Pardon me?

Dec 6, 2019

CBC News – Kathleen Harris
‘Incredibly low’: Only 118 pardons granted for pot possession in first 4 months

Advocates are concerned that the numbers of people eligible for pot pardons is enormous but that the applications and the successful granting of record suspensions are enormously low.  Some suspect that the application process itself is somewhat burdensome while others point to the suspension itself which is not wiping the record clean.  Senator Kim Pate has a good idea to allow Canadians convicted of pot possession to eliminate both the record and the nuisance:  a bill to allow the record to expire.  “Pate described Canada’s pardon system as “punitively costly and inaccessible.” She said she intends to reintroduce legislation that would amend the Criminal Records Act and allow for the expiry of some criminal records.”

Toronto Star – Sandro Contenta
‘All Canadians now can breathe freely’ — woman handcuffed for not holding escalator handrail wins at Supreme Court

On the one hand, such a trifling incident prompting the use of handcuffs on a lady already traumatized by police interaction seems unworthy of intervention to the SCC.  On the other hand, clarify around what police may and may not do in such trivial matters – not holding the handrail on an escalator – may be a good response to allegations of ‘over-policing.’  It remains a warning of the potential for escalation in every police/citizen encounter.   Related article:  CBC Radio – Ottawa says it’s ending solitary confinement. A former prisoner and advocate says that’s not quite true – ‘They’re just renaming it,’ says inmate turned advocate Alia Pierini

Toronto Star – Wendy Gillis
Toronto police to gain 300 officers — eight of them watching traffic safety — under proposed budget

5,038 officers by 2021, up from the current count of 4,754.  That is the expected size of the Metro Toronto Police in two years, even though the current size reflects Toronto police’s modernization plan for 2017.  Critics see a considerable increase in the staff of the police services.  The proposed increases will bring the total policing budget over $1 billion with the majority 2020 increase going to salaries.

CBC News – John Paul Tasker
Throne speech promises tax cut, climate action and ban on military-style firearms

Commentators on the recent throne speech have highlighted the proposed agenda flowing from the speech to contain four items of immediate concern: “fighting climate change, strengthening the middle class, Indigenous reconciliation, keeping Canadians safe and healthy and positioning Canada for success in an uncertain world.”  The four are all short, say the critics, on the way the government is proposing to meet these objectives.   Related article: CBC News – Aaron Wherry  Trudeau is betting his entire government on the fight against climate change    Related article: Globe and Mail – Kristy Kirkup  Reconciliation ‘must continue’: Indigenous peoples a key focus of Throne Speech

Toronto Star – Lana Payne and Lisa Kelly
Gender-based violence is the most extreme expression of inequality in our society

Here is a worthwhile reflection on violence against women in the light of the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Polytechnique massacre – Dec 6 the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women.  “We know from our membership that some face increased risk because of their gender identity or expression, indigeneity, race, disability, or religion. We also know that certain occupations and sectors we represent, such as journalists, housekeepers, hospitality, service, transit, and health care workers face particular and often gendered violence.”  Related article: Toronto Star – Mary Wells and Suzanne Kresta Engineering deans remember Dec. 6, 1989 — and celebrate the survivors

Globe and Mail – Sunny Dhillion
Yukon agrees to make changes to solitary-confinement policies

Though first published a year ago, this article holds out hope for the eventual honest confrontation with the proclivity to use solitary confinement at first recourse in jails across Canada.  The problem is far more serious when the inmates on whom the practice is exercised are also suffering from mental health anguish or are Indigenous people.  While the Yukon Human Rights Commission decision does not ban solitary outright, it does set some real limits on its use.  The ruling between the commission and the Yukon government should lead to improved record keeping and documentation of the practice.

Milwaukee Courier
Brett Blomme: Better Judge Equals Better Justice

Here’s an interesting take by a judge about the US justice system.  Blomme says: “Nothing in our broken justice system will change unless we change who we elect as judges.”  While we in Canada do not elect judges, the lesson remains about the critical role judges play in the dispensation of justice.  In this case, with a background of extensive community involvement, the would-be judge is also a member of the LGBTQ community.   Related article: The Sentencing Project – Campaign to End Life Imprisonment   (Includes a 5 minute video suggesting that the max should be 20 years and some excellent graphics illustrating the current status.)  Manhattan District Attorney (N.Y.) D.A. Vance Announces Restorative Justice Resolution in Homicide of Dr. Young Kun Kim   Related article: New York Post – Rebecca Rosenberg   Son ‘forgives’ his father’s killer as he’s sentenced to 10 years behind bars