Softly, softly…

    May 7, 2015

(Ed note: please be aware that in the issue of May 5, communique mixed up the initials for a group who sponsor Policy Options from which we drew several stories.  The proper initials are IRPP, nor IIRP.  The initials stand for the Institute for Research on Public Policy.  Apologies to those concerned.  The links offered were correct.)

Globe and Mail – Sean Fine
Proposed parole changes need softening, ex-Harper adviser says

Benjamin Perrin, a constitutional specialist, and a former lead adviser to the PMO, thinks that the changes envisioned by the Harper government around the life-means life sentencing probably will not stand the test of an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.  “Removing judges’ discretion has been a key feature of Conservative crime laws, including dozens of mandatory minimum sentences for everything from drugs to crimes against children to non-violent offences. But the government has often run afoul of the Supreme Court, as Mr. Perrin documented in a report last year for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.”

CBC Breaking News
Omar Khadr to be freed on bail while waiting appeal – Alberta Court of Appeal judge says no clear evidence there would be irreparable harm   Related article: CBC News   Omar Khadr would face numerous bail restrictions if released
CBC News – Dean Beeby
Harper government left $97M unspent on social services, report shows – Document shows youth employment plan biggest loser last year as promised funds ‘lapse’

Earlier this year, the veterans discovered a considerable sum ($1.1 billion) returned to government coffers un-used just when veterans were looking for various services.  Now it appears that a further $97 million with youth unemployment the loser for about 30% of those funds.  The process seems to put in question the trustworthiness of federal government funding announcement if they are to be clawed back before spending.  A second big loser was a fund for literacy.

Canadian Press
With support from Liberals, Conservatives pass controversial anti-terror bill

The controversial Bill C-51 passed its third reading in the House of Commons by a vote of 183 to 96.  The Liberals voted in favour of the Bill as well.  The Bill gives security and intelligence the authority to gather and share personal information and the disrupt activities deemed or suspected to be terrorist connected.   Related article: Toronto Star – Tim Harper   Stephen Harper’s anti-terror bill has notable omissions  (includes 1min38 sec video report) – Stewart Bell
Changes due today making it easier to revoke passports of radicalized Canadians intending to join ISIL 

On Thursday Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney is expected to announce measures to make it easier for officials to revoke the passports of those suspected of travelling to join terrorist forces overseas.  Just before the House vote on C-51, Blaney tabled a report from CSIS announcing a 50% increase in young people travelling to join terrorist causes.

Toronto Star – Laura Armstrong
Middle school class inspired to tackle mental health stigma 

Twelve year old Chazz Petrella felt so isolated as he struggled with mental health issues that he hanged himself last August.  His class at Duke of Connaught school in Toronto’s east end want to make sure that they learn from the incident and they have decided that this year they will focus on mental health and well-being as a way of raising awareness of the potential impact of mental illness, likely in many cases to manifest itself first in adolescence and how to help.

Globe and Mail – Patrick White
New inmates denied medicine due to drug-plan flaw: prison ombudsman

The Correctional Services Investigator Howard Sapers says that new inmates to federal prison may go as long as 30 days without prescribed medications when they enter the federal system.  The revelation comes from an unpublished report on drugs in the federal prisons acquired under Access-to-information.  The potential interruption comes from insufficient time for CSC doctors to examine new arrivals.

VERA Institute for Justice (US) – Prosecution and Racial Justice Program
A Prosecutor’s Guide for Advancing Racial Equity

As the US struggles with mass incarceration and disproportionate Black and Hispanic representation in prison, justice officials are beginning to recognize the role played by the prosecutor and decisions taken in his/her office as a prelude to the court appearance of individuals charged.  This link is to a 44 page pdf report from Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm who is trying to develop an approach that redresses some of the past problems that lead to mass incarceration and racism.