Rights violated…

Dec 16, 20119

CBC News
Quebec’s top court won’t suspend province’s religious symbols ban, but judges say rights being violated

How does a court agree that rights are violated without proscribing a remedy?  The top Quebec court decision came in a request to suspend the application of Bill 21 until the SCC can rule on its constitutionality and was not in itself a request to rule on the constitutionality.  “Justice Dominique Bélanger, who sided with the majority, said it is “apparent that their fundamental rights are being violated.” She singled out Muslim women who wear the hijab.”  But that alone isn’t enough to justify an injunction because of the notwithstanding clause, Bélanger indicated, which was included in the legislation by the provincial government to override certain sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-bill-21-secularism-court-religious-symbols-appeals-1.5394084     Related article: CBC News – Verity Stevenson   ‘We will keep on fighting’: Hijabi women devastated by Appeal Court decision to uphold Bill 21 https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/court-of-appeal-bill-21-reaction-1.5394522

CBC News – Michael Spratt
‘Smarter and stronger’? New law is really a cruel gutting of access to justice for the impoverished

Michael Spratt is a lawyer and advocate for legal aid in Ontario.  Spratt sees the current Ford government slashing the legal aid system to the point of ending its effectiveness, especially in the defence of the poor and vulnerable.  Attorney General Doug Downey just introduced the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act while slashing $133 million from the budget, all alleging the recent report from Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk on the state of justice as justification.  Contrary to Downey’s strategy, Spratt says: The utter failure of the double Ds – Doug Ford and Doug Downey – on the justice front has resulted in court delays, wasted money, and decreased access to justice.”  Legal aid becomes critical in family law in particular as well as criminal law.   https://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/opinion-smarter-stronger-justice-act-legal-aid-1.5393810

CBC News – Rachel Aiello
PM Trudeau issues revamped mandate letters for cabinet ministers

Here is the link to the full collection of re-vamped mandate letters to the new Trudeau cabinet, also listing the Parliamentary assistant to the minister.  The link also provides a number of other articles relating to the new cabinet and their direction for the immediate future.  “Justice Minister David Lametti and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett will be taking on legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the end of 2020.”   https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/pm-trudeau-issues-revamped-mandate-letters-for-cabinet-ministers-1.4728847      Link directly to the mandate letters:  https://pm.gc.ca/en/mandate-letters     Related article: National Newswatch: Canadian Press   Trudeau tells ministers openness, co-operation are key in minority government   https://www.nationalnewswatch.com/2019/12/13/trudeau-tells-ministers-openness-co-operation-are-key-in-minority-government-2/#.XfPULvx7k2x

(Editor’s comment: the mandate letter for justice seems a setback from the avowed intent previously to revamp the system in a more transformative way, including greater emphasis on ‘restorative justice’ approaches.  This letter is a “laundry list” of tasks that seems to lack any comprehensive thrust toward systemic change.  One SJNC advocate assessed the mandate:  “This letter marks lost ground and vision in my books.”  The key hope from the SJNC perspective, partially saved in one of the items, remains in the requirement that the Attorney General: “Work with the provinces and territories to establish a Community Justice Centres program to put courts alongside other critical social services. However, the community justice centres require more than system coordination for them to contribute to justice transformation. Given the reliance on criminalization and punitive responses throughout the mandate letter, there is cause for concern regarding the focus and intention of the community justice initiative as a way to really get at root causes and meaningful justice solutions. The mandate letter also asks the ministry to identify additional priorities.  Perhaps the transformative vision can be brought into play as government and advocates commit to and move to establish these community centres.

The Atlantic (US) –
When Mental Illness Becomes a Jail Sentence:  Arrestees who are mentally incompetent to stand trial are supposed to be sent for treatment. But thousands are being warehoused in jails for months without a conviction.

This article draws attention to the mass incarceration problem in the US justice system and one of the significant elements of the remand system when people are arrested, afflicted with mental illness but left in prison while the wheels of justice delay and grind them down further, often for minor offences for which jail is already an inappropriate resolution.  “Across the U.S., people who should be placed in mental-health facilities for treatment are instead detained in jail for unconstitutionally long periods—sometimes months—before they have been convicted or even tried for any crime.”  https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/12/when-mental-illness-becomes-jail-sentence/603154/

The Guardian (UK) – Senay Boztas
Why are there so few prisoners in the Netherlands?

North Americans have always been puzzled by the low numbers imprisoned in Holland.  “In 1988, the UK criminologist David Downes contrasted a relatively humane Dutch prison system favourably against those in England and Wales. Today plummeting prison sentences have left the Netherlands with an unusual problem: it doesn’t have enough inmates to fill its prisons, even after renting out places to Norway and Belgium.”  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/12/why-are-there-so-few-prisoners-in-the-netherlands?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Restorative Justice Press (US) – Denise C. Breton
From Win-Lose Thinking to Being Good Relatives

How to bridge the gap between punishment and healing?  This article proposes that the mind set of win/lose in relationship is the stumbling block and where people are engaged in contests with clear winners and clear loses we will find broken relationships and people once collaborative now angry and alienated. Well worth a read to confront our daily failures.  Curiously, Breton sees climate change as an ally in the required change:  “Climate change is teaching us how much we are in this together and why any other’s loss is our loss too. Evolving our approach from win-lose to coexisting is a paradigm shift, yet a shift as deep as this can be disorienting.”   http://www.livingjusticepress.org/vertical/Sites/%7B4A259EDB-E3E8-47CD-8728-0553C080A1B0%7D/uploads/From_Win-Lose_Thinking_to_Being_Good_Relatives.pdf

The Guardian (UK) – Maddy Crowell and Sylvia Varnham O’Regan
Extremist cops: how US law enforcement is failing to police itself

This week’s long read from the Manchester Guardian poses another question relating to the efforts of the US justice system:  What to do about cops who break the law?  Already there has been considerable backlash over cops perjuring themselves at trial.  But this perspective traces an outright avowal of white supremacy – the League of the South – actively recruiting police officers using police themselves.  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/dec/13/how-us-law-enforcement-is-failing-to-police-itself?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX1RoZUxvbmdSZWFkLTE5MTIxNA%3D%3D&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&CMP=longread_email&utm_campaign=TheLongRead


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