CARPAY: Democracy and justice depend on freedom and privacy rights
Some years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a federal election gag law that undermines the Charter freedoms of expression and association, and the right to spend one’s own money on the cause of one’s choice.
The Court ruled that our Charter-protected fundamental freedoms must give way to “electoral fairness,” which is not mentioned anywhere in the Charter itself.
Making the situation even worse, Alberta has passed a gag law that applies not only at election time, but at all times. Non-profit advocacy groups must register with the government if they wish to spend more than $1,000 on advertising, and must publicly disclose the names of citizens who donate more than $250 towards advertising.
The first victims of this new law are the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and The Rebel media, each fined for spending money to express an opinion on a billboard, without having registered or disclosed donor names.
Those who dislike either or both of these two groups will be tempted to celebrate the fines. But any celebration is very short-sighted, as this law applies to all groups: left, right, centre and otherwise.
The Alberta Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act (EFCDA) goes so far as to trample on the privacy of citizens wanting to donate for advertising on any “issue” that is “associated” with any party or candidate, at any time, permanently. Practically speaking, that covers education, health care, human rights, taxes, labour laws, social services, and a long list of other important topics on which political parties take a stance.
One of the great things about a free country is that all citizens have an opportunity to fight for justice through advocacy for better laws and policies. In a democracy, citizens are not only free to criticize politicians, but also free to advocate openly and publicly for justice, however one may conceive of it.
For some, justice might mean tougher penalties imposed on those who abuse animals, or on those who drive while impaired, or on those who misuse firearms. Perhaps justice means Canada doing more – or doing less – to develop our oil and gas exports. Perhaps justice entails Canada pursuing different policies on Israel, aboriginal people, abortion or the environment.
The benefits of free expression are not limited to providing every individual with the right to advocate for justice. Free expression facilitates competition among diverse ideas, which creates the healthy debate that a democracy needs to thrive.
When everyone thinks alike, nobody thinks very much. Truth is more likely to emerge from the clash of ideas than from a herd of conformist thinkers who reject challenges to their orthodoxy. Free expression allows for tough questions and vigorous criticism, which in turn tend to destroy bad ideas.
In a free country, citizens also enjoy the ability to join with each other to fight for a just cause. One citizen can do little to change a bad law, but 10,000 citizens working towards a common cause are a force to be reckoned with.
Dictators know that individuals are more powerful and more effective when united together in a group, so they restrict freedom of association, to isolate citizens from each other. Dictators demand that citizens register their groups, and seek the government’s permission to start trade union, a church, a new political party, or other groups.
Citizens of a free country are able to donate their money and volunteer time to worthy causes. Citizens can do so anonymously, or with great fanfare. The secret ballot protects citizens from coercion and intimidation, and in similar fashion, privacy protects people who want their donation to a cause to remain confidential. The government of a free country respects people’s privacy.
No doubt, those who passed the EFCDA were motivated by notions of fairness and transparency when they directly attacked the citizen’s right to be free from intimidation when donating to an unpopular or controversial cause.
An attack on the secret ballot could also be justified on grounds of fairness and transparency. Governments never attack fundamental freedoms without conjuring a nice-sounding reason. But if we lose our freedoms of expression and association, and our right to privacy about which causes we donate to, we lose our democracy.
Lawyer John Carpay is the president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca).
MasterCard has received $49 million from the federal government in an effort to have the company place a cybersecurity centre in Vancouver.
The net income for MasterCard was almost $4 billion in 2017.
Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry announced the Cyber Centre with MasterCard. The announcement was made in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum last week.
True North reported that Bains said, “The centre will focus on creating technologies and standards to ensure that Canadians and others around the world can safely use any device that could be connected to the Internet—phone, tablet, computer, vehicle—without concern that their personal and financial information could be stolen.”
It is estimated that 380 people will be employed by the centre which Bains says will turn Canada into a “world leader in cybersecurity.” He also noted that the cost of cybercrime in Canada is about $3 billion annually.
MasterCard Canada’s president, Sasha Krstic noted that MasterCard customers from all around the world will benefit from the technology that arises out of the new centre.
According to Krstic the research coming from the centre “will help meet the growing demand for technology solutions to reduce the cost of cyberattacks, enable today’s connected devices to become tomorrow’s secure payment devices, and address the growing vulnerabilities associated with the Internet of Things.”
The Strategic Innovation Fund will fund the $49 million. The program has supplied more than $2 billion to mostly large corporations.
Other corporations that have received large sums from the federal government include Canadian Tire and Loblaws. Canadian Tire received $2.7 million in January for electric vehicle charging stations. Loblaws received $12 million for low emission refrigerator units to replace their current models.
Boris Johnson has agreed to allow China’s massive telecom company, Huawei, to take part in Britain’s 5G network. He made the decision despite the U.S. asking Britain not to include the company in the next-generation communications for fears that they will have too much access to sensitive information.
According to CBC, Johnson has decided that Huawei can only access “non-sensitive” information and can only have 35 percent involvement in the 5G network.
The company would not have access to the core of networks or any sensitive locations like military bases according to the British government.
Donald Trump and the U.S. administration will not be content with the decision as they fear the company could be used by China to access secret information. The U.S. said that they would possibly reduce intelligence cooperation with London.
The new 5G network with its unprecedented speeds is said to be among the largest innovations since the internet was introduced.
After a meeting led by Johnson, Nicky Morgan, the British Communications Secretary said, “This is a U.K.-specific solution for U.K.-specific reasons and the decision deals with the challenges we face right now.”
Cybersecurity officials in Britain have noted that Huawei is always handled as a “high risk” business.
The White House has not yet responded to the actions taken by Johnson.
On Tuesday Huawei’s vice-president, Victor Zhang said, “Huawei is reassured by the U.K. government’s confirmation that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G roll-out on track.”
“This evidence-based decision will result in a more advanced, more secure and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future. It gives the U.K. access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market.”
Huawei has claimed that the U.S. does not want the company in Britain because they cannot compete as Huawei is the largest producer of telecom equipment in the world.
Within the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, Canada is the only country that has not decided whether to work with Huawei on 5G networks.
As Canada continues its rocky relationship with China, things remain uncertain. Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has finished the first stage of extradition hearing but China still has two Canadians detained.
The U.S. has claimed that as the 5G networks grow and evolve, Huawei’s access to different parts of the network will be harder to monitor.
Environment Canada reportedly complained about running out of computers, despite spending a whopping amount of taxpayer money on new computers, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.
In a breathless email obtained by an access of information request, Sophie Cimon-Kingsley, the ministry’s head of human resources wrote, “My assistant was informed this afternoon that the department has run out of computers … I’m hearing from my team there are no computers available to deploy to new employees.”
These recent shortages come in despite of the department buying 1,751 new computers in 2012 and then 1,313 more in 2013. This vast expenditure continues: between 2015 to 2018, Environment Canada forked out for another 4,747 computers. The total cost of these purchases were $3.59 million.
More worryingly, however, the department plans to spend another $19.3 million by 2023 for more gadgets. It may come as a surprise then, that the managers of the department are still gasping for more taxpayer money.
In an estimation published this week, The Professional Institute of the Public Service suggested that federal agencies spend a staggering $1.3 billion per year on private computer technicians.
School boards are reminding parents not to discriminate against Chinese students and parents amidst social panic surrounding the Wuhan coronavirus.
York Regional Schoolboard reminded more than 9,000 parents and Toronto community members who had signed a petition to not allow students whose families had travelled to China in the past 17 days to attend class that their concerns could potentially be xenophobic against Chinese communities.
The petition, created by an iPetitions user Erjun Li, went on to outline the petition and shared concerns about how contagious the virus is.
“Symptoms like fever, sore throat, sneezing are marked as the indicators to isolate infected individuals. However, during the incubation period, victim of the coronavirus is still highly infective even no signs of symptoms being observed,” the petition reads. “Secondary transmission outside of China is a significant factor behind the WHO’s decision to announce or not announce a global PHEIC. On January 23rd there was one secondary transmission case reported in Vietnam, which indicates that this virus is very contagious…
“York region has a large Chinese-Canadian population. There were a lot of people travelling to China before or during the Chinese New Year. We cannot be overly cautious in protecting our children.”
In response, the school board noted that they were taking precautions, but we’re staying vigilant to ensure their precautions didn’t veer into discrimination.
“We are aware of an escalated level of concern and anxiety among families of Chinese heritage,” the Globe and Mail reported the school board sent in a letter. “Individuals who make assumptions, even with positive intentions of safety, about the risk of others, request or demand quarantine can be seen as demonstrating bias and racism.”
The top reported ethnic origin in York is Chinese.