What makes us safe?

March 17, 2020 –

(Ed Note: No one can make light of the real suffering from the Coronavirus problem but the spreading Cofid-19 virus may also invite us to rethink what makes us safe. Perhaps because there is now self-interest for us all, fighting the virus together may also urge us to acknowledge that precarious employment and weak health benefits have the potential to upset everyone’s apple cart.  The lack of basic income and food security is suddenly far more visible and dangerous. The virus is also illustrating the potential for an extraordinary disaster once the virus gets inside any jail.  Perhaps coping with the virus will lead us to reassess how best to care for one another and what programs and steps we need to take to ensure our mutual safety.) 


CBC News – Kathleen Harris

Canada’s prison system suspends visits to prevent COVID-19 behind bars

Corrections Canada has suspended visitors to the federal prisons in an effort to maintain the systemic isolation from the COVID-19 virus.  On Saturday past the CSC announced the system was COVID-19 virus free and that the Correctional Services were gathering the needed medical supplies necessary should the virus get in one of the institutions.  While conceding that prisons are vulnerable places for the pan-epidemic Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger said he was encourage by the level of preparation he witnessed.  https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/correctional-service-canada-covid19-coronavirus-1.5497551  Related article: Ottawa Citizen – Michael Spratt  Our jails are a petri dish for the rapid spread of coronavirus. Let’s release non-violent inmates    https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/spratt-our-jails-are-a-petri-dish-for-the-rapid-spread-of-coronavirus-lets-release-non-violent-inmates?fbclid=IwAR3t2XoS5ACYqOPT2RrUKAFvlrOMfhDSzcIS3vdK_zeH5OkwYFLN5cZ8ZGg   Related article: Toronto Star – Jacques Gallant and Alyshah Hasham   ‘This will spread very fast’: Correctional staff warn they won’t be able to stop COVID-19 if it gets into Ontario jails   https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/03/16/this-will-spread-very-fast-correctional-staff-warn-they-wont-be-able-to-stop-covid-19-if-it-gets-into-ontario-jails.html  “In light of the significant dangers posed by incarcerating inmates during a pandemic, the ministry needs to consider all possible forms of release,” said Daniel Brown, vice-president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association. “Most people incarcerated in jail don’t need to be there, especially at a time like this.”


Lawyer’s Daily – Cristin Schmitz and Amanda Jerome

Jury trials nixed over COVID-19; SCC closed to public; courts offer remote hearings, adjournments

Like everything else, the criminal system functions on the basis of gathering people and will be impacted by the coronavirus problem.  So far, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has decided to stop hearing new jury trials – no suggestion of when they resume.  In other cases where trials are already underway, “the Supreme Court of Canada and the Ontario Court of Appeal say they will hear scheduled appeals for the time being, but are advising parties to contact the courts should they wish to appear by video or teleconference, or ask for an adjournment of their cases.”  One complicating factor lies in those already in detention or on bail.  Trials already underway continue at the discretion of the judges. https://www.thelawyersdaily.ca/criminal/articles/18139/jury-trials-nixed-over-covid-19-scc-closed-to-public-courts-offer-remote-hearings-adjournments?nl_pk=40ed8ea4-637a-4d76-870f-04f0eeae7de8&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=criminal   Related article: Toronto Star – Ontario Superior Court to suspend operations as of Tuesday amid COVID-19 outbreak  https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/03/15/iran-reports-113-more-deaths-the-ymca-of-greater-toronto-closes-over-coronavirus-concerns.html?source=newsletter&utm_source=ts_nl&utm_medium=email&utm_email=404CAADEF7EB839FC77B1B04F0C251E1&utm_campaign=bn_22434


CBC News – Brigitte Bureau

Canada funding migrant-blocking operations in countries with poor human rights records

Having just appointed Bob Rae as special envoy for refugee and humanitarian issues, this revelation becomes a kick in the stomach.  The list of countries getting aid reads like a who’s who of human rights abusers:  Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.  The rationale is that by paying these countries with money and training to stop refugee movement, we stop the refugees from reaching Canada. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-government-irregular-migration-migrants-human-trafficking-1.5492935  Related article: National Post – Canadian Press   Trudeau names Bob Rae special envoy for humanitarian, refugee issues   https://www.nationalnewswatch.com/2020/03/10/trudeau-names-bob-rae-special-envoy-for-humanitarian-refugee-issues/#.Xmj-SUp7k2y


Policy Options (Canada) – Jennifer Ditchburn

Why the World Conference on Women Matters:  The postponed UN women’s conference was set to mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing gathering, an event that left a lasting impact on so many.

One of the victims of the threat from the coronavirus is the 25th Anniversary of the first Beijing meeting to put an international perspective on women’s issues.  Here, Ditchburn, an attendee at the Beijing gathering, offers an assessment of regret for the loss that this week’s gathering has been postponed.  What will be most missed says Ditchburn: “Together, we temporarily create a space that is resolutely ours, and where we can imagine different ways of living and working. Within this space, we can hopefully also understand how race, colonialism, disability, mental illness, sexual orientation, income level and religion specifically impact the trajectory of each other’s lives. In these gatherings, we are seen.”   https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/march-2020/why-the-world-conference-on-women-matters/


CBC News – Catharine Tunney

RCMP issues dire warning about its ability to police terrorism, foreign interference and cybercrime

The RCMP have an annual budget of $3.5 billion with $1.5 billion for provincial policing concerns.  This assessment coming from a RCMP report to Parliament suggests that the force is losing the capacity to confront crime, terrorism and cyber problems.  But there is as yet no indication of any consequent cutbacks if there is no increase in funding.  “The document says the RCMP’s federal policing unit will concentrate its efforts on high-priority investigations related to terrorist activities, foreign interference, organized crime, money laundering, serious and organized cyber-enabled criminal activities and foreign-influenced cybercrime.”  https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/rcmp-significant-resourcing-challenges-security-1.5492424


The Marshall Project (US) – Nicole Lewis, Aviva Shen and Anna Flagg

What Do We Really Know About the Politics of People Behind Bars?

People have been speaking politically on behalf of inmates for quite some time.  This survey of some 8,000 inmates is the first known effort to survey what they think for themselves.  Traditionally hard to access for political purposes, and denied their right to the political vote once convicted, among these 8,000, the white inmate tends to support Donal Trump; the Black inmate groups are likely to hold racism in the criminal legal system as a primary concern.  The length of time served also seems to influence political opinion, whether Republican or Democrat.  https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/03/11/what-do-we-really-know-about-the-politics-of-people-behind-bars?utm_source=The+Marshall+Project+Newsletter&utm_campaign=1b14a5f7ab-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_03_13_08_46&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5e02cdad9d-1b14a5f7ab-174566415