Will Toronto Outlaw Dissent On Public Property?

Your civil rights are in danger.

Have you ever wanted to protest anything?  The first protest I went to at Queen’s Park was to protest Ontario eliminating provincial OSAP grants for post secondary education.  Later, I was a young mom when I took my toddler to the next protest when Mike Harris was cutting social services and dismantling public education.  

People are allowed to protest in a democracy.  I know people who protested G7 and G20 and I know people who have never protested in their lives.  All sorts of people who never thought they would ever protest anything came out to protest Bill C-51.   The Harper Government (and the Justin Trudeau Government that followed) chose to ignore the protests.  They can do that.

What they can’t do is stop people from protesting.  The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right of every Canadian to dissent.  

Maybe you’ve never protested, and maybe you never will.  But today you have the right to protest.  No government approval required.  

This is especially important in our unrepresentative representative democracy because its the only way to even get winner-take-all government to pat attention.  But the City of Toronto is considering removing that right…preventing you or anyone from protesting on city or provincial property without permission.     

If the City of Toronto goes ahead with this, if they stop peaceful protests from taking place on city or provincial property, it won’t just affect Torontonians.  This could prevent Citizens from anywhere in Ontario from expressing their dissent at Queens Park without breaking the law.

This is a motion, not a law, but even so, with this in place, serious breaches of civil rights will undoubtedly follow.  [As they happened at Toronto’s infamous G20.]  

If it goes unchallenged, other municipalities will likely follow suit.  Which is why I’m sharing this call to action.

The organizers of this protest are concerned because Toronto City Council is considering a motion to shut down civil protests on Toronto or Provincial Property.

No information, no process, no visibility – just privileged access to power.

Tell Mayor Tory and all councillors this ill-conceived and ill-considered motion will not pass in our city.

URGENT – Meeting this Tuesday (Nov 28 at 9:30 am)

Toronto City Council is considering an item that came to Council on Sep-19 from Councillor James Pasternak (Ward 10 – York Centre) who is seeking a motion to shut down or prohibit access to public demonstrationson city and provincial property for so-called “hate-infested” rallies and he particularly mentions “Al Quds Day” as an example.
According to Pasternak, the Al Quds Day rally is “hate-infested” and “anti-Semitic”. Moreover, Councilor Pasternak places the Al Quds Day rally in the same category as white supremacist and neo-Nazi rallies. He also writes that “for the past several years there has been an Al Quds Day rally held in Toronto outside Queen’s Park featuring speakers making anti-Semitic and anti-Christian remarks, spreading hatred, inciting violence and supporting of terrorist organizations such as Hamas. Al Quds Day was originally created to call for the destruction of the state of Israel.”  (see link below for full text.)

Not only are the claims unsubstantiated, they are untrue, misleading and grossly defamatory.  If Councilor Pasternak has a problem with Al Quds Day, he should pursue it directly and not try to implicate other groups, movements and protests in sweeping action which will harm our freedom of expression and protest.
It is obvious that the larger goal of this motion is to engulf and shutdown ALL protests or actions supporting Palestine solidarity. This is typical “thin edge of of the wedge” attack which can be eventually applied to ever-broader definitions and eventually include any protest against mainstream / corporate / institutional policies and programs. This motion is a blatant assault to responsible civil society – its role and conduct

And moreover it is being done behind the backs of citizens with no notice, no attempt to contact or inform the accused or affected groups or organizations.  Another abuse of fair process and reliance on privileged access to power

Now is the time to cut down this duplicitous and vile initiative before it goes any further in the council decision process.  The matter is being considered at Executive Committee on Tuesday Nov-28 (9:30 am) and will be brought to City Council the following Tuesday (Dec-05 at 9:30am)

We need to let the Committee and also Council that this is NOT OK and we categoricallyreject any attempt to silence the public’s natural right to protest against power, injustice and inequality

You can read the documents related to this item from the city website.  The last item is from the City Deputy Manager and the Toronto Police Service, are very encouraging to public protest.  We need to ensure that city politicians do not meddle with what is a relatively open policy.
Link to the item on Executive Committee agenda for Nov28


Original letter from Councillor Pasternak (Sep-19) – Hate-Sponsored Rallies such as Al Quds Day


Letter from Deputy City Manager (Nov2), and Letter from Toronto Police Service (Oct17)


This is the list of Executive Committee Members:

    • Paul Ainslie,
    • Ana Bailão,
    • Jon Burnside,
    • Gary Crawford,
    • Frank Di Giorgio,
    • Mary-Margaret McMahon,
    • Denzil Minnan-Wong
    • Cesar Palacio,
    • James Pasternak,
    • Jaye Robinson,
    • David Shiner,
    • Michael Thompson,
    • John Tory (Chair)

Attached is an excel sheet with contact emails (Executive Committee are indicated by “x” in a column). Alternate source of contact information for the Mayor and Councillors can be found at the following link.  https://web.toronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/9612-council_offices.pdf


This battle is only beginning and you can expect more calls to action between now and City Council Meeting on December 5th, 2017.

There is no online site or facebook page as yet.  We are in midst of organizing… this is only an opening action.  Please write NOW; you are welcome to some of the words or thoughts above in this email or use your own.

If the only dissent allowed is government approved protest, it won't be protest. It'll be propaganda



Stop Bill C-51

Sauron Says Stop Bill C-51
Yesterday I reblogged 33 other bloggers posts here, even though they are probably not free culture.  Although I try to keep Canadian politics in the  Whoa! Canada blog, limiting political articles on this blog to issues around copyright and free culture, Bill C-51 has crossed the line.  This law the Harper Government is planning to pass, (maybe today, probably this week) in the face of strong opposition from a clear majority of Canadians, will certainly have a devastating effect on Canadian Culture.  The removal of free speech protections will cause a massive chilling effect ~ self censorship ~ on all Canadian culture.

Some brave souls will continue to publish their art, just as the stubborn ones did in the early days of the Third Reich.  I realize many of you will think this hyperbole, but the parallels between then and now are striking.  I can tell you that I am not a brave soul, that’s why I am doing everything I can to stop this now.  I don’t want to see Canadian civil rights undermined to the point of meaninglessness, not just for myself, but for my family, and all the generations that will come after.

But if my little voice, in concert with all the other Canadian voices goes unheeded, although it will surely break my heart, I will continue to do as I always have; I will continue to follow the law.

But it isn’t law yet, so today I will share and reshare as much as I can manage.   Because I care.  Because it matters.




Being busy with my self publishing adventure, I’d not been paying much attention to the Internet, so I was surprised when I read Jay Rosen’s tweet about allegations against one of my favorite journalists.

Over the last few years I’ve developed a great deal of respect for Glenn Greenwald’s reporting. While I can imagine detractors calling Greenwald many things, “puppet” just seems… ludicrous. If I had an important controversial news story to break — like the Robert Redford character in the movie “Three Days of the Condor” — Greenwald is the reporter I would seek out. Clearly Edward Snowden agrees, because Greenwald is the man he took his story to.

Even without knowing what allegations were being flung, I added my support of Glenn Greenwald to Jay’s tweet:

— Laurel L. Russwurm (@laurelrusswurm) July 11, 2013

My tweet drew a challenge from a total stranger … someone I do not follow, and who does not follow me.

This stranger, who posts on twitter under the pseudonym A.T., suggested Glenn Greenwald needs to “answer the charges of sock-puppetry that [A.T.] happen[s] to find more than just plausible.”

What an allegation! In web parlance, a “sock puppet” is a fake persona some people use to bolster their own spurious arguments. Accusing Greenwald of being a sock puppet is a bit much, because Greenwald is a real live human being, an internationally well known journalist with a longstanding career and reputation.

an emply sock puppet

The irony in this allegation is that the person spreading this attack on Greenwald is him/herself pseudonymous, and so could easily be a sock puppet. When total strangers insert themselves in your conversation, they may well be trolling, which is to say, spreading misinformation or otherwise seeking to antagonize.

Yet the only way to guarantee free speech is to support citizen anonymity. There are all sorts of good reasons to protect your identity when speaking out. But when speaking anonymously, you must establish credibility, or you may be taken for a sock puppet or a troll.

In order to decide how much credibility this stranger might merit, I looked at his/her twitter profile. On the face of it, it doesn’t read like a troll feed. Perhaps this person is new to the net, and doesn’t have the jargon down; they might still have something valid to impart.

So I asked,

— A.T. (@innerproduct) July 12, 2013

Forgetting for a moment that some of us don’t “google” (we search), the Internet is a very big place.

Web searching is a complicated process. Not all searches are equal. Not even close. Even if I were to use Google to enact a web search, depending on:

  • the search terms I choose,
  • my geographic location,
  • my IP address history
  • the time of day,
  • even the browser I use,

the search results will be different. Google’s justification for collecting and aggregating personal information about us all, whether or not we are signed in, is to tailor the search results to the individual making the search. Since I am more likely to use a privacy respecting search engine like DuckDuckGo, StartPage or IxQuick, the search results I receive will be different than the search results returned to someone who uses “google” as a verb.

When making any allegation or argument online, it is not only reasonable, but essential to be able to back it up with supporting links. If this person read a specific article, or a series of articles that called Glenn Greenwald’s professionalism into question, this is when they need to provide that and any other link supporting their argument.

Telling me to google it is akin to suggesting I sift the haystack for a needle. (And finding the needle would very probably be easier.)

When someone can’t be bothered to back up allegations, or abruptly backs down, it is generally reasonable to assume such allegations are at best misguided, or worse, spurious. Or even malicious.

I’m guessing these particular allegations were inspired by the Washington Post article referenced in this article The journalistic practices of the Washington Post and Walter Pincus.

While I think A.T., my Twitter correspondent here, was merely misguided, allegations like the ones made by the Washington Post against Glenn Greenwald are a symptom of a serious issue. The deeper problem is that mainstream news media has largely ceased funtioning as the ‘watchdog press.’

If a reporter gets something factually wrong, people clamor for correction; but when an unsavory report is undeniably true, ad hominem attacks are often applied — which is why this type of attack must always be taken with a grain of salt, and, if possible, challenged.

We are fortunate that the Internet has allowed for the rise of citizen journalism. When the voices of ordinary and even anonymous people are raised online, by tweeting, blogging or sharing, we can spread the news ourselves, and sometimes even shame the news industry covering an unpopular story. But when ordinary people engage in citizen journalism, it is important to do so in a credible and responsible manner.

Free speech is not the same thing as attacking someone’s real life reputation from behind a screen of anonymity. When people are personally attacked they deserve the right to face their accuser.

When a journalist exposes government malfeasance, the state often fights back, either by attacking the journalist directly, or indirectly, through its shills in a bid to deflect the unwanted scrutiny. Slinging mud at detractors in an attempt to discredit them is a shell game that erodes democracy. The Government of the United States prefers to have its citizens diverted into the consideration of the personalities of journalists or leakers in hopes that concerns about warrantless government surveillance will fade away.

Sadly, it seems today’s Washington Post is not the kind of news outlet that could bring down a corrupt presidency so long as its policy embraces government “pravda.” I wonder if any news outlet operating within the United States can stand against government pressure? Any news outlet that sells out press freedom isn’t really a news outlet at all.

I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”

Accordingly, I did what I believed right and began a campaign to correct this wrongdoing. I did not seek to enrich myself. I did not seek to sell US secrets. I did not partner with any foreign government to guarantee my safety. Instead, I took what I knew to the public, so what affects all of us can be discussed by all of us in the light of day, and I asked the world for justice.

That moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects all of us has been costly, but it was the right thing to do and I have no regrets.

The Guardian: Edward Snowden statement: ‘It was the right thing to do and I have no regrets’

glossary via Wikipedia
sock puppet

Uncomplicated: free speech, privacy and law

[In response to TechDirt: Reddit, Trolling, Doxxing, Free Speech & Anonymity: Whoo Boy, Is This Stuff Complicated I posted a comment; which I think this is important enough to repeat a slightly modified version here.]

Free speech is *only* legally protected from government censorship.

Individuals and corporations are legally allowed to censor speech in their own premises, forums, workplaces, homes, or anywhere else.

But what constitutes Free Speech?

The Crime?

The written description of what was posted online:

“…surreptitiously shot photos of others, usually women, usually focused on sexually objectifying the subjects of the shot.”

Photographing private individuals without their consent?
Then publishing the illicit photos on the internet?
I’m sorry, how is this free speech?
If you climb a tree and photograph your neighbor through their window, is that free speech too?

The article goes on to explain that the photographs were “often very young women.”
How young?
The comments mention the existence of a Reddit forum called /r/jailbait ?

And then there is the teacher posting photographs of students. When an authority figure abuses the power they have over over other people, it is an unconscionable breach of trust, possibly liable for criminal charges, certainly and most deservedly, to job loss. This is not free speech.

The Criminals

There have been emphatic arguments in the TechDirt comments about how important it is to protect the privacy of people who take such surrepetious photographs, and moderators who were aware of such content being published on the Internet without the subjects’ knowledge or permission.

You are concerned about the protection of the perpetrator’s anonymity.

Yet precious little thought has been given to the people whose anonymity has been stripped away through the publication of illicit photographs.  What about the victim’s anonymity?

The contention has been made that publishing such photographs is “free speech.”  Poppycock.


Professional photographers only publish photographs of subjects when they have signed release forms, because otherwise they can be held legally liable. Even models that have been paid to pose must sign releases; if they don’t, the photographs are published at the photographer’s peril.

Because one’s image is part of the individual’s private domain.


Although public figures may be “fair game” because they have put themselves in the public eye, private individuals are accorded legal protection of personal privacy.

The face, the likeness, the identifiability of individuals is protected. Any such invasion of the personal privacy of an individual must trump any arguments of free speech.

You can think what you want. You can say what you want. You can troll all the live long day. But taking surreptitious photographs of people and publishing them without express permission is a no-no.

If you post a photo of my daughter without her permission, or mine if she is a minor, you’ll find yourself in a world of trouble.  Because you will have invaded my daughter’s privacy.  You made this decision, you took these actions, and the logical consequence is that you answer for it.

There *should* be laws to address this creepy crap on Reddit. But maybe there aren’t. Or even if there are, the forces of law enforcement may not have a clue how to tackle a Reddit. Or maybe they *nudge*nudge*wink*wink simply don’t do a damn thing about it.

If the law does not answer, the best way to achieve social justice is to shine a light on injustice. If the law can’t or won’t deal with something this reprehensible, doxxing seems to be a perfectly acceptable, moral and ethical recourse.

And as the TechDirt article suggests, this wasn’t even doxxing, it was a case of media reporting.

logical consequences

Personal privacy is a natural right. We all need personal privacy. Our own space.

The creep perpetrators invaded that space.  They chose to commit bad acts.

People who are photographed secretly, and then had the photographs published, have chosen nothing. They have been victimized by the acts of the perpetrators.  Whether or not the law has defined this specific behaviour as assault, that is exactly what it is: an invasion of a human being’s personal space, and an assault on privacy.

GoDaddy is OK with killjulianassange.com

In my initial outrage about the death threat domain names, The other day I dented:

“Corporations aren’t human; if they were, the word would be “Sociopath” as in @GoDaddy is a sociopathic corporation”

laurelrusswurm, identi.ca

But then I decided to follow @jwildeboer‘s fine example and fired off an email to GoDaddy. It is, after all, always good to find out the truth.

GO Daddy logo
GoDaddy response

Well, seems I was right the first time.

As promised, here’s the email response from GoDaddy, verbatim:

Dear Laurel L. Russwurm,

The domain killassange.com is directing to the IP of, which is not an IP allocated to Go Daddy. According to an IP whois it is allocated to Hoosier PC SBC. Go Daddy is not hosting the content. We have neither access to, nor jurisdiction over the content on this site. The web hosting provider for this website is the company responsible for policing any content that appears on this site.

There is no content currenlty resolving on the domains killjulianassange.com and julianassangemustdie.com.

As your complaint addresses the issue of wording of the domain name itself, we are unable to take action at this time. The complaint either needs to be taken up with the domain name owner directly, or should be filed in a UDRP or court proceeding.

If you find that you are unable to contact the registrant because the contact information given in the Whois database is invalid, please write to invalidwhois@secureserver.net and let us know.


Spam and Abuse Department

GoDaddy is off the hook for killassange.com because it isn’t one of theirs.

And without content, julianassangemustdie.com could argued to be ambiguous; after all, barring immortality, we all must die sooner or later.

But there is no ambiguity about:


‘Kill Julian Assange’ is a three word grouping that is short, sharp and to the point.

Whatever anyone thinks of the man, Julian Assange is a real person.

A human being.

Prefacing the proper name of a real person with the verb “kill” is most certainly a death threat.

Or at the least, a directive.

Of course, I am not a lawyer. And as a Canadian, I’m not sure if death threats are protected by free speech or qualify as a crime south of the border.

GoDaddy thinks it isn’t an issue.

Does that mean GoDaddy would issue a killpresidentobama.com or a killsarahpalin.com domain name?

Just asking.

Placing Good Books at Risk

If you censor books for using words we would rather not hear, we’ll end up with a Pandora’s box of ‘bad’ words holding even greater power.   I believe it is far better to expose ‘bad words” to the light of day, because shining a light on the bad ideas that are invariably behind the bad words diminishes their power.

Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone stamp from the Royal MailOnce upon a time my child’s elementary school wrestled with the issue of whether they ought to ban a book called “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.”     Which is why I went out and bought a copy.   And then the rest of the series.   Movies.   Even going so far as to send away for the UK’s Royal Mail Harry Potter stamps…

Sometimes censorship is the most potent form of advertising.

cover art for Laurie Halse Anderson's book "Speak"

An ongoing Twitter campaign called “Speak Loudly” attempts to raise awareness and prevent Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel “Speak” from being banned by people with good intentions.

If you censor books because of the ideas within, there is no way to challenge the idea.   Instead of taking the opportunity to disprove it, or learn from it, or educate about it, you give the idea additional mystique.

The only way to guarantee free speech is to protect all speech.
Even speech we might not agree with.

The American Library Association lobbies against banning books.

The moment you start to ban bad books,

you place good books at risk.

But for one minute, let’s put all of that aside…. why on earth would any sane rational being even consider allowing any retail business to dictate our morality?

I learned about “Speak Loudly” from @Ren_Thompson and the Amazon Issue from @GeneDoucette

further reading:

Gene Doucette: In defense of Amazon

American Library Association: Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Speak Loudly: Fine lines and the futility of drawing them

Stephanie Perkins: Speak Loudly

Speak Loudly

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: http://russwurm.org/hostess/frombubblestobookings.ogv]

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