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Disinformation, foreign interference threatening Canada's electoral system, elections watchdog warns – CBC News

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Disinformation and foreign interference are two of the biggest threats facing Canada’s electoral system and it will take everyone working together to counter them, says Canada’s chief election watchdog.

Speaking in an interview with CBC News to mark the end of his 10-year term as Commissioner of Canada Elections, Yves Côté said online disinformation is one of the biggest challenges he’s had to face and noted that it can be difficult to be optimistic about the future. 

“I think there are all kinds of challenges that are lurking and some of them are becoming perhaps worse as we move on with time,” Côté said. 

However, he noted there is a solution if various groups can work together.

“Nobody should just get discouraged and abandon the fight or abandon the project,” he said.

“I think many people have to contribute and I think that it’s a job of politicians of all stripes, of institutions, of media, of academics. It’s all kinds of people that have to pull together and say this is a danger.”

WATCH | Yves Côté on complex challenge of disinformation and foreign interference:

Disinformation and foreign interference are key election challenges, commissioner says

4 hours ago

Duration 2:18

Outgoing Commissioner of Canada Elections Yves Côté talks about key challenges facing Canada’s electoral system.

Disinformation against electoral system troubling

Côté said he is particularly troubled by disinformation attacks against the Canadian electoral system.

“When people are trying to convince others that the way in which votes or ballots are counted does not work,” Côté said.

“When they try to misinform people about where they can vote, how they can vote or where, they try to raise issues with the professionalism or the competency of, for example, Elections Canada or our own office for reasons that have no foundation to them, I find that very, very troublesome.”

Côté said he has negotiated agreements with companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook that help to streamline the process of obtaining information when his office has to investigate a complaint, but he said he does not have agreements with other “foreign agencies” like Tencent, the company that owns the popular Chinese-language app WeChat. 

Côté’s departure at the end of this month comes amid these new technological challenges that likely couldn’t have been imagined 10 years ago when headlines were dominated by the robocall voter suppression scandal during the 2011 election, when voters in several ridings received automated telephone calls with recorded messages directing them to the wrong place to vote.

His successor, Caroline Simard, begins Aug. 15.

Foreign interference ‘difficult to investigate’

In addition to the challenges posed by disinformation, Côté said Simard will have to contend with the threat of foreign interference in elections.

“For us as an enforcement agency it poses all kinds of challenges, especially if those foreign countries do not have good working diplomatic relationships with us,” Côté explained.

“It’s very difficult to investigate, very difficult to get the evidence that you might need to build a case, and then, of course, it’s very difficult to bring these people before Canadian courts, assuming that you were able to gather the evidence you needed to do so.”

In a recent interview with CBC Radio’s The House, former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole revealed that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) informed his party during the last election of attempts on WeChat to influence the race in a number of ridings with false information. 

LISTEN | Erin O’Toole discusses interference in 2021 election

CBC News: The House23:06Erin O’Toole’s advice to Conservatives

Former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole opens up in a feature-length, sit-down interview with host Chris Hall to discuss the convoy, China and the caucus revolt that ended his leadership.

Côté said his office has relationships with CSIS, the Canadian security establishment, the RCMP and various police forces.

“Certainly, we’ve heard of the fact that there have been campaigns like this or allegations that there have been campaigns like this and this is a topic that we are greatly interested in,” said Côté.

In addition to the attempts that Canada Elections is aware of and can decipher, he said there are also things happening under the radar that they don’t know about. 

“There are the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns. So that’s a very complex thing where we have a role to play.” 

Safeguarding voter privacy 

Another challenge is safeguarding the privacy of voters.

Currently, federal political parties are exempt from federal privacy legislation. Côté said he received several complaints about political parties misusing voters’ private information.

“Given the framework that currently exists, there was nothing really we could do because the act is so open and so generous or so not restrictive enough in terms of what political parties are doing.”

Côté pointed to new legislation in Quebec that will subject parties and candidates to privacy rules, something he hopes to see the federal government adopt. He said he also supports a recommendation made by Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault to restrict hate groups from forming recognized political parties.

Some voters have said in the past that they didn’t want to be listed on the electoral roll out of concern that their information could be accessed by individuals or groups who promote hate.

In the end, Côté feels his term has been a successful one, increasing the independence of the Commissioner of Canada Elections office and obtaining changes, like the introduction of administrative monetary penalties as an alternative to prosecution for some elections law violations.

“We have a good team and we certainly have a commissioner, an incoming commissioner, that is highly competent and highly qualified to take over from me and take the office to higher and better places.”

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More Charges Dropped Just Days Before Trial Against Activists Who Exposed Animal Cruelty at Excelsior Hog Farm

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ABBOTSFORD, BC – Several criminal charges were dropped by the Crown yesterday against three animal rights activists just days before their four-week trial is set to begin on Monday, June 27. Amy Soranno, Roy Sasano, and Nick Schafer are accused of exposing animal cruelty at Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford, BC in 2019, and still face a combined total of 14 indictable charges of Break and enter and Criminal Mischief. A press conference will be held in front of the BC Supreme Court in Abbotsford on the first day of trial.The Crown gave no explanation when it dropped some of the remaining charges yesterday against the three activists. The Crown similarly dropped all charges last month, without explanation, against a fourth activist, Geoff Regier, after his lawyers argued in a pretrial hearing that police and the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) had engaged in misconduct.Soranno, Sasano, and Schafer, who together with Regier are calling themselves the Excelsior 4. The three activists could each be sentenced to years in prison if convicted.

What: Press conference & start of four-week trial for the Excelsior 4When: Monday, June 27, press conference at 9am, trial at 10amWhere: BC Supreme Court, 32375 Veterans Way, Abbotsford, BC

“The Excelsior 4 case started three years ago with a total of 21 charges hanging over us,” said Amy Soranno, one of the Excelsior 4 defendants going to trial on Monday. “But before the jury has even been selected, the Crown has dropped all charges against one of us and reduced the number of charges against the rest of us.”Until last month, Regier had faced similar charges for his role in blowing the whistle on Excelsior. In July 2019, Regier made contact with the BCSPCA—the only animal abuse enforcement agency in BC—and provided the private charity with video evidence of criminal animal cruelty at the hog farm. However, instead of recommending charges against Excelsior, the BCSPCA violated its own confidentiality policy in order to turn Regier over to police. The trial comes more than three years after the exposure of animal cruelty at Excelsior, yet the hog farm has never had to answer for the video footage clearly depicting animal abuse. A short video was recently published about the Excelsior 4 case, with an incisive look at how industry has avoided accountability, how the police mishandled evidence, and how the Crown is criminalizing activists. View the 7-minute video here: https://youtu.be/FJGAI02SWzw. “The fact that we still face prison time while Excelsior Hog Farm is free to continue its abusive practices is a mockery of justice,” said Soranno. “This case further illustrates the clear bias against animals and activists by the animal agriculture industry, BCSPCA, and police. Our trial will shine a light on the criminal animal abuse taking place at Excelsior, and the failure to hold them and other animal farms accountable.” The trial also comes more than a year after a Freedom of Information disclosure revealed that the BCSPCA has no capacity to enforce anti-cruelty laws at animal farms in BC. Activists point to the abuse carried out at Excelsior as just one example of the BCSPCA’s failure to take enforcement action despite ample evidence of criminal animal cruelty. “BC needs an enforcement agency that is accountable to the public, not a private charity that is unfit for the role and only answerable to its board of directors,” said Soranno. In addition to demanding that the hog farm be held accountable, the Excelsior 4 and animal rights activists across the province are calling on BC Agriculture Minster Lana Popham to replace the private charity BCSPCA with a more accountable government agency to enforce against animal cruelty in BC. In the interest of transparency and accountability, activists are also demanding the installation of Closed-Circuit TV cameras at all animal agriculture facilities in BC. “With no national regulations governing animal welfare on farms and virtually no government oversight on farms, one of the only ways abuse and mistreatment of farmed animals comes to light is through whistleblower and hidden camera exposés,” said Animal Justice in a recent statement. “Preventing journalists and animal advocates from exposing animal abuse restricts freedom of expression, one of the most important human rights in Canada.” For more information about the Excelsior 4, the story behind their charges, and how to take action against animal cruelty: www.excelsior4.org/.
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Is The Canadian Online Gambling Industry Regulated?

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Like in many western countries, gambling is a popular pastime for many Canadians. Throughout Canada’s evolution, it has strived to give its citizens the freedom of gambling across the provinces. Thanks to this, casinos in the country have grown and thrived over the years, from land-based casinos to the more modern online gambling sites.

Interestingly, government-sponsored sites have also joined the online trend. While other nations globally move from one extreme to the other in terms of their stand on gambling, Canadian lawmakers have generally used an even-handed approach despite the attraction of quick and easy money.

Generally, the country’s laws are flexible while simultaneously protecting the public’s welfare.

 

History of Canada’s Gambling Laws

The ‘90s marked a new age for the gambling industry in Canada because of the computer and internet boom. The first online casinos also launched during this era, and you no longer had to risk gambling in unlicensed casinos in Sweden if you could not access legal casinos. Avid gamblers could simply go online, although they were much fewer in number.

The first reason for this was only a few people owned computers. There was also a concern about the absence of online casino regulations. As the industry expanded, governments began establishing rules to control the sector. Today, traditional and online gambling is prevalent in the country since accessing casinos is much simpler now than before.

 

Is the gambling sector legal in Canada?

Online gambling had been illegal for years in Canada until quite recently. Now, it is legal in Canada in different forms. All the ten provinces and the three territories have the premise to set their own rules. The minimum legal gambling age in Canada is 19, apart from Alberta and Quebec, where players are only allowed to gamble upon turning 18.

All casinos, lotteries, racetracks as well as other gaming establishments must abide by the rules stipulated by their territory or province of operation. As previously mentioned, some forms of gambling are legal in parts of Canada and illegal in others. The country has two gambling laws; the First Nations Law and the Provincial Law.

The latter accords each territory or province control over gambling activities within its jurisdiction. Subsequently, some provincial laws are stricter than the federal regulations.

 

Take away

Today, many Canadians enjoy gambling online, from sports betting and live tables to traditional games like slots. Now that it is legal, you can safely access any reputable and legal casino online and physically.

 

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Downtown Ottawa: Ottawa Bylaw issues 513 tickets, tows 121 vehicles over Canada Day weekend | CTV News – CTV News Ottawa

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Ottawa Bylaw officers issued 30 parking tickets and had eight vehicles towed out of the downtown core on Sunday, the final day the motor vehicle control zone remains in effect.

The control zone, aimed at preventing another convoy-style occupation near Parliament Hill, came into effect at 8 a.m. Wednesday in preparation for Canada Day celebrations and possible protests. While roads remain open for traffic, vehicles participating in protests are prohibited and there is no parking or stopping in the area.

In an update on Sunday afternoon, Ottawa Bylaw said since 8 a.m. Wednesday, officers have handed out 513 parking tickets – 186 tickets on Saturday and Sunday – and towed 121 vehicles.

Six tickets have been issued for encumbering the highway, one ticket for “pile material on highway” and three tickets for unlicensed mobile refreshment vehicles.

Bylaw Services says three tickets were issued for the unauthorized use of fireworks, while one ticket was issued for public urination.

“We thank all residents and visitors who celebrated Canada Day while respecting Ottawa residents and laws,” Bylaw Services said on Twitter Sunday afternoon.

Ottawa police have not commented on the police operation in downtown Ottawa over the Canada Day long weekend. Officers from the RCMP, OPP and municipal police forces across the country joined Ottawa police for the Canada Day policing plan.

Mayor Jim Watson told CTV News Ottawa he thought the Canada Day celebrations and the police presence went “really, really well.”

“We were better prepared, we had more police officers at the right time we needed them from different police services and at the end of the day I think what we did was make sure there was a police presence but we also were very firm with applying the rules,” Watson said.

The motor vehicle control zone stretches from Colonel By/Sussex Drive in the east to Booth Street in the west, and Wellington Street in the north to Laurier Avenue in the south. The control zone also includes the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway east of Parkdale Avenue.

It will remain in effect until 6 a.m. on Monday.

 

The city of Ottawa says a motor vehicle control zone will be in effect from Wednesday at 8 a.m. until July 4 at 6 a.m. (City of Ottawa/Twitter)

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