Not The Canada I Remember

After the election of the Trudeau Liberals, Canada swiftly rebranded itself as a tolerant, open-armed society. But as alt-right sentiments seep across the border, how welcoming is the country? Omar Mouallem meets the refugees confronting racism, xenophobia – and the very idea of Canadian-ness.

This is not the Canada I remember growing up in. Perhaps I was ignorant of the racism and distrust of “the other”, but it did not seem an inhospitable, xenophobic land. Everyone was to be accepted as Canadian if they chose to be in he country.

Where did everything go wrong?

Suntory's Most Canadian Beer

When I lived in Ontario, one of the many things I did when arriving home from work was head to the fridge, grab a beer, and just enjoy it with a video or two. Alcoholic beverages were always in the house while I was growing up and, after moving into an apartment of my own, they were always in the home waiting for someone to enjoy them. This changed in 2002 when I left Ontario for British Columbia. Alcohol became an occasional drink, as most of my friends there stayed away from the stuff. Later, when I moved to Japan, I managed to go almost ten years with fewer than a dozen beers consumed. It just wasn't something anyone around me really enjoyed, so I stuck to coffee and the occasional soda. Since moving into a development role at the day job, though, I've found myself reaching for a can or two of beer on particularly frustrating days just to offset the rage with a bit of dizziness. The distraction is often enough to give me reason to ignore the nuisances of the day. What this means is that I've had the opportunity to try a number of Japanese beers over the last two years, developing likes and dislikes along the way as one generally would. My favourite by far is Suntory's 頂1; Japan's most Canadian beer.

Suntory Itadaki

Suntory does not market this particular beer as "Canadian", but it has all the same elements that I had come to expect from a typical beer in that country. The flavour. The aroma. The alcohol content … which has recently gone from a respectable 7% to a solid eight. Halfway into a can I can typically feel the same buzz that I would associate with a good Molson and, given that I'm using the beverage as an excuse for nostalgic reasons, this means that I can read email or perform software testing without taking things too seriously. The only concern that I have is that it's rather unfortunate that I'm turning to a mind-altering liquid to quell the rages experienced at the day job.

This is hardly the model of professionalism.

All this aside, though, this is the beer that I'll reach for when given the opportunity. There are a number of other very popular beers that have their own strengths, such as Asahi Super Dry, Ebisu Premium Malts, and Suntory Rich Malt — all of which are very Japanese in their presentations — but none remind me of Canada like 頂 does.

If you happen to find a can of this in your travels, do give it a try. It's not as expensive as other Japanese beers, though it is a lot harder to find.


  1. 頂 (いただき) — Pronounced "itadaki"

An Absence of Time

How we perceive time is quite interesting. Eleven years ago today I was flying back to Canada after my first visit to Japan, yet it feels much longer. A little over three months ago I became a father, yet it does not feel as though 102 days have passed since that wonderful day. Five years ago the Great Tohoku Earthquake rattled much of the country, yet it feels just as distant in the past as 9/11. Where does the time go?

Narita Airport — Security Gate 2

The passage of time is something that has been on my mind for decades. It can be seen in a number of the projects I've busied myself with over the years. It can be seen in hundreds of blog posts across this site. It is even noticeable within the podcasts I've published. Just about everything is done with a concept of time built in right from the start as it's a consistent means of measurement. And now it seems that this resource, something that has always been scarce, has almost completely evaporated as new expectations and new priorities make themselves known.

How does one manage time when there are so many ways to use it? How does one choose where to invest their time when there are so many genuinely good places to put it? Saying "yes" to one thing does not necessary require a person to say "no" to another, but this seems to be exactly what's happened over the last few months as I make time for a new member in the family. My projects are still seeing time invested in them, albeit at a much smaller rate than before. My puppy, who just turned seven yesterday, is feeling a little lonely as I spend time with Leonard James1. I do spend a great deal of time with her, but not as much as before. She's still adjusting. We're all adjusting.

Time is one of the many resources that we simply cannot buy more of. Every person has the same amount allotted to them and it's a personal choice about how to use it. I want to spend my time with the people who mean a lot to me. I also want to spend time creating good things that others will enjoy using. The two cannot happen simultaneously, though, and this creates a little stress. How do others deal with this absence of time? Do they simply accept it and do as much as they can? Do they resent the fact they can't do everything?

In my case, I'm more than happy to spend time with my son. He looks a lot like I did at his age, and he's making discoveries all the time. Not a day goes by where he doesn't experience a first something, whether it's a shopping mall visit, an immunization needle, or an observation about his home surroundings. I'm happy to spend time with my puppy. She's been an amazing spirit to spend time with and I'd probably be a very different person had she and I not met almost seven years ago. I'm happy to spend time with my wife, who has become one of the most caring and compassionate mothers I've ever seen.

I do wish there was more time in the day, though. More time for me. I tend to put my needs last, and my need to create is just as strong today as it was a decade ago. But my needs must wait, as there's only so much time. Eventually there will be more but, until then, I need to be patient and make the most with what I have. Though my personal projects may not evolve as quickly as I'd like, the people around me certainly will. Being there to witness the changes is certainly worth the price of a few arbitrary deadline misses.


  1. this is not my son's real name, but it's the only name I'll use online … for now.

Nozomi’s Nook

When people would ask me what I wanted to do with my life in the early 2000s, I would often talk about opening a café where people could come and use some really fast Internet, do some work, and enjoy some really good coffee. The thinking was that if I were to make a place like this, then I could have (what appeared to be) a simple job making coffee and serving high-calorie treats to people 30% of the time, and doing whatever on the computer 70% of the time. Since it would be my business, I wouldn’t have to worry about “the boss” getting upset because I’m on the computer all the time, either. As time went on, this idea continued to fester. Now in 2015, it sounds like a plausible solution to a number of issues that I’ve run into over my short time on Earth.

The Workspace

Last April I promised myself that I would do something great during my 35th year, and it materialised very quickly with podcasting. While I’ve not had the luxury of quiet time to record new shows in recent months, the desire to make new things is never far from my mind. The passion to create new things is always at the forefront of my consciousness, but other responsibilities and/or situations tend to stand in the way. To make matters worse, I’ve been too much of a coward to attack problems head on to nip them in the bud long before they consume so much of my time that I have neither the energy nor the opportunity to make. I’ve been an absolute fool, and it needs to stop. I know that I can accomplish goals that once seemed impossible when I put my mind to it, so why not continue to do so?

Dissatisfaction From Intangibility?

I am the eldest of 8 kids and, as such, I was always called upon to find solutions to people’s problems. One of the biggest problems that I would face on a regular basis was the question that billions of people ask themselves at least once a day: what will we eat for dinner tonight. Yes, I was the family cook for several years. My job was to prepare food for everyone soon after returning home from high school, ensuring everyone ate, and then cleaning up after everyone when things were done1. While I was not much of a fan of cleaning up after my family, I did love cooking. There’s just something so wonderful about taking a bunch of edible items, throwing them together, adding heat, and getting a delicious meal at the end.

I like it. I like it a lot.

While growing up I thought for sure that I was going to be an architect. I would spend hours on end up in my room drawing buildings, cityscapes, and large machines that would take us to faraway places. The sketches would be incredibly detailed, showing not only form but function and utility. But then on January 17th, 19942, I was introduced to a single function on a computer that changed the course of my future in an instant3. But looking back at my past, I can see that a lot of people have taken advantage of this passion I have for technology and writing software. I can see that I’ve been an absolute sucker, never valuing my time at what I want it to be worth because it didn’t seem right to ask so much money for something as intangible as a computer program … or a database … or a ridiculously complex Microsoft Excel sheet that is able to predict patterns in inventory movements …

Nobody likes to be a sucker. I get great satisfaction from writing software and from solving problems, but it shouldn’t be like this.

No. I want to make something that people from all walks of life can inspect visually. I want to make something that people can enjoy for a brief period of time and remember afterwards with a smile on their face. I want to provide something that is so uncommon in the 21st century that, when somebody does it, it makes the evening news.

I want to open a café with Japanese-style breads, Japanese-style service, and an abundance of open space for people to sit, relax, work, and enjoy.

The coffee shop could act as a shared workspace or Internet café if people so wanted. It would have fast Internet, awesome WiFi, lots of tables that are big enough for a 15” computer and a half-sized tray for a coffee and treat. Two glass-enclosed meeting rooms would be off to the side, allowing teams to work in silence or converse in privacy if they so chose to. I’d even set up a recording studio if space permitted … though that would most likely just be for me alone.

When I first moved to Japan I was often blown away with the level of customer service one can expect, even when buying gum at a convenience store. I would ensure the same level of service was offered at my store, too. The place would always be clean, and I’d make some excellent foods that I never encountered until coming to Japan. Of course there would be the standard fare like sandwiches as well, but I’d make sure the sandwiches didn’t suck like they do at so many places … with their wet bread and skimpy veggies. No … I’d live up to the same mantra my very first manager at Burger King taught me many, many years ago.

Think Wisely

People would be encouraged to work from my café. People would be welcome to stay for several hours if they so chose4. We all need an escape from the everyday sometimes, and I’d be more than willing to help people try to enjoy some semblance of normalcy. My goal would be to offer the sort of place that I want to spend my time in. This means low noise5. This means low tension. This means a place that smells awesome … hence the bakery aspect.

Finally, there’s “the little things” that I would want to look after. I dislike seeing litter on the streets. To help curb the problem, I’d charge 10 cents or more for a paper cup. People really should bring their own. That said, if someone does buy a “fortune cup”, they’ll be treated to a nice message when they reach the bottom. It’ll say something nice, like “You’re awesome!” or “Don’t Forget to Smile” … something to let people know that the world we find ourselves in need not be without it’s little respites.

Places like this are not easy to start. They’re not easy to keep going, either. So the most logical way forward would be to work at a café and see if I can keep up with the demands. See if it’s truly what I want to be doing. I’ll also need to save up to make something like this happen. Going into business with a massive amount of debt is never good for the heart, and I’d like to avoid this as much as possible. There’s also the question of location. I have two places in mind, but would want to conduct a good amount of research before taking the plunge.

There’s still another month to go before my 36th birthday, and I plan on starting that year with a set of clear objectives that will bring me closer to reaching more of those seemingly impossible goals.

Ripe for Disruption

Over the last few weeks I’ve been investing a lot of time on sites such as CraigsList and a number of popular real estate in order to find a nice place for Nozomi and I to live in our upcoming move to Canada. As one would expect from CraigsList, the vast majority of the ads that a person responds to will go unanswered. Of the messages that do receive responses, another majority will be from obvious scammers. The professional real estate sites aren’t much better, with search tools that are insufficient and leaving out such crucial details like general location, pet friendliness, furnished/unfurnished, the floor plan of the apartment, and even what the interior looks like! The word is terribly overused in most instances, but the Canadian real estate market is ripe for disruption.

I’ve complained in the past about how difficult it is to use Japanese websites to find decent information without first navigating a veritable minefield of seemingly unnecessary pages and complicated navigation menus. One area where this is not true, however, is in the Japanese real estate market. People in Japan have it made when it comes to finding places to live. Not only will every listing come with pictures, but it will come with a history of the home at a glance.

This is the type of website Canadians get to use when they’re looking for a new home:

Canadian Options

But, of course, in the case of Realtor.ca on the right, we first have to know whether we want C1, C2, C3, or W1 Toronto … whatever those mean1.

 Which Toronto

And this is what Japanese people get to use.

Japanese Options

Not only is it possible to filter right down to the nearest train station, but people can filter on such details such as whether the apartment has natural gas or propane appliances, the age of the building, how close it is to schools and parks, along with a lot of other relevant information that can hit the pocket book.

Why do Canadians not have elegant and simple options? Why is it so difficult for Canadians to have a single location online to check for rental locations with advertisements that have been vetted and confirmed? Why is it so difficult to see some basic information like “4894 people have applied for this apartment” before clicking the “Reply” button? We can do this on some job sites, after all. More than this, what is the landlord like? People should have the option to write about their landlords on these sites in a Yelp-like manner to either encourage or warn future tenants.

But no … these things don’t exist. Instead we have a myriad of real estate sites to check, many of which are running some version of WordPress with an outdated collection of listings that offer no value to the people coming to look for a home.

These are just some of what I would like to see built, either by me or a team of people much smarter than me.

Injecting a Little Quality … For a Price

In order to make something that real estate agents would want to jump on the quality would have to be through the roof. A real estate API may be one way to go about doing this. Creating a large repository that real estate agents can connect their websites to and pull down results is a no brainer and could be coded within an afternoon2. From there some plugins for WordPress and other blogging platforms could be created and distributed for free in order to build awareness of the product and encourage people to switch from the slow, expensive, ugly plugins they were suckered into buying previously. To encourage real estate agents to use the service, they’ll be able to have “private listings” that are available only to the people visiting their sites. This will enable agents targeting a very specific group of clients to show the locations they choose.

But this will just get us to where we are today. In order to make this a better system for everyone, there needs to be some quality control. So, with every listing, there will be a need to have high resolution photos of the exterior and interior, as well as photos of the neighbourhood, as well as a floor plan of the apartment. The history of the apartment will also be recorded in the database and used for all future listings. This history will show the age of the building, number of units, and other details as the API and database matures. Ideally it would also list the general satisfaction level of the residents inside … though this sort of data could be gamed or horribly inaccurate.

As apartments get re-listed, previous pictures and data could be automatically pulled from the system so that real estate agents and landlords will not need to re-enter all of their data. Of course, people would be able to sign up for notifications if a unit in an apartment or general area becomes available within a certain time window, too. Filters would be in place to let people find exactly the sort of place they want to live. Whether it’s on a specific subway or bus line, or in a neighbourhood with a wonderful dog-friendly park.

Building a system like this is not a complex task. Maintaining an up-to-date database of listings, however, is. To ensure entries are not too old, items will be automatically de-listed after a certain period of time. Landlords will also have the option to de-list their item after X00 people apply for the place. This will ensure they are not overloaded with email or telephone requests for the place. Nobody enjoys the onslaught that can come with making a desirable location available.

There are a number of ways to improve the state of Canadian real estate websites while providing value to the agents, the landlords, and the potential tenants without charging an arm and a leg. Why hasn’t this been done yet?

As I said earlier in the post, this is an area that I’d like to resolve in the future. Do you know a real estate agent that’s not happy with the tools they currently have available? Send them my way. I’d be happy to talk to them about making a decent system they could use.

On the Radio

Every so often when the wife and I are in the car for an extended period the radio is turned on as a way to add a bit of coherent background noise to the journey. Unlike the radio stations I would listen to while growing up in Canada, a Japanese station can completely change it's genre from one hour to the next. This happened today on the way to the train station, and the stark difference between the type of radio I grew up with and the type of radio that exists today in this part of the country brought to mind a number of questions, the first of which asked who could follow along with the ever-changing genres? The second question focused more on the content of the songs and why incredibly explicit language isn't cleaned up before being broadcast at 8:30 in the morning.

Radio has lost a lot of it's allure as people have moved away from the noisy announcers, endless streams of repetitive ads, the lack of selection in music, and the overall lack of respect stations have  had for their audiences. Everything now is, of course, on demand and global. Darn near every person with a set of headphones on1 is listening to something they've lined up to listen to. It's not at all unexpected and, more often than not, there are zero advertisements to get in the way of the content we're trying to enjoy. All this aside, one area where Japanese radio is very similar to the music we might purchase and enjoy is in its bare nakedness.

This morning I was treated to a piece of work from NAS's Life Is Good album entitled "The Black Bond". In the first 30 seconds of this track we're treated to rather a rather clear description of a wealthy man in Morocco who is drinking Hennesey whiskey while an attractive hooker is "givin' a noggin". Later in the song he talks about duffel bags full of fuck you cash, grabbing asses, and driving a car while inserting fingers into a woman sitting next to him.

At 8:30 in the morning. Lyrics fully intact. Nothing bleeped or covered.

One could argue that there is no need to mask any of the more graphic stuff that kids who have not yet arrived to school might listen to. The track was, after all, in that oh-so-indecipherable gritty English that is only used on the mean streets of America. Who in Japan could possibly know what the words actually mean?

It's just another difference between the eastern culture I live in today and the western culture I grew up in. In Japan it's not uncommon to see mostly nude characters in comic books aimed at children. Not in any sexual situations (usually), but in everyday situations where people might congregate. Change rooms. Hot springs. Places like that. In Canada such scenes would be completely blocked from publication unless the entire work was labelled as adult and plastic wrapped. Same thing with language. People are free to be completely open with the words they use in a public forum, even when being broadcast. In the west people cannot openly swear during certain events without being masked and potentially chastised for causing some trouble2.

I really like how the broadcasting rules in Japan allow for true freedom of expression, regardless of what flavour that expression may take. I think the CRTC in Canada could learn a thing or two from their counterparts across the Pacific. That said, I wish Japanese radio stations would take a page from western media outlets and stick to a single genre throughout the day. Going from casual J-Pop with annoyingly high-pitched AKB compositions to gritty rap featuring drug deals, sex, and excessive alcohol consumption in the space of 10 minutes is a bit jarring … and doesn't really give people a positive impression of living overseas.

Alas, I'm rambling …

It's The Principle Of The Matter

I've slowly been talking to people about my rather ambitious goal to help people maintain an online presence long after our bodies have died and turned to dust. I want to help people record their thoughts and ideas for all eternity with the initial goal to provide a central place for notes, ideas, and other interesting facets for a thousand years; or 10 Centuries. How can I do this, though? I've mentioned before that, given the opportunity, I would likely not want to live longer than 800 years in total. How can a project I started at the age of 33 continue forever? It's a valid question, and one that I hope to address here with a single word.

Principle1.

The only way anything can withstand the test of time is through the principles of the people who carry out an ideal. My long-standing ideal is that we should remember every human who ever existed and remember their story, even if it's only a fragment of who they really were. Only by archiving personal stories, opinions, beliefs, actions, and memories can we truly begin to gain an understanding not only of the people who came before us, but of ourselves.

The First Irwins

An example that I often use when I talk about the core idea behind 10Centuries involves some distant relatives who made the long trek from Europe to the great wilderness of Canada. A single family came over consisting of a married couple with their three young children aged 12, 10, and 7. They left their home, family, friends, and everything they'd known for their entire lives for something completely new and very dangerous. They came to start a better life based on things they had read in the newspaper, a promise of free land, and great wealth. Most of their possessions had been sold and, foolish as it may seem, they carried their entire savings with them in the form of hard currency. There were no wire transfers back then. No simple means to move money from one place to another without physically carrying it. Luckily they were not robbed.

By the time their boat had pulled into port in St. John's Newfoundland, the family had spent a grand total of five weeks at sea. Not a bad amount of time considering the time period, but an incredible amount for people who were not riding in first or second-class cabins. My distant relatives didn't see the need for such luxury when the rest of their lives were bound to be consumed by heavy labour and acts of faith. Why pay extra to have tea in the common area with violinists and civil conversation when you can be below-deck praying for calm seas and a healthy plot of land?

Upon landing in Canada, the first thing they did was buy transportation up the St. Lawrence river to a bustling little town named Toronto. They were promised some land in Upper Canada that had recently been bought from the Hudson Bay company, and they were looking forward to turning their large piece of property into a productive farm. The plan was to raise chickens, grow corn, and have a nice-sized garden for tomatoes, potatoes, and other vegetables that would grace their dining room table. Two days later they were in Toronto and standing in line at the government building where they would exchange the paperwork they received in Europe for the deed to their land; a whopping 250 acres of land about 130 km south-west of Toronto. Deed in hand, they went to the market and picked up many of the supplies and animals they would rely on for decades to come.

The final leg of their journey was done mostly on foot over the course of three days. They had bought some cattle, a buggy, saws, nails, hammers, and basic food supplies. They found their plot of land as the sun started to set and prepared for the night. They would sleep in the buggy as there was no house waiting for them. There was no easy access to water. There wasn't even a paved road. The path they followed was little more than slightly trampled wild grass surrounded by a field of wild grass on one side and a mostly-unexplored, wild, 5,000km-deep2 forest on the other. Their plot of land had two acres of treeless land, and 248 acres of forest. A great deal of work lay ahead.

Over the next few years this family cleared their land, started a farm, had children, lost children, made friends, lost friends, and helped make Canada into the country I grew up in. The story above was handed down to me by my grandfather during the few short months I lived with the man while attending college in the late 1990s. I never saw a picture of the first family members to call Canada their home. I never even learned whether the original land is still owned by a distant family member or has been sold off over time. I don't know what sorts of opinions these people had as Upper and Lower Canada became a single colony, and later a nation itself. I don't know whether these people or their descendants fought against the Americans at the Battle of Stoney Creek, or if they ever contributed to the genocide of the local natives.

I will likely never know the answer to these questions, either.

Breadcrumbs

The goal of 10Centuries is not to make me incredibly wealthy3. It's not even to gain a great deal of fame4. The goal of 10Centuries is to preserve the thoughts of yesterday and today for the people of tomorrow. To hold on to the fragments of our past so that we can better understand where we've been, where we're going, and the route we took to get there.

Although the message has not yet been properly articulated, the ultimate goal is clear: in an ever disposable world where nothing lasts forever, there are some things that we should never forget.

Votes Count

Japan held it's second federal election in the last five years today with the previously ejected party winning the lion's share of parliament for the next half-decade1. Not being a citizen of the country, I couldn't cast my vote. Not that it would have made much of a difference, either, as the party that I feel had the most rational and thought-out platform to carry Japan into the future is far too small to have a representative in my district. Perhaps in the future there will be some better representation, and hopefully they will start to gain some traction. One area where I don't see a lot of traction, though, is with the nation's youth taking an active role in representative democracy.

While speaking with the wife about some of her university students, she let me know that most students weren't particularly interested in voting. This would be the first federal election they could take part in, and a tiny fraction showed even the slightest interest in having their ballot counted. Whether it would have made a difference in the final vote or not wasn't of concern. The problem seems to stem from something much more severe: young people can't get excited about old people who lie, cheat, and steal for a living. I can't say that I blame them, but I was reminded of the first election that I could take part in back in Canada.

The year was 1997, and Jean Chrétien was at the height of his popularity. I was 18 and full of opinions2, and I strongly felt that the Liberals would not do enough to ensure Canada remained a single, unified nation. The seperatists had been handed a narrow defeat just two years prior, but they were still growing in power. They needed to be crushed once and for all. Chrétien was from Quebec and, while he had refused to let the province break off to become it's own entity3, he didn't strike me as a strong leader at all. Preston Manning, however, was a man that I could understand.

Manning was the leader of the Reform Party of Canada; a party that was largely laughed at in Eastern Canada. The party stood for severe fiscal conservatism as well social conservatism, something I strongly believed in at the time4. This was something a lot of other people could relate to as the Reform Party managed to win enough seats to oust the Bloc Québécois from the role of Official Opposition. The representative in my area, however, came in dead last. At the time I was disappointed, but the memory has stayed fresh in my mind the entire time.

Election Day was sunny and warm. My step-father and I went to the polling station down the street, right near where we would go every weekend to play baseball. I strutted like a peacock, walking in to the centre with my registration ticket and government-issued ID in hand. Cast my vote. And walked out. All in all, the process took a grand total of 3 minutes.

"Well that was a waste of time," I said. My step-father was waiting for me outside.

"Don't be so negative. Voting is your right as a Canadian. Don't ever give it up. Don't ever refuse it."

The words were mostly ignored. Everyone I knew was going to vote Liberal. They always voted Liberal. Their parents voted Liberal. Their grand-parents voted Liberal. I felt like the black sheep in the voting community.

"The guy I voted for—" I couldn't finish the sentence.

"Don't tell me. I don't want to know. Your vote is like your P.I.N.; keep it to yourself."

So I did … until I wrote this post. Politics is something that I've paid a great deal of attention to over the last 15 years, and I've never forgotten a lot of the lessons from those formative years. Learning about the various forms of government in high school taught me the benefits and flaws in many of the systems. My step-father contributed by ensuring I would think about which representative, not just the party, would work hardest for me. All of these things have been carried forward, and now I use it to analyze politics here in Japan and lend advice to anybody who would care to listen to a foreign man who can't legally vote in the nation he calls home. But even if I never vote locally again in my life, the lessons that I learned in my youth about the importance of voting will forever stay with me.

Every vote counts; even if it's for the losing party.

Five Years Ago

Five years ago I waved goodbye to Canada for the last time, my sights set firmly on the golden shores of the far eastern nation of the rising sun. It's hard to believe so much time has passed since then. I lived in Vancouver for five years to the day, and have lived in Japan for longer. In this time I've grown a great deal, learning as I go, and have come to the conclusion many times that I will be happier living in Japan than Canada. Language barriers be damned, there really is not much for me in the nation I once called my home. I still like Canada as a nation, and would gladly visit from time to time. But Canada is no longer my home. It's here, where I have had the desire to live since I was 12 years old and largely ignorant of the country, its history, its people, and its culture.

Looking back, it's interesting to look at the story that we call life. Hopefully the next five years will be calmer and more fruitful.

You Sign One Petition ...

The time has come to abstain from all future online petitions. The spam is getting ridiculous and, while it's very easy to add a filter, I've stopped myself just to see how the tone of the organization would change if they met any degree of success. So it should come as no surprise that the group in question, OpenMedia.ca, has gone from being a well-intentioned collection of individuals to a group of alarmists who believe The Man is out to get them.

Here is part of the email they've recently circulated:

I don't want to see the big telecommunication companies or the Canadian government dictate how and when people can use the Internet and how much it should cost anymore than a citizen who might be living in that country, but I can't believe how often the tenor of the emails are ratcheted up. It seems like every week there's a new threat to the nation's digital communications platform from Rogers, Telus, Bell, or someone in Stephen Harper's twisted government. While threats certainly come in all shapes and sizes, there is no way these organizations could have some new item on the table each and every week. It's so far beyond fiction that I would classify this line of thinking as fantasy.

Today's topic du jour is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), where a lot of it has been negotiated in secret with the full details of the law being kept from the very people who stand to lose the most; the citizens. The EFF has a pretty decent summary of the issues laying out what the problems are and what the consequences might be, and the activists at OpenMedia are taking the foundation of the secret contract and running with it. Unfortunately, they're running in the wrong direction and they're going up against lobbyists that are far, far more influential on the nation's lawmakers than the people who (supposedly) put them in power.

If OpenMedia would really like to make a difference, then online campaigns will not be enough. What they need is a bunch of back-benchers in Parliament who are looking to make a name for themselves. Cozy up to some of these less-than-appreciated politicians, take them to lunch, discuss the issues like an adult1. Get them to see things from the other side of the fence. With a coordinated effort there is a greater chance of garnering greater media coverage of the issues. With greater coverage comes greater opportunity for change.

It's not a great solution, and it will take time … lots of time. But this, I believe, will result in the greatest chance at squashing the endless battles that will undoubtedly go on as the various Canadian copyright groups try their hardest to protect anything and everything Made in Canada at the expense of people's general freedoms.

That said … time to create yet another email filter.