June 19, 2020

Canadian Lawyer – Bernise Carolino
Dalhousie law school houses the first international restorative justice lab – Lab aims to transform the justice system, safeguarding the health, safety and well-being of Canadians

Dalhousie University and the Sobey Foundation have jointly announced the establishment of an innovative approach to restorative justice.  “Jennifer Llewelyn, who chairs the RRIELab in a position funded by the Sobey Foundation, emphasized the importance of restorative justice, which is a proactive and future-focused approach that centres on analyzing and addressing the needs of individuals and communities… The urgency of a new and different way of imagining and doing justice — doing right by each other — cannot be allowed to pass by this time.”

Canadian Politics and Public Policy – Kayli Avveduti
 It’s Time for Big Ideas–Time for a First Nations Universal Basic Income Program

Here’s a novel solution to the widespread child and family poverty among Indigenous people.  The poverty gap has struggled between provincial and federal governments, over all sorts of failed attempts, even court ordered attempts, to remedy the debilitating poverty.  “Policies that have attempted to address the social and economic conditions that keep First Nations people in poverty have failed. Economic reconciliation in the form of a UBI could be a policy solution that pulls First Nations children and families out of poverty and gives us a fighting chance to succeed in this country… If change truly happens in a crisis, perhaps this is the crisis where Canada could positively advance reconciliation by providing a UBI that meets the basic needs of First Nations people.”   Related article: Manitoulin Expositor – Michael Erskine Federal court approves Sixties Scoop settlement

Canadian Dimension –
More Than 900 Scholars and Lawyers Call on Government to Defund Police

“In light of ongoing police violence against Black, Indigenous and racialized people in Canada and around the world, a group of scholars from various Canadian universities have collectively penned an open letter to all levels of government. Ours is an evidence driven, unequivocal call in support of defunding the police and reallocating resources to help build stronger communities, not stronger police forces. It is a call to develop an effective public safety strategy, one that privileges prevention through community building, economic security, and social services rather than reactionary and largely punitive criminal justice responses to social problems…We, the undersigned scholars and lawyers, call on all federal, provincial, and municipal governments to immediately move to defund policing services across Canada and to reallocate resources to education, housing, living wages, and community health and safety initiatives.”  The open letter includes four steps requested immediately to address the current issues.  Related article: National Observer – Brandi Morin   Stop killing my people  Related article: Toronto Star  Miriam Lafontaine and Heather Scoffield  Black parliamentarians, allies sign call for national strategy to tackle systemic racism   Related article: Globe and Mail – Kristy Kirkup  Trudeau said Indigenous people disproportionately targeted by police, vows reforms

Blogger Russell Webster (UK)
A therapeutic alliance

Webster focuses on a Ministry of Justice report that provides some encouragement for an alliance between a method called Motivation and Encouragement (M&E) and personality disordered prisoners.  “Overall, M&E as a stand-alone intervention, was well received by both participants and staff who took part in this study. The findings suggest that M&E could be a useful tool to engage those with ‘personality disorder’ characteristics into further rehabilitative work and even the overall prison regime. In addition, as M&E appears to have merit in engaging problematic and complex individuals, like those with ‘personality disorder’ characteristics, it could also be a useful tool to assist encouraging and engaging other prisoners.”  (Readers may like to preview another site as well:  The Good Lives Model Website )

CBC News – Shanifer Nasser
Sent to jail for his safety, dead within hours. Now this Ontario man’s mother is speaking out

He grabbed a knife in his Dad’s kitchen and threatened to kill himself.  Dad called the police and Jordan Sheard, 26, was taken to hospital for three days psychiatric care.  Then, he was transferred to the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont. Where he died June 1 of a heroin overdose.  It is unclear how Sheard got the heroin or else how he smuggled it in to the jail, though there is suspicion that Sheard had the drugs in a body cavity.  No one is offering anything but to say there will be a coroner’s inquest.

CTV News – Ryan Flanagan
What we know about the last 100 people shot and killed by police in Canada

Most Canadians would be surprised to learn that there is no systemic record keeping of people who die from lethal encounters with police.  Nor would they be surprised to learn that in the last 100 such cases 53 officers have been cleared of wrong doing and 47 are still under investigation.  Police involved shootings also seem to take forever.  To date, and after a two year delay, two RCMP officers have just been charged with the death in 2018 of Clayton Crawford of Alberta.

The Marshall Project (US) – Weihua Li and Humera Lodhi
Which States Are Taking on Police Reform After George Floyd? Lawmakers in 16 states have introduced bills to improve police oversight and accountability.

Though still early for legislative process, 16 states have begun examining how to reform police and police practices.  The overlap between federal, state and local municipal authority for law enforcement creates some confusion but reform proposals vary considerably.  Nine of the states have already passed legislation and seven are still in process.  Reforms revolve around use of forces, data banking information, and independent agencies to investigate police wrong doing.  Some advocates are optimistic but the full impact of the reforms will soon confront police union reaction as well.    Related article: The Marshall Project (US) – Corey G. Johnson   Bryan Stevenson on Charleston and Our Real Problem with Race – “I don’t believe slavery ended in 1865, I believe it just evolved.”   Related article: N.Y. Times – Daniel Epps Abolishing Qualified Immunity Is Unlikely to Alter Police Behavior  – A host of reasons raise questions about the effectiveness of this reform.

Tulsa World – Don Millican

Advocates may need to be careful about reducing the needed reform in the legal system to simply policing practicing.  Minimum sentencing, bail practices, remanding, parole are all equally problematic and so far, even in the face of prisoners dying from Corvid-19, have received little attention.  An extreme example of the influence of sentencing is found in Oklahoma:  “Oklahomans serve sentences that are 70% longer for property crimes and 79% longer for drug crimes compared to the national average. And 80% of Oklahomans with a prior nonviolent conviction have received a sentencing enhancement.”   Related article: The Atlantic – R.T. Rybak  I Was Mayor of Minneapolis. I Know Why Police Reforms Fail – An us-versus-them culture has deadly consequences.

Future of Good – The Honourable Ratna Omidvar, Independent Senator for Ontario
Canadian non-profit boards have a diversity problem. Here’s the first step to fixing it.

The question of racism from the viewpoint of exclusion from the rooms of power and decision makers is a less frequently exposed part of the problem.  The stats on the inclusion of minorities even in agencies professing to assist the vulnerable and excluded, are revelatory of a significant deficit in the governance of those organizations. “Only 38.1 percent of Toronto non-profit boards analyzed have at least 20 percent racialized minority leaders, 19 percent have none, and non-profit boards across the country have similar representation.”

Today, June 19, is Juneteenth Day celebrating the Emancipation of Slaves in the US.  VERA Institute is a respected social justice advocacy group and they make the following recommendations for ways to inform yourself and your friends about the event and the history celebrated.