Calls for Justice…

June 4, 2019

CBC News – John Paul Tasker
Inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women issues final report with sweeping calls for change

“Each person has a role to play in order to combat violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA [two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual] people. Beyond those calls aimed at governments or at specific industries or service providers, we encourage every Canadian to consider how they can give life to these Calls for Justice.”   Report:  (A condensation of the 1200 page report listing the “Calls for Justice” identified by the commission.)  231 ‘imperative’ changes: The MMIWG inquiry’s calls for justice   Full Report: Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls  (Homepage includes a 10 point section on reflecting Indigenous values)  Related article: Global TV News  ‘This is genocide’: Final MMIWG report says all Canadians have role in ending violence   Related article: CBC The Current    ‘This isn’t over’: MMIWG inquiry wraps, but much work remains, says sister of missing woman   Related article: National Newswatch – Adina Bresge    Explained: Why the MMIWG commission invoked ‘Canadian genocide’   Related article: National Newswatch – Kristy Kirkup, Canadian Press   Killing, violence toward Indigenous women, girls ‘not a relic of our past’: PM  Related article: CBC News – Neil McDonald   Our casual racism causes Indigenous suffering   Related article: CBC News –  Wellness support available for MMIWG family members reading the inquiry’s final report

 Government of Canada – Department of Justice
Major development following consultations…
State of the Criminal Justice System Dashboard

Consequent to consultations in 2017 and 2018, the government has created its first ever Dashboard to highlight nine categories of satisfaction with the criminal justice system.  The Dashboard was developed following widespread consultations with a broad spectrum of justice players, government and advocates, including Smart Justice Network.  The nine themes presented – deemed the Framework for the Criminal Justice System (CJS) – are expected outcomes with indicators and data sources for verification for the outcomes.

Besides the Dashboard, the Department of Justice is offering a 45 page downloadable Report: State of the Criminal Justice System 2019   (Pages 8-9 of the Report has an Executive Summary; the Framework is expanded on p.10-12; the individual outcomes are broken down in the following pages 14-34; and a conclusion is found on p. 35.)

The Department of Justice is looking for reactions and comments.  If you have any questions about the initiative, you may contact the current project lead Angela Bressan at or 613-957-9601.

CBC News (Sudbury, ON) –
Families of overdose victims react to Sudbury police laying manslaughter charge in opioid death

David Leon Stefanczuk, 39, has been charged with manslaughter and trafficking in connection with the sale of tainted opium.  While some agree with the tactic, they also voice concern over criminalizing the victim.  Additionally, some blame the government for the lack of safe-injection centres, forcing the drug addicts to resort to the illegal drug trade.

The Marshall Project (US) – Carroll Bogart
It’s Time to Change the Way the Media Covers Crime

The article is a reflection deriving from the latest Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” story of the Central Park Five (currently showing on Netflix) and the miscarriage of justice prompted by media and civic rage misdirected at five Black teens.  “After the real rapist confessed, some journalists—not many—conceded that they had bought in too readily to a false narrative concocted by police and prosecutors. As LynNell Hancock, who covered the story for the New York Daily News, pointed out in 2003, the real “wolf pack” had been the media.”  Bogart offers a number of ingredients in the mix where change is needed.    Related article:  The Intercept (US) – Shaun King    Mass Shootings, Dinner, and the Cognitive Dissonance of Just Living in America

Huffington Post – Samantha Beattie

The link offers the first of a series intended to expose the problematic nature of cutback (30% is an already over-burdened system) to legal aid in Ontario.  Here is the scene in a flash:  “Legal aid compensates private criminal lawyers to represent more than 56,000 low-income clients at each stage of criminal court — at bail hearings, preliminary hearings, jury trials and sentencing, for example. It funds lawyers to assist refugees fleeing war and persecution to claim asylum. It runs community clinics that serve Indigenous people, and helps those with chronic, life-altering disabilities get social assistance. Last year, legal aid issued 102,873 certificates for people to receive representation… A person with no dependents is eligible for legal aid if they earn no more than $17,731 a year (a six per cent increase from last year), according to the organization.”  Critics have already voiced concerns about filling the jails when improper convictions are registered and when the legal / court system gets blocked from delay after delay, to say nothing of the human rights issues.

Institute for Criminal Policy Research (UK) – Catherine Heard, Executive Director
ICPR publishes new report “Towards a health-informed approach to penal reform? Evidence from ten countries”

The report focuses on the physical and mental health impacts on inmates in overcrowded situations. Currently ICPR estimates from prison data internationally that   “well over 60% of countries worldwide are currently running their prison systems above official capacity – causing untold harm to the health of inmates, staff, families and communities.”  This report comes from the data from 10 countries with overcrowding.   Full report (A 44 page downloadable pdf)

Prison Reform Trust (UK)
Reforms to probation – Improving support and resettlement

The link offers a commentary on the decision in the UK to reform the probation system.  “This month the Ministry of Justice announced reforms to probation services that will see the scrapping of Transforming Rehabilitation measures which led to the creation of Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). In England, existing contracts with CRCs will end in spring 2021, and in Wales by the end of the year.”  The report is also a commentary on the failure of mandatory probation for inmates serving short sentences, the frequency of short sentences for women, and found a considerable variation in sentencing in different parts of England.,6AURH,6JSCMH,OVO8H,1

 The Atlantic (US) – Garrett Epps
John Roberts Strikes a Blow against Free Speech – A First Amendment tiger for the rights of rich campaign donors, the chief justice frets that ordinary people might bother hardworking officers.

This is a timely and probing examination of the legal parameters to surround encounters between police and ordinary citizens.  Chief Justice John Roberts cast the deciding vote on Nieves v. Bartlett, a case raising issues with the First Amendment and bringing issue to the favour of police when a retaliatory arrest is made on the basis of words exchanged.  The arrest charge is often ‘disorderly conduct’ or ‘failure to obey a lawful order.’  The opinion also involves ‘probable cause,’ and perhaps offers a new approach.  Epps thinks there is a sacrifice of the First Amendment protection – and apparently onus of the burden of proof – to unreasonably protect police.

London Free Press – Jonathan Juha
Ontario corrections boss swats human rights czar over EMDC teardown call

Elgin Middlesex Detention Center has been in the news more often than any other jail in Ontario – the Ottawa Carleton Detention Center probably rivals for the title it is to be singular.  But the title may be irrelevant in the face of the storm brought by Renu Mandhane, the provincial human rights czar, who “told The Free Press that Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre – where 14 inmates have died in the past decade – should be razed and replaced.”  No so, says the Solicitor General Sylvia Jones who claims to be making improvements.  After a visit to EMDC Mandhane “concluded that its violence, drug abuse and overcrowding make it one of Ontario’s worst jails. A teardown, she argues, may be the only way to stop inmate deaths.”  What is clear is that the Correctional system across the province badly needs the recent cuts from its budget.  The article includes a specific listing of the long terms problems plaguing the center since it opened.   

Blogger Russell Webster  /  The Griffin Society (UK) – Pippa Goodfellow
Outnumbered, locked up and overlooked? The use of penal custody for girls in England & Wales

Increasingly on an international scale as well as domestically the justice systems are seeing a pointed rise in the number of women sentenced to prison.  England and Wales have reduced the number of women in prison but have also found that the fewer number seems to prompt neglect through marginalization in policy and ignoring practical needs.  The actual reduction of numbers in prison poses “significant challenges for the commissioning of placements, custodial establishments and resettlement services.”  The article suggests some areas of research around the specific population to determine how to best respond.  The 64 page report is available in abstract, as a full report or in executive summary.  Link to the three options for further info.