When we first posted injusticebusters on our 5MB of free webspace in June, 1998, we put up some basic pages and made contact with others on the Internet. We were careful to tell the truth at the same time we broke the publication ban. The following correspondence took place before SaskTel simply blocked our site so visitors were faced with an error page. It took us a couple days to post on geocities (the fragments of which can still be found on the Internet -- we just can't get to them to service them) and at the end of July we were able to purchase commercial space from a U.S. server. We were there for more than two years, pitching the story everywhere until we had the good fortune to be discovered by fifth estate.
Subject: inJustice Busters' Website Date: Thu, 23 Jul 1998 07:58:47 -0600 From:Brent.Munro@sasktel.sk.ca
I am replying to your note in reply to the note sent to SaskTel regarding some of the content on your site.
SaskTel has no quarrel whatsover with your desire to advocate free speech. Our concern arises only when the content goes beyond free speech and may be defamatory. As our previous note to you made very clear, SaskTel will not be associated with material which may be defamatory.
In reply to your question, SaskTel will not indicate from whom or where the complaint with repsect your site that we received originated. Our policy is not to do so. I note that your site still contains the same material that we requested you remove. Altering a poster, changing the title of one site and moving the content from one of the sites we asked you to remove to another is clearly not what our request was. Either the content noted in our previous note to you must be completely removed as requested by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow or we will take the steps indicated in our previous note to you. I trust our position is now clear.
The e-mail from Sask-Tel (Thursday, July 23) alleges changes were not done in good faith and ends with the line I trust our position is now clear.
About as clear as the mud a bully might smear on your face when it has you in a half nelson.
The changes were significant.
We blurred Tom's identity entirely and changed the words bad to corrupt and killer to dangerous criminal. These changes were made in good faith and were a reasonable interpretation of Sympatico's request.
We stand in contempt of bullying. injusticebusters! stand for justice and fair play.
injusticebusters! stand by our right to inform the public of information which other media have been bullied into suppressing. The information which SaskTel would seem to want us to remove is information which alerts the public to dangerous people who have hurt children in the past, and a policeman who has refused to acknowledge his own culpability and therefore cannot be trusted to not make the same mistake again.
SaskTel and its lawyers are running scared from imagined litigation from people they choose not to name. SaskTel finds itself in the position of making legal decisions regarding free speech which it is not SaskTel's job to make.
We repeat: injusticebusters! are responsible citizens who do not defame anyone. To name a policeman and accurately report what he has done is not to defame him. What about revealing the name of an undercover cop? Would he or she be defamed if we did that? No. He/she would be put back in uniform because he/she didn't do her job.
To inform the public of dangerous sex offenders amongst us, whom the police have refused to arrest and charge for reasons to do with their own policy is not to defame anyone, either.
For a couple hours inJustice Busters' site has had certain names blocked out. After careful reflection we have decided that to continue to do so would be to give in to the playground bullies, just as local media has done before us. So we're back.
SaskTel should stop playing Big Daddy and stand up for inJustice Busters' right to tell the truth in a shameful story.
The truth is not defamatory.
A determined group of self-described injustice busters is testing the limits of the law and its ability to control cross-border communication on the Internet.
A day after being thrown off of SaskTel's Sympatico service for posting material which may break court-imposed publication bans and libel laws in Canada, the group has found a new home on the Web through an American-based Web site provider.
Injustice Busters level accusations against a Saskatoon police officer over his handling of a sexual abuse investigation in the early 1990s.
They also identify a youth who was between 10 and 14 years old at the time of the investigation and accuse him of terrible sex crimes.
The youth's identity was kept secret by several publication bans. According to Crown lawyers, the Young Offenders Act may also protect the youth's identity.
SaskTel shut down the Web site Monday, but by Wednesday the site and its allegations reappeared in a shortened version through a New York-based company, Geocities.
A Geocities spokesperson reached in New York said the site is also getting special attention from his company.
If this page violates content guidelines, it will be removed. We've sent it off to our alert department to be checked, Ed Gyurko said.
Authorities have been monitoring the site's content for more than two weeks and Justice Department officials Wednesday followed the site to its new location.
We're looking at it. Again it's the whole Internet law thing. I think it's going to require a fair amount of research for us and it may fall into the realm of international law, said Justice spokesperson Debi McEwen.
Testing the law and freedom of speech is nothing new to Sheila Steele, one of the site's organizers. She was acquitted on rare charges of defamatory libel for a poster and picket campaign against the police officer in the early 1990s.
Nobody knows how this is all going to shake down, but I think this is about the right of people to get a free discussion going. Some of this conventional wisdom has to be shaken up a bit, Steele said.
Jim Russell, a Saskatoon lawyer who specializes in information law, said the Internet is only beginning to pose a range of challenges to courts and law enforcement officials.
Most laws which affect private action are national and assume there are borders, Russell said. The problem with the Internet is jurisdiction. Courts in one jurisdiction have no authority to make decisions which affect other jurisdictions.
Russell said all national laws still apply on the Internet. Many cases involving child pornography have been cracked cross-border, he pointed out.
But when it comes to matters of copyright infringement, advertising law, property rights, libel and other civil litigation, legal procedures become fuzzy and expensive.
If someone in California is using my trademark or is libelling me on the Internet, do I have to go to California to seek relief? Can a local court assume jurisdiction? These are issues that haven't been worked out here yet, Russell said.
Going to California to fight it out is very expensive and impractical in most cases.
According to Russell, courts in the United States have been quicker to assume jurisdiction on material available in the U.S. but originating outside the country.
But, he said, laws are based on culture and some cultures may have laws banning material which is acceptable in other places.
Nudity and other things we find fairly acceptable may break Iranian laws, he said.
And closer to home, Russell said the U.S. has much looser libel laws. Sweeping bans preventing publication of evidence and identities are much less common in U.S. courts.
In 1994 and 1995, grisly details of the Paul Bernardo murder case were available in Canada from the U.S. on the Internet despite strict publication bans.
Eventually the Canadian legal system may have to accept a more American way of doing things, Russell said.
Our cultures are going to continue growing closer together and the more permissive culture will continue to push things. Probably the more aggressive culture will dominate the passive one.
It is an outrage for SaskTel to ban the Sympatico websites of John Lucas and Rick Klassen because they published allegedly libellous material.It's yet another nail in the coffin of free speech.
People are being banned, gagged and threatened more and more for speaking out about things.
The published material addressed Justice Department officials, police officers, judges, lawyers and social workers --people with a great deal of knowledge about how the legal system works.
Seriously, newspaper stories don't mention any criminal or civil action taken since the material was published on the web-site. Could it be that the complainants know that, to be libellous, it first has to be false? Perhaps this material is for the most part true. It would be one explanation why such prominent and legally knowledgeable people would resort to threats rather than legal action.
The allegedly libellous material refers to a court case in the early 1990s concerning child sexual abuse allegations. At the time, a publication ban was put in place to protect the children and the accused. Perhaps, this was appropriate at that time, but now, many years later, the details of this case still seem to be a sensitive issue. Why?
Judging by my experience with a sexual abuse allegation and the subsequent investigation by the authorities, their handling of such matters is tantamount to criminal.
As we are about to enter a new millenium, we all should strive to maintain ever-increasing vigilance of those whom our society entrusts. It's good to hear there are still people who, when they encounter something terribly wrong in our justice system, havethe courage to stand up and expose this wrong.
Garry Verhey, Saskatoon.
SaskTel following industry guidelines
Garry Verhey (Internet censorship unhealthy SP Feb 25) writes, It is an outrage for SaskTel to ban. . .Sympatico websites . . . because they publish allegedly libelous material.
SaskTel does not make it a practice to censor any individuals or web content. However, as an Internet Service Provider (ISP), SaskTel is concerned with out liability where potentially illegal or defamatory content is published on our servers.
We will not host any content that is libellous, defamatory or discloses personal matters respecting any individual or which might expose us to criminal or civil liability. This is clearly stated in the SaskTel Sympatico Service and Personal Webspace Service agreements with all our customers.
In the vast majority of cases, SaskTel does not restrict the content on the web sites which it hosts. However, SaskTel simply cannot be associated with, nor host, information that has potentially defamatory or illegal content.
This practice is shared by IPSs across Canada and is reflected in the guidelines of the industry as we understand them.
Sean Caragata, General manager, SaskTel corporate affairs, StarPhoenix, Mar. 12, 1999
John Lucas made the following statement to inJusticebusters after his site was pulled by Sask Sympatico, at 930 a.m. Friday, February 5, 1999 (This is the email they sent.) Notice no one has signed a name to it! StarPhoenix article, Feb. 6, 1999.
It would be easier for those in authority to get rid of Brian Dueck than face the criticism that will continue and escalate if they continue to protect him!
Email Sympatico | Email the address that sent the final eviction notice! Last summer, a short three weeks after posting injusticebusters first website on SaskTel's Sympatico webspace, we were told to pull certain material or or site would be pulled. These hicks who never heard of free speech played with the site for a bit, pulled the picture of Tom out of our graphics folder on the site, whined to the media, generally insulted our intelligence and finally pulled our site.
Date: Sun, 07 Feb 1999 21:35:30 -0500
From: Beth Dranoff/3rdEye New Media <email@example.com>
Subject: Politically Speaking Forums
Cc: Mike <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Eleanor Mitchell <email@example.com>
I have been receiving complaints about several of your posts in the Politically Speaking forum.
Specifically, it is those areas where you ostensibly start a discussion topic and then use that discussion to promote injusticebusters -- as opposed to encouraging debate on a particular topic, which is the purpose of this forum.
Having visited the injustice busters site, I notice that at least one member of this group has already received a warning from Sympatico.
If you have something to contribute to Politically Speaking by way of debate, please feel free to make a statement which can be responded to by others -- providing, of course, that it is not abusive to the other participants. Using (or abusing) this forum for the purposes of promoting your group, however, simply is not acceptable and I must ask you to stop.
Thank you for your anticipated cooperation in this matter.
Host, Politically Speaking
Life is the ultimate adventure
Senior Partner/Executive Producer
3rdEye New Media
inJusticebusters would point out that we have never claimed to be a group. We are two people who openly run a website and bust injustice. We encourage others to do likewise, following our example. We believe that as responsible citizens, we should use whatever forums are available to us to bring matters of public interest to public attention. If Sympatiko forums will not allow us to expose the what we can clearly demonstrate are the criminal actions of the Saskatchewan Justice System, Nova Scotia Children's Aid Society and Alberta Workers' Compensation Boards, then it is not much of a forum, is it? Maybe Elementary School Show and Tell is what it should be called!
Subject: Re: WWW3.sk.sympatico.ca/simple
Date: Mon, 01 Feb 1999 14:25:45 -0600
From: Complaints <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Your website maintained in conjunction with your personal Sympatico service you receive from SaskTel has been brought to our attention. The terms and conditions applicable to your Sympatico service provide that the customer of such service agrees not to use the Service to post or transmit information that could give rise to criminal or civil liability or which is contrary to your Service Provider's policies. If such terms are breached your service may be terminated.
SaskTel does not wish to be associated with the type of material that is located on your website. Accordingly we suggest that there are three alternatives. Those solutions are for you to remove this material from your site, purchase your Internet Access service from an alternate supplier or, alternatively, if the site in question is not removed within 48 hours have your service terminated.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
SaskTel Sympatico Administration
Lucas made the following news release, Feb. 1, 8PM: To Sask. Sympatico:
Sergeant Dueck and Ms. Bunko-Ruys have had more than seven months to either refute the allegations on several sites, or to try and convince Crown Prosecutors to use the criminal code. I find it hard to understand why Sympatico would try and pretend there is even a possibility of a civil action, or anything else. These people are on the ropes and it should be obvious. I want it clearly understood that I intend to take some action regarding Sympatico. I am very certain about the eventual outcome since we have the facts, but that is about as far as I am willing to go at the moment.
Subject: Webspace for simple Userid Removed
Date: Fri, 05 Feb 1999 09:28:37 -0600
From: Personal Webmaster <email@example.com>
Organization: SaskTel - AIS
The webspace for the simple userid has been removed for being in
breach of the terms & conditions of the Personal Webspace service.
a message from the Personal Webmaster
Before the Nazis took them to the concentration camps, they passed laws saying Jews couldn't own property. Then they took over their houses. The neighbours thought they had moved. The SS didn't leave behind a message saying, we kicked these people out of their own homes because they are Jews! And if you think this is farfetched, consider that it was criticism of the government and the right to assemble in groups in public that were outlawed before the Nazis moved in on the property and then took the people to the deathcamps to be gassed. There is no doubt that Sympatiko is playing the role of police state enforcer when it removes people's websites! They have no badge, they have no authority. They must be stopped.
From 1998 until 2002, injusticebusters was in the throes of an identity crisis. What was it? What were we doing? We grappled with editorial policy at the same time we were learning the nuts and bolts of building and posting a website. Once we had a secure, paid site I had full editorial control, although I talked regularly to Richard Klassen who was forced to move his family several times and did not always have access to the Internet.
I began following other threads to stories of police and prosecutorial misconduct and the site took on another facet to its character: a newsclipping scrapbook where stories could live longer than they would in print form. I also began picking up other stories of wrongfully convicted people. It was an explosion. By 2003 there were over 700 pages. I also had contact with several other people (Don Smith, Leon Walchuk, and Monique Turenne) and kept these stories going.
When Richard Klassen began to make progress in bringing his civil claim to court, the government and police defendants alleged he was breaking the rules of court by publishing discovery material on the Internet.
This claim was absolutely false. However, rather than risk being thrown out of his civil claim, Klassen undertook before Judge Mona Dovell to sever all ties with the website.
Now that some of the dust has settled, I have been going back through the material we had posted in the early days. In the spirit of keeping the scrapbook alive, I have been reformatting and placing links. The original material remains intact. I hope the information, which chronicles our struggle is useful to you.
The identity crisis is over. We know who we are --Sheila Steele, March 28, 2005