‘Betrayed!’ – a book by Connie Fournier

“F” stands for “Free Dominion”.

That is what Dr. Michael Geist wrote in his ‘internet freedom countdown’.

“F” could just as easily could have stood for “Fournier” – as in Connie and Mark Fournier, who have done more for the freedom of speech and freedom on the Internet than any other Canadians.  And this time, I am not using hyperbole!

20 years to the day and in the very building I had signed my marriage license, I came to observe and blog about a court case involving Free Dominion:  Connie and Mark Fournier.  It was a civil case involving anonymity on the internet and both the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Dr. Geist’s Electronic Frontier Foundation were intervenors in the case.  Having heard of the latter two and considering any court case they both thought important enough to intervene in to definitely have a significant impact on my own internet and speech freedoms, I came to spectate.  (OK – I have to admit – I am a Geist ‘acolyte’.)

While following this particular case and many, many more, I came to deeply admire Connie and Mark.  Over the years, they have made significant impact on the evolution of our speech and internet rights, always from a deeply principled perspective.

Now, before you get the idea that I agree with Connie and Mark’s political views, let me stop you right there.  They are social conservatives who come from a Christian perspective.  I am a libertarian, just this side of turning into an-cap. And a militant ignostic as well as a registered Kopimist.

Despite the greatly different views we hold on a myriad of topics, I came to like and deeply respect the Fourniers.  Even when we discussed topics we disagreed on, they were respectful and principled and debating things with them has always been a pleasure.

Full disclosure:  the one principle both the Fourniers and I completely and totally agree on – and it is perhaps the most important principle of them all – is the importance of freedom of speech.

I came to understanding the true and essential need for freedom of speech as the cornerstone of our civilization and the internet as the vehicle through which it is anonymously and effectively delivered because I was not only born on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, I was also born the daughter of a political dissident.  Perhaps because of this, I learned early on that without the freedom to criticize and ridicule political and religious ideologies and figures, you lose the means of defending all your other rights and freedoms. And while I don’t know the route that brought Connie and Mark to the same conclusions, it is a demonstrated fact that they have not only lived by that principle, they have sacrificed all to preserve freedom of speech in Canada (and, by extension, all Magna Carta countries) and have put their financial and physical security – their very well being on the line to protect anonymous speech (in their case, on the internet), which is so very crucial in preventing the abrogation of free speech in public spaces.

OK – I have now sketched in the background so that you, my dear reader, are aware of what I know, think and whatever prejudices I may have regarding  my review of Connie Fournier’s new book:  ‘Betrayed!  Stephen Harper’s War on Principled Conservatism’.

One more thing before I start:  here is a most excellent review of the book by Jay Currie (and, no, I did not read his review before I had made my own mind up).  The comments are excellent!

The Review:

‘Betrayed!  Stephen Harper’s War on Principled Conservatism’ by Connie Fournier is a truly scary book.

Connie Fournier is both intelligent and eloquent and has the skill to line the little pearls up, one by one, till they form a brilliant necklace – or an effective noose…

Yes, I saw a part of the journey that Connie so accurately describes in her book – but I truly only saw a small part.  Yet, step by step, event by event, convoluted happening by convoluted happening, she lights the path and puts forward some very convincing evidence that points not just to the corruption of our ‘progressive’ leaning bureaucracy but also demonstrated how the Harper ‘iron fist’ is affecting things behind the scenes (whether through direct action or through carefully selective inaction).  Limited by the legal rulings still muzzling her, she succeeds in getting the important points across in a logical, accurate and believable manner.

This book has bought into focus the consistency with which the Harper government has sought to control, regulate and stifle internet communication.  The book stops before the Trans Pacific Trade Treaty  –  again, a Harper government ‘baby’, the leaks about which prove the veracity of everything else written in the book.

Yes, I would recommend it as a read – even though I disagree with Connie’s conclusion that the Green Party would be the natural place to cast a protest vote for.  No – I think the Pirate Party of Canada is a much better candidate, as their abid opposition to Bill C-51 is coupled with opposition to copyright consumer right abuses that the TPTT imposes as a supra-national law.  If there is no Pirate Party candidate in your riding, please, do consider running for them.  If my health were better, I most certainly would do my best to try to run for them!

But, again, I digress…

This is an important book to read for everyone who understands the crucial role freedom of speech plays and who would like help navigating the legal jungle of bills and attempts to deny it to us, the citizens – especially as it relates to the electronic medium.

Whether neo-Con or not, this book will open your eyes to the systematic process that is already in place to persecute political foes of the party in power and is written in such an accessible way that even non-techies will understand the implications of the proposed muzzling legislation coming from Harper’s ‘Conservative’ government.

Everyone of my relatives and friends will be getting a copy from me!

Advertisements

John Stossel – Offensive Speech (with Ezra Levant)

 

An Email form Connie Fournier of Free Dominion

Here is the email:

Thanks to YOU, Free Dominion is Appealing!
Hi, FD Friends!

Once again I’m emailing you with a Free Dominion legal update because you have helped us in the past, and/or you are on our list of friends who are interested in keeping up with our cases. (Please let me know if you no longer want to get these status reports.)
Thanks to all of you for your support, prayers and encouragement!  

 

Even though Free Dominion is still closed to the public due to the Court Order obtained by Richard Warman, we have some GOOD NEWS! 

 

We WON the copyright case against Richard Warman and the National Post that was scheduled to be heard in the Federal Court of Appeal on February 19th!  Just days before the trial was to begin, both Warman and the National Post dropped out of the case. 
Now Warman and the National Post must pay our costs!

On March 24th we will be in Ottawa for the long-awaited Baglow trial.  It will last for three days and it will be at the Courthouse at 161 Elgin St.

Drop by if you can!

Our fundraiser is doing well…we have raised nearly 50% of our goal…so we have filed our Appeal of the John Doe decision that forced us to close the site.

Mark Steyn very kindly donated some of his books and shirts for us to offer as perks on our fundraiser!  Click on the link below if you want to do some shopping! 🙂

We have one week to go, so please share our fundraiser info with your friends!

Please note that the fundraiser is in US funds, so take that into account if you decide to donate.

If you feel more inclined, you can also help out using an Interac Email Money Transfer to connie@freedominion.ca.

And our mailing address is:

Connie Fournier
2000 Unity Rd
Elginburg, ON  K0H 1M0

Thank you so much to all of you for being there for us!  We said we were going to continue on fighting for your freedom, and we are marching on!

We hope that some day we have the opportunity to thank each and every one of you in person!

Fondest Regards,
Connie and Mark

Warman vs Free Dominion and John Does – the Jury Trial (day 3)

Day 1′s events can be read here.

Day 2’s events can be read here.

Today is day 3 of the trial and, I am sad to report, I was not there for most of it.

Before day 2 came to a close, the jury had been excused so that the judge and the lawyers (and Mr. Smith) could discuss some technical details.  Much of it was very technical legalese and I must admit, I had a difficult time following it.

What it did drive home for me was just how physically strenuous being a trial lawyer is!

The first day of the trial had been long and exhausting, but, before they left, the judge gave the lawyers homework:  they were to write a short 1-2 page summary not of the facts, but from what positions they would be arguing the case.

Now, at the close of the second day, the judge gave out more homework!

And this time, it was not just a short summary:  the judge wanted each of the sides to look up precedent law on the technical bit they had been discussing and present him with it before the trial resumed today!

That is a lot of work, paying close attention to all the details of the trial and then having to spend the evening doing more detailed research – as well as work what had gone on in the courtroom into the next-day’s plans…you would have to be not just intelligent, but also have a lot of physical stamina in order to withstand this kind of a highly stressful workload.

But, again, I digress…

So, this morning had been more discussions between the judge and the lawyers and no presentation of evidence to the jury.  And, again, my lack of legal training is a sharp limiting factor on my ability to have followed the crux of it, but…this is the best I could glean.

The jury will be asked to rule if specific – certain, very specific – posts on the Free Dominion discussion forum (they keep referring to it as a message board) – if these constitute libel against Mr. Warman.

The problem is that these specific comments are in different conversation threads in different bits of the site, there are cross-references and soon, the mesh becomes very difficult to navigate.  Time-lines complicate things even more…  Yet, for the jury to render their decisions, things have to be as easy to follow as possible.  So, to the best of my understanding, they were discussing how best to achieve this, how best to organize the material for presentation to the jury.

The court adjourned while the counsel counseled their respective clients on the suggested organizational methodologies.

After all this had been agreed to by all the parties – an amicable process, at least when one watched it from afar, the court re-convened.  And – the judge made an exciting announcement:  we had another question from the jury!

Once they begin deliberating, will they have access to their original binders, with their notes in it?

This warrants a little explanation.

The jurors are permitted to take notes during the testimony, but are not allowed to take them out of the courtroom, for security.  Many of them have, indeed, been taking notes – either on note-pads or right inside the evidence binders, as they were following the testimony regarding the various posts and how they affected Mr. Warman and his reputation.  To the best of my understanding, the jurors were asking if they would have access to these same binders – with their notes in them – while they deliberate, which will, of course, not be inside the courtroom.

Justice Smith smiled and said the answer was yes.  Then, he asked the counsel if they think it would OK for them (judge and lawyers and Mr. Smith) to call the jurors in, give them the answer, but then excuse them until 2pm so that they (the judge, the lawyers and Mr. Smith) could finish going over the details of what and how organized and labeled and highlighted the ‘posts in question’ will be presented to the jury.

All agreed, the jury came in, got their answer, was dismissed till 2 and left.

And, even though my own load in just observing the process is much lighter than that of any other person there, I must admit, I was exhausted.  I am not very healthy and not being able to lie down for this long at a stretch, several days in a row, had taken its toll on me…I was tired, so very, very tired…

Plus my pen ran out of ink…

My backup pen was in the second bag from yesterday, which I had left in the car…

My backup backup pen was in the backup notebook, which I just could not find…

so, ladies and gentlemen, I apologize but, I, too left…

I hope to gather information on what happened after 2 pm from any observers who might have been there, but, up till now, I have not received any.

What I did do, however, was to try to get a perspective on how Mr. Warman behaved on the stand from a non-Aspie observer.  I am, after all, rather blind to social cues and body language, so I know my perceptions of how Mr. Warman performed on the stand are necessarily poor.

What I heard did not warm my heart.

It seems that Mr. Warman’s positioning himself as a victim was skilfully executed and that casually slipping in the ‘damaging’ (to him) information into what he said likely went quite unnoticed by the jury.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings!

 

UPDATE:  (at 22:22)  I have found my backup notebook with my backup backup pen!

Connie Fournier on the fall of ‘Section 13’

Connie and Mark Fournier are the founders and operators of Free Dominion, Canada’s first and best known ‘little c’ conservative discussion forum.  As such, they have been in the forefront of the battles for freedom of speech and against ‘Section 13’ of the Human Rights Code, which criminilizes any speech which might, potentially, hurt someone’s feelings.

Of course, as per ‘Xanthippa’s first law of human dynamics’ (any rule and/or law will, eventually, be pushed to its extreme and abused/applied in ways the drafters never imagined), ‘Section 13’ became abused, had 100% conviction rate, and ‘truth’ was no defense….

Alas, passing laws is much easier than repealing them, which is why it took so long, and was such a difficult battle.

And the Fourniers were in the thick of it:  Dr. Michael Geist, in his ‘Milestones in 2012 from A to Z, even named ‘F’ is for ‘Free Dominion’!

It is natural, therefore, that I sought an interview with Connie Fournier on the occasion of the fall of ‘Section 13’.  Connie graciously agreed.  Here is the interview:

Q: How did you feel when you heard that Bill C-304, which strikes down the infamous ‘Section 13’, had passed the final reading in the Senate and received Royal Assent, making it a law?
A:  We are just talking about how both of us are having a hard time believing it is real.  We have fought against Section 13 so hard for so long that it is hard to believe that we actually won!  Obviously, though, we are ecstatic.

Q: What impact do you think this will make on the political discussion in Canada?
A:  We are hoping that it will make people less afraid to discuss controversial issues.  We have always believed that the best way for Canadians to deal with their differences is for them to be able to discuss them openly.  When you have a potential legal threat hanging over your head if someone decides your words are capable of making someone uncomfortable, it has a major chilling effect on discussion…especially political discussion, which is heated at the best of times.  When you add to that the effect of having a third party starting these actions as his own personal crusade, you have real problems.
Q: Do you think that your legal situation will be impacted by this and if so, how?
A:  When it comes to the defamation suits that Richard Warman has filed against us, this is very important.  When someone claims damages for defamation, they have to demonstrate that they had a good reputation that was unfairly damaged as a result of the words of the defendents.  In this case, the plaintiff’s actions have now directly resulted in two governments (the Federal government and the BC government) having to enact legislation to protect the public from him. (BC Libraries and Bill C-304…I can provide more info if you need it)  This is a direct reflection on his reputation.

Q: Do you think this will lead to eventual de-funding and/or dismantling of the quasi-judicial Human Rights Commissions/Tribunals in favour of trials in real courts with proper legal procedures?
A:  I wouldn’t be surprised if this resulted in such a move.  Hopefully the first thing that will happen, though, is for provincial HRCs to follow suit and repeal their own versions of Section 13.

Q: Anything else you’d like to say on the topic?
A:  The defenders of censorship are wailing that the repeal of Section 13 will result in an explosion of hatred around the country.  I think it is good to note that Section 13 cases have been stayed since the Hadjis decision, and this threat has not materialized.  Canadians are polite and decent people and we are quite capable of dealing with the handful of internet racists among us by out-arguing them.  We do not need CHRC employees to snoop around our sites or, worse, post hateful messages as “bait”.  We are very thankful to Brian Storseth for putting forward a private member’s bill that acknowledges that Canadians are reasonable and intelligent adults.
Thanks to Connie for her words and just a reminder that this battle that Mark and Connie Fournier are fighting is on the behalf of all of us – and that legal fees are costly.  There will be a fund-raising BBQ for the Fournier’s legal expenses on July 21st, 2013.  Come out and show your support for freedom of speech!

 

Breaking news: Section 13 of Canada’s Human Right’s Code is officially dead!!!

Thanks to BlazingCatfur for this tip (I am shamelessly copying his post – keep checking there often, he’ll have updates:

A long battle but section 13 is dead

As I write this I am still only being updated by text message on the proceedings in the Senate chamber but I am told Bill C-304 has passed third reading and will receive Royal Assent tonight making it law.

What does this bill do?

There are a number of amendments to the act that help limit abuse but the main one is this:

2. Section 13 of the Act is repealed.

A time to celebrate!!!

Chris Schafer: Lessons from how UK deals with hate speech