As a child, I spent many an hour watching shows like “The Lone Ranger” and “Zorro” with my dad. My father made sure we were all grounded in super hero lore, where you will find ample justification for secret identities.
When I progressed from comics to real books I continued on in the same vein, reading the Scarlet Pimpernel books when I could get hold of them in high school. Maybe that’s why I have never questioned the validity of the idea that anonymity is so important for freedom.
Anonymity offers protection; we can say what needs to be said Without anonymity, fear of repercussion can silence the truth. Without a shield of anonymity, people must first weigh the harm speaking out can cause themselves and their families. For many the risk is too great.
It is the goal of repressive government to silence dissent, but it is positively disturbing to find this in our democratic governments.
Whistle blowing is an act of valour undertaken for the public good. Yet today we see Bradley Manning incarcerated and WikiLeaks under unremitting attack from nations that used to trumpet freedom.
Meanwhile, in Canada, our own Byron Sonne goes to court again this week. Byron was the Toronto G20 protester arrested before the G20, and held without bail for nearly a year.
In case you’re new to Byron’s story, he was a young man who had everything: a beautiful wife, a beautiful home, and a challenging security business. He lost all those things, along with his liberty for nearly a year, because he chose to protest the G20. Byron is fortunate, however, because he hasn’t lost everything, he still has the trust and strong support of his friends and family. The crown has dropped almost all the charges against him. Yet although the remaining charges appear dubious, they keep the sword of Damocles hanging over his head, with the possibility of possible further incarceration. As well the charges provide the basis for keeping Byron restrained under onerous bail conditions which compromise Byron’s ability to work in his chosen profession to earn needed funds to pay for his defence, among other things. And making things harder still, PayPal summarily closed Byron’s donation account, but it is still possible to make donations.
Byron Sonne did not wear a mask. He went about his business openly, broadcasting words and images on publicly accessible Internet venues like Flickr and Twitter. I very much doubt Byron was trying to hide his identity online; he certainly had the technical expertise to do so had that been his intent. He wouldn’t have lasted two minutes in the computer security business without the ability to cover his digital tracks online. I believe that it is telling that he made no real effort to do so.
The way our legal system has dealt with Byron Sonne raises disturbing questions:
Is justice blind, or are some Canadian citizens treated differently under the law?
Are Canadian citizens allowed to question what our government does?
Are we allowed to observe the actions our government and its representatives?
If we take photographs of police will we be arrested?
Are citizens allowed anonymity or can we be compelled to provide identity papers without cause?
Are we allowed to hold our government accountable?
Do citizens still have any civil liberties?
Are Canadians even allowed to discuss such things?
In Canada Private Member’s Bill 309 seeks to criminalize the act of covering your face. There are many legitimate reasons to cover a human face. Hallowe’en masks are common today, but human beings have found cause to wear masks much longer, over centuries, religions and cultures.
Sometimes actors wear masks.
Allergy sufferers often wear masks to protect themselves from airborne allergens.
There are many cultures and religions requiring the covering of various parts of the human head.
Let us not forget, this is Canada. Many Canadians have had cause to wear hoods, hats and scarves to protect our heads from the elements.
All of these are excellent reasons for this Private Member’s bill to fail. After all, how often do Private Member’s Bill’s get passed, anyway? But Canada currently has a majority government, so it is very likely that this law will be passed.
If the wearing of a mask ~ or more telling, the covering of a face ~ in itself becomes a crime, it will be a horrendous blow to free speech in Canada. Some might feel that this law isn’t so bad, because Bill 309 would only make it illegal in certain circumstances. Except that the definition is broad enough it can be applied to any circumstance.
And the government gets to decide. The result of such legislation will make it far more dangerous for citizens to attend any sort of political protest at all. Even if you attend a peaceful protest without wearing a mask, things might get out of hand. You might not even be attending such a protest, but walking along the public streets minding your own business, yet may find yourself swept up and kettled by the police. This happened to many uninvolved Toronto residents during the G20.
If Bill 309 becomes law, the simple act of covering your face with your sleeve against tear gas in the air could lead to criminal charges.
Ironically there have been far too many instances of police officers removing their badges – and thus, choosing anonymity – prior to exceeding the scope of their legal authority and behaving in a criminal manner. Yet this far more dangerous behaviour (and evidence of premeditation) has resulted in little if any repercussion and is not covered in this bill.
It isn’t possible to have a healthy democracy unless citizens have the right to free speech and peaceful protest.
I have written something similar to this letter more than once, which made me think I should post it publicly. I understand that even activist organizations need operating expenses. I don’t have the slightest qualms about whether an organization I support accepts “dirty money.” If a person, corporation or gun runner wants to support good causes out of guilt or whatever, great. It won’t improve my opinion of the donor, nor will it make me think less of the recipient.
But that is a different thing than using PayPal, or worse, than
using *only* PayPal. If you have a PayPal account you agree to allow PayPal control over your finances. Where I might accept a Nobel Prize I would not give gun runners or terrorists access to my bank account. See the difference?
Doing business with PayPal actively supports this American Corporation which has shown willingness to mess with Canadian sovereignty, and worse, Canadian democracy.
Here’s the body of my letter:
I understand and support what you are trying to do. What I can’t understand is why you deal with PayPal.
Just prior to the beginning of his trial, G20 activist Byron Sonne‘s defense account was summarily cut off by PayPal.
PayPal has also cut off Wikileaks, an international organization that not only has not broken a single law anywhere in the world, but also has not been charged with anything in any jurisdiction in the world. [Should the United States alter any of their laws in future solely to muzzle Wikileaks, well, that won’t count.]
And that doesn’t say anything about all the people around the world who have set up a PayPal account for some reason or other only to have PayPal arbitrarily decide to freeze their funds.
Aside from the fact that it is dangerous for any person or group involved in any type of political reform to trust any part of their income to this corporation which has a track record of selectively discriminating against same, the ethics of many citizens like myself will not allow us to deal with PayPal under any circumstances.
I understand why a new organization would sign up with Paypal – everyone knows the name and they make it easy to sign up – but you should understand that dealing with PayPal says that your organization is willing to deal with a corporate entity with a track record of bullying customers and assisting government repression.
Personally, like many people, I will not use Paypal no matter how good the cause. Nor would I feel comfortable forwarding your email to anyone else so long as you request donations that can only be made through PayPal.
If your organization wants the support of people with conscience, it needs to respect our choices.
I am sure there are more alternatives to PayPal but the only ones I am currently aware of are WePay, and Ogone allows for straight credit card payments in Europe [I don’t know if they operate in North America].
Just thought you should be aware of this important issue.
Many Canadians had strong suspicions about the similarity between the Liberal Bill C-60 and the Conservative Bill C-61.
The overwhelming response from the vast majority of Copyright Consultation respondents indicated Canadians were opposed to TPM/DRM (Technical Protection Measures/Digital Rights Management) or “digitial locks”. Digital locks prevent users from using the media and devices the way they want to.
In spite of that, when Bill C-32 was tabled, TPM or “digital locks” was the most over-riding element, and made circumventing digital locks illegal. Even of we are legally entitled to access the content, under C-32 we would be breaking the law to bypass the digital lock.
This is the part that most upset me, as a writer, because this could remove my right as an author to distribute my creative work as I see fit. TPM/DRM places control of digital distribution in the hands of corporations. This law would have allowed manufacturers to use TPM to prevent consumers from accessing free material we are legally entitled to access on our laptops, dvds, cell phones and ipads etc.
If Bill C-32 had passed as is, Canada would most certainly have seen digital locks added to all digital devices, allowing corporate control of our culture.
A cable originating in the office of the U.S. Secretary of State is a blueprint for the copyright legislation the Canadian Government was expected to pass:
Prohibition of manufacturing and trafficking in technological
protection measure (TPM) circumvention devices as an offense
separate from copyright infringement;
Prohibition of circumvention of TPMs that control access to
works (quote access controls unquote);
Deterrent penalties against unauthorized circumvention —
both civil and criminal;
If there are any exceptions to TPM or rights management
information (RMI) liability, the exceptions should be clearly
enumerated and narrow in scope;
A system of protections and obligations for ISPs that
shelters them from certain liability, reduces and prevents
copyright infringement on the Internet and provides
incentives for ISPs to work cooperatively with copyright
Well, would you look at that. The most contentious issues — the issues objected to by Canadians — all come from the United States. And all the while, our government insisted that Bill C-32 was a “made-in-Canada” solution.
So, what would be Canada’s reward for making copyright law beneficial to the US at the expense of the Canadian public interest?
— (If needed) As Ambassador Kirk indicated in April, USTR is
prepared to reopen the USG interagency process to reassess
Canada,s placement on the Special 301 list if Canada enacts
The “prize” Canada might receive for suborning Canadian Sovereignty in favor of American demands is that if we enact “adequate” legislation – legislation that suits American needs over our own – the “USTR is prepared to reopen the USG interagency process to reassess Canada,s placement on the Special 301 list.”
Or, in other words, all Canada has to do is make the laws the United States tells us to make, and then the USTR might stop lying about Canada, by placing Canada on the spurious USTR Watch List.
(And where was the “watchdog press”?)
Other cables recently released by WikiLeaks have clearly shown that Canada was only placed on the USTR Watch List in order to bully us into passing copyright law favorable to US special interests.
Ironically, Canada’s specious inclusion on the USTR Watch List has been a huge contributing factor in exposing the USTR Watch List for the fraud it is. Since the American record of copyright infringement is worse than ours, the United States should be listed there before Canada. The WatchList has been used against other countries around the world in just this way.
their willingness to make copyright law harmful to Canadian interests
to appease our American neighbors.
Oh! Canada, indeed.
Please vote on Monday in the Federal Election.
Don’t vote strategically if there is a candidate you believe in. If we don’t start voting for what we want, we will never get it.
The only Canadian political parties opposed to electoral reform are the Conservative and Liberal parties. Canada has other choices. Visit the Elections Canada site to see what choices are available in your riding.
I do not know Tom Flanagan, but he comments regularly on CBC and Evan Solomon clearly took Tom Flanagan’s statements seriously, in fact giving Flanagan an opportunity to back down by making it a joke. That an astute political player like Flanagan did not strongly indicates how serious he was.
Evan Solomon was not soliciting a man-in-the-street opinion from a computer programmer or a supermarket cashier or a priest, he was conducting an expert interview with one of his “regular cast of star panelists“. Tom Flanagan was on the program to provide credible expert commentary.
Tom Flanagan’s commentary is credible BECAUSE he is a professor of Political Science, employed to teach some of the best and brightest Canadian students, at the University of Calgary.
Tom Flanagan’s commentary is credible BECAUSE of his strong ties to the sitting government.
THIS is what qualifies him as an expert, and this is WHY he must be charged for this crime.
ethics & reputation
The only response offered by the University administration has been this weak statement made December 7:
“The University of Calgary’s position remains that the opinions expressed by Dr. Tom Flanagan on CBC news last week were made as an individual. Dr. Flanagan spoke on a matter unrelated to the university, and his comments, for which Dr. Flanagan has expressed regret, do not represent the view of the University of Calgary. “
Yet the University of Calgary has declined to administer even a slap on the wrist to Tom Flanagan for his unacceptable behavior. The University’s position of refusing to make the barest of reprimands to Flanagan implies University support of Flanagan’s crime. A school that unquestioningly supports an educator who blatantly commits a crime television is simply not qualified to speak about “ethics.”
My child will not attend a school that condones assassination.
What does Tom Flanagan teach at the University of Calgary: Assassinate the opposition?
His words have certainly assassinated the University’s reputation internationally.
Left unchallenged, Canada’s reputation both at home and abroad is seriously damaged. As a citizen, I am furious.
If you have any doubt about whether there has been damage to our national reputation as a result of Flanagan’s crime, all you need do is watch the animated video titled Wikileaks Keeps Publishing despite arrest” published on YouTube December 7th, 2010. I first saw it on a Dutch web page. Two weeks later the video has had nearly 300,000 page views. That doesn’t count the web pages like this one that have embedded it. That’s a lot of of page views, particularly considering that it doesn’t top the WikiLeaks list:
Reading the comments on the YouTube page, and all over the Internet, citizens around the world have expressed dismay and outrage over this reprehensible incident.
U of C Community Outrage
Clearly, the University of Calgary community is not happy with the current state of affairs. 60 U of C alumni along with 25 others (current U of C students/staff/supporters across Canada & abroad) sent an open letter asking the University to address the situation. To date there has been none.
There is also an online Petition that anyone can sign here:
To: University of calgary
Dr. Elizabeth Cannon
University of Calgary
The last time there was a live televised order to assassinate someone was the religious edict issued by Ayatollah Khomeini to kill Salman Rushdie, the Author of Satanic Verses. Unfortunately in November 2010, Dr. Tom Flanagan called for the assassination of Mr. Julian Assange, the Founder of the Wikileaks website. Based on Canada’s criminal code incitement to commit murder is a crime, not to mention a gross unethical and immoral act.
We, signatories of this petition, demand Dr. Flanagan’s immediate expulsion from University of Calgary. We hope that University of Calgary does not squander its reputation by associating with someone who condones murder in the name of politics.
People feel strongly about the issue because the University’s implied support casts a pall on the reputations of staff, students and alumni. The institution’s inexplicable silence is only making things worse.
Because Tom Flanagan said these things on CBC, and because of who he is, his remarks have been heard around the world.
Canada used to have a reputation for being a good world citizen. Allowing these remarks to go unchecked makes us all look bad.
Tom Flanagan didn’t just make an empty threat on CBC, he didn’t just encourage the assassination of someone he disagrees with, he also threatened a woman who sent him an email he didn’t like. One may have been a mistake. Two makes it a whole different ballgame. I have to wonder, what other things has Tom Flanagan said or done that went away because of his powerful friends and allies?
Tom Flanagan’s “joke defense” goes up in smoke when you add the threatening email into the mix.
This is world class bullying.
Either Flanagan doesn’t get the point, or else is confident he may act as he pleases with impunity.
Apparently he’s right.
All he had to do is say “I’m sorry” and all is well with the world. Why do we waste money on a criminal justice system if all that’s necessary to get out of criminal charges is an apology? The Toronto Star reports that the Toronto Woman Gets Apology from former Harper Aid
So all is well, right? Except it is not.
The Pirate Party of Canada is planning a “Rally To Support Wikileaks” Saturday, January 15, 2011 · 2:00pm – 5:00pm Location University of Calgary, outside the social sciences building. Calgary, AB “Join with the Pirate Party of Canada and Pirate Parties around the world in peaceful assembly to support WikiLeaks, open government, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech. Take a stand against calls to assassinate journalists and whistleblowers.” For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org https://www.pirateparty.ca/
implications of not charging Tom Flanagan
The law is written clearly and specifically to provide for prosecution whether or not the counseled indictable offence is ever carried out. Counseling assassination breaks the law as much as actually carrying out an assassination.
The media is downplaying Flanagan’s crime as a joke.
And perhaps his friends in our government don’t want him inconvenienced.
Was this “joke” was made with the blessing of our government. Was this a way to publicly threaten WikiLeaks with political deniability?
No one should be above the law.
Since politicians are the usual targets of assassination, I would have thought our governments would be very careful about allowing such cavalier advocacy.
Tom Flanagan has broken the law. That’s clear enough. Tom Flanagan should NOT be able to break the law on National Television with impunity.
Tom Flanagan must be charged. If he’s not, it makes a mockery of Canada’s criminal justice system.
A court of law must decide.
“Something has to be done to let the people who have received his message know that assassination is murder, and a crime in every country of the world,”
* All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Ordinary people may be able to make such comments as calling on Presidents to assassinate people as a “joke,” but people with strong ties to a sitting government should not be making such statements on news magazine programs that are being broadcast across Canadian’s national television broadcaster, CBC.
No doubt Mr. Flanagan was on the program in question because of his strong ties to the Canadian government.
For a political scientist employed at a Canadian University professor teaching young Canadians it was an unconscionable thing to say.
This reflects badly on all Canadians. I do not want my government either condoning (if serious) or trivializing (if not) something as heinous as assassination. If nothing is done about it, the implication left with the world is that this is how Canada is run. Not my Canada.
But it’s an unusual case, so no one really seems to know how to proceed with it. And it was couched as a “joke”, so some people don’t take it seriously.
Yet the man whose assassination Tom Flanagan has called for is under attack from all sides right now. Other threats to his life and liberty and his family have been leveled at him. I doubt he finds it a laughing matter. I am horrified at the thought that my country would condone such a thing.
Yet nothing is being done about it. No one seems to want to do anything about it.
464 Except where otherwise expressly provided by law, the following provisions apply in respect of persons who counsel other persons to commit offences, namely,
(a) every one who counsels another person to commit an indictable offence is, if the offence is not committed, guilty of an indictable offence and liable to the same punishment to which a person who attempts to commit that offence is liable; and
(b) every one who counsels another person to commit an offence punishable on summary conviction is, if the offence is not committed, guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
Gail Davidson has since learned that the Calgary Police Department (Tom Flanagan’s current location) has opened a file. From the RCMP, to the Vancouver Police Department to The Calgary Police Department, no one seems to want to do something. Is it because they don’t know how to proceed? Or is it that there is no law to cover it?
equal before the law
Yet the authorities managed to arrest and charge Canadian businessman Byron Sonne on the basis of Twitter remarks protesting the G20.
Byron Sonne is currently being held without bail, and may remain so incarcerated,
deprived of his liberty maybe for years pending trial.
Without having been convicted of anything.
The question then becomes: is it that there is no will to proceed because Mr. Flanagan has strong ties to our government? Charges are not even brought against one man, while another man without such ties is deprived of his liberty.
Maybe a court would find one or both guilty. Maybe not. I don’t know. The point is this issue is serious enough that a court must try.
How does it look to the world?
Canadians engaging in peaceful protest are arrested and brutalized during the G20. Citizens expressing dissent like Byron Sonne are punitively incarcerated.
While a University Professor calling for the assassination of Julian Assange – on National television – in an infamous clip seen around the world, is given a free pass.
Canada looks very very bad indeed.
Making it even worse:
According to this CTV article a Toronto woman received threatening email from Mr. Flanagan, but the police in Calgary will not do anything about it unless she makes a complaint in person:
On 26 November, Assange sent a letter to the U.S. Department of State, via his lawyer Jennifer Robinson, inviting them to “privately nominate any specific instances (record numbers or names) where it considers the publication of information would put individual persons at significant risk of harm that has not already been addressed”.Harold Koh, the Legal Adviser of the Department of State, rejected the proposal, stating: “We will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained U.S. Government classified materials”. Assange responded in turn by writing back to the State Department that “you have chosen to respond in a manner which leads me to conclude that the supposed risks are entirely fanciful and you are instead concerned to suppress evidence of human rights abuse and other criminal behaviour”.
I’m pleased to report that Tom Flanagan has been charged for calling for the assassination of Julian Assange on CBC. Apologies. All manner of threats have been leveled at Julian Assange, including a threat to kidnap his son.
#freejulian – WikiLeaks
I am not happy to report that Julian Assange has today been arrested and is being held without bail in London. Julian Assange will be remanded in custody till 14 December, charged on behalf of the Swedish authorities with of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape. He denies the charges.
The charges against Julian Assange were originally brought in August of this year and then withdrawn.
Considering the vast array of government and corporate attacks being leveled at both Assange and WikiLeaks since the beginning of the release of the Cablegate cables, it is difficult to view these charges with anything beyond skepticism. I am working on an article examining that issue for my personal blog.
Byron’s not as famous as Julian Assange, but he’s just as much a political prisoner. I don’t believe Byron’s name even came up yesterday when Canada had the last day of our mini G8/G20 inquiry, probably because Byron was arrested and charged before the G20 summit even began.
Byron hasn’t been convicted of anything, and it is unlikely that he will be after he has his day in court. The problem is, that he has been denied bail, and it may be years before his case comes to trial. That is an awfully long time for a citizen to be stripped of his liberty in answer to an unproven accusation. The traditional reasons for denying bail are danger and risk of flight, neither of which applied in this middle aged businessman’s case.
Byron Sonne’s bail was denied as a punitive measure.
This an unacceptable abuse of power in a democracy. Stifling dissent is a giant step toward the loss of democracy.
Neither of these men have had their day in court, but both have been deprived of their liberty. It’s hard to say whose situation is worse.
Julian Assange is under concerted attack from governments and corporations. If he lives through the incarceration, he’ll come out the other side at least a hero.
What about Byron Sonne? In many ways Byron is all but forgotten by everyone but his family and community. I only learned of his situation by accident. After two years of punitive incarceration, even assuming full exoneration, I guess there will be little or no chance that his life will still be intact.
I believe that both of these men were working for the good of society. To make the world a better place than it was.
Both cases represent a serious miscarriage of justice.
“We live in a democratic state, we do not live in a police state. We live in a country that’s supposed to be governed by the rule of law, not the rule of force,” Davies said. “(A public inquiry) is about getting at the truth, holding people accountable and defending our constitutional rights. They are worth fighting for.”
Yesterday marked the last day of the woefully underfunded committee looking into the G20. The conclusion drawn by the committee investigating G20 security malfeasance is that a Public Inquiry is necessary.