Monday, April 04, 2005

Canadians Freedom of Speech Limited?

Captains Quarter's appears to be in trouble with the Canadian government.

Canadians linking to this blog or Captain's Quarters may receive a summons form their government.

Here is Captain Ed's complete post:

Canadians: Linking To CQ May Be Bad For Your Freedom

"After CTV named Captain's Quarters on their news program last night, the site got swarmed with tens of thousands of visitors, leading to some slower response times (sorry!) and a "magnitude" increase of traffic for blogs who I've linked, especially on this story. However, if you've linked your blog to CQ and you live six or seven hours north of me, you may receive a summons from your government, according to this report from the London Free Press this morning:

A U.S. website has breached the publication ban protecting a Montreal ad executive's explosive and damning testimony at the federal sponsorship inquiry. The U.S. blogger riled the Gomery commission during the weekend by posting extracts of testimony given in secret Thursday by Jean Brault.

The American blog, being promoted by an all-news Canadian website, boasts "Canada's Corruption Scandal Breaks Wide Open" and promises more to come. The owner of the Canadian website refused to comment yesterday.

Inquiry official Francois Perreault voiced shock at the publication ban breach, and said the commission co-counsel Bernard Roy and Justice John Gomery will decide today whether to charge the Canadian website owner with contempt of court.

"We never thought someone would violate the publication ban," Perreault said. "Maybe we were more confident than we should have been."

The Canadian website in question is, which linked to my post on Saturday night or early Sunday morning. It only provided a link back to my site; it carried none of the testimony itself. In fact, it's still headlining a link to CQ despite the threat of legal action.

In an age of instant communications and greater freedom of the press, one would think that this kind of publication ban would obviously prove futile, especially when dealing with the kind of corruption that the Gomery Commission is investigating. However, if Perreault is to be believed, no one even considered the notion that someone might talk. Either M. Perreault is hopelessly naive, or he gets the Captain Louis Renault award for being shocked, shocked that free speech goes on in a democracy.

However, despite the publication of the material in an American blog and its review by thousands of Canadians, the Gomery Commission insists that the information is not public. Perreault warns Canadians that any link to CQ or even a mention of the blog name in any Canadian publication could lead to prosecution:

Perreault warned that even if Brault's testimony has been outed by a U.S. website, it doesn't mean it's now public information.

"Anyone who takes that information and diffuses it is liable to be charged with contempt of court," Perreault said.

"Anybody who reproduces it is at risk."

Well, you've been warned, my Canadian neighbors.

UPDATE: The Globe and Mail interviewed me yesterday, and published this Jane Taber article:

The explosive testimony given out of the public eye last week at the Gomery commission began appearing on websites yesterday, capping a weekend of frenzied rumours about snap elections and covert political meetings in Ottawa.

Conservative deputy leader Peter MacKay even suggested yesterday that the testimony, which is under a publication ban, could lead to criminal charges against senior Liberals. ...

The publication ban does not restrict Americans from publishing or broadcasting the details of the in camera hearings. Still, the blogger joked that he isn't planning any vacations soon to Canada.

"It's an interesting story. It's fascinating," he said. "First off, I think it's a terrible thing that you guys can't publish this. This is the type of thing that a free press exists for is to hold their government accountable. ..... It should be you guys reporting this."

The fact that the testimony is now circulating on the Internet and by word of mouth calls into question the effectiveness of the publication ban, Mr. MacKay said. ... Mr. MacKay said his party is considering whether it should appear before the inquiry to fight the ban.

Mr. Duceppe [Bloc Quebecois] wouldn't say whether the Bloc will seek the lifting of the publication ban.

"I want to talk to our lawyers first, to see the implications of what's happening in the United States," he said, referring to the Internet blog.

Said Mr. MacKay: "There is no question that if it is in fact now being circulated and is out publicly in the States or elsewhere, that this sole purpose of having the ban in place has just evaporated. There is no point. So once somebody has violated the ban there is no purpose in having it there."

Taber reports that McKay plans on challenging Prime Minister Paul Martin in Parliament today to answer for the information that has already arisen from the Brault testimony. It could be an interesting day in Ottawa."

I suppose this is one of the many reasons for our Bill of Rights and the First Amendment. When corrupt governments seek abosulte power over the freedom of expression....then..... well, we see what happens.

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