Mom and the scammers

You’ll recall that earlier this year, I had the misfortune of receiving a call from people impersonating Canada Revenue.

Since that time, I’ve seen a number of news stories about this scam. One even detailed the case of a woman who they tricked into buying $12 000 worth of iTunes gift cards! They had her read the numbers on the cards to them over the phone. By the time she realized that she’d been had, the cards were redeemed.

The other day my mother received a call from these jokers. I was downstairs but I heard her side of it. She later filled me in on the other half of the conversation. The call went like this:

Mom: Hello?
Guy: This is Canada Revenue and you are under surveillance.
Mom: You’re bullshit.
Guy: Excuse me?
Mom: You’re a big bullshit, go away!

And then she hung up.

Mom makes me proud!

Ghomeshi on trial

I’m still flummoxed about the whole Jian Ghomeshi trial. Not about the facts, but more about my feelings regarding the case and how it unfolded.

Initially, I thought the defense would be crushed. I heard interviews with some of the accusers and they sounded credible. There was enough in common with their stories to make them easily believable. Once the trial started, a number of things came out that hadn’t been mentioned in the interviews. Like the day after Ghomeshi aledgedly assaulted her, Lucy DeCoutere sent him an e-mail message that said,

I want to fuck your brains out. Tonight.1

That doesn’t sound good at all. Weeks later, she sent him flowers with a note that said, “I love your hands.” In an interview, she explained these messages,

I wasn’t even thinking about after because I didn’t think it mattered — because it shouldn’t matter. Now I understand that it matters because it measures your memory. I didn’t know my memory was on trial.2

This makes no sense to me. If you remember all the stuff that helps your case and forget everything that damages it, you think it doesn’t matter? Further, what you remember defines your experience as you tell your story in court. Of course it matters!

Is it any wonder the judge found the witnesses for the prosecution unreliable and even deceptive?

The CBC wrote of the judge:

And while he acknowledged that victims of abuse may rely on one another for support, he said the 5000 messages exchanged between DeCoutere and another complainant sounded like they could be plotting to ruin the former broadcaster.

“While this anger and this animus may simply reflect the legitimate feelings of victims of abuse, it also raises the need for the court to proceed with caution,” he said. “Ms. DeCoutere and S.D. considered themselves to be a ‘team’ and the goal was to bring down Mr. Ghomeshi.”3

This is when the trial was over for me. I recall that there was even discussion among commentators about the possibility of collusion charges, though that didn’t happen. Regardless, when two witnesses exchange such an incredible volume of e-mail about the case and state they’re going to get Ghomeshi, the goal of the legal action is no longer to get to the truth of what happened. And as such, it really has no place in a courtroom. It was really no surprise to me that the judge found plenty of reasons to doubt the witnesses and therefore find Ghomeshi not guilty of the charges.

After the verdict, supporters of the witnesses held a rally in front of the Toronto Police headquarters. Linda Redgrave, one of the witnesses, spoke to the assembled crowd:

I’m glad it’s over, but it’s really not over. It’s now time to keep these conversations going and to stop the way that these sexual assaults are tried. It’s barbaric, it’s antiquated, it needs to change and it needs to stop.4

While I understand her emotions and anger, let’s not overstate things. What’s barbaric and antiquated is the treatment rape victims suffer in some parts of the world when not only is the victim blamed, but she’s punished by stoning or killed by family members.

Further, our justice system is balanced to make conviction difficult. I’ve heard it said many times, both in regards to this trial and more generally, that Canadian jurisprudence is set up with the thought that it’s far better to let a guilty person go free than to put an innocent person in jail. I can’t help but support this relative weighting of the required evidence. People lie and innocent people have been accused of crimes. I have no problem with the mechanics of sexual assault cases being changed to protect the victim, but the standards of evidence must remain as they are. I don’t want to live in a society where only an accusation is enough to send the accused to jail. In my opinion, that would approach barbarism.

This event also makes it clear to me that we’ve got a long way to go in terms of treating women the same way we treat men. I watched an interview with Ghomeshi’s lawyer, Marie Henein, and she stated that she’s received no end of criticism and even hate-mail about this event. The real eye-opener to me was the claim that she betrayed all women when she won Ghomeshi’s case. What does this mean? A woman, shouldn’t defend a sexual assault case? Textbook sexist. Or that Ghomeshi doesn’t deserve his day in court? Well, that would only be the case if he were guilty, which we don’t know until he has his day in court.

I recall people I know commenting about court cases in the past, saying, “Why bother with a trial? We know he/she is guilty.” That kind of talk scares me. It’s a step away from a mob hanging someone, and history shows us where that road leads. Those deciding these cases need to leave emotion at the courthouse door.


  1. Sarah Boesveld, “Exclusive: Lucy DeCoutere on the Ghomeshi disaster,” Chatelaine.
  2. ibid
  3. CBC News, “Jian Ghomeshi trial’s not guilty decision triggers outrage, march to police headquarters,” CBC News.
  4. ibid

Beware the scammers!

I just received a call from the 613 area code. I didn’t recognize the number so I let it go to voicemail. It was a message from the  Canada Revenue Agency asking for a call back from me or my lawyer. So I called! The guy just overwhelmed me with information, like his name, telling me that he was an officer with the CRA, his badge number (which almost made me laugh), and then all kinds of other stuff, none of which I can recall. He finally asked for my name. I asked what this was about. He said that once I gave my name, he’d pull up my file and we could get into it.

Given that I’ve never once had the Canada Revenue Agency call me to inform me of an issue, I told the guy that I was not comfortable giving him any information. The CRA always sends mail, whether postal mail or through their online service if you’ve signed up for online communications, so I was hesitant. He told me that I should have my attorney call him and he hung up.

Of course it wasn’t the Canada Revenue Agency. In fact, the CRA web site has a Fraud page, and among the examples of telephone fraud they provide, the first is the same person who called me! The script has different details but it’s definitely the same guy.

Think twice before you even give out your name over the telephone. Just because someone calls you doesn’t mean they know your personal information. Don’t help them gather information about you!

Silly Thomas

Thomas Mulcair
Witness MP and leader of the opposition, Thomas Mulcair … the latest in a very long line of politicians who are eager to use guns to score political points without spending a moment to consider what they’re suggesting.

At least it’s my suspicion that he hasn’t thought through his suggestion. So I asked him:

From: Rick Pali <rpali@alienshore.com>
To: thomas.mulcair@parl.gc.ca
Subject: A gun registry.
Date: December 6, 2014 at 10:17:41 AM EST

Mr. Mulcair,

With great interest, I read of your ideas about a new gun registry.

According to the CBC, you said, “I think that it is possible to provide the police with the tools to better protect the public and themselves by making sure they’re able to follow every gun”

Every gun? For this to be true, you must have figured out a way to track the movement of illegal guns. Do you have this ability?

If you don’t, police have to assume that every time they enter an unknown situation, there may be guns involved … and therefore a registry of any sort can only serve to confirm that there may be a firearm involved, and never to assure police that a gun will not be present.

As a consequence, I’m left wondering how the utility of such a registry will justify the cost and invasiveness. I’d hate to think you’re playing politics on the anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre, so I’d appreciate the benefit of your thoughts.

Rick.
rpali@alienshore.com

Will I receive a response? I’d love to be proven wrong, but I doubt it. Regardless, when a politician is this senseless and this transparent, he/she needs to understand the people are not fooled.


Photo courtesy of parl.gc.ca

The SCoC, and then more

The week before last, on June 13, the Supreme Court of Canada handed down a ruling that took me completely by surprise.

The case involved Matthew David Spencer. Police saw him downloading child pornography, though they didn’t know it was him. All they knew was the IP address from which the files were downloaded. They traced the address and went to the ISP to whom it belonged and did what they’ve done so many times in recent years. They simply asked the ISP for the name and the street address of the person who was using the IP address when they saw the child pornography being downloaded. No harm, right? The police simply asked, to save time. If the ISP refused, they’d go through channels to get a warrant. If the ISP co-operated, they’d save the time and trouble of getting a warrant.

The ISP did co-operate without a warrant, and as a consequence, police arrested Spencer and the court convicted him. The ISP’s simply handing over his name and address didn’t sit well with him so Spencer appealed his judgement. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal affirmed his conviction stating that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for basic subscriber information. Spencer took it to the Supreme Court of Canada and they ruled unanimously in his favour, which has enormous implications for all of us. I have no doubt that Spencer is disappointed because the Court let his conviction stand, stating that the police acted in good faith, and justice would not be served if they reversed the decision.

According to Michael Geist’s post, “Supreme Court Delivers Huge Victory for Internet Privacy & Blows Away Gov’t Plans for Reform,” the Court stated,

in the totality of the circumstances of this case, there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in the subscriber information. The disclosure of this information will often amount to the identification of a user with intimate or sensitive activities being carried out online, usually on the understanding that these activities would be anonymous. A request by a police officer that an ISP voluntarily disclose such information amounts to a search.

The point being that a police search without a warrant is a definite no-no, and one does have a reasonable expectation of anonymity going about their business on the Internet. Because that expectation is entirely short-circuited by an ISP connecting an IP address with a user on request, police require a warrant. This flies in the face of what law enforcement and the Conservative government have been telling us. They’ve stated that subscriber information is not in any way private, and therefore should be available on request, if the ISP co-operates.

The timing of this Supreme Court decision is fortuitous. Not only has the Conservative government been telling us that police should have easy access to this information, but they have two bills they seem desperate to see made laws: Bill C-13, which is intended to crack down on cyberbullying, and Bill S-4, to be known as the digital privacy act. In particular, bill C-13 would make it legal for companies to release customer information to police or government representatives simply for the asking, and protect those companies from any legal reprisal. Clearly, the Supreme Court decision states this is unconstitutional.

So given that their two bills are in a shambles, what does the Government plan to do? They seem to plan to ignore the Supreme Court’s decision. Minister of Justice, Peter MacKay, said,

The Supreme Court’s decision actually confirms what the government has said all along, that Bill C-13’s proposals regarding voluntary disclosures do not provide legal authority for access to information without a warrant.

Yet bill c-13 states,

487.0195 (1) For greater certainty, no preservation demand, preservation order or production order is necessary for a peace officer or public officer to ask a person to voluntarily preserve data that the person is not prohibited by law from preserving or to voluntarily provide a document to the officer that the person is not prohibited by law from disclosing.

(2) A person who preserves data or provides a document in those circumstances does not incur any criminal or civil liability for doing so.

It is true that ‘the person’ in question here is under no legal obligation to provide the information, but this is certainly splitting hairs. Telecom companies currently do provide this information on a vast scale. Legislating that they are able to do so without liability will only encourage them to do so more freely. And further, the current law states that this information may be requested by a

peace officer or public officer enforcing or administering this or any other Act of Parliament

In other words, police may request this type of information for the benefit of a police investigation of violation of the Criminal Code or any other federal law. Bill C-13 removes this stipulation entirely.

The government is wasting their time and your money by pushing ahead with legislation that will, if passed, be struck down the first time it is challenged on constitutional grounds. Why? I really don’t know. Certainly Prime Minister Harper is accustomed to getting his way, and he doesn’t react well when he is denied. Make no mistake, in this case, he will be denied.

The Supreme Court is not the only dissenting voice. Earlier this week, Forum Research released the results of a poll detailing how Canadians feel about Bill C-13. According to Techvibes,

The poll shows that 73% of Canadians oppose C-13, with just 15% approving a ratio of nearly 5 to 1.

and,

opposition spans every age group and is strongest among 18-34 year olds (78%) and 55-64 year olds (74%).

Harper will find no support among his own, either. Openmedia.ca reports,

Notably, the poll reveals that just 24% of Conservative voters support the bill, with 62% opposing it.

It’s time for the Conservatives to put these two bills to bed. They’re past being stubborn about it, having clearly shown that whatever agenda they’re working on has nothing to do with protecting Canadians.