(Editor’s note: In 2000 the RCMP and Elections Canada agents raided the home of Paul Bryan of Burnaby, B.C., owner of In-Touch Software. Bryan was accused of publishing Atlantic polling results on a website, ElectionResultsCanada.com, while British Columbia polls were still open. His computer hard drives were seized and Bryan was fined $1,000. The clause in the Canada Elections Act used to prosecute Bryan was subsequently repealed in 2014. On June 22, 2011 Bryan recounted his experience in an interview with Blacklock’s publisher Holly Doan. Following is a transcription of his remarks)
They try to put limits on the way our citizens communicate. This was one of them. The idea that you can furnish millions of people with information, political in nature, timely in nature, and then say “Now don’t talk about it, don’t discuss it, don’t express your feelings,” that’s unreasonable.
I think they wanted to make an example of me. I believed it was an unjustifiable restriction on freedom of expression. They didn’t understand the larger picture, the kind of technology that is now in the hands of everyday Canadians. That can’t be ignored.
I announced a month before that I would violate the ban on my website, and I did. I thumbed my nose at authority and waited for the knock on the door. And there was a knock on the door. There were two Elections Canada officials and the RCMP with a warrant to search my place. I was charged with violating the Canada Elections Act.
It cost me, personally, tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Why did I fight? I don’t like to see people get picked on. The internet is a new medium. I thought it was worth fighting for.
This new technology allows individual citizens to participate in public discourse in a way that was never possible with traditional media. To me, that was something that needed to be protected and fostered. I worried the government might try to regulate this in a way that prevented it from being as empowering as it turned out to be.
Even in 2000 it was already evident this was a new medium where any citizen can report the news, contribute ideas, create a meritocracy where the best ideas rise to the top because they resonate with the most people.
Was my fight worth it? It was worth it in the sense I would have regretted not doing it, yes.
We as citizens now have far greater access to information than ever before. I think the internet has revolutionized democracy. What’s your definition of democracy? Is it that more people go out and vote, or that more people are getting engaged?
People should not be afraid of the government. The government should be afraid of people, especially people who become more informed on issues. That is what changed about our democracy, the level of discourse by citizens.