Soul Search…

Oct. 30, 2019

Ottawa Citizen – Kelly Egan
The Montsion trial won’t give us the collective soul search we need

The trial of Const. Daniel Montsion, charged with manslaughter and assault, for the death of Abdirahman Abdi in July 2016 has managed to become so suffused with details and procedure that Egan thinks the community issues are buried forever.  Not only that, but after 70 days of testimony the trail is now to resume in April 2020.  “At the end of the day, an adversarial courtroom is just not the right venue to air out these bigger community matters about racial bias and dealing with the criminally mentally ill, possibly from very different cultures. Those are massive topics we need to keep talking about, not skirt around in a witness box.”   Related article: CBC News – Quebec to make immigrants pass ‘values’ test – Test will cover what government calls ‘democratic values and Quebec values’

 Canadian Lawyer – Michael Spratt
A wish list for federal justice reform

Spratt goes through a list of Liberal promises around criminal justice reform and suggests that in spite of acknowledged consensus of what needs to be fixed, it is unlikely to even be addressed in this parliament.  Spratt’s wish list includes reforms to legal aid, a hope for re-establishing the law reform commission, the end of minimum sentences, correctional reforms from “Dickensian hellholes, decriminalization of drugs, pardon legislation, the SCN affair, fighting Indigenous kids in court.  “But let’s be real. None of this will happen.”

Huffpost – Ryan Maloney
Caroline Cochrane Elected New N.W.T. Premier Under Territory’s ‘Consensus’ System – In the Northwest Territories, MLAs choose who becomes the territory’s leader.

Here’s twist on the nasty leadership focused election we just had.  The new premier of the North West Territories was chosen after the MLA’s were elected – not under any party banner – by consensus among those elected MLA’s.  The process led to the election of Canada’s only female premier – Caroline Cochrane.  The election took three secret ballots among four candidates for this conclusion.

BBC News (UK) – Carl Miller
How a social network could save democracy from deadlock

Here is a refreshing commentary on the potential of social media to give us a leg up on deadlocked political and social tensions.  As polarization strengthens, democracy weakens through paralysis.  “For the last five years, Taiwan has been blending technology with politics to create a new way of making decisions. And with certain limits, it has found consensus where none seemed to exist… Their creation was called vTaiwan – with the “v” standing for virtual – a platform where experts and other interested parties can deliberate contentious issues.”

CBC Radio –
B.C. man is one of the first Canadians with dementia to die with medical assistance

At the time when the Medical Assistance in Dying legislation was passed the assumption was that MAID as it came to be known would exclude those with dementia. “Gayle Garlock decided to challenge that assumption. On Aug. 26, the Victoria man became one of the first Canadians with a dementia diagnosis publicly reported to have received MAID.  His case is a sign of a growing consensus that a dementia diagnosis does not necessarily preclude eligibility.” The underlying issue is what constitutes “informed consent.”   Related article: CBC News – Rosa Marchitelli  Senior says she was forced out of mental health facility, left to live in tent with rats

The Hartford Courant (US) – Edmund H. Mahony
A federal judge is challenging how Connecticut treats its former death row inmates, saying they are held under cruel and unusual conditions

When the death penalty was overturned in Connecticut the debate did not end and 11 inmates on death row had their sentences changed to LWOP under special circumstances.  The political roll out of the legislation offered the notion that the revised sentence was, in fact, worse than death since as federal Judge Stefan R. Underhill noted from appeals for one of these inmates that sentences of special circumstances, largely solitary confinement, “more often than not drive inmates insane.”  The Judge says that the LWOP and solitary constitute “cruel and unusual punishment.”   Related article: The – Lauren Gill  Using Nitrogen Gas For Executions Is Untested and Poorly Understood. Three States Plan to Do It Anyway.  Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Alabama have all authorized the practice in capital punishment. So what happens now?

The Conversation – Anita Grace
The end of solitary confinement in Canada? Not exactly

Grace says that the notion of a ban on solitary in Canada, like Twain once said of reports of his death, are greatly exaggerated, and instead have undergone rebranding rather than elimination.  Bill C-83, an amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, received royal assent in June and will be fully enforced by Nov. 30… The act eliminates administrative and disciplinary segregation, also known as solitary confinement.”  But critics, like Senator Kim Pate, are skeptical.

CBC News – Jérôme Bergeron, Stu Mills
Treating violence like a disease: Could the Glasgow model work here?

Response to violence of all kinds has long been a perplexing part of coping with crime.  Glasgow has decided to treat violence as a disease and to apply public health criteria as a response.  Once Glasgow was known by the World Health Organization as the murder capital of Europe though the population was only 600,000 people.  “Experts say the turnaround came after Glasgow began treating violence the same way it would treat a public health crisis, with a focus on prevention rather than punishment.”  Ottawa’s new police chief, Peter Sloly, has inquired of Scottish authorities about the approach.  Related article: Toronto Star – Laurie Monsebraaten   Stop treating people on welfare like criminals. Report calls for Ontario to take new approach