Rights are like muscles – if you don’t exercise them, you will loose them!

One cannot help but wonder how one would react in that same situation.

Would I gush over the ‘Sharia cop’, thank her for sharing,  deilighting that it is most excellent that we live in a truly free country where the right to be offended is so vigorously upheld?  Would I try to convince her that asking us not to film the Muslimas is an infringment on the rights of those very Muslimas to be offended?

Or, would I be delighted to see her and explain that I was just looking for the authorities in order to demand that they intervene and stop  (by arresting the perp waiving the Hezbollah flag) the hate-crime-in-progress?

Or, faced with intimmidation by police, would I have the courage to stand up to the cops and say anything at all…

Until I am in that situation, I will not know…

I was surprised that Blazing Cat Fur did not openly continue to videotape the encouter with the ‘Sharia cop’ (for lack of a better term), but rather aimed the camera down – in light of Friday’s Gilk case ruling! (H/T:  Blog of Walker)

OK – the ruling came out of the US, but both the US and Canadian constitutions are firmly rooted in the Magna Carta and the British Common Law tradition.  Every single one of the (admittedly few – but the experience was universal) times I have spectated in Ontario court rooms, this common root was noted as justification for citing ruling precedents from the US – and yes, each and every one of these US rulings cited impacted on the cases in Ontario courts.  So, yes, it is a victory not just in the US – in a very real manner, Canadians are also affected by this ruling which asserts every citizen’s rights to record the police at any time they are in public, without any restrictions (and to publish the recording afterwards).

A clear view of her badge would have been nice!

Of course, more and more often, police officers are no longer upholding the laws of the land.  Rather, they blindly carry out the instructions they had been ‘handed from above’ with little regard for the rule of law.  Rrather frighteningly, more and more police officers seem quite comfortable remaining ignorant of the very laws they are sworn to uphold!

‘Journalists’ vs ‘Bloggers’

Interesting….

The Quebec Minister for Culture is not the only one who seems to think that ‘bloggers’ ought not be granted the same treatment as ‘journalists’.   This presumption that ‘journalists’ are ‘professionals’ while ‘bloggers’ are ‘unwashed scum’, that ‘journalists’ ought to be granted privileges while ‘bloggers’ ought not has found fertile ground among our ‘elites’.

I came up against this personally, just last month.

At the Ontario Court of Justice – of all places!

Which is rather ironic, because it was the Ontario Courts who (among other courts) ruled that everything bloggers post on the internet is indeed ‘an act of publishing’ and therefore subject to all the laws, rules and standards that apply to any print publication.

Actually, if one thinks about it, this ruling places ‘bloggers’ on par with ‘publishers’ – one rung above mere ‘journalists’, who are, after all,  just employees of ‘publishers’…but let’s not be elitist here!  ;0)

{Let’s also not pretend that ‘blogging’ is actually ‘anonymous’:  the vast majority of bloggers do not take elaborate precautions to hide their identity – and their ISPs will reveal their names the moment it is clear the blogger broke the law.  It’s right in the ISP’s contract…  So, blogging ‘anonymously’ is simply a means of filtering out the frivolous bullying of bloggers too small or not connected enough so that they are pretty much defenseless.  If anyone has a legitimate case and goes through the legwork, the real-life identity of the blogger is accessible to them.  Plus, most bloggers are better known by (and their reputation is thus built on) their online persona – our ‘nom-de-plume’ – than by our mundane name.}

So, what is it that I am actually talking about?

Last month, just one week after they came to Ottawa for the Baglow case, Connie and Mark Fournier were back in Ottawa in court:  this time, they were applying for leave to appeal the ‘Blishen’ ruling in the Warman case. Their case was last on the docket and we had waited around all day only to be told that they would not get to us.  (The case itself ended up being heard last week, and the result was not a good one for the Fourniers.)

While waiting in the courtroom for the Fourniers’ turn to come, I kept writing in my notebook. It is a bit of a habit – it keeps me focused.  And while I didn’t actually take notes on the cases that were going on, I did note the demeanour of Warman’s team of lawyers (headed by the charismatic Mr. Katz) and doodled to pass time.  The judge took pity on those of us waiting and told us that they’ll not get to the Warman case until way after lunch, so we all filed out of the courtroom, intent on finding sustenance.  As in, food.

The bailiff followed us out, caught up with me and informed me that I was not permitted to take notes in the courtroom.  We all stopped, surprised at this:  I had taken copious notes at previous hearings – in several different cases, without ever any complaints against me.  And, I saw journalists take notes at some hearings, too…

We (the Fourniers,  Fred Litvin of the Free Thinking Film Society and of GayandRight, a few other supporters of the Fourniers and I) peppered the bailiff with questions.  Many questions…

He was very polite and exceedingly civil – and I do not doubt that he is a nice man and a truly good human being.  He was simply informing us of the rules, as he – as an officer of the court – understood them.  The upshot of what he said was:

  • the plaintiff/defendant, their lawyer and their lawyer’s aides may take notes in court, as they are ‘participants’
  • no spectators who are simple ‘members of the public’ may take notes in the courtroom, because they might not understand things properly or such and get a false impression of what was happening (I could not help but wonder why a person would need to be taking notes to get a false impression of what is going on – why not ban us unwashed masses from the courts altogether if we are too stupid to follow the proceedings?)
  • ‘journalists’ may also take notes, because they are ‘professionals’ – they are trained and presumably licensed (or will be, in Quebec), so it is OK…
  • ‘bloggers’ don’t count as ‘journalists’ – they are simple ‘members of the public’

When I pointed out that the courts themselves decided to hold us, bloggers, to the same standards as journalists were – so why should we have fewer rights to go with the same obligations – he shrugged, smiled, suggested that I should ‘get a life’ and said that if we really wanted to know more about the rules, we should check with ‘Court Services’….

So, after lunch, armed with a notebook and a pen and a healthy dose of righteous indignation, Fred Litvin (who graciously agreed to come with me for help and support) and I set out to seek the truth behind this double standard.

In the end, we were told that there really was no such rule, that members of the public – even lowly bloggers – were free to take all the notes we wanted to at any hearing in which a judge did not specifically forbid it … and – the bailiff had gone out of his way to find this out independently and then looked up not just me and Fred to apologize for having unintentionally misled us, but also each of the other people who had overheard him give out erroneous information.  I give him full credit for trying to rectify his mistake.

But – that is not my main point.  Well, not one of my two main points (I seldom have just one).

The fact remains that, based on instructions from a number of different judges, on a number of different occasions, the bailiff had been directed to deny anyone but ‘the participants’ in the cases and ‘certified journalists’ the right to take notes in their courtroom. So many judges had done this, in fact, that he was convinced this was the law!

WHO ARE THESE JUDGES?!?!?

And, once they had demonstrated this level of elitism (and contempt for us, regular citizens), why do WE – the citizens they would prefer to gag – permit them to remain judges over us?!?!?

Seriously – if these judges think the general public is too stupid to follow what they are  saying to us, how can they pass impartial judgment on us?  They have already formed a highly negative view of us – before we even entered their courtroom!

These are the people we are to entrust ourselves to?

REALLY?

…and the other point…

It took us a bit to find the proper wicket/window at the courthouse for ‘Court Services’ – the few inquiries we made sent us off in the wrong directions.  Our bad.  But…

Wherever we went – and wherever we identified ourselves as ‘bloogers looking for an answer’ – we elicited a very unusual response.

Well – unusual in the sense that I have not experienced this type of response from bureaucrats in the past.

Fast.

Courteous beyond belief.

And,  before we could begin to explain the particulars of our question, their supervisor or their manager, or their supervisor’s manager (or was that their manager’s supervisor?) was called in to deal with us.  Immediately!

And the boss – and bosses’ boss – came right away!!!

And they all looked – highly anxious…

….sort of like I imagine that government officials looked when facing ‘investigative reporters’ at the time of ‘Watergate’

Perhaps bloggers have filled the void left behind when most newsmen and newswomen abandoned ‘investigative reporting’ in favour of quoting press releases; when they joined the cultural elites as ‘journalists’ whose job is not to ‘report facts’ but to ‘present stories’ in a way that helps the social engineering elites control the unwashed masses….you know – us.

No wonder the Quebec Minister of Culture – and every other social engineering elitist [insert insults of your choice here] is attempting to diminish the role of ‘bloggers’!

UPDATE:  BCF has more details on the Quebec Culture Minister’s plans.