Auditing Attawapiskat

Attawapiskat Tribal Office, Ontario

Down in Southern Ontario you’ll hear plenty of grumbling about winter, but our winters are pretty mild by Northern Ontario standards. Can you imagine living in isolated Attawapiskat, way, way up on James Bay?

no roads lead to Attawapiskat

Attawapiskat is literally “off the beaten track.” The only way in or out, year round, is by air. Just getting people and goods to and from Attawapiskat has to be a very expensive proposition.

No one is offering to trade Attawapiskat’s pristine James Bay real estate for an equivalent amount of prime waterfront land in Toronto.

Last year, Chief Theresa Spence brought Attawapiskat to national attention when she declared a state of emergency due to deficient housing. She asked for help, but near as I can tell it hasn’t been forthcoming.

tackling a problem

This year, Chief Spence embarked on a hunger strike in an effort to get a meeting with Prime Minister Harper.

Over the past weeks, Chief Spence has proven herself a real Canadian hero by virtue of her willingness to sacrifice herself for the good of her people. Canadians are flocking to her banner.

In stark contrast, Prime Minister Harper has come across as particularly cold hearted — even for him — in his attempt to avoid even meeting with the Attawapiskat Chief. The Prime Minister finally had no choice but to bow to overwhelming multi-partisan pressure and agree to a meeting. Is it any wonder it was necessary to try to discredit Chief Spence with a bit of spurious mudslinging?

the audit

Canada’s supposed “newsmedia” has made much of the just released “Attawapiskat Audit.”

Curiously, Chief Spence is being vilified in the media even though she only became Chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation on August 27, 2010 and the 6 year audit ended in 2010. According to the CBC, the documentation problem identified in the audit also predates the Chief’s tenure:

“The audit also noted “significant staff turnover” that had resulted in a “corporate memory loss” for transactions reported prior to 2010. Deloitte had difficulty tracing some of the earlier transactions because of changes in Attawapiskat’s record-keeping systems.”

CBC: Attawapiskat chief slams audit leak as ‘distraction’

The federal government’s decade of intervention in Attawapiskat’s financial affairs means the responsibility for the financial problems cited in the audit rests squarely with the Government.

“The Attawapiskat First Nation was placed under co-management – a form of intervention employed by the Department with the goal of improving the financial situation of a recipient – by AANDC over ten years ago. On November 30, 2011, urgent housing health and safety issues in the community requiring immediate action were identified and resulted in AANDC appointing a Third Party Manager until such time as the community’s immediate needs would be addressed. On April 19, 2012, based on the progress made in remediating urgent housing-related health and safety issues, AANDC determined that the default situation was remedied and removed the First Nation from third party management.”

Audit of the AANDC and Attawapiskat First Nation (AFN) Management Control Framework, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada

Even the most vitriolic attackers accept the auditor’s assumption that the financial problem is one of procedural breakdown, not malfeasance. The amount under contention, according to Christie Blatchford, is “$104-million in taxpayer funding that has flowed to Attawapiskat between April of 2005 and November of 2011.”

Still, I can’t help wondering why an apparent case of bureaucratic bungling spread over six years is being subjected to such howls of outrage in the media. Particularly when there was barely a whimper about the questionable case of the G8 fund. In that instance, the federal government spent 50 million dollars on “beautification” over the course of a summer under the dubious umbrella of the G8 Summit.

The mainstream “news media” seems poised to serve up the federal government in the best possible light. Could this have any connection with the fact our government is the largest advertiser to be found from sea to shining sea?

putting it in perspective

The numbers being thrown around seem designed to make the Attawapiskat leadership look really bad.

Until you do some actual comparisons.

“Should Toronto be put under third party management? That community has been running a deficit for years, and the combined total of all government spending (federal, provincial and municipal) is $24,000 a year for each Torontonian.

Attawapiskat, on the other hand, which is only funded by one level of government — federal – received $17.6 million in this fiscal year, for all of the programs and infrastructure for its 1,550 residents. That works out to about $11,355 per capita in Attawapiskat.”

Taking a Second Look at those Attawapiskat Numbers, Lorraine Land, Olthuis Kleer Townshend – LLP


Further reading:
Idle No More: Where do we go from here?

Idle No More

The Guardian: Canada’s First Nations: a scandal where the victims are blamed

p2pnet: Attawapiskat

p2pnet: Attawapiskat: Canada’s shame


World War 4 Report [Defending the Fourth World, Deconstructing Overseas Contingency Operations] Canada: First Nations challenge Bill C-45 in courts

From Occupy to Idle No More


Idle No More: A profound social movement that is already succeeding

Mallick: Finally, native Canadians defend themselves at every level

Media Co-op: “What if Natives Stop Subsidizing Canada?” by Dru Oja Jay

The Dearlove: On Idle No More: Would you drive 8 minutes to save a life?

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Image Credit
Office of the Attawapiskat First Nation in Attawapiskat, Ontario. Red building at left is post office. This photograph was taken in the early 1990s. photograph by Paul Lantz, released under a Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike 3.0 unported License [via Wikipedia]

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This is a Poll … A WHAT? … A Poll!

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

Tie Theory

Gladwell at a table, Los Angeles, January 2009

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a New Yorker article called Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted, ostensibly about the superiority of “strong ties” versus “weak ties” in social activism. His premise is that “social media” — that is to say, Twitter and Facebook — are not able to effect real social change.

Telling us that social activism requires closely connected people, Gladwell devotes much of the article explaining how the students who began the Greensboro sit-in in 1960 were friends and roommates. They had strong ties. Then he introduces the “second crucial distinction between traditional activism and its online variant”, a centrally controlled hierarchical organizational system.

Twitter and Facebook aren’t hierarchies but loose networks of acquaintances and strangers, which result in weak ties, according to Gladwell. He contends these networks are “effective at increasing participation—by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires” which implies devaluation of this participation.

Gladwell dismisses an example of a digital “weak-tie” campaign that got people to sign up for a bone marrow registry.   Not because it wasn’t successful.   It was.   But because it somehow doesn’t meet with Gladwell’s criteria for social activism.   It lowered the barrier and made it too easy for people to participate.   I’m not quite sure what is wrong with lowering the barriers to participation.   Isn’t citizen engagement is a good thing?

Gladwell maintains that networks are not as effective or efficient as hierarchies because,

“How do you make difficult choices about tactics or strategy or philosophical direction when everyone has an equal say?”

Centralization can be more efficient because there is single decision maker.   It works the same in government, with an omnipotent ruler as the head of state decisions are easy.   It’s always easier to forcibly impose “discipline” than it is to build consensus.

friendship = “strong ties”

As Gladwell points out, real world friendship can make for some very strong ties.   The two examples cited show clearly what can result from the strong ties of friendship.   On one hand, you can have something as important as the Civil Rights Movement; on the other, strong ties of friendship can result in a frivolous campaign to punish the person who stole your friend’s cell phone and wouldn’t give it back.

Both examples demonstrate successful campaigns.   One used the strong tie hierarchy of the Civil Rights Movement, the other the weak tie network of social media.

So, what has been proven, exactly?

Probably the low point of the article was Gladwell’s repetition of the oft used Facebook meme:

The evangelists of social media don’t understand this distinction; they seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend…”

Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker: Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted

Clearly, Gladwell doesn’t use Facebook.   Yesterday on the New Yorker live chat he admitted he’s not a Twitter user either, but that “I think someone created a twitter account in my name, and tweeted things a while back.”

Urban legends aside, the real point seems to be that Malcolm Gladwell doesn’t like Facebook or Twitter.   He doesn’t see the point.

Malcolm Gladwell:
I have nothing against Twitter. And I’d use it if I had more time. . . Here’s the deeper issue for someone like me or, for that matter, anyone contemplating using tools like Twitter. What is it you want to accomplish? Do you want a broad audience? Or a deep audience? In other words, would you rather do the best possible job engaging with a small but focused audience. Or would you rather spend your marginal hour reaching a large audience on a superficial level? There are lot of situations where the latter is a reasonable choice–like if I’m selling something, or announcing an event, or sharing a small but crucial bit of information. But I’m interested in exploring ideas in depth with the (small) group of people willing to geek-out with me. That makes strategy A a better choice.

—Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker Ask the Author Live: Malcolm Gladwell on Twitter

What caused the escalation from not wanting or needing a set of tools to attacking the validity of the tools?

Malcolm Gladwell makes it clear he is opposed to Facebook and Twitter.   There are all kinds of things wrong with these two “social media” platforms.

Yet to my great disappointment, Gladwell doesn’t seem to know what they are.

apples and oranges

For the argument to have had legitimacy, it should have compared tools with tools, or systems with systems. It would have been reasonable to compare social media with mass media, say.   Instead, Civil Rights Movement Activists are compared with Twitter and Facebook.   Gladwell isn’t proving a theory, he’s telling us what he believes an activist should be and we’re supposed to take it on faith.

All it takes to counter “tie theory” is a different incident from the Civil Rights Movement.

No central hiearchy told Rosa Parks to refuse to give up her seat on the bus.   Even though there were others on the bus who shared her plight, lived in the same geographic location, rode the same bus, suffered the same oppression— all presumably the stuff of “strong ties”— those people chose not to stand with her that day.   She made her decision to resist as an individual.   Strong ties or not, the others moved to the back of the bus.

Activism doesn’t have to the result of some grand design strategized by a central committee.   Quite often it just happens when people have reached their tipping point.

From the Live Chat:

[Comment From William Carleton: ]
Mr. Gladwell, the COO of Facebook and a Twitter exec both spoke at a marketing conference this week. In a way, they seem to be making your case for you, without much sense of irony. The description of the session led by the FB exec talks of “activisim” as a brand promotion tool. Do you think part of why social media reinforces the status quo may be because the stewards of the most succesful platforms seem to be selling them short?

Malcolm Gladwell:
That’s hilarious. If the civil rights movment were taking place today, do you think that some corporate entity would see it as a brand opportunity as well? Would Dr. King have done Nike ads? But yes, I’m not sure Facebook does much for real activism when they treat it as just another app.”

graphic reproduction of page one of Freedom's Journal
The printing press was a tool for social activism

activism IS just another app to a corporation

Neither Facebook or Twitter are activists; they are corporations. They are not forces for good or evil.
They exist to make a profit.   These are businesses that provide a platform and offer apps.   Corporations
don’t care about the environment, but they will
go “green” if it means an increase in profitability.

A long time ago, a man named Gutenberg invented a tool called a printing press.   Over the years, this invention has been used to print bibles, history books, political manifestos, novels, newspapers, wedding invitations and even magazines like the New Yorker.   A tool is only as good as the use to which it’s put.

So why is Malcolm Gladwell attacking “social media”?   Although asked to define “social media” it in yesterday’s chat, he declined.   In the article he says,

It shifts our energies from organizations that promote strategic and disciplined activity and toward those which promote resilience and adaptability. It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact. The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient. They are not a natural enemy of the status quo. If you are of the opinion that all the world needs is a little buffing around the edges, this should not trouble you. But if you think that there are still lunch counters out there that need integrating it ought to give you pause.

Malcolm Gladwell, Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted

According to Gladwell, social media tools are not only a waste of time which could be better spent making a real difference, but they bolster the status quo.   He doesn’t offer any support for this premise either, though.

During the article he raises the stakes so that we aren’t just talking about ‘activism, we’re talking about ‘high-risk activism.’   The implication being that social activism without a component of personal jeopardy is not important.   Which is kind of like saying journalism without jeopardy is valueless.

Like Gladwell, I too grew up with stories of the civil rights movement.   A lot was accomplished.   Great odds were overcome.   And of course it makes for high drama.   Which is great on a movie screen but for the people living it, not so much.   In fact, I’m guessing that most activists would prefer not to give up their lives or their freedom or their livelihoods to meet their goals.   Think how much more Mr. King might have accomplished had he lived.

White lowercase letter F on a blue field is the FaceBook logo

Many of the more than 200,000 Canadians who had felt increasingly disenfranchised by unresponsive government have been organizing under the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament group on Facebook.

Because it IS “easier for the powerless to collaborate, coördinate, and give voice to their concerns.”   And that’s a good thing.

Ironically a high school student created a Facebook activist group that helped save a forest in Gladwell’s home town.

Without actually using digital media, it is easy to be ignorant of the fact that conversations are possible in 140 character bursts. Links to longer works or reference material can be transmitted if more depth is required.

Malcolm Gladwell should understand the importance of these communication media, as he says himself,

“Our acquaintances—not our friends—are our greatest source of new ideas and information. The Internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvellous efficiency.

Malcolm Gladwell Small Change

Yet he brushes it off as being important to business, not activism.   It seems that Malcolm Gladwell thinks we have all the information we need.   I think he’s wrong.   The older I get, the more there is to learn.

Particularly as we are smack dab in the midst of a digital revolution. It was fascinating to watch history being made as the UK’s Digital Economy Bill was debated in the House of Lords while being filled in on the background by UK citizens on an IRC channel.   Twitter and Facebook aren’t the whole story, there are blogs, and podcasts, and even other microblogging services like the non-proprietary Identi.ca.   There are a great many activists to be found on Twitter, and some of the ones I know are:

The blue Twitter bird mascot

@doctorow     @ninapaley     @JesseBrown     @Openattitude     @schestowitz     @PaoloBrini     @p2pnet     @jkoblovsky     @techdirt     @ZeroPaid     @Org9     @zotzbro     @mgeist     @GloriousAndFree     @zittrain     @Crosbie     @lessig     @jerezim     @_the_mad_hatter     @russellmcormond     @copyrightgirl     @crime_minister     @s_nunn     @mgifford     @EFF     @publicknowledge     @creativecommons     @juditrius     @StopActaNow     @OpenRightsGroup     @CETAWatch

Canada is very fortunate to have online activists.   This is especially important at a time when the main stream news media has failed to adequately inform citizens on a number of important topics.   Bloggers and online activists who broadcast and share information online have been picking up the slack.   We are also fortunate to live at a time when the barriers to assembly and partipation have been lowered by advances in digital technology.

In the absence of digital advocacy, Canadians could have been suffering under a Canadian DMCA as far back as 2005.   Bill C-32, the current incarnation of harmful copyright law we are facing, carries serious ramifications for Canada’s digital economy, as well as issues of cultural freedom, responsive government and even sovereignty.

Malcolm Gladwell may not find these issues as important as the Civil Rights Movement was, but they are of vital importance to Canada in the here and now.
a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves



Image Credit: Malcolm Gladwell photo by bunnicula (cc by-nd)

Also: special thanks to John S, for his blog post Whose Ties Are You Calling Weak” for focusing my attention on the issue.

Canada don’t need no stinkin’ DMCA

Canada don’t need no stinkin’ DMCA
(or DCMA)

Title amendment at June 1st, 2010
Michael Geist says that they are planning to call the new “copyright” law
the
Digital Copyright Modernization Act or Canadian DCMA  
I guess that ways they can say it isn’t a “Canadian DMCA” with a straight face…. llr



Yesterday morning I was just taking a quick peek at Twitter before getting back to revisions when I saw a tweet from The Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Electronic Frontier Foundation logoRT@BoingBoing Canadian Prime Minister promises to enact a Canadian DMCA in six weeks http://bit.ly/c8Re4h

That did not sound promising. In fact it sounded downright scary. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) is widely known to be a deeply flawed draconian copyright law. And that isn’t just a Canadian perception, that’s an opinion shared by many people around the world. It is reasonable to assume that a good part of the citizen resistance to A.C.T.A. is a direct result of seeing the DMCA in action.

You might wonder why I am so concerned. After all, this is just the announcement of a bill that won’t even be available for First Reading before June. This bill is so new it doesn’t have a number yet. But previous drafts of so called Canadian “copyright reforms” have been bad. And the fact that representatives of this government are involved in the fast tracked secret A.C.T.A. negotiations does not instill confidence.

being heard

It seems that increasingly our elected representatives choose to ignore Canadians. After all, more than eight thousand concerned Canadians made submissions to the copyright consultation. What we said appears not to have been heard by our government.

As a mother, I have a powerful stake in the future. As a creator and a consumer, copyright is also very important to me. But I am only a private citizen. One person. So it takes a lot to make my voice heard.

When my government demonstrates its willingness to ignore not just my voice, but the voices of thousands of my fellow citizens, then I need to do my best to encourage even more citizens to speak up. That means starting now, before the new bill is released to public scrutiny because there must be time to inform many more Canadians of the issue.

In 2007, the architect of the DMCA and the WIPO Internet Treaties admitted:

“…our attempts at copyright control have not been successful…”

—Chairman Bruce Lehman, International Intellectual Property Institute March 24, 2007
boingboing: DMCA’s author says the DMCA is a failure, blames record industry

Like most Canadians, back then I was so busy with my life that I wasn’t paying much attention. I was leaving politics and lawmaking to the professionals. After all, that’s what they’re paid for, right?

American Flag hangs down

It seems that the politicians want Canada to ratify the WIPO treaties. But that can’t happen until we have enacted domestic laws to back them up. This is why first the Liberals, and now the Conservatives, are trying to put through copyright reform.

The thing of it is, according to Howard Knopf Canada has strong copyright Laws, maybe too strong. In many ways stronger than American Copyright Law.

Now, in 2010, the EFF has made this assessment of the DMCA:

  • The DMCA Chills Free Expression and Scientific Research.
    Experience with section 1201 demonstrates that it is being used to stifle free speech and scientific research. The lawsuit against 2600 magazine, threats against Princeton Professor Edward Felten’s team of researchers, and prosecution of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov have chilled the legitimate activities of journalists, publishers, scientists, students, programmers, and members of the public.
  • The DMCA Jeopardizes Fair Use.
    By banning all acts of circumvention, and all technologies and tools that can be used for circumvention, the DMCA grants to copyright owners the power to unilaterally eliminate the public’s fair use rights. Already, the movie industry’s use of encryption on DVDs has curtailed consumers’ ability to make legitimate, personal-use copies of movies they have purchased.
  • The DMCA Impedes Competition and Innovation.
    Rather than focusing on pirates, some have wielded the DMCA to hinder legitimate competitors. For example, the DMCA has been used to block aftermarket competition in laser printer toner cartridges, garage door openers, and computer maintenance services. Similarly, Apple has used the DMCA to tie its iPhone and iPod devices to Apple’s own software and services.
  • The DMCA Interferes with Computer Intrusion Laws.
    Further, the DMCA has been misused as a general-purpose prohibition on computer network access, a task for which it was not designed and to which it is ill-suited. For example, a disgruntled employer used the DMCA against a former contractor for simply connecting to the company’s computer system through a virtual private network (“VPN”).”

— Electronic Frontier Foundation, Unintended Consequences: Twelve Years under the DMCA

Canada has been under heavy pressure from the United States to follow their legislative lead and create our own DMCA.

First, the Liberal Party of Canada gave it a try with Bill C-60. Fortunately for Canada, the Liberal Party had a minority government at the time and a non-confidence vote killed their Bill C-60. I have no doubt that this law would have passed had there been a Liberal majority.

Next, the Conservative Party of Canada put forth their own Bill C-61 in an attempt to create a Canadian DMCA. Canada was again lucky to have a minority government. There was an even greater outcry from the citizenry. Embarrassing articles in ars technica: “Canadian DMCA” brings “balanced” copyright to Canada and boingboing: Canadian DMCA is worse than the American one seem to have been prevalent. I have no doubt that this law would have passed had there been a Conservative majority.

Luckily for us, Bill C-61 was scrapped by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s first premature prorogation. The Conservatives promised to re-introduce Bill C-61 if they were re-elected. But although they were re-elected, it was without the majority they expected.

but we can’t bank on being lucky

With a minority government, the Conservative government took the reasonable path of addressing one of the chief complaints about the previous attempts — lack of meaningful public consultation. The Ministry of Industry mounted a Canada wide Copyright Consultation. They held “Town Hall” meetings across the country. Unfortunately complaints of “stacking” the speakers, incidents of interested parties being prevented from disseminating literature, or citizens being denied access to the “town hall” venues of these “public” meetings were leveled throughout this part of the process.

But this is the 21st Century. They don’t call this the Information Age for nothing. And to their credit, Industry Canada’s web site hosted an online consultation that would accept submissions from any and all Canadians who cared to speak up. As a citizen, I thought this a good use of technology. This is a prime example of just how democracy can be fine tuned to accurately reflect the will of the people in the 21st Century.

Isn’t the point of a democracy the creation of laws that reflect society’s mores?
How better than to assess the wants and needs of Canadian society than by soliciting the input of concerned Canadians?

More than 8,000 Canadians made written copyright consultation submissions answering the handful of questions posed by the Ministry. Michael Geist provided a nice breakdown and this rebuttal of Robert Owen’s analysis is a good too.
[Mixed up links corrected above]

The Canadian government asked for citizen input and they got it. Instead of the few hundred submissions that I gather are a more common response, they received thousands of submissions. Many Canadians assumed that our government might actually consider what we told them. After all, they asked us what we thought.

Was the copyright consultation all smoke and mirrors?

no DMCA Canadian Flag

boingboingboingboing: Canadian Prime Minister promises to enact a Canadian DMCA in six weeks

Michael Geist

Michael Geist: PMO Issues The Order: Canadian DMCA Bill Within Six Weeks

p2pnet: It’s official – the United States of Canada

Zero Paid

Zero Paid: Canadian DMCA To Be Tabled Within Weeks

Forums » O Canada! » Canadian » Canadian Broadband
» PMO Issues The Order: Canadian DMCA Within Six Weeks!!


Millsworks: Canadian DMCA In 6 Weeks

ideas revolution: Canadian DMCA Bill Within Six Weeks?

Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights: Dear Canada, your voices don’t really matter. Canadian DMCA in 6 weeks. Regards, Stephen Harper

Apparently the phrase “Canadian DMCA” got so much play yesterday that it actually became a Twitter trending topic. Hmmmm, sure sounds as though Canadians actually care about this issue.

the boingboing comment that got to me was

CG • #9 said:
“…they didn’t listen to the consultation; why would they listen this time?”

— boingboing: Canadian Prime Minister promises to enact a Canadian DMCA in six weeks”

If we look at it that way, and throw up our hands in disgust, THEY WILL HAVE WON.

How is the government looking at this? This is a protest by a “special interest group”. A mere handful of Canadians… less than 9,000… made submissions. Come on, out of 33 million? That’s only a tiny fraction. Do the math.

Prime Minister Harper doesn’t think it is enough opposition to make a difference. After all, it is ONLY some lowly radical tech people who are against it. And maybe a few of the musicians who have begun establishing recording careers without having to give record companies their copyright. [Did you know that 30% of the Canadian recording industry has gone independent? Is THAT the real reason the music biz wants to stop p2p?]

The problem is that the Government is correct. Most Canadians don’t understand what is happening or what this will mean.

Canadian Flag Superimposed on American Flag

Perhaps our government is counting on us getting angry at being ignored, and then frustrated beyond endurance, until we come to the point we have to give up and get on with our real lives, leaving them free to do whatever they want.

In this instance pandering to the American Government– who are in turn pandering to their own giant media corporations. Make no mistake– the American DMCA does not serve American citizens, it serves American corporations. You know the ones I mean. Corporations like Disney, who want copyright to never end. Corporations like the big music companies who used to control the entire recording industry of the entire world. In Canada, that’s the CRIA, the “Big Four” American branch plants that used to control 100% of the Canadian recording Industry.

Since the advent of the Internet, and p2p filesharing, Canadian musicians are going independent. Leaving the four CRIA record companies in control of only 70% of the Canadian recording industry.

That is probably the real reason Canada makes it onto the USTR watch list every year. That USTR list is one of the main reasons why Canada is perceived to be a haven of piracy when in fact there is far less infringement here than most places. Certainly less than the United States. On April 14th of this year, Michael Geist reported American government findings: U.S. Government Study: Counterfeiting and Piracy Data Unreliable, and on April 30th USTR’s Bully Report Unfairly Blames Canada Again. Yet the Canadian government didn’t even make an issue of this or make a submission to the USTR.

So the United States keeps putting Canada on their “watch list”. Our friendly neighbor to the south is accusing us — in the absence of credible facts — of being a pirate nation.

First they call us names, and malign our international reputation, but then they promise to stop if we give them what they want. Isn’t there a word for that?

All they want is our sovereignty.

This is why it so important to NOT GIVE UP.

Canadians can’t afford to give up in frustration. And there are things to do. If enough of us do them, we may be heard.
pile of Canadaina newspapers

  • 1. First: TELL everybody that you know. The mainstream news media isn’t talking about it, so we need to.
  • 2. EXPLAIN the issues to everybody who will listen. If you can’t explain it, (after all, how many of us are IP lawyers?) send them to any of the links above, send them to Michael Geist, Howard Knopf, BoingBoing, p2pnet, zeropaid, wikipedia… wherever, whatever it takes.
  • 3. Write letters to politicians.
  • Michael Geist recommends sending an actual paper mail letter via snail mail postal mail.   Right or wrong, politicians attach far more weight to paper letters than email. After all, anyone could say they were anyone on an email. (Like that doesn’t hold true for a paper letter.) But email is EASY. It takes so little effort for us to send that maybe it doesn’t mean we’re really serious. We haven’t showed our commitment to the issue by writing on actual paper and giving Canada Post something to do. Last year when I emailed politicians about an issue, some of them weren’t tech savvy enough to turn off the email confirmations. Of those, about half confirmed that my email was deleted without being read. So look at it this way, if you send them a paper letter, someone in the office has to at least open it before throwing it out.

    If you don’t know who your representative is in your riding, this is a link to the MP postal code look-up. Find your MP and the first letter should go to your own MP, but don’t stop there. Send letters to:

    Conservative Party of Canada logo

    Prime Minister
    The Right Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    Minister of Industry
    The Hon. Tony Clement, P.C., B.A., LL.B.
    House of Commonscopyright symbol over a red maple leaf
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    Minister of Heritage
    The Hon. James Moore, P.C., B.A.
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    Liberal Leader
    Michael Ignatieff, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    BLOC Leader
    Gilles Duceppe
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6
    [*M. Duceppe would prefer communication in French, but I’ve heard that he’s classy enough to respond to mono-lingual English speakers in English
    (in other words, English would be better than a bad Google translation]

    NDP Party of Canada

    NDP Leader
    The Hon. Jack Layton, P.C., B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    NDP Technology Critic
    Charlie Angus
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    Green Party LogoUnelected leader of the Green Party
    Elizabeth May
    http://greenparty.ca/contact
    [The green party of canada only makes phone and web contact information available on their site. I guess that’s a reasonable stance for an environmental party.
    (Maybe I just couldn’t find it since I’m tired, being up way past my bedtime to finish this.) You could call during business hours, but my guess is that emailing would be fine here.]

    The Unelected Leader of the Pirate Party of Canadapirate party of canada
    Jake Daynes
    Pirate Party of Canada
    43 Samson Blvd #165
    Laval QC H7X 3R8
    [Since the Pirate Party exists to promote copyright reform, it’s reasonable to assume they oppose any DMCA like legislation, but it wouldn’t hurt to discuss the issues with them. One reason I plug them is because they legally distribute music from some great Canadian bands free online through their p2p Pirate Tracker. Great for Canadian heritage, eh? Last I heard the PPOC was expecting the official party status notification which will make them eligible to field candidates for the next Federal Election.]

    Canadian Flag through tree

    It certainly wouldn’t hurt to ferret out any smaller political parties that may exist in your riding. Wikipedia of course has a list of canadian political parties which would be an excellent starting point. The more people we have talking about copyright, the better

  • 4. Submit letters to the Editor to your local newspaper, or one of the national ones, or magazines like MacLeans. Comment online (where appropriate). Talk to your local radio station– great interview topic, make for a good phone in show… Or find a local Indie band. Chances are they will know exactly how important this fight is. Maybe they’ll play a free concert in the park to raise awareness.
  • 5. Blog if you’ve got a blog. If you don’t, it’s really easy to start one. (most blogs are much shorter than this. Really.) If you really don’t want to start a blog, but you’ve got something to say, contact me (or another blogger of your choice) about doing a guest blog post.
  • 6. Use Twitter, Identi.ca, Facebook, IRC channel chat rooms– or any other internet information sharing thing you are part of– to spread the word. (Michael Geist has a Fair Copyright for Canada group on Facebook, and the Facebook CAPP group is still out there.
  • 7. There is also Fairvote Canada a grass roots non-partisan electoral reform movement which is growing local chapters across the country. On Wednesday May 12th the Waterloo, Chapter is hosting a debate Debate: Strategic Voting – What’s a voter to do?.

It has taken so long to get this article done that it’s Thursday… and I’m just about to post this monstrosity but I thought I’d include a link to Michael Geist’s latest on the subject Covering the Return of the Canadian DMCA as he’s included many links to articles I haven’t had time to look at yet both online and (ahem) in the mainstream news media.

(If there’s enough buzz, the mainstream HAS to follow.)

Get involved. There are many ways to participate. It’s for our future.



Update May 9th, 2010
It wouldn’t hurt to add two more to the list of letter recipients:

Liberal Industry critic
Marc Garneau
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Liberal Heritage critic
Pablo Rodriguez
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

These late additions are courtesy of Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights. This group has a nice form letter on offer so you can Send A Letter To Ottawa To Stop The Canadian DMCA. You can customize the letter in their online form, and when you submit it, they will electronically submit your letter to an array of politicians (a less extensive list than mine, which is a kitchen sink approach) and then the CCER also undertakes to forward a hard copy to these same politicians.

Certainly it is less work to allow someone else to do the mailing for you, but that’s always a bit dangerous. One of the simplest ways to protect yourself online–a simple internet security safeguard– is to not give out any more personal info than you absolutely have to online. There are times when we haven’t a choice. When dealing with my bank, I HAVE to identify myself to them if I want to be able to access my cash. But then, I only access my bank through their secure (read encrypted) web page.

I wouldn’t use a form myself, partly because I’m a writer, and partly because, like email, politicians assign less weight to a form letter. On the other hand, a form letter is much better than no response at all. Of course, I might cut and past their form letter into Open Office to use as a road map for writing my own.

This is not to malign the Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights. They are just trying to make it as easy as possible for concerned citizens to put their two cents worth in, because the CCER understands the importance of speaking out. But ANY time you fill in a form like this and send your unencrypted personal information over the Internet it can easily go astray or be harvested by spammers. Especially in Canada where the CRTC has given Bell Canada permission to use Deep Packet Inspection on Canadian Internet traffic. DPI makes it possible for Bell to see anything unencrypted that we put online. Bell Canada assured the CRTC that it would not abuse this process, but there is no oversight or any meaningful complaint procedure in place should your personal information be compromised in any way.

I’ll opt for caution.


P.S. The bill is scheduled to be tabled (introduced into the legislature, I think that means first reading but I may be wrong) this afternoon.

For breaking news check Michael Geist’s blog. Curerently this is the latest:

“We Don’t Care What You Do, As Long as the U.S. Is Satisfied”

What Happened to the News Media?

You become a writer, by writing. You become a driver by driving. You may be licensed to drive, but if you don’t get behind the wheel and drive, you aren’t a driver, In the same way, you become a publisher by publishing.

I am just floored by the saga underlying the p2pnet article: Wayne Crookes wants to freeze the net. It seems that p2pnet Blogger Jon Newton is (and apparently has been) almost all the way through the Canadian court system because he’s being sued for defamation and libel. Next stop: Supreme Court of Canada.

Mr. Newton is in fact the publisher of a blog called p2pnet. He is being sued by Mr. Crookes for libel and defamation, not because Newton himself published anything defamatory or libelous, but because Newton linked to other articles on the Internet that Mr. Wayne Crookes of West Coast Title Search Ltd. claimed were libelous and defamatory.

The crux of Mr. Crookes’ suit is the contention that creation of hyperlinks and subsequent refusal to remove hyperlinks to alleged libelous web pages makes Newton a publisher of the source material, and therefore responsible for it. The convoluted idea is that he became a publisher of the source material through inaction.

On all of Mr. Crooke’s previous days in court against Mr. Newton, the courts have agreed that the use of an Internet hyperlink is the Internet equivalent of a footnote, therefore absolving Mr. Newton of any culpability. That seems perfectly reasonable to me. I’ll go along with the idea that a link is the Internet equivalent of a footnote that will direct you to the source.

But the Montreal Gazette article explains Mr. Crooke’s latest argument:

Crookes contends that Newton, by creating the hyperlinks and then refusing to remove them when advised they were libelous, became a publisher by his inaction.

“Given that Mr. Newton didn’t break the hyperlink and continued to act as a chain of publication, Mr. Crookes is taking the position before the court that he is in fact republishing the defamation,”

said Dermod Travis, a spokesman for Crookes, owner of the company West Coast Title Search.

from the Montreal Gazette: Supreme Court wades into Internet speech debate with hyperlinks case

Jon Newton’s article explains Mr. Crookes contention:

“linking to an article is the same as publishing it and that linking to an allegedly libelous article can, therefore, be the same as defamation.”

from the p2pnet article: Wayne Crookes wants to freeze the net.

A slashdot comment suggests that unlinking the link would have made it into a mere textual footnote and solved the p2pnet problem is… ahem… absurd. After all, a proper footnote in a scholarly work tells you what the exact source is. If the source is a published book, I should be able to get a copy from my local bookseller, which would put the source directly into my hand. Does that mean the bookseller published it? Hardly.

Whether an Internet footnote (aka a hyperlink) is an actual hyperlink — like this earlier p2pnet story:
http://www.p2pnet.net/story/12056

or a textual representation of a hyperlink like this: http://www.p2pnet.net/story/12056

it is possible for anyone to click the former or cut and paste the latter your search bar and voila, you’re at the original source.

Libel? Defamation?

It doesn’t even matter whether the articles p2pnet linked to were in fact defamatory.

That isn’t the issue Mr. Crookes has brought before the Canadian Supreme Court, it is whether or not including a hyperlink to source material makes you responsible for the source material. The Crookes contention is that Newton’s links to the source material makes Newton a publisher of the allegedly defamatory original source.

What is a publisher?

I would think that a publisher would have at least some element of of ownership– even if only moral– and at least some measure of control in the publication.

Book, Newspaper and Magazine publishers have traditionally asserted copyright over the material they publish, and because of this, have been able to charge advertisers to advertise in their publications and to have customers purchase a single issue or subscription.

Wikipedia has an excellent comprehensive article on what constitutes publishing, and nowhere do they say use of a hyperlink constitutes publication. Of course, Wikipedia is one of the parties Mr. Crookes has sued.

As a lowly beginner blogger, I do not have ads on any of my blogs. Even so, I am the publisher and have control over what goes into them. Although I have not been blogging long, I have learned that the point of the internet is inter connectivity. Because of this, I strive to use as many links as possible in every blog post to share my source material. By using these hyperlink footnotes, my readers have the opportunity to decide if I have misinterpreted the information provided by my sources.

The reader can read the link in my blog, but unless the reader clicks on the link, the reader cannot read the source material. Because the source material is not in my blog, it is not under my control. It is published on someone else’s website.

As a self-publishing blogger I have authority and responsibility for what is in my blog. Although I can direct people to the source of information with a link, I have no control over the information in the link. I have absolutely no power to add to or change the information on the originating site. I do not receive either royalties or advertising revenue from the originating site. It’s terribly annoying when a site I have linked to breaks the link. I know how frustrating it is to read an article with broken links. But the person creating the link has no control over the sites they link to.

If the source material that Jon Newton or any online publisher links to proves to be libelous or defamatory, then I would expect the originator of the libel and/or defamation to face a court challenge. I have grave reservations about censorship of web content based on allegations, rather than rule of law. If the material is alleged to be defamatory or libelous, the law can investigate. If convicted the originating website will take the offending material down one way or another.

If that happened, Jon Newton’s links would have been broken. He would not have been asked to act as judge and jury. The LAW would have filled those functions. Yet it seems that he is being sued because he did not himself break the links based only on allegations.

Jon Newton is a blogger, not a judge. Bloggers engage in online discussion, and express opinions and disseminate information, not pronouncements of law.

This is a huge issue that could well lead to ramifications for the freedom of the entire Internet.

Mainstream Canadian Media is near silent

As I write this, I’m a little bit nervous. I don’t have a lawyer. What if I get sued? I’m just a mom with a blog, trying to make sure that the Internet continues to be a wonderful interactive place, to do my bit to see that the world our kids inherit is as good as it can be.

One of the first things I learned as a parent is that children learn best from modeling. Freedom of speech is incalculably important, and I have always taught the importance of standing up for what you believe in. Using fear and allegations to censor and suppress dissent is never a good thing for society.

All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.

–Edmund Burke

An issue this important should be getting big headlines in Canada at least. Talked about on the Radio. Top of the hour on the TV news. But no. I only heard about this from an online friend Haris in Malaysia who was reDenting British writer/journalist/blogger glynmoody. Not from the Canadian news media.

The “News media” has a mystique which has built over the years.

The legend grew as great reporters risked their life and liberty so that great newspapers and radio/tv stations could honestly inform citizens about what was happening in the world.

Reporters like Ireland’s Veronica Guerin risked and lost their lives exposing drug dealers to make the world safe, and reporters like Woodward and Bernstein risked their liberty reporting about corruption at the highest level of the American government to make the world better for succeeding generations. Many reporters have risked their lives for a story over years, many have gone to jail in order to protect their sources. Many have died.

Getting these news stories was important. But the value to society only came into play when the newspaper published the story.

@haris CNN screenshot. Their Newspulse shows Wikileaks vid as most popular story. They still won’t feature it. http://file.status.net/identica/greggish-20100406T032041-cgghd33.png

Unfortunately there has been an ever increasing trend to sacrifice the news to profits. Newspaper, radio and television newsrooms have been gutted and gutted and gutted some more. Reporting the news started coming second to ratings. Objectivity lost out to advertisers. Today the news is “packaged”, and quite often editorial content seems handed down from above.

As news outlets have been bought and sold and sold some more they have ended up as tiny pawns in gigantic media corporations. I don’t know if they’ve lost their voices, or if they are afraid to report for fear of being shut down entirely.

There are precious few independent news purveyors left in the world. And even those few are scrambling for advertising to survive. In today’s world advertisers seem to dictate the news.

But what they are NOT doing is providing the news without fear or favor,

In Canada, the “news media” is NOT telling Canadians about Usage Based Billing. Around the world there has been barely a breath about the secret A.C.T.A. treaty being aggressively pursued by many supposedly democratic governments in secret… because they know very well their citizens would not agree.

And we are still a nation at war. Why? I don’t know. It certainly doesn’t strike me as a just war. Worse, bad things happen. Canada has not behaved well in Afghanistan. Our military and our government is implicated under a cloud of torture which continues to be covered up. Even Pierre Berton wouldn’t have been able to make this one palatable. I suspect it would have sickened Canada’s esteemed biographer as much as it sickens me.

Bad things are continuing to happen. Canada is no longer the lily white peace keeping force. We aren’t helping anyone. Continuing to hang around and prop up this war that is bad for all of us; it lends credibility to the war that shouldn’t be.

And today another horrendous story has broken, which again was brought to my attention from the other side if the world, from wikileaks via Haris, who lead me to a blog post by biologist P.Z. Myers: We have seen evil, and it is us Unlike professor Myers, I can’t watch the “Collateral Murder” video which shows the casual slaughter of Iraqi journalists. But I can help spread the word.

What ever happened to the Canadian news media? Shouldn’t intrepid reporters be spilling these stories? Two Iraqi journalists lost their lives… and for what? Why aren’t their brethren standing up for them?

Why isn’t the news media doing its job?

That’s why net neutrality is so important. Not just for internet freedom. But for freedom.