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Governments Cyber-bullying Front Man Gets Taken To Task Online

January 10, 2015 Leave a comment

Glen Canning, the governments’ sales person on the controversial cyber-bullying bill has received a lot of flak recently from internet users over the past few days, for tweeting out a compromising picture on social media of an MSVU professor.  Those that have followed the cyber-bullying legislation through committee know that Canning was a stark defender of the cyber-bullying bill; often coming out strongly against those who had privacy concerns on the bill.

Canning’s daughter killed herself when compromising pictures of her were circulated online, and was aggressively cyber-bullied as a result of those pictures.  The Conservative Government had a hard time getting victims’ rights groups to fully support the controversial bill which enshrined into law lawful access provisions allowing the police warrant-less access to an internet users information.  Eventually they put Canning (a grieving father) front and center on the bill which polarized the debate around the bill.  Canning became a supporter of lawful access, and quickly became a polarizing figure in the debate surrounding the cyber-bulling bill as a result of his support for police access to information without judicial oversight.

Canning was recently approached by a female student at MSVU as a result of one of her professors trying to engage in sexual activity with her.  The professor sent her a nude photo of himself, in which landed in the hands of Canning, and was also sent to media outlets.  Canning (who I believe was well intentioned) tweeted out the photo prior to media reports on the story to try and gain public attention to this students’ case.  This lead to a lengthy discussion on reddit, social media, and blogs regarding Cannings’ actions since the cyber-bulling bill that was recently passed has a provision dealing with unauthorized sharing of intimate images.  Canning quickly removed the tweet, and continued to defend his actions.

Section 162.1 of the new cyber-bulling bill states:

162.1 (1) Everyone who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, makes available or advertises an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct, or being reckless as to whether or not that person gave their consent to that conduct, is guilty

It’s important to note that the cyber-bullying bill has yet to come into effect, so questions and debate around this case would be purely speculation, and whether the Canning image tweet qualifies as enforceable under the act, is also entirely open for debate.  One thing is clear cut though.  From the back lash that Canning is getting surrounding this issue, it’s clear that many Canadians have been closely following developments surrounding the new cyber-bullying bill, and the take home from all of this should be that Canadians are very concerned about their rights regarding this bill.

What I don’t agree with; the Government using a grieving parent to play politics and sell a bill that attacks Canadians rights. Canning has become a polarizing figure in this debate around cyber-bullying that I believe was intentional by design regarding the politics of the situation.  It’s quite easy for Government to distance themselves from Canning now that the bill has been passed, and I would strongly suspect that this will happen as a result of the online debate around Cannings’ tweets that will most certainly continue into the halls of parliament.

While I’m not defending Cannings’ move in tweeting these photos’, it’s apparent that there are underlying political issues surrounding this bill, and the debate needs to be focused away from grieving parents, and on to a so called “responsible” government who’s used Canning in an attempt to deflect political attention away from the Conservative party on a controversial bill that the population is extremely concerned about.

I quite strongly disagree with Cannings’ views regarding internet privacy,  as a father myself I have a great amount of respect for this person.  If I had lost a child in the way Canning did, I couldn’t care less about privacy.  That would be fraternal instinct, and I would be acting in much the same way Canning has been throughout the debate.  The government knew this on the political side of things, which is why Canning became front and center on this bill.  The new cyber-bullying bill C-13 is a bill that’s been sold on emotion, not substance, and those that disagree with the bill should note we have an election in a few months’ time.  Rather than attacking a grieving parent, Canadians should be using their right to vote to signal their discontent.

Any politician that has used grieving parents in the way the government has done to sell C-13, in my opinion doesn’t have the moral authority to lead, nor should command our respect at the voting booth.

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Self-Expressionism And The Hypocrisy of Politics

January 8, 2015 1 comment

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(Credit: Olive Bites Blog)

Yesterday like many across the world, I became glued to newscasts as events unfolded in France regarding the shooting of satire cartoonists, and journalists. These innocent lives were gunned down in a rampage because a newspaper decided to publish satire portraits of the prophet Mohammad. What followed was an immediate and swift condemnation of an attack on freedom of expression by these terrorists from most global leaders.

What is freedom of expression? Freedom of expression to me is the ability to express myself freely without the worry of being gunned down by terrorists, or jailed for expressing certain points of view. This goes hand in hand, in my opinion with freedom of speech. It’s essential to a democracy to be able to question the politics or ideology of any given topic. Democracy is about different views, and the ability to express those views no matter how distasteful some of those views can be without fear of persecution, or censorship.

Every religion has been guilty of suppressing self-expression. Leonardo Da Vinci had a love for the human anatomy, and often disagreed with the Christian pope at the time. To study what we consider science today in Da Vinci’s time was considered blasphemy by the church, and punishable by death. Think of where the world would be now if Da Vinci and others of that time period were able to freely express their scientific views without persecution. The advancement of human knowledge is also a benefit of self-expression.

As events unfolded in France, I began to start questioning the Canadian response. First the CBC’s editorial staff refused to show the cartoons in question, in an attempt to accommodate the Muslim faith. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it if it were not for yesterday’s events. Those cartoons after yesterday became an important part of a global news story. Journalists have a responsibility to cover the facts of the story, and report it in full without fear of retaliation. The CBC is a publicly funded organization and should hold democratic values of free expression, which sadly were not present yesterday during the initial reporting of the events. Here is an example of one of the cartoons:

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(French Translation: Love is stronger than hate)

Another troubling aspect is the fact that these terrorists were known to authorities. In an age of mass surveillance even people who are known to have terrorist backgrounds keep slipping through the cracks. This is now becoming a considerable theme across the globe since the Boston bombings a few years ago, and the frequency of these attacks in recent months strongly suggests that the policy of mass surveillance is inadequate to prevent any future attacks. In fact it looks to be doing quite the opposite. Too often than not, hard police work and targeted investigations are lacking even on known suspects.

After 9/11 the US gave birth to a state run security sector and public dollars flowed into private security firms. Today that security sector is huge and continues to grow with Canadian companies also benefiting. We’ve ended up giving away our right to privacy online as a result of events like yesterdays. We’re spending vast amounts of money beefing up our surveillance capabilities, and yet these known perpetrators who commit these horrible acts of terror are continuing to do so at an alarming rate. With today’s surveillance capabilities, shouldn’t we be seeing a significant decrease in these attacks?  With the capabilities we have in place today, there should be no excuse for this.

Yet every time society goes through these types of attacks, the private sector security lobby has no problems lining up at the door of public coffers. This lobby is now very strong and keeps stating we need to give up more of our constitutional rights, and enable more failed national security mass surveillance policies to prevent future attacks. Since our Conservative politicians are mainly twits (and could care less about civil liberties), rather than looking at the past decade and learning, they just throw money at the situation, and pass laws that undermine the importance of freedom of expression by attacking our privacy.

What does privacy have to do with freedom of expression you ask? Ask yourself this; if Da Vinci lived 10 years from now with no expectation of privacy, would he become the artist we know him today? A lot of Da Vinci’s most provocative works were hidden from those that would have certainly put him to death if they found them. Some of those works are still being unearthed and studied even today. If he didn’t have any private moments, what would we know of Da Vinci today? Will we end up even having our own private thoughts of self-expression in the future, or will give into those who claim to protect us and are financially benefiting from fear?

If politicians are serious about defending self-expression as so many did yesterday, why then are they attacking the very core of that expression by diminishing the very right to privacy (in the name of national security), where that democratic right of self-expression is birthed? If we can’t freely express ourselves in the privacy of our own homes, through private communications, or through the public without “fear” of prosecution or government listening in, than those that died yesterday, did so without purpose, or meaning and not in defense of core democratic values.

The Science Behind Autism and My Story

December 3, 2014 Leave a comment

As many of you may or may not know, my son is autistic.  A warning that this post is personal.  I don’t often open up in my posts on personal matters but in the interests of understanding Autism and what parents often go through, I felt I needed to tell my story as well.

During my wife’s pregnancy, I got my wife involved in a midwife program to follow my wife’s pregnancy and sons development once he was born since this would be our first child.  The pregnancy was a healthy one, my wife however had a hard go of it during labor, and ended up with toxemia, and had to have an emergency c-section.  After my son was born, we had concerns at 10 months that he wasn’t sitting up by himself properly, and missing several of his development markers. Fortunately our midwife was also a registered nurse, and set up an appointment with Dr. Zwaigenbaum (who happens to be one of Canada’s leading researchers in Autism and was based out of Hamilton at the time).

Within a few months of the appointment being made, we got a call due to a cancellation and were able to meet with Dr. Zwaigenbaum who suggested my son go through a test for Fragile X syndrome, which is one of the leading causes of autism in males.  We had the test done, and my son was diagnosed with Fragile X syndrome by the time he was about 1 1/2.

What is Fragile X syndrome?  It’s a genetic mutation of the FRM1 gene in the X chromosome passed on from mother to son.  The FRM1 gene in a normal DNA sequence, copies between 25-30 times from the mother, in my sons case the gene was copied over 2500 times.   Girls with fragile X are impacted differently because girls have two X chromosomes so if one is impacted with Fragile X, the other X chromosome sort of compensates for it.  In the case of my wife, she has been diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome as well, after a blood test after my son was diagnosed.  Boys on the other hand have only one X chromosome and the other is a Y chromosome, so boys are often impacted more severely with an X chromosome gene mutation.  My son who is 9 is non-verbal, and incontinent. While not as severe as my sons, my wife has been impacted as well through her day to day activities, and has struggled in life and through her academics.  I’ve had to put a lot of things on hold to assist my wife and son at home.

The mutation in the FRM1 gene that causes Fragile X syndrome inhibits a certain enzyme in the brain responsible for normal connotative and physical function.  Lab tests have been preformed on mice with Fragile X syndrome in which the missing enzyme was given in supplements, in turn reversing the effects of Fragile X syndrome with a remarkable 80% reversal rate.  Human trials started a few years ago, or are in the process of getting approval.  We are hopeful, that in the future enzyme therapy will be an option for my son.

One of the main pet peeve’s I have is what I like to refer to as the “Jenny Mccarthy Syndrome” where vaccines are to blame for Autism, and children should be put at risk of death from preventable diseases. The paper that suggested vaccines were causing Autism, was withdrawn and debunked by many scientists and health organizations, and the doctor who wrote that paper Mccarthy and others consistently quote, is no longer practicing medicine.  The vaccine myth is further discussed in the below embedded video. There’s also NO cure for Autism.  I recently came across a TED talk that I found very informative regarding Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and where we are in the understanding scientifically of ASD:

As a parent, it hasn’t been an easy ride to say the least.  There is a very steep learning curb when you first get the diagnosis of any disorder let alone Fragile X and Autism which have several subcategories of behavioral diagnoses. The system we have set in place requires parents to fight at every step from funding to getting specialists involved both at the home and school board level.  On top of having to fight, the system set up is extremely complex and confusing often requiring a case manager to help navigate, which is yet another fight to get a case manager involved (this is why I’m such a feisty advocate).

On top of all these fights parents have to go through to get specialists involved at the home and in school, once they are involved, yet another steep learning curb, since the parents are responsible for becoming the specialist and learning therapeutic techniques of the specialist to administer them at home.  Than there’s the application of those techniques which requires a lot of patients and time, and are not always successful. Myself being the only one in the family to be able learn and apply therapy, it does at times become overwhelming.  This is when respite is a huge help, which is yet another fight to get funding let alone find a respite worker that’s a good match.

Another thing most parents have to deal with when you have a child with challenges are friends and family.  We’ve had to go through a situation where family and friends don’t know how to offer their support.  Good friends and close family often start to become distant.  This was something as a parent I didn’t understand at first.  As a parent, you essentially become the expert on your child’s diagnosis, and are often around people in a support network who understand those challenges, and behaviors.

To the outside often these challenges can present themselves differently to people who don’t fully understand.  Family often becomes hesitant to offer a helping hand to help care or provide a night out at grandma’s or grandpa’s due to the fact they don’t know how to deal with those challenges or behaviors, or are physically incapable of dealing with them.  It’s not to say that our family hasn’t been supportive, they have been very supportive, just in a different way than had we had a child without ASD. I’ve had to come to terms with that, and understand it now. Friends often vacate and become distant often for the same reasons.  Going through this realization can be and is a very lonely time, very difficult time, and also very common I found out from other parents with challenged kids.

We’ve kept a very close yet very limited circle of friends, in which understand our situation. They have been there in times of difficulty and have gone above and beyond for us also in times of crisis. We’re extremely blessed to have that support available and be in company of good honest and caring people and can’t thank them enough.

Out of all the difficult, frustrating, lonely and overwhelming times comes something that makes it all worth it.  Hugs, laughter, unconditional love and small successes that turn into leaps and bounds.  My son has become my strength, changed me as an individual, and has become my best friend.  He knows when I’m overwhelmed, and will often break out a smile or joke around to make me laugh, especially at the simple things in life, which puts everything into perspective.  He’s grown leaps and bounds over the past few years, because of all the fights I’ve had to deal with and won in the system to make things right for him. This is a story I hear very often with other parents affected by ASD, and a lesson to others to never give up the fight, because your kids are worth fighting for, and you are their voice.

Parents should not be dealing with stresses from a busted and unaccountable system of administrating support, along with the stresses they are dealing with in the care for their kids, especially with ASD on the rise.  Too often than not, those in the system administering services make it very difficult intentionally for people who already have it difficult at home.  The emotional and physical toll felt by the amount of advocacy required by parents to get the support they need in the public health system is overwhelming.  We need a comprehensive analytical look at the support system in place now, with a commitment from both the Federal and Provincial governments from across the country to come up with workable streamlined and accountable solutions across Canada for ASD support inside the classroom, and at home.

There will be more posts like this that will be coming in the near future, as I offer some insight into some policy, and political failures in the system that need to be corrected and are causing undue stress on families affected with ASD, in hopes that it reaches advocates, politicians and sparks discussion on how we can look at meaningful change across the board. I’m one of many voices, and my voice needs to be added to the conversation considering the injustices I’ve witnessed in the system and have had to advocate against.

York University Indoctrinates Rick Mercer In Law After Misleading Public on Copyright Law

October 16, 2014 Leave a comment

The night after Rick Mercer’s copyright rant aired in which he mislead the public in copyright law, York University felt fit to present Mercer with an Honorary Doctorate in Law.

Copyright Lawyer Howard Knopf last night put out a no holds barred blog on Mercer’s rant, and the need for the Competition Bureau to further investigate the “consortium’s” efforts as it pertains to law.  I don’t know how a University can indoctrinate someone who looks to be seriously involved in an effort to mislead the public on the law of that land at this point.  That looks very bad on an institution of education and learning, who also relies on fair dealing laws on a regular basis.  The timing seems very suspicious to me, and I just hope that the University is not part of a wider effort that would call the institutions independence into question.

In my view, Mercer’s Doctorate should be put on hold or stripped by York U until he corrects his points in law publicly to the nation.  I’m pretty sure the legal community itself will be weighing in on that in due time.

Rick Mercer: Not Informed or Copyright Troll?

October 15, 2014 1 comment

The answer to the above question may play out in the next few days.  Last night Rick Mercer ranted (more felt like a lecture from my parents) on the issue of copyright.  As many of you may know, I used Rick Mercer as an example of why fair dealing is necessary in my blog post last week.  It appears the answer to the question I posed last week: “Is Canada’s Broadcast Media Consortium Using Attack Ad Scandal to Push Copyright Political Agenda?” is in fact YES!  Mercer has come out with a video strongly suggesting that we should scrap the fair dealing clauses all together:


From Howard Knopf, to Michael Geist, to Ariel Katz, to Dwayne Winseck and Openmedia (who just released their report calling for expanding fair use provisions), disagree with Rick Mercer’s take/position on fair dealing and have commented on the attack ad issue publicly. These are the experts!

A big online debate is about to happen regarding the nations copyright policies, instigated by what I believe to be the big media industry lobbyists from CBC, CTV, Global, Rogers, Bell (copyright extremists or terrorists take your pick, both fit but I like copyright troll the best since nothing has been about attack ads with this group from CBC, CTV, Bell, Rogers, it’s about getting paid) who are holding our newsrooms, journalists and Rick Mercer hostage at the moment, ahead of an election.  Big media hates fair dealing!  The next few days are going to be interesting.

This blog will be following and participating in those debates, so don’t forget to subscribe if you are interested in following this.

More to come…

Conservatives Propose to “Amend” Fair Dealing Not Replace It

October 14, 2014 4 comments

Over the weekend, I’ve had some time to look at the fine print of the “leaked” Conservative Cabinet document of the Conservatives plans to introduce new copyright laws to allow them to legally use news content for political advertising.  Some have strongly suggested that these new plans will allow more privileges to politicians than the public over fair use laws and free speech.  A closer examination of the documents reveal the Conservatives plan to amend (or add to) the copyright act, not replace the fair dealing clauses that apply to the public.  From the very last sentence in the Cabinet proposal on the fair dealing amendment proposal:

“If supported, the amendment would be incorporated into the budget implementation act and enter into force upon Royal Assent”

In the House of Commons last week, Heritage Minister Shelly Glover stated:

“We believe that (using news clips for advertising) has always been protected under the fair dealing provision of the law and if greater certainty is necessary, we will provide it.”

The reasoning for this amendment by the Conservatives to clarify the law, comes as the party is under threat from the big media companies that they would not comply with existing fair dealing legislation that applies to the public, and politicians.

The Conservatives could have done a better job communicating this to the public.  They could have stated the amendment was to the copyright act, not the budget implementation bill.  However Cabinet documents linked to above were leaked internal cabinet documents.  I don’t think they were expecting these to become public, and most likely part of a conversation around how to deal with a threat from the media companies on not complying with fair use, which is a much bigger threat to civil liberties and free speech in this country ahead of an election, than communication missteps from the Conservative Cabinet on this.

Internal CBC documents from the middle of March this year also suggest that the media consortium very well knew how fair dealing worked in this case:

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Yet the consortium went to air with the notion that the Conservatives were “stealing” (implicating an illegal act) news content, when they knew under law that wasn’t the case.  The public was purposely mislead on the law by the media, using public discourse around attack ads as cover.  That’s a much more serious issue that needs to be addressed ahead of an election where the electorate will be very cautious around what the law is in the next election due to the robocalls scandal.  If we don’t have media acting independent of bias when it comes to reporting on the law in the next election, it will not be a free or fair vote, which is one of the reasons why I’m complaining about the way this has been reported to the public.  I say this as someone who often criticizes policies on this blog as it relates to copyright and civil liberties, and with no political bias.

Ariel Katz Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, who also holds the Innovation Chair in Electronic Commerce, produced an excellent blog this morning on how the media consortium might also be infringing on the competition act:

The Government’s proposal—a proposal that seems to be unnecessary and misguided at once—might have been prompted by an agreement between the major electronic media organizations not to broadcast political ads that contain audio or video content appearing to come from news services owned by CBC/Radio Canada, CTV/Bellmedia, Global/Shaw, or City/Rogers. If what those documents appear to reveal is true, then the document that those documents reveal might be an illegal one, contrary to section 45 of the Competition Act. Thus, a story that broke as a minor (albeit important) news item about copyright reform, may turn out to be a much bigger story about possible violation of the Competition Act by Canada’s major media outlets.

Katz also went on to state (emphasis added):

Attack ads may be distasteful, or even according to some views harmful to the political process, but they are not illegal. Likewise, using excerpts of content from their own programs may be annoying for some broadcasters, but as even some of the broadcasters’ legal advisers agree, the Copyright Act does not prohibit that. If the broadcasters aren’t happy with this state of the law it is open to them to convince Parliament to change the law (within the bounds permissible for such limitation on freedom of expression that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would permit). Or, better still, they can fight the speech that they don’t like with their own better speech; after all, unlike most Canadian, they have unfettered access to the media—they are the media. What they cannot and should not do is enter into agreements that allows them, by virtue of their control of the most important media outlets, bypass the political process, impose their own wishes, and make their own wishes effectively the law of the land.

Jennifer Lawrence Leak Interesting Case Study On Online Privacy

September 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Over the long weekend, stories have started to appear online that a hacker gained access to nude photos of actress Jennifer Lawrence taken from her iPhone and stored on Apple’s iCloud. The hacker was able to hack her account to gain access to get iCloud account.  This case is interesting on several levels.

In an age where private industry security has been intentionally weakened through public policy in the name of national security, unfortunately we are likely to see a lot more of these “leaks” as a result.  Canadian Privacy Lawyer David Fraser has an excellent post on the matter, along with steps internet users can take to do their part in ensuring that their data remains secure. In particular Fraser makes some very good recommends:

  • Try to learn the basics of how your device works, particularly about what is synchronised and backed up to online services; check your default settings;
  • Secure your device with a PIN or password (How to: Android and iOs);
  • Add encryption to your device, if possible (How to: Android);
  • Add remote management to kill your device if it is lost (How to: Android (I also like Cerberus Anti Theft) and iOs);
  • Use a strong password for all your accounts. The longer the better. (Read this XKCD comic. Read it, learn it, live it.)
  • Consider a password manager like LastPass to generate complicated passwords for your accounts and to keep them safe. But protect your password vault with the most complicated and longest password you can reliably remember.
  • Use two-factor authentication for your cloud accounts. While not particularly intuitive, two-factor authentication protects your account even if your password is compromised. This is critical. (How to: Google Accounts, DropBox, and most other places.) Any account to which you sync your personal images and video should be protected by two factor authentication.

I would call this defensive passwording. It’s important for users to also do their part in ensuring they have done all they can to protect their personal information, by using strong passwords to their accounts, and make their accounts less vulnerable to would be attackers.  Another valuable piece of advice; if you don’t want your personally information being potentially leaked, it’s best to minimize the exposure of your personal data online.  In other words, if you take nude photos of yourself with your iPhone, or mobile device there’s always a chance that those photo’s could be compromised due the lack of security as a result of public policy.  In other words, keep your nude selfies offline, and off your mobile devices.

Another situation that is arising from this leak, is the speed in which law enforcement got involved, and how social media companies are voluntarily removing these photos at lightening speed, and how this will affect public policy going forward on matters of privacy, cyber bullying, net neutrality, copyright, and free speech.  Something I will be keeping a close eye on as the situation unfolds, and how this these photo’s were obtained. 

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