July 5, 2008 [CALGARY]
In the words of a Conservative association volunteer: "Where else do protesters get fed by what they're protesting?"
Several hundred Calgarians attended this morning's annual Minister's Pancake Breakfast, hosted by MP Jim Prentice of the Calgary North Centre riding. While the usual entertainment was on hand - stampede princesses, live music, and plenty of pancakes fresh off the grill, the attendees also had a chance to learn more about a controversial Bill that Prentice recently introduced in Parliament.
Approximately two dozen members of the Facebook group Fair Copyright for Canada - Calgary Chapter were on hand this morning with placards, t-shirts and home-made CDs, ready to protest and instruct attendees on the possible negative effects of Bill C-61, which amends Canada's Copyright Act to include Digital Law and "update the rights and protections of copyright owners to better address the Internet, in line with international standards". The Bill has received criticism from a diverse section of the Canadian population, which sees it as attempt to restrict freedom of use and extend control over access to information.
"We're concerned about what the amendments will mean for the Canadian Public" said one protester. "This is going to affect students, teachers, artists. Digital Law is obscure, and if it's made illegal to break, then anyone could be considered guilty, there's a problem of no consumer rights".
"The ramifications involve severe restrictions on software, video, even on TV viewing rights" agreed Brendan Gill . "Even the artists this is supposed to protect are concerned - members of Wide Mouth Mason, The Barenaked Ladies, feel this restricts their ability to get the music to fans, [that] it controls their output, and gives the record companies more power".
"The Bill is unenforceable, and technicians and artists have a responsibility to let people know this, to let them know Bill C-61 doesn't address the issues of piracy, copyright infringement. Jim Prentice needs to talk with the technicians, the artists, not just the DCMA lobbyists with their own agendas."
While the protesters had to stand in line to get into the event, they quickly managed to achieve several good conversations with attendees, event volunteers, and members of Prentice's team, including his Chief of Staff, who encouraged the protesters to be involved, and to take their "legitimate concerns" to the committees debating the Bill.
"There are about 20 sides, so there will be much studying, debating. We're asking that [protesters] recognize it's not just back and forth between two groups, there is more to it - and we want to make sure [Bill C-61] won't lead to unintended circumstances" Prentice's CofS said.
"This isn't just about industry, but also the [Canadian] government working with other governments. Yes, we know there are concerns about consultation, privacy, that Canadians take invasion of their privacy very, very seriously, but there has to be a way to figure out and stop those who are commercially profiting from copyright infringement", agreed Dave Higgingbossom, President of the Calgary Centre North Conservative Electoral District Association.
By the end of the breakfast, event organizers were pleased by how everything went. "We knew [about the protest]ahead of time, and met in advance, and they've been very respectful" said Higingbossom. "We knew it would be fine, and there has been absolutely no problems. This is what democracy is about - the right to espouse on what you believe in. We [political groups] want to hear, it's why we exist. If C-61 is controversial, that's good to know".
The protesters were generally, if a little less, pleased with the results. " It was good, but we're not happy with Prentice - there was a lack of discussion [with him]. Obviously, he's very busy, but he had plenty of time for photographs with babies, and none for concerns." said Jason Burnner.
"We need public consultation, but raising awareness was our goal, so we made our point successfully. We were here to protest, but [also ensure] everyone had a good time" added Brunner and group organizer Kempton Lam.