, identify shortcomings on both oversight and the law, and recommend potential reforms to salvage a system that is under increasing public scrutiny and criticism.”
CBC reported New Snowden docs show U.S. spied during G20 in Toronto, the Globe and Mail reported, Ottawa allowed U.S. to spy on G20 summit in Toronto, Snowden leak reveals.
The Intercept reported on the tactics and tools developed within the Five Eyes Framework that can be (are ?) used by our intelligence services in “disruption”:
The apparent involvement of CSE in using the deception tactics suggests it is operating in the same area as a secretive British unit known as JTRIG, a division of the country’s eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. Last year, The Intercept published documents from Snowden showing that the JTRIG unit uses a range of effects operations to manipulate information online, such as by rigging the outcome of online polls, sending out fake messages on Facebook across entire countries, and posting negative information about targets online to damage their reputations.”
— The Intercept: Documents Reveal Canada’s Secret Hacking Tactics
Do Canadians want government agencies to employ such powers against citizens? Particularly without meaningful oversight?
Absent proper oversight or scrutiny, Canadians would ordinarily have been unaware of much our intelligence agencies can do and have done. Which is why we owe a great debt to Edward Snowden.
The worrisome bit is that the intelligence breaches that have become public are very probably only the tip of the iceberg.
There is more than enough credible information floating around the internet to indicate the Charter has been breached over and over again by CSIS/CSEC/RCMP/FiveEyes. Even before they pass Bill C-51 I am apalled at what the Harper Government has allowed to happen on its watch.
When we talk about this in the context of Canada and why it’s relevant to your particular conversations today, we’ve got the C-51 bill being bandied about. I’m not going to weigh in on whether this is a good bill or a bad bill, because that’s a conversation for Canadians to have. But something that we can see when we look at all of the conversations happening around the world today is that Canadian intelligence has one of the weakest oversight frameworks out of any western intelligence agency in the world. And when they’re trying to expand their powers, it’s pretty amazing that we have the Canadian government trying to block the testimony of former prime ministers who’ve had access to classified information, who understand the value of these programs, and who are warning the public broadly and saying this is something we really need to talk about, this is something we really need to debate, this is something we really need to be careful about.”
— Edward Snowden, The Tyee: Edward Snowden’s Warning to Canada
While Mr. Snowden doesn’t presume to decide whether the proposed Bill C-51 is good or bad law for Canada, as a Canadian I feel qualified to say that Bill C-51 is indeed a bad law. As one of the Canadians obliged to live in a regime of legally approved mass surveillance even more extensive than what George Orwell envisioned in Nineteen Eight-Four, I do presume to say Bill C-51 is wrong.
I am not a legal scholar, I’m just an ordinary Canadian.
We are fortunate to live in the Internet age and have access to so much important information. Information that can be found in all the links I have shared here. Information like the analysis offered by legal scholars Craig Forcese and Kent Roach.
As a writer, the threats to free speech that comes with mass surveillance chills me to the bone.
As a citizen, the suppression of dissent Bill C-51 allows will emulate secret police activities practised by repressive regimes throughout history.
As a parent, the idea of leaving future generations a Canada so much worse than the one in which I was born is simply unacceptable.
What Canada really needs is law that implements reasonable oversight of CSIS, CSEC, and the RCMP. A law that ensures Canadians continue to enjoy the protection of the Canadian Charter. Oversight to protect Canadians from the kind of Charter breaches and prosecutorial overreach Mr. Sonne was subjected to. The fundamental flaws in C-51 need more than the cosmetic amendments the Harper Government says it will be putting forward.
Bill C-51 needs to be scrapped.
The preservation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is imperative.
Rick Mercer elaborated on Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist Glenn Greenwald’s suggestion that Canadians are in more danger of being harmed by bathroom accidents than by terrorists. Leadnow advised Canadians to #RejectFear and tell the Harper Government to stop Bill C-51 because in Canada, we’re way more likely to be killed by a moose than by a terror plot.
Privacy is essential to civil rights. That’s why it is protected bt the Charter. And the reason personal privacy is such an important human right is because privacy is necessary for our protection. The greatest danger posed to citizens is posed by government, because government has access to the resources of the entire country. And without civil rights, we have no defence against government.
So why did the federal government put forth Bill C-51?
From the information that has come out, I suspect many of the worst excesses in Bill C-51 that we qare warned against are already the norm in our intelligence agencies. Such practices are inevitable because there really isn’t anyone watching the watchers. Bill C-51 seeks to make these excesses legal, which will strip us all of any legal recourse or self defence. And that just isn’t right.
Not in a democracy.
Not in a free country.
Not in Canada.
Photos by Laurel L. Russwurm
“Privacy is Not A Crime” is a remix of a protest sign seen at the Kitchener-Waterloo Day of Action Against bill C-51
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.”
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.
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…)
Canadian tax dollars paid for a whole year of an undercover officer’s infiltration of poverty activist Julian Ichim‘s 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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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
Do you remember NAFTA?
Canadians exercised our democratic right to fire Brian Mulroney and his entire political party (save 2) for inflicting NAFTA on Canada. We said NO to NAFTA.
In decimating the Progressive Conservative Party, we replaced Mulroney with a new Liberal Prime Minister. PM Jean Chrétien took office with a decisive majority, because he had:
“…campaigned on a promise to renegotiate or abrogate NAFTA; however, Chrétien subsequently negotiated two supplemental agreements with the new US president.”
No one doubted that the majority of Canadians emphatically said NO. We did what we are supposed to: we changed the government to make our point. Yet it didn’t help. NAFTA is alive and well in Canada.
[And people wonder why so many Canadians don’t vote.]
It’s no wonder governments seek to negotiate trade agreements in secret; citizens might vote them out if we knew what they were doing. Even our protests might slow them down.
In spite of onerous non-disclosure agreements, information about the dreadful secret trade agreement ACTA (the so-called “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement”) kept leaking out. I blogged extensively about ACTA in my interweb freedom blog. Enough was known about it to frighten Europeans into taking to the streets. The result was that ACTA was rejected emphatically after European citizens took to the streets to tell their governments “NO!”
The ACTA agreement crumbled, or so the world thought . . .
The agreement was signed in October 2011 by Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States. In 2012, Mexico, the European Union and 22 countries which are member states of the European Union signed as well. One signatory (Japan) has ratified (formally approved) the agreement, which would come into force in countries that ratified it after ratification by six countries.
Although many people believe the world rejected ACTA, Canada has not. Some of the worst of the laws that erode civil rights that are being forged by Canada’s “majority government” are in service of the ACTA trade agreement. ACTA is alive and well in Canada.
And now the The TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership is coming.
Governments and special interests pursue these treaties in secret because the terms are detrimental to citizen interests. They then use the existence of such “trade treaties” to justify draconian changes they then make to our domestic laws. We are told they “have to do it” because of the treaty commitment. Funny how the Harper Government doesn’t “have to” live up to Canada’s Kyoto commitment.
Make A Difference
The Inter-Continental Day of Action, 31 January 2013 is gearing up across Canada, the United States and Mexico to protest the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement (TPP), the latest in the dizzying proliferation of “trade agreements” that sacrifice the public good in the interests of servicing the objectives of corporations.
Find your local event, or start your own!
The Harper Government is giving Canada CETA, (the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) which they tell us is “the most ambitious [Free Trade Agreement] Canada has ever attempted, encompassing every sector of the economy from automobiles to financial services, intellectual property to government procurement” as reported by the CBC in Stephen Harper signs EU trade deal in Brussels. Although the details are sketchy, there is a slick website designed to sell CETA to Canadians. Canadian reporters were “briefed” with what the government wants them to know about the deal before today’s press conference.
It isn’t just reporters being kept in the dark. As Michael Geist points out, Canadians don’t know what the actual terms of CETA are. Instead of releasing the full text of the agreement, our government has only issued summaries, essentially a press release. The deal has been in the works since 2008, and enough dribs and drabs of information have been leaked to raise quite a few red flags. This is the opposite of government transparency; instead of consultation, Canadians are being told in glowing terms what our government does in our name after it is already done.
Democracy? I think not.
We are being told CETA paves the way for a large increase in Canadian meat exports to the EU, but it will come with a cost to the Canadian cheese industry which faces a dramatic increase in EU cheese imports. Now we know which Canadian cows had the more powerful lobby group.
But a free market? Hardly. But CETA is so much more than that.
THE COPYRIGHT QUESTION
Last year there was a great deal of concern that CETA was being used as a backdoor mechanism to revive ACTA.
But now the Harper Government says CETA is in line with Canada’s current Copyright Law. We are told we won’t need to implement the onerous copyright provisions once contemplated in order to make Canada ACTA compliant in earlier CETA drafts. These provisions were supposed to have been removed because of strong ACTA opposition in the EU.
Apparently the EU listens to its citizens. Democracy, eh?
Since they have not released the text of the CETA agreement, the reality is that we won’t know what CETA will do to Canadian Copyright Law until after the deal is ratified and made public.
CETA is expected to increase border powers to seize counterfeit goods that allegedly infringe trademark, copyright or patent law without a court order.
This is the physical good equivalent to DMCA take downs, which treat copyright infringement allegations as though they are evidence. This streamlines the process, dispensing with that inconvenient idea of innocence until guilt is proven. After the web page or website has been taken down, (and your business is disrupted, and its reputation damaged) the accused must demonstrate innocence to get their website restored. But at least people can get it back.
Will the same be true at the border? Or will the seized goods be destroyed ~ as counterfeits routinely are ~ before it can be shown they have not infringed anything?
The sparkling wine pioneered in Champagne, France came to be known throughout the world as “champagne.” But the vintners in the Champagne region felt hard done by when sparkling wines made elsewhere were called “champagne,” so in recent years the LCBO has labelled it “sparking wine” at the LCBO unless it actually comes from France. Hundreds of European items enjoy this kind of “brand protection” and CETA will extend it further.
They call this “Geographical Indications,” and what it means governments are dictating what language we humans are allowed use.
Electronic commerce (page 27)
“Canadians shop and plan holidays online, and buy and download software and entertainment content, including movies, television and music. Advertisers are making increased use of “smart advertising” on the Web to track our shopping habits and promote specific deals likely to interest us.”
Do Canadian citizens really need to be subjected to even more internet surveillance?
“CETA will ensure that all players in the telecommunications market have fair access to networks and services, and ensure that regulators act impartially, objectively and in a transparent manner. Service providers and investors will benefit from increased transparency and predictability of the regulatory environment and secure, competitive marketplaces.”
Many Canadians know the CRTC has not protected our interests, effectively putting us at the mercy of the telecommunication companies for Internet, Broadcast television or Cell phone systems. We already pay some of the highest prices in the world for insufficient to mediocre service. Sounds like CETA will only make this worse.
CETA will allow large pharmaceutical companies to extend patent terms and keep generic medicines off the market for longer. But instead of reinvesting increased revenues in advances, Michael Geist points out that the research and development in the Canadian pharmaceutical industry has decreased as patent “protection” increases.
Critics say this “could drive up costs for provincial drug plans and consumers by about $1 billion.”
The Harper Government is talking about compensating the industries for the losses CETA will cause as though this is a reasonable solution.
This means the same taxpayers who have not been consulted will foot the bill for CETA’s corporate welfare.
Canadians have seen the damage so-called free trade agreements can do. Free Trade has made Canada the sixth most sued country in the world.
But CETA doesn’t just give away our natural resources, it threatens our health care. Why do our governments keep doing these things? It isn’t about free markets, or democracy, this is another winner takes all tale. Once agaisn the most powerful lobby group wins, and leave the citizens to pay the piper.
Canadians need Proportional Representation if we’re ever to have democracy.
“If signed, CETA could unfairly restrict how local governments spend money and ban “buy local” policies, add up to $3 billion to the price of drugs, create pressure to increase privatization of local water systems, transit and energy, and much more.”
— The Council For Canadians: Canada-EU (CETA)
The only question Canadians need ask is, who will CETA benefit?
Not us, certainly.
Michael Geist: Canada – EU Trade Agreement Reached “In Principle”, Part One: Now Release the Text
Canada – EU Trade Agreement Reached “In Principle”, Part Two: The Intellectual Property Provisions
CETA Reached “In Principle”, Part Three: Meaningless Claims on Telecom & E-commerce
CETA Reached “In Principle”, Part Four: Pharma Gets Patent Extension Despite Declining R&D in Canada
Our government is in the midst of making a law called Bill C-11, the “Copyright Modernization Act”, which will have serious consequences to all of us. But I’m wondering: how many of us actually understand what it is all about?
All the Canadians who responded to the government’s copyright consultation have some idea of the importance of the issue. The people who read Michael Geist, Russell McOrmond’s Digital Copyright Canada, ZeroPaid, p2pnet, itworld, Tech Dirt or Boing Boing will know something about it. If you make a living from one of Canada’s many copyright collectives or from the mainstream CRIA, RIAA or MPAA — you’ll probably know the company line and will have some understanding of what its all about. There are even some creators — the people who create the work that is “protected” by copyright — who understand the issues.
But I’m wondering if most Canadians are tired of hearing about copyright law it, or because they have no idea what it’s really about. This matters because the changes to Canada’s copyright law will effect the lives of every Canadian, not just those involved in the copyright industry.
You may recall reading how much I hate polls. But the polls I hate are those used as marketing rather than for information gathering. I want to gather information for that last few posts I will be writing before the government passes Bill C-11. And a poll seems the best way to proceed. I’m putting polls anywhere I can to find out if my assumption that most Canadians have been left out of the loop is correct. So I hope you’ll help me out here by answer my three little questions. And by the weekend I’ll write an article incorporating the results.
And now you can listen to Jesse Brown’s Audio Podcast #127: Digital Locks have Nothing to do with Copyright
I am not an expert on SOPA, PIPA, or American Censorship of the Internet; but I do know quite enough about the issue to be extremely concerned. This blog got an awful lot of traffic yesterday, and it seems that there were a lot of unanswered questions about how this all will affect Canadians.
The following are many of the search queries — what people type into the “search” bar in their browsers — that brought people to this blog yesterday:
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SOPA and Protect IP (PIPA) will most certainly affect Canada. These bills assume American governance over all of the Internet used by Canadians. Under these laws, an American allegation will result, not just in blocking Americans access to Canadian sites accused of infringement, but in Canadian website takedowns. This is simply unacceptable. Last time I looked, Canada was a sovereign nation.
If I haven’t answered your questions, please let me know in comments or email (click my avatar image; my email address is posted in my profile), and I’ll address any unanswered questions next week.
In the meantime, for information about the legal ramifications of SOPA/PIPA on Canada, Michael Geist wrote a pretty extensive explanation of the legalities for Canadians in Why Canadians Should Participate in the SOPA/PIPA Protest
You can find information about SOPA from http://americancensorship.org/
… and, of course, Wikipedia has clearly stepped up to the plate on this.
Yesterday, while the US portion of Tumblr was dark, I posted a fair number of screen caps of blacked out sites, as well as reblogging Tumblr SOPA protests on my Tumblr blog.
SOPA and PIPA are bad laws that will very definitely impact on Canadians and our Internet.