The Third of May

Laurel holds a "Free to Blog" sign with the hashtags #WPFD and #PressFreedomUnesco‘s “World Press Freedom Day 2013” is promoting the idea that people need to be able to use social media for freedom of expression, whether it’s on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Vkontakte, Tencent,, or blogs.  Many people don’t know that they should be free and safe to blog, to upload pictures, to watch online video., or that the freedom to receive & impart information & ideas through any media is promised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As the western free press buckles under the control and demands of powerful special interests, the Internet has made citizen journalism possible just when we need it most. Unfortunately, sometimes people engaging in social media are targeted by repressive regimes.

In Canada, Byron Sonne’s Charter rights were violated by police, and charges were laid against him for posting photographs on Flickr and tweeting concerns about the billion dollar “security theatre” being staged in Toronto for the Toronto G20.  He was punitively denied bail for almost a year, and when finally granted bail it was under onerous conditions, so he was effectively a political prisoner for nearly two years.

In Syria, Internet activist Bassel Khartabil has been unjustly detained for over a year, without trial or any legal charges being brought against him.

Since March 15, 2012, our colleague and friend Bassel Khartabil has been in prison in Syria, held without charges and not allowed legal representation. Bassel is an open-source coder and leader of the Syrian Creative Commons program. He believes in the open Internet, and has spent the last ten years using open technologies to improve the lives of Syrians. Not only did Bassel build the CC program in his country; he worked tirelessly to build knowledge of digital literacy, educating people about online media and open-source tools.”

Catherine Casserly

Bassel needs to be #FreeToBlog again... Syrian Free Culture advocate has been held for more than a year without charges.
Syrian Free Culture advocate Bassel needs to be free to blog, not imprisoned without charges.

Around the world, we’re seeing increased restrictions on free speech as the breadth of copyright laws have been expanded to allow censorship, and we face an unending barrage of laws like SOPA and CISPA that allow government and corporate incusrions into our personal privacy, and trade agreements like ACTA and CETA.

Unesco is promoting the free exchange of ideas & knowledge that is possible with social media, and wants everyone to have a voice and be able to speak freely and in safety, no matter where they are in the world.

There is a growing awareness that ensuring freedom of expression must also necessarily extend to safety online. World Press Freedom Day 2013 focuses on the theme “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media” and puts the spotlight, in particular, on the issues of safety of journalists, combating impunity for crimes against freedom of expression, and securing a free and open Internet as the precondition for online safety.”

Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media

Which dovetails nicely with the fact today is also the International Day Against DRM.  If DRM becomes a built in part of the HTML5, any hope of a free and open Internet will be lost.

Banner that can be used on facebook

DRM restricts the public’s freedom, even beyond what overzealous copyright law requires, to the perceived benefit of this privileged, powerful few.”

Letter to the W3C

DRM is “Digital Rights Management” or “Digital Restrictions Management” ~ either way it is “Technological Protection Measures” employed in the proprietary software and hardware we purchase.  DRM controls how we can use our digital media and devices.

This year the W3C is in the process of hammering out the new standard for HTML5, the language that the Internet is written in.  Some of the biggest, most powerful Internet corporations are trying to pressure the W3C to write DRM into the specifications. Adding DRM to HTML would cause a host of problems for freedom and interoperability on the Web, and we need to build the grassroots movement against it. Nobody except these big corporations want this change to the core of the Web, but most of the Web users that it would affect don’t know about the issue yet.”

Defective By Design: We Oppose DRM

Any DVD player would be able to play any DVD in the world but for region encoding, one example of DRM.  If you move to a different region, don’t plan on bringing along your DVD collection, because it won’t play there.  DRM is often employed to “protect” digital copies that are under copyright.

Corporations like DRM because it can be used to tie us in to their proprietary products — we need to buy this type of game machine to continue to use the games we’ve already purchased — or buy ink cartridges even though the ones in the printer aren’t actually empty but because the DRM says the ink is past it’s best-before date — or purchase the same music over and over again as digital media wears out or the device is declared obsolete.

A specification designed to help companies run secret code on users’ computers to restrict what they do on the Web would severely undermine that trust. ”

Letter to the W3C

Nothing is stopping these big companies from deploying DRM on their websites now, with the exception of consumer choice.  But if DRM is written into the HTML5 Specifications, DRM will become the default, and consumers will lose the few choices we have now.  It will become harder to free our devices and ourselves from the shackles of DRM.  And I rather expect it will have the unfortunate side effect of breaking the Internet.

No DRM for the Internet

You’re welcome to use my Day Against DRM Facebook Cover, my Day Against DRM Twitter Banner or the square “Don’t DRM the Internet” avatar.

Image Credits
Bassel Khartabil by Kristina Alexanderson released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) License

Map of the Internet – photo by the Opte Project released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 1.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 1.0) License

Both social media banners, Day Against DRM Facebook cover and Day Against DRM Twitter Banner incorporate the Opte Project Internet Map, tand so are released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) License


Joe Di Luca: “Maybe, just maybe, he’s telling the truth.”

When I attended a few days of Byron Sonne’s preliminary hearing last year I met his parents and a few of his friends. But not Byron, since he had been denied bail and was in still in custody. I only saw him ushered in and out of the court room in handcuffs. And it was clearly breaking his mother’s heart that she wasn’t allowed to talk to him even though he was only a few feet away.

Although we corresponded, I never actually met Byron until I attended the first day of the closing arguments at his trial on Thursday.  Byron warned me that the Crown’s closing argument would try to make him look bad, yet it seemed to me Crown Attorney Nadeau spent a great deal of time proving the hollowness of her case.

“To begin, if you’re taking anyone’s life, and reducing it to a number of exhibits, there’s not going to be a unifying theme.”

— Joe Di Luca

The Crown has the masses of documents on computers seized in Byron’s home, including computer “bookmarks”, the names of files posted to torrent sites, and Byron’s words and images posted on the internet, in email, electronic mailing lists, IRC chats and even more publicly in forums like Twitter and Flickr.

And the Crown had the testimony of Dr. Anderson, an expert witness who knows how to transform common household chemicals into explosives.  Nor is there any argument Byron Sonne had a home laboratory which included chemicals that could be used to make explosives.

One chemical cited with trepidation was potassium permanganate.  Like the Crown Attorney, I didn’t have a chemistry set growing up, so my own experience with chemistry is limited to baking. But my husband’s parents bought him a chemistry set when he was ten years old, and one of the standard chemicals it came with was potassium permanganate.

Another thing that concerned the Crown was that Byron removed chemicals he purchased from their packaging and stored them in his home laboratory without marking them with warning labels.

a 3 dimenional frieze in a concrete block in the wall of 361 University court

I have no trouble understanding taking materials out of original packaging because I do the same thing. When I buy beads to hand craft Christmas ornaments, the first thing I do when I get them home is take them out of the packaging and store them with my other craft supplies.

The second concern strikes me as being a little ridiculous. Byron’s laboratory was in his home, not some place frequented by random members of the public requiring supervision or warning. The only other person resident in the home was Byron’s wife, who would have been well aware that the lab contained dangerous chemicals.

Dr. Anderson can only testify that it was possible the chemicals could be made into explosives. But in and of themselves, none of the chemicals Byron had, in the quantities he had, were illegal. If the only possible use for any of them was bomb creation, wouldn’t they have been banned?

Dr. Anderson is an expert, of course, because as the head of Military Engineering for Defence Research and Development Canada, he spends his days figuring out which ordinary household products can be turned into dangerous bombs. Expert or no, I can’t imagine that this wouldn’t also lead to bias on the good doctor’s part. Clearly, Byron isn’t the only one interested in chemistry.

“We have to start with the presumption of innocence. There is a human tendency to look at narrative and make the facts fit. We must guard against that.”

— Joe Di Luca

Finally the Crown rested, and Joe Di Luca began to speak in Byron’s defence, beginning with the presumption of innocence, an integral element of our criminal justice system. He talked about how easy it is to overlook this presumption in any prosecution. (As has clearly happened here.)

Christopher Olah’s notes are far superior to mine, so I very much recommend his notes for a good unofficial summation of Mr. Di Luca’s excellent defence argument.


Mr Di Luca argued that Byron was telling the truth all the time. (The Crown argument relies on his truthfulness only when convenient for the Crown case.) The Crown has no trouble accepting that Byron is aware law enforcement might be listening, and that he has the skills necessary to proceed covertly. Yet he didn’t.

Byron made purchases using his own name and credit card. Openly.

Mr. Di Luca points out that as the G20 approached, Byron publicly told people that he wanted to monitor the police, and document and disseminate the results. Talking to friends, acquaintances and strangers, making security presentations, using IRC chats, email, Twitter, YouTube, Byron’s stated intent was testing the system, or “tickling the dragon.”

And as Mr. Di Luca so eloquently put it:

“And he did tickle it, and it breathed fire all over him,
and now he’s before this court.”

Chemicals in Byron’s lab could be combined into TATP, HMTD, HDN and ANFO, which is why Byron faces four counts of possessing explosive materials.

In the days leading up to the G20, Mr. Di Luca points out that Byron was not combining chemicals into explosives, but instead walking the fence line, taking photographs of G20 security cameras and drawing the police attention that resulted in his arrest.

But for me, the Perry Mason moment was when Mr. Di Luca asked,

“Why would Mr. Sonne engage in making four different kinds of explosives?”

— Joe Di Luca

If Byron ever had any intention of bombing the G20, why would he need four different types of explosive material? Each would require its own elaborate and dangerous process. To actually build a bomb, any one would be more than sufficient. You might be able to make a case for two, so a second type could provide an alternate. But four? That makes no sense at all.

Unless, of course, the reason for assembling the chemicals was to search out the flaws in the system.

“Maybe, just maybe, he’s telling the truth.”

— Joe Di Luca

As the fictional Doctor House would say, “That explains everything.”

relaxing to jazz at The Rex after court

a writer’s take

I find it interesting that the Crown assumes Byron’s interest in rocketry is merely a “cover’ or a “ruse” because it appears inconsistent with other facts they have about him. As a novelist, one who has both studied and struggled with understanding human behaviour, I have to tell you that this kind of inconsistency is precisely the kind of thing that any fictional character must have in order to be believable.

Because real people are inconsistent. We all harbour ambivalence and hold mutually contradictory opinions. And our opinions can be different on different days of the week, or in alternate seasons. And the opinions we have can change based on new information, or if we are jolted by an external stimulus.

Nothing in Byron’s past — from his political dabbling, his family background, his marriage, his work, his interests, his community or his life — suggest the slightest motivation for terrorist bombing. If Byron was a fictional character, it simply would not be believable that he would step out of his comfortable life to bomb the G20 or anything else.

It is equally unbelievable in the real world.

Even if something catastrophic happened to rock his world, I still wouldn’t give these charges credence. Because of his parents. And perhaps even more, because of the support he continues to receive from his community.

The people who know him best believe in him. And that’s a fact.

Further Reading Byron Sonne Trial Notes

With final submissions, end may be in sight for Byron Sonne trial

Globe and Mail: Sonne’s open intentions debunks charge that he planned G20 bombing

CTV The Canadian Press: Sonne didn’t want to blow up G20 summit: lawyer

The trial will resume Monday, April 2nd, at 10:00 a.m. in Courtroom 2-2 at 361 University Avenue, Toronto.

crown closing argument ~ Byron Sonne

[This week’s Inconstant Moon special feature won’t appear before the weekend, since I’ve trekked to Toronto to see the Closing arguments at G20 Activist Byron Sonne’s trial. I’m not a lawyer, but I am certainly interested. The Crown prosecution put in a mind numbing day yesterday, listing every bit of circumstantial evidence they’ve amassed.]

Malcolm Gladwell should have been in Courtroom 2-2 at 361 University Avenue yesterday to see the consternation and confusion caused by Twitter in the halls of justice. It is clear that the Canadian legal system is trying to come to grips with the social media tools used by activists everywhere these days. Maybe Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody” should be required reading for lawyers and law enforcement.

Byron’s behaviour is incomprehensible to Crown Attorney Elizabeth Nadeau. She throws around words like “obsessive”, alleging that Byron was obsessive about guns, yet in a thorough search the only guns found were potato guns. I have never heard of any crime being committed with one of these things. They are perfectly legal and obviously there is a market for them if you can order them online.

Sure they are projectile weapons, but are also large and unwieldly… kind of like the trebuchets I’ve seen small children demonstrate at local medieval festivals. People build trebuchets in 21st century Canada, even though there are no castles to storm here in Southern Ontario. People do this because it is fun to find out how things work… and there is no better way to find that out than by doing.

People build trebuchets for fun

The bulk of the “evidence” seems to be that Byron had a chemicals in his house. He was very careful to have only legally allowed quantities of chemicals. So he had the ingredients for explosives but no explosives. Byron was very careful to know what was allowed and to stay within the law. Yet the crown argues that his awareness of the law, and the care he took to know what was and was not allowed is somehow nefarious. In his career as a security consultant, Byron would necessarily be aware of existing laws and make sure to stay within them in order to maintain required license certifications.

She also doesn’t see any possible use for the chemicals beyond building explosives. She talked about Byron’s computer as a “biography” but doesn’t see that the evidence shows a clear interest in chemistry which greatly predates Byron’s concern with the G20. This is not unusual either. People have been interested in chemistry – and explosions for centuries. We celebrate Canada Day by shooting off fireworks. And in fact, many ordinary people buy fireworks and shoot them off in their back yards year round because they think it’s fun. Hollywood movies blow things up regularly, because it is fun.

Like many, Byron had a chemistry set as a kid. For Byron this seems to have kindled a life long interest in chemistry. The crown finds it is suspect that Byron’s chemicals were neatly organized and labeled. Frankly, I find that to be a reassuring demonstration of the care that Byron took to be safe.

a 3 dimenional frieze in a concrete block in the wall of 361 University court

The crown contended Byron’s interest in rocketry was a cover for his G20 activities, on the assumption he was putting rocket fuel before the rocket. Yet there was no real world space program before there was rocket fuel. There is no point in building a rocket until you know you can launch it. The Crown points out that he had no rocket parts at all. Yet I’ve learned through this trial that before building a rocket, you need to have certifications and licenses, particularly for the kind of rocket that Byron was interested in building. Byron Sonne made a point of not exceeding the scope of what he was legally allowed to do.

Judge Spies suggestion of a field trip to Toronto Hacklab would have been brilliant, as it might provide the Crown some insight into the kind of people who dabble in technology, the people who make things, and spend time trying to figure out how things work, for no reason beyond satisfying curiosity… because it’s fun. As would watching a couple of episodes of “Big Bang Theory,” a comedy series with good portrayals of a group innovative thinkers.

If this is what happens to intelligent inquisitive individuals, perhaps we should stop giving our children chemistry sets. Perhaps parents need to discourage innovative thinking. Look what can happenving existing technology.

The problem here is that the Crown started with the premise that Byron is a terrorist and has been working backward to try to make mountains of information fit the theory. Although that’s a reasonable process for me to follow as a fiction writer, it isn’t exactly the scientific method, and doesn’t seem the right way for the justice system to proceed.

Especially with Byron’s liberty hanging in the balance.

Byron Sonne: Still Not Free

I should be blogging about Bill C-11, the latest incarnation of a Canadian DMCA that our majority government will most likely pass to appease our American neighbours, in spite of near universal Canadian opposition.  But tomorrow will see the resumption of Byron Sonne‘s trial.

Entrance sign
Denial of bail resulted in Byron Sonne's incarceration, as a remand inmate at Maplehurst for nearly a year.

I am buoyed by knowing that anything I’ve done was in the cause of freedom and justice. Never did I plan or have any intent to hurt people or damage property, nor coax or counsel others to perform likewise. In a very real way I am a political prisoner, which is an amusing thought. Too many people are content to just go to work, come home and eat, watch TV and then go to sleep. Someone has to make a stand — I chose to and so I am paying the price. But I will never be made to feel guilt or regret.”

— Byron Sonne, letter (in pencil) from Maplehurst, 11-Jan-2011

Although I’ve never met Byron, I’ve corresponded with him a little and attended some of his preliminary hearing.  Although I’m only a citizen and not a lawyer, I believe Byron has been ill served by our legal system.

It isn’t overstating the situation to suggest that is unheard of for a thirty something with his own home, business and family — and no criminal record — to be held without bail for nearly a year. We all know that accused rapists and murderers are routinely freed on bail, yet this young man was not.

Even if Byron had posed an actual threat (something which I do not believe), any such threat would have been finished the moment the G20 was over. This is why I think the deprivation of Byron’s liberty was purely punitive.

Still, I don’t know all the details, as well, it is hard to know what I can and can’t say as some of Byron’s story remains under a publication ban.

Although the onerous terms of Byron’s bail prevents him from using computers in any by narrowly prescribed ways, he is not allowed to post anything online. Even so, anyone can freely visit both his Flickr page and Twitter feed, which remain frozen exactly as they were when he was arrested on June 22nd, 2010.

Byron goes back to court tomorrow. Proceedings begin Monday, March 19th in the courthouse at 361 University Avenue. I expect that @digimer‘s Twitter feed will continue to provide information on the proceedings. For more information visit the FreeByron wiki page that Byron’s friends and community have set up in support.

I’d like to see as many people as possible stay aware of what’s going on on our country and to become more active in making Canada a better, freer place. This isn’t just about my case and what’s happened to me, this is about all the crap going on out there. The internet surveillance bills the government wants to pass now and in the future …

“Near as I can tell we have only one life to live and tomorrow is too late to start doing it.”

— Byron Sonne, letter, 7 March, 2012

I think that it is past time to free Byron.



Star made of modelling clay, coloured with crayonI’ve been having a terrible time getting my debut novel to market.  I’m way behind the schedule I set for myself.  It’s a good book, and I’m very proud of it.   So what’s the problem?

Well, there is a lot to self publishing.  Just learning the technical stuff – crafting an ebook format that makes me happy is a bit more difficult than I expected.   Especially when there are other calls on my attention.  I think that I blogged more in November (NaNoWriMo) than any other time during the year because so many important political issues are coming to a head right now.

Then there are real life issues… like getting prepared for the festive season that is almost upon us.  I haven’t even got my annual Christmas card ready, which results in a twinge every time I open a card I’ve received.   I’m a dinosaur, I like mailing cards.  It’s a nice way to stay in touch with family.   The worst of it has been the politics.  I’m not a politician, I’m a writer.  A fiction writer.  But a lot of stuff is happening that I just have to blog about.   In the past, the world of politics has traditionally slowed down in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

But the reverse seems true this year.

American Flag

In the US: SOPA/PIPA threaten the Internet in Canada and around the world while the American Bill of Rights is taking an even greater hit with the passage of the NDAA yesterday.

canadian flag

In Canada: Our government seems in a rush to follow the American footsteps in becoming a police state with the prosecution of Byron Sonne and Julian Ichim

Canada is also fast tracking legislation that will assault Canadian civil rights with the Omnibus Crime Bill

A surge of public opinion regarding incursions against the Canadian right to privacy resulted in the removal of Lawful Access portion of Bill C-10, the Omnibus Crime Bill. However, the government is forging ahead and plans to push the pared down Omnibus Crime Bill through in spite of very real concerns raised on a variety of fronts. Serious issues raised by all stakeholders (the only exception being the corporate special interest group behind the draft legislation) have been similarly dismissed by the Government in respect of Bill C-11 “The Copyright Modernization Act”

Yet the Canadian Government has stated its firm intention to pass both of these highly controversial and unpopular laws by Christmas.

Are they doing this because they hope those of us who believe passage of these laws will be a tragedy for Canada will stop being concerned because we will be too caught up with our Christmas preparations, you know, peace on earth and goodwill toward men?

My child will be coming home from university this Christmas, so I want it to be special. That’s important.

But what is even more important is that the world he inherits should be at least as free and respectful of his Charter rights as it was when he was born.

Peace on earth is a good goal – maybe it’s time to bring our soldiers home from an unjust foreign war.

Good will toward men is another.   I raised my child to be a good citizen, to live with honour, to think for himself, to share what he has with friends, to help those less fortunate than himself, to safeguard the environment, and to respect the law.  When he was small, our family mantra was “people are not for hurting.”  Now that he is an adult, it still is.

So.  For 2009, my house will be messier than usual, my cards will be late, and my book delayed, all because I don’t want to see our government legislate away our privacy, our ability to share our culture freely if we choose, or our liberty without very good reason.   My grandparents escaped from Soviet Russia so they wouldn’t have to raise their family in the shadow of the Gulag.  I don’t want to see my child, or any other Canadians, deprived of liberty by incarceration except as a last resort.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and it’s a lot cheaper, too.

My Christmas wish for Canada is to see some real “Good will toward men” … and women … and children.

these lights stretch to the Clock Tower, photographed at Victoria Park, kitchenerFurther reading should include Stephen Bradley Scott’s important three part Lawful Access series. Although removed from the Omnibus Bill, our Government remains committed to this legislation.

Is PAYPAL a political tool ? ~ freeByron

Free Byron

The American corporation PayPal has withdrawn the “donation” button from the FreeByron wiki.

The donation button was for a Trust Account established by Byron Sonne’s parents to raise funds to help pay for their son’s legal defence.   [Feel free to tell PayPal what you think about that].

graphic PayPal logo

Byron Sonne says PayPal “felt that it was just too much risk for them.”

Canadian citizens are supposed to have the right to defend themselves when legal charges are brought against us.   That’s a pretty standard democratic civil right.

Why would PayPal turn away business like this? After all, it doesn’t do this for free, this is how PayPal makes it’s money. The only thing that makes any sense would be that the American Company has felt Canadian Government pressure.

If that is what happened, it implies government awareness that the case against Byron Sonne has little or no merit. I’m no lawyer, but it seems to me if the government had a good case it wouldn’t stoop so low.

I fear Byron’s case isn’t about what he’s accused of doing so much as it is about the fundamental Canadian freedoms that are supposed to be guaranteed us under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

PayPal Alternatives

You can mail donations in the form of cheques, money orders, wire transfers etc. to:

Byron Sonne
37 Mara Crescent
Brampton, Ontario
L6V 4C2

Donations should be made payable to:

Valerie Sonne, In Trust

You can also 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

Just as Important

We need the world to be watching this one. Byron says it best:

I could really use your help in keeping a spotlight on this case. Talk about it. Blog about it. Write letters to papers and magazines about it….

This isn’t just about me, not by a long shot. This is about freedom, this is about justice…. in other words, this is all about you. What happens in that courtroom starting next week will affect you, your children, and your children’s children. Don’t just sit back and let it happen. Get involved and make a real difference. We can do it.”

— Byron Sonne, letter dated 31 October, 2011

The Future of Freedom

The mechanics of our fundamental freedoms will be interpreted and applied in the course of Byron Sonne’s case.

This won’t just affect lawyers and Constitutional scholars. Both the process and the outcome will impact on all Canadians, because the future of our freedom will be forged in that courtroom next week.

Good luck, Byron.

Canadian Flag, Old City Hall, Toronto

“Free Byron” banner courtesy of Friends of
PayPal logo (used under the “Fair Dealing” Copyright exemption)
Old City Hall (cc by laurelrusswurm)

Silencing Online Activism: From “Officer Bubbles” to “Free Byron”

maple leaf leaning right

[This is an expanded version of the comment I posted to the CBC’s online article Toronto’s ‘Officer Bubbles’ sues YouTube. Of course, it’s subject to moderation and I have had many comments well within stated CBC guidelines declined. So I decided to post this here as it’s too important an issue to let slip through the cracks.]

The calls for an Inquiry into the G8/G20 debacle aren’t going away, they are getting louder.

What level of ridicule is reasonable?

A great many Canadian citizens (not to mention a great many international Internet users) witnessed Officer Bubbles attempting to intimidate a protester. And although the protester complied— she put down her dangerous bottle of soap bubbles— within moments she was arrested anyway.
[View this video in OGG format:]

L - R Bubble blowing female protester stands in front of Female officer,  Male camera wielding protester stands directly in front of Officer Adam Josephs
Clearly Officer Bubbles knew he was on camera

There were cameras everywhere.

Officer Bubbles certainly knew he was being recorded when he took his stand. The protester
with a camera stood directly in front of him—
close enough to reach out and touch.

And Officer Bubbles had his 15 minutes of fame.

But now Officer Bubbles wants to protect himself from harassment?

reports: ‘Pay me $1.2M’ Officer Bubbles tells YouTube

A National Post article lauds this lawsuit, believing Officer Bubbles’ attempt to intimidate by lawsuits is a blow for… accountability?

Will the courts allow citizens to be stripped of the right to comment anonymously? If you make an anonymous comment expressing your disagreement with a situation like this, can you be sued? Is an opinion slander? Or since it’s published online libel?

Anonymity can be a powerful tool for good. Whistleblowers can leak information that their consciences dictate ought to be public which often serves the public good.

Must we guard our opinions, and take care not to voice them for fear of litigation?

Using lawsuits to squash the cartoons that ensued is a terrible precedent for the future of free speech and free expression in Canada.   It’s interesting to note that Officer Bubbles is not attempting to take down the video. After all, it really happened.

The fact is he spoke and acted, knowing he was being filmed.   Performing his professional duties as an officer of the law, on a public street, as a matter of public record. Officer Bubbles is a public servant interacting with a member of the public.   In this context, Officer Bubbles should be no more immune from depiction in political cartoons than the Mayor or the Prime Minister?

June 2010 poster: Toronto Resist G8/20
Many citizens protested the G8/G20

I must have dozed off at the part where they made political cartoons illegal in Canada. Is that in Bill C-32?

silencing dissent before it happens

Meanwhile, there is another protester that there is no video for.

This protester was arrested before he even had a chance to protest the G8/G20 — before it even began — apparently on the basis of Twitter remarks which led to a search warrant. The result is that Byron Sonne was arrested, and languishes in jail some four months later, denied bail by a Justice of the Peace.

Malcolm Gladwell may not believe in online activism, but Canadian police services take it seriously.

A Justice of the Peace isn’t a lawyer, or a judge.   This is a political appointment. I have to wonder if a Justice of the Peace, an appointed position not requiring formal legal education, is the right person to be making decisions about who is or is not entitled to bail?   It’s bad enough that in criminal offenses, the decision as to whether a defendant can walk free between accusation and trial may fall victim to a JP’s personal bias.
But to have political appointees ruling on the liberty of those accused of political offenses during peaceful protests is simply ludicrous.   A Justice of the Peace appointed by the government of the day can hardly be expected to be impartial, especially in cases of political dissent.

Many laws have built in latitude enabling them to cover a range of infractions. There is certainly latitude in every one of the charges brought against Byron Sonne, allowing the exercise of a great deal of discretion.
This certainly becomes an issue in a world where a soap bubble is adjudged a weapon by the forces of Canadian law enforcement.

There can be no democracy without dissent.

Peaceful protest is legal in Canada … isn’t it?
Or has dissent become a criminal offense?

Free Byron