Social Justice

Kiss Your Right to Communicate Freely Goodbye

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“To every man is given the key to the gates of heaven; the same key opens the gates of hell.” – As told to Richard Feynman (Theoretical physicist) by a Buddhist monk.

The search query Bill C-51, leaves me wondering how quickly the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) or the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) will come to know about my curiosity. Other than that simple search term what else do they know, or what else do they think they know? What more can they find out about my interest in the subject?

IMG_3907Like thousands of other Canadians, by attending a weekend rally that was vociferously against the attempt to pass this omnibus bill, I’ve knowingly exposed myself even further to the mechanisms of State surveillance. I’ve been surveilled without context. It’s just like searching the internet is now an act of being surveilled without context.

Think back in history, even before surreptitiously cracking a wax sealed envelope and peaking into its contents, communication technology and surveillance have long been strange bedfellows.

Ultimately the mechanisms of State surveillance are rooted in the manipulation of, and projection of power.  “The increased power of officials is an inevitable result of the greater degree of organization that scientific technique {communications technologies} brings about. It has the drawback that is apt to be irresponsible, behind-the-scenes, power, like that of Emperors’ eunuchs and the Kings’ mistresses in former times. To discover ways of controlling it is one of the most important political problems of our times” – Bertrand Russell (The Impact of Science on Society – 1953)

This “Act (Bill C-51) that may be cited as the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015” is being fast tracked to becoming (in it’s own words),  “An Act to enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts.”  This is a significant legislative overhaul. This will make us no safer nor more secure tomorrow that we already are today. This is nothing more than a security services power grab.

Bill C-51 is full of murky definitions and offers a troublingly broad definition of what constitutes “threats to the security of Canada.” According to our Prime Minister’s hyperbole ““Jihadist terrorism is not a future possibility, it is a present reality,” Harper said at the announcement. “It seeks to harm us here in Canada, in our cities and in our neighbourhoods through horrific acts.”

Yet, let’s look for these sources of terror. This ominous spectre of terror that’s lurking in shadowy corners and looming over our country, the terrorist threat we all need to fear according to CSIS, is the one that’s “emanating from Al-Qaeda-inspired extremism… Despite recent successful operations targeting Al-Qaeda Core, the Service continues to see support for AQ causes in Canada. Of particular significance is the above-mentioned investigation into an alleged Al-Qaeda-linked plot to attack a train in Southern Ontario, which led to the arrest of two individuals in April 2013.” It’s important noting that this lone terrorist plot was foiled using today’s current surveillance methods and within today’s legislative framework.

I accept that Google, Facebook, and Apple possess a potential treasure trove data points about me. I can accept what these corporations know about me because they can’t bankrupt me; they can’t incarcerate me; they can’t potentially ruin my life. The state can.

I’m not keen on feeling powerless to defend myself against the mechanisms of our State surveillance and security authorities. What does the Canadian State surveillance and security system know about me right now? It’s haunting to think that a faceless and nameless bureaucrat can take shards and fragments of information, of metadata and create a story that’s not mine. The state can create their own narrative for each of us. One day we might find ourselves no longer free to create and communicate our own narrative.IMG_3902

This story of safety, security, and terrorism is supposed to be about trusting our government. We’re supposed to believe that giving up more freedom and privacy is good for us. How is the imposition of self-censorship good for us? Do I have to consider how framing a dissenting perspective about the federal government could be taken out of context? Can my suggesting that we have a government that’s displayed total lack of environmental stewardship while schilling our natural resources to interests that best suit a myopic and greedy fiscal agenda, be potentially deemed a “threat to the security of Canada?”

IMG_3915As well, this state abuse of communications technology could further curtail our freedom of movement. The no-fly list is nothing new, but under the new version of this law authorities will be permitted to use undisclosed secret evidence against suspects. Again we’ll be left powerless to defend ourselves.

The internet is a door that opens two ways. While we can see a world of good and evil, we also have to allow for the reality that this door also lets both walk through it too. One of those evils should not be our own supposedly democratically elected government. Echoing Edward Snowden, government needs to recalibrate it’s relationship with us. That relationship can not be defined as those ruling the ruled; it must be one that’s between the electorate and the elected. Bill C-51 is about being ruled. It’s the real looming spectre of terror that’s in our midst today.

“There can be no doubt that behind all the pronouncements of this court, and in my case, behind the arrest and today’s inquiry, there exists an extensive organization […] And the purpose of this extensive organization, gentlemen? It consists of arresting innocent people and introducing senseless proceedings against them, which for the most part, as in my case, go nowhere. Given the senselessness of the whole affair, how could the bureaucracy avoid becoming entirely corrupt?” (Kafka – The Trial)

REFLECTING ON 2014: THE BIG ISSUE, THE BIG IDEA, AND THE BIG WIN

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Every Canadian technology startup that’s delighting and delivering value to its customers, while creating a meaningful workplace culture, is a story worth sharing. Every entrepreneur earning the opportunity to keep the lights on another day deserves a high-five.

I’m not big on picking favourites. So with a twist on the usual list-bait, here’s a look at the year that was by reflecting on the biggest issue, the biggest idea, and the biggest win.

These words are homeless without the internet. Despite being 25 years old, the promise of an open and free internet seems like a pipe dream. The architect of the world’s information network, Tim Berners-Lee, believes that “we need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges.” Yet the social value of today’s internet is being challenged and undermined everyday by the actions of deceitful of governments and plundering corporations. OpenMedia-11-of-17-1050x700

Former Google developer advocate Tim Bray has lent his voice to this biggest of issues, and his words resonate throughout: “It’s OK to be Pro-Privacy Without Being a Crook, Pervert, or Terrorist.

I imagine being with my kids and marvelling at the beauty of a rainbow revealing itself after the dark deluge of a winter storm blasts through, and it passes as our conversation about climate change. Talk about fleeting and borderline delusional thoughts. I do imagine a world where our relationship with fossil fuels isn’t driving the climate change debate.

Rather than just imagining how such a world will look, Dr. Michel Laberge and his General Fusion team is working towards delivering “the Promise of Clean Energy.” This is not only the biggest idea of 2014, but it’s possibly the most meaningful endeavour for our children I’ll never know.

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It was a shot in the dark, emailing info@ in the hopes in securing an interview with one of Vancouver’s more successful startup entrepreneurs. On the heels of raising $42 million in new funding for a business completely off my radar, I figured the odds of catching up with Stewart Butterfield to get the story of Slack was firmly entrenched between slim and negligible.

The personal reply from Butterfield caught my attention. More so, our conversation left an impression and no accompanying sense of shock when the news dropped he’s now leading Vancouver’s newest billion dollar company. Raising $120 million for this new communication platform counts as the biggest win, and confirms “This Guy’s No Slacker.

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Orange jumpsuits aren’t my idea of high fashion. I’m fond of suggesting good entrepreneurs have to be rule breakers, or makers of new rules. Just not breaking them to a felonious point. Being true to my word and breaking my editors rule, there’s a fourth Vancouver startup story that’s of the big “pie-in-sky” variety.

Actually, it’s a two big HD cameras in the sky story that caught my attention. Like our tenuous and tempestuous relationship with the internet or re-imaging the powering of our world, Urthecast is changing how we can see our planet. Maybe if we look at our world from a different point of view we’ll start treating it and ourselves better. Let’s move forward into 2015 taking action for good and being most mindful that “We’re All in This Together.”

This story was originally published in BetaKit

Celebration Day 01/07/14

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01/07/14

20 rolls

It’s V6A

8:00

AM

Tall boy downed

then downed

tossed

tossers ride

the ally

Tall boy empty

finds new hands

change found

celebrate

small change

no change

celebrate

what day?

a new day

another day

survive

suffer

sunshine

bolt cutters gripped

cutters rip what?

celebrate

loot

bounty

pawn

quick fix

smoke it

shoot it

down it

celebrate

it’s another day

it’s Canada Day

it’s V6A

 

picture courtesy of Alpha Coders

 

Jacqueline Novogratz Leads Conversation of Audacious Action

Jacqueline Novagratz

“The humility to see the world as it is, and the audacity to imagine the world as it could be.” — Jacqueline Novogratz

That’s the mission statement that drives Acumen’s CEO Jacqueline Novogratz every day. She’s the founder and CEO of Acumen, a non-profit group that raises donations to invest in entrepreneurial projects that tackle poverty around the world.

A Vancouver audience had the opportunity to hear Novogratz’s thoughts on impact investing as part of a conversation organized by the Vancouver Acumen chapter and the Simon Fraser University Radius program.

“Bright Spots & What’s Missing,” focused on what’s working and what’s missing from social enterprise.

Sharon Duguid, (director and family enterprise advisor, Center for Entrepreneurs and Family Enterprise at PwC) moderated the discussion with Novogratz and Kevin Royes, serial soulcial-preneur and youth entrepreneurship educator.

Entrepreneurship is about going over, around, under or right through obstacles. It’s not for the faint of heart. Duguid asked, “How do you approach the naysayers, the tight-fisted, the policy people, how do you keep the momentum going?”

“Start and let the work teach you,” said Novogratz. “It’s too easy to wait until everything is set up perfectly before you try to move.” She shared the story of four guys wanting to change the ambulance industry in India: “We thought they were crazy. It was such a big, broken, corrupt, bloated industry, but still said why not give it a try. Over time, very quickly we saw how a tiny, no-name, ethical, entrepreneurial organization could navigate this morass.”

Ziqitza Healthcare has grown to the second largest ambulance company in Asia. She shares more of the story in her winter 2014 letter.

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She offered that if “you’re entrepreneurs, you can’t wake up in this morning thinking you can anticipate everything that’s going to happen. The standing on the shoulders of others, learning from it, and the willingness to move from a place of moral authority with fearlessness, to take on challenges, sometimes with soft power, and sometimes by playing hardball. It’s about not being afraid of either side.”

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In terms of priorities, and doing what’s right, Novogratz isn’t wearing rose-coloured glasses. While offering that in many regards it’s a great time to be alive, she also cautioned, “I think there’s a risk that with so much wealth being concentrated in one tiny, tiny, tiny pinprick of a corner, we’re actually at risk of losing empathy.”

“I don’t know if we’re only going to get it through this one-to-one relationship model,” she added. “I think we have opportunities as social entrepreneurs to be thinking about the kinds of solutions that can really humanize great innovation.

“We’re seeing the next coolest app getting ridiculous multiples, but we’re not seeing the kind of innovation we need to get water to the right places. The more we can somehow make that sexy, and celebrate entrepreneurs who are using innovation to create change the more things will change for the better.”

She talked about building ethics, by citing a story about a Ziqitza employee who found a wallet on the Indian roadside with about $50 in it. He took the wallet to the hospital and personally gave it to the patient once out of surgery. He trusted no one to do the same, and was held up as a public hero.

“We have to consider another metric for success,” Novogratz suggested. “It’s not just the one who has the most money wins. It’s how much are you giving? How much dignity are you giving? How much are you enabling others to gain?”

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Duguid asked Novogratz and Royes what the most compelling issue they face in their daily mission.

“We have be careful when looking at a tree with some diseased leaves for instance,” said Royes. “Our tendency is to go to the leaves and try to fix them. I’m constantly driven by this idea of creating the biggest amount of change with the least amount of effort.”

Novogratz answered, “At the heart of it, is how do you navigate these complex and interlinking systems of finance, venture capital, philanthropy and the very poorest people on the planet in a way that moves from respect for everybody. And, that can really tear at you in a lot of different ways. How do you keep that core, so that everybody will have a place to play in this growing ecosystem.”

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Entrepreneurship was at the heart of the conversation. “How do you cut past the distractions, and focus on what needs to be done right now?” asked Duguid.

Royes talked about reading “Mastery” and suggested, “There’s a period of apprenticeship before we start to settle in, start to make sense and see the bigger picture. We have to appreciate that we’re going to be making mistakes in business that I’m going to learn from. That’s part of it, and I even have to accept the possibility of failure. That’s OK because it’s part of becoming an apprentice. We have to get in the game, we have to start taking some action, we have to start somewhere.”

He touched on the fact that by 2025, millennials will make up 75 per cent of the workforce: “That’s a good future to look forward to.”

As well, he pointed to the recent Deloitte Millennial survey saying he’s excited by the prospect that “70 per cent see themselves working independently.” This could be a good trend, because clearly there are no shortage of employers feeling unprepared for this new generation of leaders.

In terms of key social trends like collaboration, sharing, and a growing global connectivity, that are reshaping our markets, Royes talked about this being “a people to people time. Big institutions are moving very slowly, and people are creating so much change outside of it.

“People are caring way more about where things are coming from. Part of our jobs as creators is to consider how we’re connecting with the people in this world and how they’re spending their money. It doesn’t matter what the initiative is, if we don’t connect why the person is buying something in the first place.”

The story originally appeared in the Huffington Post BC

Photos by Thompson Chan and Nikki Koutsochilis

“It’s OK to be Pro-Privacy Without Being a Crook, Pervert, or Terrorist.”

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OpenMedia.ca invited a group of people from Vancouver’s technology, philanthropy, and social enterprise community to join an evening conversation entitled, “Propelling our Connected Future Forward.”

The community-based organization is focused on safeguarding the possibilities of the open Internet. They’re creating informed and participatory digital policy by engaging hundreds of thousands of people in protecting our online rights. They support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy based on five basic principles set out in the Declaration of Internet Freedom.

Read Also: Canadian Indentity-Privacy Pioneer Austin Hill Has a Message for the Founders of Whisper and Secret

Michael Tippett (co-founder of NowPublic, now director of new product for HootSuite) and Tim Bray (former developer advocate for Google, cofounder of Open Text Corporation and Antarctica Systems) lead the conversation.

Tippett was very clear about his reasoning for being part of the evening. Thinking back to the late ‘90’s and being part of one of Canada’s first digital agencies Tippett said, “I’m part of this GenX malaise, thinking life is gloomy and we’re going to be worse off than our parents. A real bummer. And then the internet came, and it was like we’re saved!”

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The early internet days were seen as a kind of utopian vision. It represented an open, free, democratic, and revolutionary force. Tippett added, “it changed a lot of lives, my life, and is now changing my kids’ lives. The reality is that those heady days are behind us, and that original vision is under threat. A great internet is more than just having fast download speeds for a better Netflix experience, it’s about ensuring we have an open, free, and democratic society.”

Bray said “there’s a lot of things we need to do to make sure the internet stays open. We have to worry a lot about things like net neutrality, pricing, and bandwidth. The one thing that worries me most of all is privacy. You can’t have an open internet unless you can close down parts of it, namely the parts you don’t want to share with everyone else in the world.

Having private by default internet, one which can be truly open and people can be themselves without fear doesn’t have to be a utopian vision. Ultimately, there needs to be a counter position to those who think, “if you’re not doing anything wrong, why do you need privacy anyhow.” Wanting privacy isn’t about having nefarious intentions.

According to Bray, “it’s ok to be pro-privacy without being a crook, pervert, or terrorist.”

The people who are spying on us on behalf of your government are just people. Most are well-meaning, underpaid, dedicated public servants who passionately believe they are protecting you and me from bad guys who want to do terrible things. However, a small proportion of them are inevitably stupid, insane, corrupt or just crazy. People who are in that position with that much access to information can wreak havoc on your life in a lot of different ways. Thus it needs to be regulated, watched, and the amount of snooping needs to be minimized. And there’s nothing wrong with asking for that.”

With the proliferation of mass surveillance and an emergence of an accompanying sense of police statism, Bray suggested that “while we have to cherish and protect the members of our law enforcement community, we also have to watch them like a hawk. We have to limit their actions, and preserve our privacy, because by default there’s nothing wrong with being private. Most of us are not terrorists.”

Read Also: BetaKit at #SXSW: Kiwi Wearables Does Not Want to Perform Science Experiments On Your Personal Data

The supposed goal of all of this pervasive surveillance is to protect us, and prevent bad things from happening to us. Yet as Bray said, “if you look at all of the bad things that could happen to us and the amount of money, resources, and technology being put into pervasive surveillance, it’s ridiculously out of balance. This record and watch, read, or listen to everything later is profoundly not cost effective no matter how you look at it.”

“Privacy is not a means to an end. Privacy is an end itself. It is a virtue of civilization, as opposed to living in a primitive culture,” Bray concluded. “We should cherish and protect it, and we shouldn’t ever have to explain why.”

It makes one question our current government priorities, when they’re in the process of building a new spy palace. By some estimates elevating the role of our surveillance state will cost the Canadian taxpayer somewhere between $1.2 billion, and $4.2 billion dollars. Curious what kind of investment is being made to help close our growing digital divide, and improve our national productivity and competitiveness?

It’s not the Orwellian Big Brother vision that’s worrisome. With government invading our privacy it’s the Kafkaesque version of this story that raises the biggest concern. When I close the door to my home I have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Yet, when I open my laptop or turn on my phone, that expectation is completely violated. While corporatism isn’t necessarily making the world a better place, at least Google, Facebook or Twitter can’t audit, indict, prosecute, jail or break me.

He realized at once that he shouldn’t have spoken aloud, and that by doing so he had, in a sense, acknowledged the stranger’s right to oversee his actions.” Kafka – The Trial

This story originally appeared in BetaKit

Photos by Tyson Dziedzic (http://klixphotography.com)

Imagine Your Civil Rights Disabled

Something’s always more appreciated when it’s lost. Wallet, glasses, keys, and phone seem more valuable when they’re gone. Despite some inconvenience or concerns about identity theft, they’re replaceable. There are some things a trip to the mall can’t fix. Imagine losing something that’s not replaceable.

Losing your mobility, your dexterity, or your senses will likely leave you depending on the care of others. How valuable is your independence and identity? If you’re able-bodied and fortunate enough to have all of your senses: appreciate your good fortune.

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According to the World Health Organization, disabilities is an umbrella term that also encompasses impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions.

Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives. Overcoming the difficulties faced by people with disabilities requires interventions to remove environmental and social barriers.

Removing barriers and creating equal access is good, and is often a highly visible like special parking spots, and ramps into our buildings. However, these symbols don’t necessarily equate to delivering a high standard of care for the disabled.

In theory all citizens have equal rights, yet in practice people with disabilities are not extended the same considerations as every other able-bodied Canadian. How many of us have read and fully understand our Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Having real rights means having access to real remedies.

In 1990 the US passed the Americans With Disabilities Act. Inexplicably, Canada does not have the equivalent. Being disabled in Canada means you’re a non-citizen in some circumstances.

There is no existing legislation guaranteeing an appropriate and reasonable standard of care for British Columbians with disabilities who are in community or institutional care. For some this means living in a situation with absolutely no confidence for their personal safety. Living with freedom and dignity doesn’t exist. This tragic reality can largely be attributed to the excessive amount of discretion available to government workers and contractors respecting the services provided to people with disabilities.

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Documentary filmmaker Colin Ford explores this sorry state of affairs in Hope is Not a Plan. For sixty minutes you’ll be taken beyond statistics, examples and facts. You’ll experience living a life without dignity, independence, and freedom.

According to the film, “it’s estimated that 56 per cent of Canadians over 75 are disabled. The majority of Canadians will live into their 80s. This means you or someone close to you will likely get a disability. Canadians with disabilities are about one-and-a-half times as likely to be victims of violence as other Canadians. Most Canadians with disabilities do not have a practical way to enforce their civil rights.”

Burnaby B.C. lawyer Don Renaud is a strong supporter of the film, and works on behalf of people with disabilities shares, “this film makes clear that the disabled are the most vulnerable among us to suffer injustice. For some reason, society believes it can trample on a disabled person’s right to liberty because it is providing charitable services. As a consequence the rights of a disabled adult often mirror the limited rights afforded a child.” It’s a disconcerting realization when you’re confronted with the fact according to Renaud ” that a disabled person can be allowed to die negligently in a medical facility and there is no recourse in damages so nothing is done.”

Paul Caune is central to the film serving in both a key role and as the executive producer too. Beyond working with Ford to create Hope is Not a Plan, Caune is actively involved with Civil Rights Now. Guided by the core value of “freedom and dignity for all”, the group’s ultimate goal is to see the government create a British Columbians with Disabilities Act.

Caune is all about action and not just stringing empty platitudes saying, “awareness campaigns are worse than useless. Most Canadians with disabilities and many seniors do not have a practical way to enforce the civil rights guaranteed them by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; therefore we need effective, focused political action to get laws passed that will give Canadians with disabilities and those who are seniors the tools they need to protect their freedom and dignity… When your civil rights are violated, you don’t need a good hug, you need a good lawyer.”

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It’s time to take this awareness, and turn it into action by lending your voice and support to Civil Rights Now. Don Renaud sums it up best by offering this straightforward insight, “a right without a remedy is no right at all.” Imagine being a slip and fall, or maybe being a confused chromosome away from being dependent on the care or quite possibly the lack of care by others, having the same rights as everyone else is a theory worth putting into reality.

This story originally appeared in the Huffington Post BC