Earth Day…

April 22, 2020

(Ed note:  The concurrence of the virus, the tragedy in Nova Scotia and the reminder of the needs of the environment all together may serve as a moment to pause and ask about our capacity for crisis response and our willingness to have a different future together.  Cf  )

CTV News – Rachel Gilmore
Trudeau reiterates gun control commitment in wake of mass shooting

The mass shooting in Nova Scotia has returned the political agenda to the question of gun control, an issue that burned hot for a while as cities experienced increasing hand gun problems.  The political interplay between the long gun and the hand gun has been most enduring going from hot plate to back plate for some years.  The fervor of today’s declaration and posturing remains to be tested again.  “Police have not said what kind of weapon the shooter used or whether it was legally obtained.”  Related article: Toronto Star – Jeremy Nuttall   Ban ‘military-style’ assault weapons, plead doctors and others after Nova Scotia shooting

Now Toronto – Pamela Palmater
Nova Scotia mass shooting lays bare media’s white male bias – The mainstream media’s need to paint white men who do horrific things as nice people who suddenly snapped remains a glaring problem in coverage of violent crime in Canada

The time may not be right for this consideration but likewise in time the issue may be buried in a host of new concerns and again suffer eclipse.  Palmater, a professor at Ryerson, is an outspoken rights advocate for First Nations and Indigenous People.  She is pointedly critical of the Globe and Mail which described the Nova Scotia killer as “a denturist with a passion for policing,”  a description that she says is offensive to all and would not have appeared in the case of any other but a White offender.  She voices concern with domestic violence in Canada, the victims of that violence and ready access to firearms.  She concludes:  “It’ll be weeks or months before the public knows all the facts surrounding what happened in Nova Scotia. Until then, mainstream media should take a closer look at how they present white male perpetrators of crime. Let’s put the focus back on the victims who had their lives taken away so soon. They deserve better.”

Toronto Star – Alyshah Hasham
Inmates await test results at Brampton jail after 3 correctional officers test positive for COVID-19

After three guards tested positive for the Coronavirus, an undisclosed number of prisoners were also tested and the Peel Public H4ealth declared an outbreak at the jail.  The test results are not yet available for those tested.  The jail holds 140 prisoners and specializes in addiction treatment.   Related article: 680 News Radio – Cristina Howorun     EXCLUSIVE: Sources say Brampton jail to shut down amid outbreak of COVID-19   Related article: CBC News – Brampton jail shutting down amid COVID-19 pandemic, union leader confirms   Related article: National Post – John Ivison  Prisoners are sitting ducks as Ottawa lets COVID-19 sweep through Canadian jails   Related article: Toronto Star – Alyshah Hasham Out of prison, but then where? Canada’s halfway houses brace for COVID-19 releases with fewer beds and uncertainty

The Hill (US) – Mary Fainsod Katzenstein and Rosemary Batt
Importance of ongoing contact for prisoners

While there has been some progress in making phone calls free for prisoners in some state and federal prison facilities, still up to 90% of prisoners are held in state and local jails where phone calls are an added cost to the prisoner or the family.  There is also often an exaggerated profit for the phone company which shares the profit with the jail authority.  “In state prisons and county jails, the solution rests in the hands of private equity firms that own the telecommunications service companies in prisons as well as with the state and county prison systems that have negotiated exclusive contracts with these companies to provide these services since the 1990s. Two private equity-owned companies dominate the telecommunications contracts for prisons: Global Tel-Link (owned by American Securities) and Securus (owned by Platinum Equity). They control about 70 percent of the prison market even as each has changed private equity ownership hands twice since 2009.”  Few would dispute the anxiety on both family and prisoners, especially since the Covid-19 is intensifying the fear and yet the humane solution is obvious and easy.

The CQnversation (Queen’s University) – Lisa Kerr
Coronavirus in prisons: How and why to release inmates in a pandemic

Here is an excellent examination of the impact of Coronavirus on Canadian prisons and the haltingly slow response on the safety of the prisoners.  Kerr, a professor at Queen’s Law Faculty, traces the recent elements in the narrative detailing the strategy of reducing the prison population and the court involvement in the release of prisoners both at the Ontario provincial and the federal level.  She is calling for release of high risk health issues, low risk profiles, and those near the end of sentences as well as provisions for after-care once released.  Related article:  CBC News – Kathleen Harris   Prisons watchdog in the dark on inmate early release plan to limit spread of COVID-19   Related article: APTN News – Lindsay Richardson  ‘Hundreds’ of inmates quietly released from federal prisons over COVID-19 fears: Blair

CTV News – Colin Perkel
Feds give up fight against 15-day hard cap on solitary confinement

In what is a significant concession from the federal government, attorneys for the government have announced they will not continue the appeal of the 15 days maximum for solitary confinement.  “In a notice to the Supreme Court of Canada on Tuesday, the government said it was discontinuing its attempt to appeal a ruling from Ontario’s top court that found long-term segregation to be cruel and unusual punishment…The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which pushed the case, called Ottawa’s decision a belated good day for justice.”

Policy Options – Kathryn May
How Covid-19 could re-shape the federal public service – From embracing remote work to connecting with citizens online, the COVID-19 pandemic could give the public service the modernizing jolt it needs.

As the physical isolation strategy stretches, more and more are beginning to look to some sort of significantly changed future for institutions and governments.  Besides the AGI or the basic income notion, Alex Benay, the former chief information officer, says:  “Sadly, it took COVID-19 for people to realize that the real problem was not technology, not necessarily the culture…The real ‘enemy,’ so to speak, has been the operating model of government has yet to change to adjust to the new digital realities.”  What digital changes that have come risk being lost when the budget for digital innovations from the current crisis reduces the capacity to sustain and improve the digital services.    Related article: Action Network Now (UK) –    A universal basic income can help us recover from COVID-19: the Government must act now   (110 British MPs and Peers petition the government for basic income after the pandemic.)

CBC News – Meagan Fitzpatrick
Crime data during COVID-19 shows spike in business break-ins, stunt driving

What’s happening to the crime data during the pandemic? This preliminary report says that break-ins at businesses closed by the pandemic and stunt driving on our roads are emerging as the major impact.  “Police forces say they are stepping up patrols of commercial areas and are advising businesses to board up and pay for video surveillance if they can, not keep cash on the premises and remove as much merchandise as possible.”