Pardon and second chances…

     June 18, 2015

Toronto Star – R. Roy McMurtry and Anthony N. Doob
Making pardons tougher to obtain is harsh and unfair 

McMurtry is a former chief justice of Ontario and Doob is a highly respected professor of criminology at U of T.  With their joint expertise and long-time involvement in the justice system, this article should serve as a wake-up call around the various alerts that have come recently about the denial and delay of both the parole and the pardon process.  The pardon, now replaced by a dragged out records suspension application, is a way beyond the mistake of a criminal record that afflicts about 23.2% of male Canadians over the age of 12 and 4.3% of females.  In particular, the lack of a real pardon frustrates continuously the permanent employment of an offender.  What is at issue with the federal government is really the availability of a second chance, particularly if an offense and punishment does not admit of rehabilitation.

Global News – Amy Minsky
Conservatives spend almost $7M defending unconstitutional legislation 

The numbers are not readily available but Liberal Scott Sims inquired of six ministers of the Harper government about the cost of 16 specific constitutional challenges.  The most expensive of the 16 was $1 million spent in the attempt to deny immigrant health care.  Others, such as Ottawa lawyer Michael Spratt, say that the $6.5 million acknowledged is only the tip of the iceberg.  Liberal justice critic Sean Casey notes that there is an obligation for the Department of Justice to run a constitutional check on all legislation, and indication says Casey that “the political arm (is) not listening to the experts within the Department of Justice, not listening to the experts in the academic community.”

Toronto Star – Nicole Winfield, Rachel Zoll and Seth Borenstein
Pope’s bombshell climate change views could be a ‘game-changer’

Francis is calling for a cultural revolution in the face of perverse economic exploitation of the poor.  The encyclical confronts both big business, especially the fossil fuel interests, and those who continue to deny climate crisis, appealing specifically to the UN climate negotiations.  As an encyclical, the document is also intended for inclusion in the Church’s social teachings and the faithful throughout the world.   Full text of the Encyclical Laudato Si   (A 27 page document)

Toronto Star – Nicholas Keung
Canada’s immigration detention system breaches human rights, U of T study says –  Migrants with mental health issues kept in maximum security for years, report finds

The study, by the Law Faculty of the University of Toronto International Human Rights Program says that the Canada Border Services Agency regularly violates international standards in its detention of immigrants, sometimes, as in the case of Victor Vinnetou who has been held for almost eleven years in a high security facility.  The researchers have called the immigration system “a legal black hole.”  Full report We have no human rights: Arbitrary imprisonment and cruel treatment of migrants with mental health issues in Canada (A 130 page downloadable pdf; a 8 page Executive Summary with recommendations on pp. 4 – 11)   Related article: Globe and Mail – Colin Perkel   Migrants in Canada caught in legal ‘black hole:’ Report   Related article:  ‘They treat us like garbage’: Canada’s rising immigrant detentions operate in a legal black hole, report says   

New America Media (US – California)
Prop 47: Sentencing Reduction Awareness Campaign in California Expands

A group of former inmates are speaking out to encourage the widespread adoption of Proposition 47 reductions, a bill that improves the re-entry of inmates and reduce the number of people sent to prison while reducing costs to the criminal justice system.  Under the proposition felonies for drug convictions can be reduced to misdemeanors and can eliminate many of the obstacles to employment for ex-offenders. Estimates are that over 250,000 people in the Los Angeles area alone are eligible for the reduction.  Related article: Houston Forward Times    Pressure Builds for Feds to ‘Ban the Box’