Monthly Archives: September 2008

Canadian Election Advocacy Resources

While there’s been a lot of coverage of the US Election (in particular the, er, interesting choice of an apparent wannabee book-banner as Republican VP nominee), the relatively un-showy and non-flashy Canadian Federal Elections aren’t getting much press in the LIS blogosphere. October 14, 2008 is not just the first Open Access Day, it’s also Election Day for us Canucks!

If you are Canadian in any way, shape or form, you can do something to influence the political agenda in this country.  Telecom and information issues are not really making the headlines in the campaign coverage, even though Canadians clearly care about issues such as copyright and net neutrality in 2008.

Here are a couple of resources to help you remind the candidates that we care about library and information issues, to push the parties to make committments, and to advocate for the kind of change you want to see.

MP Contact Info & Suggested Questions

1) How to contact your candidates

On the Elections Canada FAQ page , find your electoral dictrict by typing in your postal code.

On the lower right-hand side, under “Candidates,” click on:

Who are the candidates in my electoral district?

On the upper right-hand side, under “Related Questions,” click on:

How do I contact the candidates in my electoral district?

This will give you at least the phone number of your candidates.  I know, email is better, but I haven’t found an email directory of all the candidates yet, so the best thing I know to do is google “Firstname Lastname.”

If you know of a better source, please let me know in the comments!

2) What to ask/tell your Candidates?
Obviously, you should ask about anything you find important.  However, two sources that I know of have compiled collections of issues and talking points you may find useful:

  1. The CLA’s 2008 Election Campaign Kit (link to pdf)
  2. The Campaign for Democratic Media‘s question list “Where do the candidates stand on democratic media?” (link to pdf)

The CLA kit offers general election advocacy tips and focuses on 9 issues: Copyright, Library Book Rate, Removal of the GST on Reading Materials, Library services for Canadians with print disabilities,The Community Access Program, Public Library Infrastructure, Support for libraries through Library and Archives Canada, National Literacy Initiatives & Net Neutrality.

The CDM list offers a brief summary of the issues and suggested specific questions to ask candidates about: Net Neutrality, Cultural Funding, Canadian Ownership of Broadcasting & Telecommunications, The CBC, Local News, Employment Equity, Concentrations of Media Ownership, Community Media, Appointments to Federal Boards and Commissions, & Broadcast and Telecom Regulation.

If you get answers from any MP Candidates avout the CDM questions, post them, please! I’m sure the CDM would like to collect responses.

Thanks to the tireless folk at CLA and CDM for making it easier for the rest of us to make a difference!

-Greyson

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Border guards & free speech – In which I side with the homophobes?

On my bus the other day I overheard a couple chatting about last month’s incident in which USAmerican fundamentalist Christian protesters from the Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Kansas were turned away at the Canadian border, and it got me thinking.

I’m no fan of the congregation, or its founder Fred Phelps.  They invite you into their website (charmingly URLed http://www.godhatesfags.com – I’m not going to give them any link love, so if you want to see you can cut & paste) by proclaiming “Welcome, depraved sons and daughters of Adam.”  Nice.  (Hated *and* depraved – double doozy!  And what about Eve?) No need to worry that they’re unduly targetting gays, because aparently “God Hates Canada” too.  And Pakistan.  And the UK with their “filthy manner of life” (yes I think it’s okay to giggle at this), and probably a lot of other places I could have found out about if I really cared to linger on the site.

For those unfamiliar with the group, they do wingnutty things like give thanks for people dying in plane crashes and storms, because those acts are clearly God’s retribution for sinful human behaviour.  They picket pretty much anywhere and everywhere. Every once in a while they get some major media attention and I think that really makes their day.

Normally, then, I wouldn’t be writing a post that calls attention to WBC at all.  However, when they were turned back at the Canadian border a few weeks ago, while on their way to picket a funeral, I was really given pause.

The WBC wanted to picket at the funeral of Tim McLean, Jr, the young man from Winnepeg who was killed on the Greyhound bus this summer. According to the WBC, this bizarre tragedy is a symbol of divine retibution against Canada for our “idols, false gods, and filthy ways,” and somehow picketing at a funeral seems to them to be a positive choice.

In fact, picketing at a funeral is generally a tasteless and terrible choice. I think most people can agree about that. Funerals tend to have some aura of sacredness around them, and molesting people who are dealing with fresh grief seems especially despicable.  I feel no hesitation in saying that the WBC picketing McLean’s funeral would have been wrong.

However, I do not believe it would have necessarily been illegal.

To my knowledge, there is no Canadian law against protest at funerals. There is not even a protective funeral “bubble zone” the way there is around abortion-providing clinics. (Perhaps there should be?) There is, definitely, Canadian law against Hate Propaganda (Criminal Code part VIII, sec. 318-320), that prohibits advocating/promoting genocide (318), publicly inciting (319.1) or willfully promoting (319.2) hatred against an identifiable group. My understanding is also that there is potential for religious groups to invoke a notwithstanding clause to be allowed to express religiously-motivated hate, a la Hugh Owens or anti-gay preachers across the country.

Looking at the law, I have to assume that WBC members were denied entry into the country on the basis that they were allegedly planning to incite (“where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace”) and/or willfully promote hatred. Against…Canadians?  Gays?  I’m not totally sure – the WBC targets so many people that I’m not convinced there’s an identifiable group they are a realistic threat toward, frankly. Of course, I also disagree with laws against hate speech, because I don’t see outlawing expression doing much to end hate and oppression.  I’m of the “sunshine is the best disinfectant” school.

Non-Canadians have no guaranteed right to enter the country. As an immigrant I am well aware that entry is a privilege that can be taken away at the discretion of any border guard. I assume the border authorities denied the WBC members entry on the basis that they were presumed to be likely to disturb the peace and “willfully promote hatred” with their tasteless protest. This decision was generally applauded, from what I could see, and the government was painted as sticking up for Canadian values of peace and security, as well as protecting the gay community, McLean’s family, and Winnepegers in general.

And that’s what makes me really uncomfortable.

As much as I think WBC is ridiculous and uses tasteless tactics – and yes, I would consider them a “hate group” – I think it is more in keeping with values of peace and democracy to allow them entry until they break a law, rather than prophylacticaly bar them from the country. Unless the group has a record of entering Canada and illegally disturbing the peace (for example, doing violence to someone, actually starting a riot, etc.), I do not agree that there is grounds to prevent them from entering now.

If border guards are stopping one group because they intend to protest in a way that is not in accordance with “Canadian values,” what’s to stop them from barring other groups? Radical queer groups, for example? Anti-globalization groups?  Anti-racism groups? Anarchists? Who defines “Canadian values”? And who keeps watch to ensure that those definitions are applied fairly to all, regardless of ethnicity, sexuality, or other characteristics. Based on the censorship we see applied in a very targetted manner by customs (remember the experience Little Sister’s Bookstore has had being targetted by customs censorship), I would caution queer and anti-hate groups against celebrating this move as a victory. It may well be us next time who are denied entry because we are allegedly likely to disturb the peace.

-Greyson

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DOAJ: Continued Growth (plus a Creative Commons bonus)

Over at the Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, librarian Heather Morrison has been tracking the Dramatic Growth of Open Access over the past couple of years in a series of blog posts.

On Friday, Morrison noted that the growth rate of the DOAJ (directory of open access journals) has almost doubled in the past year. She writes:

This simple chart illustrates the near doubling of the growth rate of the Directory of Open Access Journals from 2007 to 2008, from an average of more than 1.2 new title per calendar day, to an average of 2.2 new titles per calendar day.

H Morrisons illustration of the DOAJs growth 2007-2008

As further illustration of the growth rate of DOAJ: as of today, DOAJ includes 3,587 journals , and has added 63 new titles in the last 30 days, more than 2 new titles per day (and it’s August!). Since September 30, 2007, DOAJ has grown from 2,846 titles, an increase of 741 titles in 11 months, or 330 days at 30 days/month, for an average net growth of 2.2 titles per day. In the September 30, 2007 Dramatic Growth of Open Access update, I noted a growth rate of 1.2 titles / day for DOAJ over the previous year.

Now, if you’re like me and need a visual aid to understand the rate of growth in absolute number of titles versus rate of new titles, check out this chart I tossed together from Heather’s data:

Amended chart of DOAJ growth 2007-2008

This post is here not only to call attention to the “Dramatic Growth of Open Access,” but also to assist in illustrating the use of Creative Commons licensed content. The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics is published under a CC Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Canada license, meaning I can reuse IJPE content and make derivative works as long as it’s not for profit and I use a similar license.

As noted on our About page, SJL is published under the similar, although not identical Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license.

-Greyson

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