UK to Increase Maximum Sentence for Internet Trolls

The UK government announced today that it will increase the maximum prison sentence for internet trolls to two years, up from six months. It will also increase the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution from six months from the day of commission to three years. This is in conjunction with the creation of a specific offence to criminalize ‘revenge porn’.

The offence is described as “cover[ing] sending a letter, electronic communication or article of any description to another person, which is in nature, or which conveys a message which is, indecent or grossly offensive, or conveys a threat or false information, with the purpose of causing distress or anxiety to the recipient or to any other person to whom it is intended that its contents should be communicated.”

Chris Grayling, the Minister of Justice, has described the initiative as “a stand against a baying cyber-mob”. Neither Mr Grayling nor the official press release make any comment about the underlying discrimination found in many instances of trolling.

This announcement was made just days after a high profile trolling case was made public. The daughter of Judy Finnegan, a well-known TV presenter, had receive rape threats online because of her mother’s on-air comments regarding a convicted rapists and football player. Finnegan said that Ched Evans should be welcomed back to professional sports because the rape “wasn’t violent and the victim was drunk”. Her comments solicited wide criticisms and she has since apologized, though her daughter was consequently the target of internet trolling.

For more information, see here.

UK to Criminalize “Revenge Porn”

UK Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced a new law to explicitly make “revenge porn” illegal. The Crown Prosecution Service had announced that current legislation already criminalized it with a maximum sentence of 14 years. The new law will explicitly penalize distributors of digital or physical “photographs or films which show people engaged in sexual activity or depicted in a sexual way or with their genitals exposed, where what is shown would not usually be seen in public”. The maximum sentence is 2 years imprisonment.

While revenge porn is usually characterized by spurned ex-lovers distributing pornographic images, many victims report that the only means that their photos could have been accessed was through computer hacking. It is unclear whether exes and hackers will be treated similarly under the law.

Criminalized distribution will not be limited to specialized revenge porn sites, but also to Twitter, Facebook, SMS and email. Additionally, if it is deemed a sexual offence, distributors could face up to 14 years in jail.

For more information, see here.

Bill C-13: At Odds with the Supreme Court of Canada

Bill C-13 or the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, was tabled by Minister of Justice Peter MacKay. As of October 1st, it passed on a vote at its report stage despite the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling on internet privacy laws this summer.

In summary the Bill, creates a new offence of non-consensual distribution of intimate images without the owner’s consent. It provides for the authorization to have these images removed, the forfeiture of property used in commission of the offence, and the restriction of the use of a computer or the Internet by a convicted offender.  It creates the power to make preservation demands and orders to compel the preservation of electronic evidence.  It allows for the granting of a warrant that will extend the current investigative power for data associated with telephones to transmission data relating to all means of telecommunications. It also allows for the grant of warrants that will enable the tracking of transactions, individuals and things related to the legal interests at stake. The Bill also prescribes a streamlined process of obtaining warrants and orders to intercept private communications.

In June of this year, the Supreme Court of Canada in R v. Spencer recognized enhanced privacy rights online and ruled that warrants are generally required when seeking subscriber information from telecoms. The decision goes against the enhanced powers that are found in Bill C-13. The Globe and Mail reports that,

Mr. MacKay insisted the bill “does not create warrantless access” to information, saying it’s an “incorrect, factually wrong statement” to say otherwise. However, the bill plainly opens the door to police getting information without a warrant – through the immunity provisions that apply broadly, not just to telecoms, which received 1.2 million data requests from law enforcement agencies in 2011.

With the Bill going ahead, there are critics wondering as to whether or not the Bill should be allowed to move forward due to the constitutional issues now at play. The Globe and Mail reports,

“We know the Supreme Court has already quashed one of the clauses … because it provided access to data without a warrant,” NDP MP Charmaine Borg said in the House, questioning Mr. MacKay. “… His bill allows people to have warrantless access to data with no judicial verification. Is he prepared to say that [the bill] is constitutional? Because the Supreme Court has already said that it is not.” Mr. MacKay said the question was a “false dichotomy”.

One suggestion, provided in a Macleans report in June of this year, states that, “privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien and the Canadian Bar Association have recommended that the cyber-bullying bill be split in two, with one bill covering cyber-bullying and another focusing on lawful-access provisions”.

The full text of Bill C-13 can be found here.


Significant Decline in Spoiled Ballots in NB Election

The CBC reported today on the dramatic decrease in spoiled ballots during the most recent election. There were 1611 spoiled ballots cast in the New Brunswick Election and this is alarming because it is half of what was casted in the 2010 election and 1000 votes less than the record low. The explanation behind this significant drop is the electronic tabulators and the influence it had on a voter’s ability to cast protest votes.

A protest vote is a means for a citizen to participate democratically but express dissatisfaction for the choice of candidates by not selecting any of them. The electronic tabulators only counted votes of ballots that were filled out properly and rejected those that were not. If the tabulators rejected a ballot, the operators asked voters if they wanted to revote. New Brunswick voters interviewed in the article expressed a sense of violation when questioned about their choice. Wayne Anderson of Sackville opted not to revote but speculated that many persons did. The reason being that there is a certain stigma to casting a ballot that is rejected. The secrecy of the ballot is fundamental to democratic systems. Voters should not feel the need to explain their choice.

Elections NB submitted a 2007 decision by Ontario Superior Court of Justice concerning a recount where 96 votes were rejected because persons did not properly make their selection (Di Biase v. Vaughan (City), 2007 38388 (ON SC)). This decision criticized election officials for not activating the tabulators to notify elections officers when a vote was not properly received. However, it is not the place of Ontario superior court decision to impact the secrecy of voters in New Brunswick Elections. The use of electronic tabulators and the impact on protest votes and accordingly, the secrecy of the ballot is a legal question that requires an answer if electronic systems will continue to be used.

Source Article

New Australian law gives spy agency extensive surveillance powers

Last Wednesday, the “National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014″ passed both houses of the Australian Parliament and is now awaiting Royal Assent. This new law dramatically increases the powers of Australia’s domestic spy agency, ASIO, giving it the ability to monitor all of the Australian Internet with a single warrant. It could also send anyone who “recklessly” discloses information that “relates to a special intelligence operation” to jail for up to 10 years. And any operation can be declared as “special”. Many lawyers and academics have criticized the law for being too broad and fear the agency will abuse this power.

Read more here.

Quebecor Conflict of Interest Rears its Head Again in PQ Leadership Race

UPDATE November 28, 2014: Pierre Karl Péladeau has now confirmed that he will run for leadership of the Parti Québécois.

Conflicts of interest involving Parti Quebecois Member of the National Assembly (MNA) Pierre Karl Péladeau were at the surface again on October 4, as provincial PQ MNAs met to decide the details of their party’s upcoming leadership race.

Péladeau, or PKP as he is known in Québec, caused major debate when he decided to run for MNA in his riding of St-Jérôme in April 2014. As he is majority shareholder of Québec’s dominant media conglomerate, Quebecor, PKP faced intense criticism when he announced that he would not sell his shares if elected. Quebecor owns Videotron, a large telecommunications company, and a number of media outlets including Sun Media Corporation, the largest press group in Canada. Quebecor posted gross sales of $4.3 billion in 2013.

Now, Péladeau is emerging as a very likely, and popular, candidate in the upcoming PQ leadership race. His potential opponent, fellow MNA Jean-François Lisée, has called on Péladeau again to end his conflict of interest by either selling his Quebecor shares or putting them in a blind trust.

“You cannot be head of a party, let alone Premier, and control the first media in Québec,” Lisée was quoted as saying Saturday.

Meanwhile, it seems other PQ MNAs have remained relatively silent on the issue while PKP has again affirmed the shares will not be sold. The National Assembly’s ethics commissioner is expected to make a ruling on the situation in mid-October.


First Nations Blockade Opening of St Martian Channel

The National Post reports that Interlake First Nations communities have established a blockade on Lake St. Martin to prevent reopening of an emergency channel. Protesters contend that opening the emergency channel will damage the fishing industry in the region while the province argues that the channel will help reduce flooding in southern Manitoba. The blockade has led the Manitoban government to threaten legal action and officials have already contacted the RCMP for assistance.

Notably the protests have occurred in the context of a recent Supreme Court decision on Aboriginal land title rights. In Tsilhqot’in Nation v British Columbia, where ownership rights have not been signed away in treaties, “… the court recognized the existence of aboriginal title on a particular site…” and defined Aboriginal title as”… control [over...]  ancestral lands and the right to use them for modern economic purposes, without destroying those lands for future generations.” The court also recognized that in some instances governments would be able to intrude on these land rights where Aboriginal interests are reconciled with wider public purposes.

For more information, please refer to the Tsilhqot’in Nation v British Columbia decision here.

Moncton shootings: The challenge of detaining someone who poses a risk

The fatal shootings in Moncton New Brunswick, of three RCMP officers, and wounding two others, reveals the challenges that parents face when they worry that their child may cause harm to themselves or the public. When the police get called, the only way they can detain somebody or take them to hospital is if they are a danger to themselves or others. However, gathering enough proof can be difficult.

The CBC reports that the father of Moncton shooting suspect, Justin Bourque, and his wife attempted to get help for their son from police, however they were told they couldn’t do anything about it. His Facebook page, which exhibited posts about gun rights, did not reveal anything that could have been used to detain him.

Anthony Moustacalis, president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association commented on this difficult balance. He stated, “Ultimately we live in a society that quite rightly values civil liberties, and that means you don’t take someone’s liberty away, even if they’re not well mentally, unless you have a proper legal basis. And where we’ve drawn the line is they have to be a threat to themselves or someone else.”


Moncton may ban giving money to panhandlers

CBC reports that Moncton politicians are considering implementing an anti-panhandling bylaw, which would outlaw panhandlers from asking for money and people from giving it to them. City councillors expressed their support of the bylaw earlier this week. The general manager of community safety services for the City of Moncton maintained that presently the proposal is merely a consideration.

Many Moncton residents have complained of the persistent panhandlers asking for money downtown. However, the proposal is gaining mixed reviews as some would like rules to control panhandlers and others worry the bylaw goes too far. In the meantime, the city is installing a camera and the RCMP have two officers who will be permanently downtown during the summer.

Moncton is not the only city facing pressure to control downtown panhandling. A business group in Fredericton has also been receiving complaints about aggressive panhandlers. They would like a bylaw that distinguishes between panhandlers and buskers, who perform and ask for donations.


Nova Scotia Union Files Court Challenge Over New Home-care Labour Law

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) has filed a statement of claim against the provincial government of Nova Scotia, challenging the Essential Home-Support Services (2014) Act, reports the Cape Breton Post. The NSGEU claims the Act violates the rights of home-support workers to bargain collectively. The Union also claims that the Act is discriminatory towards women since around 90% of the home-support workers affected are female.

The legislation was passed on March 1, 2014, in order to end a one-day strike of approximately 400 of the province’s home-support workers. The provincial government claims the Act does not remove the right to strike, writes the Globe and Mail. Premier Stephen McNeil states that the legislation, which prohibits home-support workers from striking, is in place to protect vulnerable citizens until a collective agreement is arranged that outlines what workers are considered essential.

The Essential Home-support Services (2014) Act can be read here.




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