The Canadian Charter: Why is Byron Sonne so important?

Free Byron

Byron Sonne’s case has finally come to trial. Because it is not a jury trial, concerns that the media could misrepresent the facts of the case and taint a jury no longer apply, so there is no publication ban for the proceedings,  although evidence given under the preliminary hearing is still covered under the publication ban.

We are into the fourth week of Byron Sonne’s trial.   Video of two of Byron’s interrogations have been released, giving Canadians a chilling look at how the law can work in Canada.  Jesse Brown looks at the interview process to help us understand what is happening here.   This trial will clearly go on much longer.

The first week of the trial saw Charter arguments from the defense. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the legislation that guarantees Canadian civil rights.

1. Arrest Warrant

National Post:

“Mr. Sonne, a Forest Hill security professional arrested days before the 2010 world leaders’ conference, stands charged with possessing explosive substances and counselling others to commit mischief. The Crown’s case is based on the premise that the accused was targeting the G20 summit, while supporters argue Mr. Sonne — who meticulously documented security measures and mused online about how to subvert them — was merely exploring the limits of summit surveillance.”

“The defence alleges the first Charter violations occurred when Mr. Sonne was arbitrarily detained and questioned by police in the financial district about a week before the G20, after he was seen photographing the expansive security perimeter.”

“While the accused initially refused to produce identification, “the officers threatened him with a provincial offence [jaywalking] as a ruse to compel him to identify himself,” the defence factum noted.”

— Megan O’Toole, National Post, Police violated rights of man accused of plotting G20 attack, trial hears

Possibly the single most shocking thing to me, personally, was the newspaper reportage. Regardless of political stripe, every one seemed equally concerned with the abuses to Canadian civil rights evidenced in this specific case.

Globe and Mail
“The defence also argues that he was questioned for 12 hours without having access to a lawyer.”

AND

“Mr. Sonne is corralled in front of that police car,” defence lawyer Joe Di Luca told Ontario Superior Court Justice Nancy Spies.

Mr. Di Luca said his client, as was his right, refused to identify himself when the officers asked.

He said he would only do so if he was being detained under the Terrorism Act, something the Crown said would have alarmed the officers.

The police then devised a “ruse” to obtain his ID by threatening to arrest him for jaywalking, court heard, and Mr. Sonne then appeared to identify himself.

AND

Mr. Sonne’s Internet activity had attracted the attention of law enforcement,” Byrne said.

To justify the warrant that led to his arrest, police used Mr. Sonne’s Twitter and Flickr postings, along with statements made when they stopped him downtown.

Colin Perkel, Globe and Mail, G20 trial begins for man charged with possessing explosives

2. Home/Office Search Warrant

Toronto Star

Toronto computer consultant Byron Sonne once built a “wave guide” to redirect microwave energy but confessed he was unable to even melt chocolate from a few inches.

“He posted a wry account of his failed experiment on his “Toronto Goat Blog,” in June 2009, concluding there was “no magnetron death ray.”

“But a year later, a G20 intelligence detective deliberately misled a judge when he omitted any reference to the blog in a document seeking authorization for a search warrant of Sonne’s Forest Hill home, his lawyer Joseph Di Luca argued Tuesday.”

“In written documents, the Crown argues French’s concerns were reasonable and the defence’s “microanalysis” of his every factual assertion should be rejected.”

— Peter Small, Toronto Star, Police officer misled judge in ‘G20 geek’ probe, lawyer says

3. Search Warrant Family Cottage

Toronto Sun

“His lawyers argue officers quickly developed tunnel vision after reading Sonne’s blog, posts on Flickr and tweets from a Toronto Goat Twitter account and wrongly concluded he had nefarious intentions.

Defence lawyer Joseph Di Luca told the court the flimsy evidence amassed against Sonne should be thrown out because police repeatedly violated his Charter rights and filed an affidavit filled with “falsehoods and inaccuracies” to secure search warrants for his home and Midland cottage.

At one point, police falsely claimed they’d found HTMD, an explosive substance, and a home-made detonator in Sonne’s Elderwood Ave. home so a judge would issue another warrant.”

— Michele Mandel, Toronto Sun Byron Sonne: Wacky or enemy of the state?

Although I am not a lawyer, but it certainly seems to me that the rights guaranteed to Byron Sonne, the same rights owed to every citizen under the Charter, were not honoured.

Any unarmed, ordinary, law abiding, Canadian, suddenly surrounded by three armed police officers is likely to comply with whatever they say. But Byron didn’t.

Byron refused to allow himself to be bullied.

Byron Sonne availed himself of the legal protection of Canadian Law. It seems that everything else happened as a direct consequence.

Since when does standing up for yourself warrant the kind if legal over-reaction levelled at Byron Sonne? Call me crazy, but I had this idea that law enforcement isn’t supposed to bully citizens.  That’s why we have the Charter: to protect our rights.

Byron Sonne did not allow himself to be bullied.  If the Crown attorney doesn’t understand the effect of that, perhaps the Crown needs to get reacquainted with the world most Canadians live in.  I find the Crown’s cavalier attitude toward Canadian civil rights to be very disturbing.

If the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
doesn’t work for one of us,
it works for none of us.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Trial notes
Identi.ca !FreeByron
Twitter: #freeByron\
Open File:
The ruse that violated Byron Sonne’s rights
Lies and Videotape: Byron Sonne trial continue
The Daily Ruse
Free Byron Website

P.S.: The trial has already exceeded the time allotted for it, and will go much further. Please make a donation if you can:
You can wire funds directly to:
Valerie Sonne, In Trust
TD-Canada Trust, 1 Queen St.E & Main St., Brampton, Ontario, Canada L6W 2A7
Branch Transit: 21202
Financial Institution: 004
Account: 03116395523

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Byron Sonne is “still quite a ways away from being free”

Canadian Flag, Old City Hall, Toronto

Is Canada a free country?

Or is Canada a banana republic?

Today was Byron Sonne’s 331st day in custody. On Monday bail was finally granted, yet Byron had to remain locked up until today, when there was to be a final Bail Hearing where the Crown Attorney would get an opportunity to contest the grounds of Byron’s release.

What has happened to Byron Sonne has exposed injustice in our so called justice system. The reason democratic nations enact laws to protect the rights of citizens is to counter balance the government’s power to crush citizens.

For a nation to be a free country, citizens must be free to both question and criticize.

Without guaranteed civil rights, any citizen can be deprived of liberty. You can wind up in a Gulag. You don’t even have to be protesting anything.

on the 2010 Toronto G20:

“The result was a massive breach of human rights on a scale never before seen in modern Canadian society. “

—André Marin, Promoting Good Governance and Human Rights: The Ontario Ombudsman’s Investigation of Events Surrounding the G20 Summit in Toronto

Among those rounded up in the G20 mass arrests were a many people who were shopping, working, going somewhere else, but uninvolved in the protests. Yet they were rounded up and deprived of the civil rights Canadians expect just the same. Simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Byron has today been released under extremely stringent bail restrictions. The conditions are draconian, and somewhat bizarre. According to the Toronto Star:

“He must also have no contact with anyone accused with G20 conspiracy crimes or anyone associated with a number of anarchist groups or the Toronto Community Mobilization Network. There are no allegations that Sonne has ever associated with those people or groups.”

— Brendan Kennedy, Toronto Star: G20 accused Sonne out on bail; strict limits on Web use, leaving home

That last bit sounds like a smear… the very terms of the release are deliberately inflammatory. By prohibiting Byron Sonne contact with people and organizations there is no evidence he has ever any contact with, an association is implied. This is rather like prohibiting Byron Sonne from contact with Adolph Hitler. Except, if you read the Globe and Mail’s heavily biased account it says there is some evidence of Byron “downloading literature of both the far right (Mein Kampf) and the far left (Das Kapital).” Which seems to forge a stronger evidentiary link to Adolph Hitler, or Karl Marx. Who scares you the most?

It simply seems to be an attempt to make Byron Sonne look bad.

The group named by the Star that Byron must not associate with is the Toronto Community Mobilization Network which appears to be a collection of activists advocating for the civil rights for groups ranging from the disabled to indigenous peoples.  This seems at minimum to run contrary to Section Two of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Something that has disturbed me from the outset is that the denial of bail appears to be punitive. Is this a case of Canada’s Crown prosecution ensuring that an innocent man will pay the price of incarceration before trial since the trial is likely to exonerate him? In fact, our federal government has published statistics indicating an increase of the use if the remand process which could well indicate that the process is being deployed as punishment rather than waiting for a judicial finding of guilt, particularly when it is unlikely to happen at all.

You can read the rest of the extremely severe bail conditions in the Toronto Star.

I’m fairly new to social media, but something I have noticed is that some tweets about Byron use the #g20report hashtag. I initially assumed that some organization or group might be keeping track of the facts for the hoped for G20 inquiry.

Then I discovered Byron’s own Twitter feed and discovered that Byron himself seems to have invented that hashtag, using it to indicate the tweets he made documenting the G20 security.

This adds a huge amount of credence to the idea Byron Sonne was working as a citizen journalist.

It is also quite interesting that the @torontogoat is still online. We can read through it and see what Byron tweeted in his own words. Read it through and see what you think.

The Best Source

For information about Byron Sonne case is the FreeByron website, created and maintained by his friends and supporters.

recent articles

Jesse Brown: Byron Sonne gets bail. Finally.

Brendan Kennedy: G20 ‘geek’ Byron Sonne granted bail

Megan O’Toole: Man charged with possessing explosives before G20 granted bail

Toronto Mobilize: Court Support Needed for Byron Sonne

Tim McSorley: Byron Sonne granted bail; Crown to challenge conditions of his release

Denise Balkissoon: How Byron Sonne’s obsession with the G20 security apparatus cost him everything

David Harvey: Byron Sonne, Canada’s Political Prisoner

I got my title for this post from a tweet I found  under the #freeByron hashtag

@dr_kiwano (Kris Coward) says #FreeByron got bail, but is still quite a ways away from being free

Byron Sonne leaves courthouse
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