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



review⇒ WE ARE LEGION: The Story of the Hacktivists

packed theatre watches the film

The Internet and its attendant technology has ushered in change more dramatic than any previously seen in human history. Even worse, this technological revolution has happened with blinding speed.

Even though we’ve reached a point in Canada where most of us — from toddlers to seniors — use the Internet in our daily lives, most of us don’t really understand much of what has happened to the world as a result.

And a natural human reaction is to fear what we don’t understand. Scary sounding crimes called Identity Theft and Hacking didn’t exist when I was growing up. So when we hear scary sounding words like cyberterrorists and hactivists we are scared. We don’t know what these things are, exactly, but that just makes it worse. How do you protect yourself against what you don’t understand?

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that :

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”

Arthur C. Clarke, Third Law

And there has never been as good an illustration of Clarke’s third law as the Internet.

in Canada

Onstage: panelist wearing Guy Fawkes mask
Anonymous panelist

Right now there is a Private Member’s Bill before parliament called “Preventing Persons from Concealing Their Identity during Riots and Unlawful Assemblies Act.” If this passes, the Criminal Code of Canada will make it illegal for Canadians to cover our faces. Some point out that it will only be illegal for “Riots and Unlawful Assemblies.” The catch is that only the government gets to decide when a lawful assembly becomes unlawful.

Normally private member’s bills don’t get a lot of traction, even when presented by a member of a majority government. The few that do become law usually require multiple tries to get support. But this bill has sailed through first and second reading with massive support because people are afraid of masked protesters.

After all, what could be more frightening than Anonymous?


When an arch-villain of epic reach and power rises up from the magical realm of the Internet — and then successfully attacks powerful multinationals and governments — it shakes our world view.

Nothing like Anonymous has ever existed before in the history of the world. The closest example I can think of is the mythical many headed hydra; when the hero cuts one off head, two more sprout in its place.

Onstage: Director Knappenberger on the Hot Docs panel
Director Brian Knappenberger

The apparent omniscience and omnipotence of a such a group is disconcerting, as is its lack of accountability.

Who is “Anonymous”?

And why do they do the things they do?

Documentarian Brian Knappenberger has done a masterful job weaving together the stories of several members of Anonymous. His film, WE ARE LEGION: The Story of the Hacktivists puts a face on Anonymous.

Although some of the interview subjects utilized various methods of obscuring their identities, several don’t. As the narrative unfolds it becomes apparent that some of these have already been “outed” by the American Justice System.

Pay Pal 14 defendant Mercedes Haefer points out that the price of her online activism as a member of Anonymous she faces a prison sentence years longer than any a convicted pedophile would receive. She is one of the idealistic young people facing incredible jail sentences for what attorney Stanley Cohen characterizes as virtual sit-ins.

Onstage: Ms. Coleman on the panel
McGill University’s Gabriella Coleman answers questions following the screening

One of the experts interviewed in the film is McGill University’s Gabriella Coleman, currently the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy. Coleman helps make sense of Anonymous, providing insight into both the behaviour and the evolution of the decidedly non-hierarchical group.

This film was both thorough and informative. But it’s also an eminently well constructed documentary, as good as any I’ve ever seen.

see the film

In many ways, this film is a biography; Brian Knappenberger has crafted a powerful film that demystifies Anonymous.

No matter how much or how little you know about civil rights in the Internet age, WE ARE LEGION: The Story of the Hacktivists is well worth seeing.

There will be two more screenings at the Toronto HotDocs Festival, 3:00pm Thursday May 3rd & 7:00pm Saturday May 5th at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, 350 King Street West, Toronto

Note: Advance Tickets for Saturday’s screening are already sold out; arrive early for “Rush” tickets.

Following the Hot Docs screening, Director Brian Knappenberger takes a question

Doors Open, Doors Closed

Stephen Truscott
Stephen Truscott

1959: The year I was born…

in an incredible miscarriage of Canadian justice,  14 year old Stephen Truscott was sentenced to death and spent time on the Don Jail’s death row.

Earlier, the infamous Boyd gang were repeat Don Jail customers, and a few of them didn’t come out alive.

Completed and open for business in 1865, two years older than confederation, the infamous “Don” is nothing less than the Canadian equivalent of the Count of Monte Cristo’s Chateau d’If,  or perhaps the American Alcatraz.

My family decided to make the lengthy trek to Toronto to we could visit the Don Jail before it’s gone.   Apparently it’s going to be renovated and become part of a hospital.  (Hopefully they’ll be discrete about what they do with the former death row or indoor gallows.)

It’s an imposing building.  Years ago when I lived nearby I’d look at it and wonder.

I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get a peek since they were doing “Doors Open Toronto” tours.

The crowd mills about on the street outside the fence at the Don Jail.
The crowd mills about on the street outside the fence at the Don Jail.

I’d heard there were 2 hour wait times.  But checking the doors open website before leaving home I learned that the last tours would be at 4:30.  The “phone number” listed on the page consisted of zeros, so there was no way of finding out anything before.

When we arrived around 3:00pm  there were probably a few hundred people milling about outside the chain link fence, and more inside.  My husband drove off in search of parking and we tried to figure out where  the line actually ended.   Nobody seemed to know.  The “outsiders” didn’t know if we’d ever get in, until someone got the attention of an inner fence tour volunteer tour guide.  She was helpful.  We learned that they hadn’t admitted anyone since 11:30 am.  The lucky insiders were the only ones who were going to be priviledged to get the tour.

Then my husband arrived to tell us he’d paid for parking until 6:00 pm.

I do understand that the organizers were overwhelmed by the turnout on Saturday.   They weren’t expecting it.   They’d ceased admitting people really early yesterday as well. (We hadn’t heard that then… all anyone said was that there were “long waits”. )

What I do NOT understand is why they didn’t do anything differently on Sunday.

They had a web listing.  If they stopped admitting people at 11:30 they should have put  a “sold out” notice on the website…

Another thing I don’t understand is why there wasn’t a phone number.  Even if it was just a machine, if we could have called and learned that there wasn’t any point in coming we could have stayed home.

Why were people still waiting at 3:00pm
if they’d stopped letting in as early as 11:30am?

We looked around to see if there had been any way for us to at least have known not get stuck paying for parking?  Oh look… apparently someone had handwritten “NO” above the “Don Jail Tours” sign…  Not terribly official looking, but better than nothing.

don valley

This was all we found on the Broadview side of the Don.   Way at the back of the parking lot, overlooking the Don Valley we found a couple of “limited capacity” signs laying on the ground.


This was the only notification the “outsiders” got.

I can’t understand why no announcement had been made to the people waiting patiently outside the fence.

Or why prominent “closed” signs weren’t displayed.

It’s not just the patrons who were turned away who suffered for these oversights, but it certainly wasn’t fair to all the volunteers who put in incredibly long hours.

Interestingly enough, when we went around the back of the building we discovered that tickets were being sold for the paid tours that would be held this summer.



I certainly hope that this was not just a publicity stunt to drum up business for the planned money making tours. It certainly makes me wonder though.