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TDF expresses concern over Election Canada’s new mis/disinformation policy

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From The Democracy Fund

TDF’s Legal Team

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The Democracy Fund sends a letter to Elections Canada and Minister LeBlanc.

Elections Canada has recently developed a policy to monitor and dissuade the publication of “misinformation” and “disinformation.”

In January 2024, it launched its ElectoFacts website to provide “correct information about elections that Canadians can easily access.” Elections Canada claims that it does not intend to establish Elections Canada as “the arbiter of truth” that will actively monitor the accuracy of statements and information distributed by parties and candidates.

However, The Democracy Fund (TDF) fears that the ambiguous language and the apparent lack of legislative authority to engage in such an endeavour will lead to an expansion of the program. Elections Canada has also contacted social media companies to remove “inaccurate” information: this is troubling because it is arguably an infringement of free speech rights, and there appears to be no judicial oversight of this censorship.

Canadians have the right to criticize their government and its processes – even if this criticism is wrong, inapt, trivial, unfair or unjustified. Efforts by the Western governments to constrain criticism using fashionable terms such as “misinformation” or “disinformation” are just state censorship rebranded for modern audiences.

TDF outlined its concerns in a letter to the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer and the Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs, Dominic LeBlanc.

Our letter is attached below.


February 9, 2024

via email

Stéphane Perrault
Acting Chief Electoral Officer
Office of the Chief Electoral Officer
Elections Canada
30 Victoria Street
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0M6

Dear Mr. Perrault,
Re: Elections Canada Misinformation/Disinformation Monitoring

We are a civil society organization and registered charity that defends and promotes civil liberties in Canada. We are writing to express our concerns regarding comments around election “misinformation” and “disinformation” on the Elections Integrity and 1 ElectoFacts website.2

On its Election Integrity website, under “Disinformation or Influence Campaign,” Elections Canada outlines several types of objectionable conduct, namely:

  • Elections Canada: Influence campaigns aimed at discrediting parts of the electoral process.
  • Political Parties/Candidates: Social media campaign to spread false information about a candidate.
  • Electors: Foreign online campaign aimed at specific diaspora communities to influence their vote.

In addition, Elections Canada purports to monitor the “information environment” (the news media, the Web, social media, etc.) to detect:

  • Incidents that could affect the smooth administration of a general election or by-election;
  • Inaccurate information on the electoral process, which could prevent people from exercising their rights to register, vote or be a candidate; and,
  • Social media accounts and websites that impersonate Elections Canada, which could lead to confusion.3

We note that Elections Canada has previously contacted social media companies – including Facebook, Twitter, Google, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Reddit, YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram:

  • Elections Canada (EC) engages with digital platforms that have a significant Canadian presence as well as those that have reached out to EC.
  • For the 44th general election (GE44), EC worked with Facebook/Instagram, Google/YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and for the first time, TikTok and Reddit, to establish protocols for reporting cases of false information on the voting process and impersonation of EC.4

The purpose of this contact was to report online content to these platforms and, presumably, have them remove “false information.” This was done without prior judicial oversight and review.

There are a number of problems with this approach to monitoring online information.

First, it is not clear that Elections Canada has the legislative authority to report citizens or their online comments, or attempt to influence platforms to remove “false information.” Even if it did, doing so without judicial review and oversight is arguably improper.5 Where there was authority to regulate “false statements” in the Canada Elections Act6 (“the Act”), we note that the court, in Constitution Foundation v. Canada (Attorney General), held that s.91(1) of the Act breached s.2(b) of the Canadian Charter or Rights 7 and Freedoms.8

Importantly, the legality of prohibiting the publication of “false news” has been adjudicated by Canadian courts, and the relevant Criminal Code provisions have been 9 struck down.10

Second, the ability to identify “misinformation” and “disinformation” requires resolution of one of the most difficult problems in epistemology. Simply put, an assessment of the truth of a statement engages the central questions of epistemology: what is meant by the claim that a statement is true, and under what authoritative conditions can one be certain that a statement is true (“the Epistemic Problem”). This Epistemic Problem has bedeviled philosophers for millennia, and remains unresolved. Until such time as it is resolved, claims to epistemic certainty are unfounded.

There is no evidence that Elections Canada has resolved the Epistemic Problem. It cannot, therefore, arrogate to itself the required certainty on matters of truth or falsehood.

Third, we note that the language used by Elections Canada regarding “false information” is ambiguous. Linguistic ambiguity allows for expansive regulatory powers. Further, the language used does not allow for “false information” that is comedic, parodistic or satirical. As a result, removal or attempted removal of “false information” will be overbroad and imprecise.

Fourth, given the concerns outlined above, it is not clear that Elections Canada could implement any process that would be better at ascertaining truth than citizens using normal human discernment.

Consequently, any removal or attempted removal of “false information” will be an exercise in either arbitrary or politically-motivated censorship. This is particularly troubling because the type of “false information” that attracts attention usually relates to contested or controversial political and moral statements, rather than trivial falsehoods.

Worse still, in our experience, punishment for contravening speech laws is typically inflicted upon minority communities, vulnerable groups and political dissidents: those with privilege avoid sanction.

Finally, attempts to remove “false information” will ultimately result in the erosion of civil liberties and democratic engagement. The reduction in exposure to moral and political information – both true and false – prevents citizens from engaging with complex arguments, and, thereby, diminishes their critical-thinking capacity. For, if the information expressed was correct, participants would have gained the benefit of exchanging their wrong information for correct information. If the information expressed
was wrong, participants would have gained the benefit of intellectual justification for their beliefs, without which they possess not knowledge, but dead dogma.11

For these reasons, we would respectfully recommend that Elections Canada restrict its conduct to publishing factual information about elections and the electoral process. It is safer and more practicable for the citizens as Canada to remain the arbiters of truth.

As always, we would be pleased to meet with you to discuss our concerns and any questions you may have about our position.

Regards,

Mark A. Joseph
Senior Litigation Counsel
c.c.: Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs

  1. Election Integrity and Security Including Foreign Interference
  2. ElectoFacts
  3. Supra, note 1.
  4. Agreements with social media platforms to address inaccurate information
  5. Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium v. Canada (Minister of Justice), [2000] 2 SCR 1120
  6. Canada Elections Act, S.C. 2000, c. 9
  7. Constitution Foundation v. Canada (Attorney General), 2021 ONSC 1224
  8. Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, s.7, Part 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11 a
  9. Criminal Code, RSC , 1985, c. C-46
  10. R. v. Zundel, [1992] 2 SCR 731
  11. Chicago. Mill, John Stuart. 2002. On Liberty. Dover Thrift Editions. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.

About The Democracy Fund:

Founded in 2021, The Democracy Fund (TDF) is a Canadian charity dedicated to constitutional rights, advancing education and relieving poverty. TDF promotes constitutional rights through litigation and public education. TDF supports an access to justice initiative for Canadians whose civil liberties have been infringed by the government lockdowns and other public policy responses to the pandemic.

 

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Alberta

Danielle Smith warns arsonists who start wildfires in Alberta that they will be held accountable

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From LifeSiteNews

By Anthony Murdoch

The Alberta government has created an ad campaign highlighting the fact that most fires are caused by humans and not ‘climate change,’ as many left-leaning politicians claim.

In preparation for the so-called wildfire “season,” Alberta Premier Danielle Smith sternly warned anyone caught starting blazes in her province, including arsonists, that they will face charges and be held fully “liable” for all costs associated with the fires.

“As we approach the wildfire season, it is important to understand that 67% of wildfires in Alberta are started by people,” Smith posted Monday on X.

“If you start a wildfire, you can be charged, fined, and held liable for all costs associated with fighting the wildfire.”

Smith made the comments after last year revealing that most of the wildfires in her province (500 of the 650) were caused by humans and not “climate change,” as has been pushed by the legacy media and opposition politicians.

“All I know is in my province we have 650 fires and 500 of them were human caused,” she said, “so we have to make sure that when people know that when it’s dry out there and we get into forest fire season that they’re being a lot more careful because anytime you end up with an ignition that happens it can have devastating consequences.”

To go along with Smith’s Monday message, the Alberta government has also created an ad campaign highlighting the fact that most fires are caused by humans and not “climate change,” as many left-leaning politicians claim.

As reported by LifeSiteNews last year, Smith ordered arson investigators to look into why some of the wildfires that raged across the vast expanse of the province had “no known cause” shortly after they spread.

During the campaign of Alberta’s 2023 election, Smith, whose United Conservative Party won a majority government, had to pause to deal with many wildfires that suddenly, out of nowhere, ravaged the province. The fires came on suddenly and uncharacteristically considering the heavy snowfall in the province in early March and rain in April.

LifeSiteNews reported that despite the arrest of multiple arsonists, Canada’s mainstream media and the federal government have been pushing a narrative attributing the recent wildfires to “climate change.”

However, statistics from Canada’s National Fire Database show that wildfires have gone down in recent years and peaked in 1989.

As for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he has repeatedly used “climate change” and forest fires as a catalyst for propping up his government’s much-maligned carbon tax, which Smith opposes. He has blamed the fires on “climate change.”

A June 2017 peer-reviewed study by two scientists and a veteran statistician confirmed that most of the recent global warming data have been “fabricated by climate scientists to make it look more frightening.”

Trudeau has been calling for increased bans on Canada’s natural resources, of which Alberta has in abundance.

Smith has vowed to fight Trudeau on his attacks against Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

The reduction and eventual elimination of so-called “fossil fuels” and a transition to unreliable “green” energy has also been pushed by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the globalist group behind the socialist “Great Reset” agenda in which Trudeau and some of his cabinet are involved.

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Alberta

Coutts Three verdict: A warning to protestors who act as liaison with police

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Ray McGinnis

During the trial numbers of RCMP officers conceded that the Coutts Three were helpful in their interactions with the law. As well, there didn’t seem to be any truth to the suggestion that Van Huigenbos, Van Herk and Janzen were leaders of the protest.

Twelve jurors have found the Coutts Three guilty of mischief over $5,000 at a courthouse in Lethbridge, Alberta. Marco Van Huigenbois, Alex Van Herk and George Janzen will appear again in court on July 22 for sentencing.

Van Huigenbois, Van Herk and Janzen were each protesting at the Coutts Blockade in 2022. A blockade of Alberta Highway 4 began on January 29, 2022, blocking traffic, on and off, on Alberta Highway 4 near the Coutts-Sweetgrass Canada-USA border crossing. The protests were in support of the Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa.

Protests began due to the vaccine mandates for truckers entering Canada, and lockdowns that bankrupted 120,000 small businesses. Government edicts were purportedly for “public health” to stop the spread of the C-19 virus. Yet the CDC’s Dr. Rachel Wallensky admitted on CNN in August 2021 the vaccine did not prevent infection or stop transmission.

By February 2022, a US court forced Pfizer to release its “Cumulative Analysis of Post-Authorization Adverse Event Reports” revealing the company knew by the end of February, 2021, that 1,223 people  had a “case outcome” of “fatal” as a result of taking the companies’ vaccine.

On the day of February 14, 2022, the three men spoke to Coutts protesters after a cache of weapons had been displayed by the RCMP. These were in connection with the arrest of the Coutts Four. Van Huigenbos and others persuaded the protesters to leave Coutts, which they did by February 15, 2022.

During the trial numbers of RCMP officers conceded that the Coutts Three were helpful in their interactions with the law. As well, there didn’t seem to be any truth to the suggestion that Van Huigenbos, Van Herk and Janzen were leaders of the protest.

RCMP officer Greg Tulloch testified that there were a number of “factions” within the larger protest group. These factions had strong disagreements about how to proceed with the protest. The Crown contended the Coutts Three were the leaders of the protest.

During his testimony, Tulloch recalled how Van Huigenbos and Janzen assisted him in getting past the “vehicle blockade to enter Coutts at a time during the protest when access to Coutts from the north via the AB-4 highway was blocked.” Tulloch also testified that Janzen and Van Huigenbos helped with handling RCMP negotiations with the protesters. Tulloch gave credit to these two “being able to help move vehicles at times to open lanes on the AB-4 highway to facilitate the flow of traffic in both directions.”

During cross examination by George Janzen’s lawyer, Alan Honner, Tulloch stated that he noticed two of the defendants assisting RCMP with reopening the highway in both directions. Honner said in summary, “[Marco Van Huigenbos and George Janzen] didn’t close the road, they opened it.”

Mark Wielgosz, an RCMP officer for over twenty years, worked as a liaison between law enforcement and protesters at the Coutts blockade. Taking the stand, he concurred that there was sharp disagreement among the Coutts protesters and the path forward with their demonstration. Rebel News video clips “submitted by both the Crown and defence teams captured these disagreements as demonstrators congregated in the Smuggler’s Saloon, a location where many of the protesters met to discuss and debate their demonstration.” Wielgosz made several attempts to name the leaders of the protest in his role as a RCMP liaison with the protesters, but was unsuccessful.”

However, the Crown maintained that the protest unlawfully obstructed people’s access to property on Highway 4.

Canada’s Criminal Code defines mischief as follows in Section 430:

Every one commits mischief who willfully

(a)  destroys or damages property;

(b)  renders property dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective;

(c)   obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property; or

(d)  obstructs, interrupts or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.

Robert Kraychik reported that “RCMP Superintendent Gordon Corbett…cried (no comment on the sincerity of this emoting) while testifying about a female RCMP officer that was startled by the movement of a tractor with a large blade during the Coutts blockade/protest.” This was the climax of the trial. A tractor moving some distance away from an officer in rural Alberta, with blades. The shock of it all.

No evidence was presented in the trial that Van Huigenbos, Van Herk and Janzen destroyed or damaged property. Officers testified they couldn’t identify who the protest leaders were. They testified the defendants assisted with opening traffic lanes, and winding down the protest.

By volunteering to liaise with the RCMP, the Crown depicted the Coutts Three as the protest leaders. Who will choose to volunteer at any future peaceful, non-violent, protest to act as a liaison with the policing authorities? Knowing of the verdict handed down on April 16, 2024, in Lethbridge?

Ray McGinnis is a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. His forthcoming book is Unjustified: The Emergencies Act and the Inquiry that Got It Wrong.

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