Dec 10, 2020

Senate of Canada – Sponsor Senator Kim Pate
S-207 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Independence of the judiciary)

The bill has already passed first reading and the second reading is scheduled to start today.  The Bill aims at giving judges the discretionary power to set sentences other than those sentences proscribed under the mandatory minimums and would require judges to give reasons.  The Bill also addresses the mandatory periods for parole eligibility.  Summary of S-207

Toronto Star – Jim Bronskill, Canadian Press
Lametti plans public consultation on promised criminal conviction review commission

The Innocence Project is hoping that the government follows through on its announced intent to hold public consultation on establishing a commission for the pursuit of credible claims of innocence after conviction.  Once known as the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, and founded in 1993, the volunteer group and the fundraising provided freedom for people who had already served 200 years of imprisonment.  Ron Dalton, Co-president, wants the government to fund and pursue the current 10 submitted cases while the Project is doing a review of another 80, insisting that innocent but convicted is not all that rare, particularly in racialized cases where an independent commission can acquire over time some credibility.

Toronto Star – Angelyn Francis
Police forces across Canada are still overwhelmingly white and male, new report shows

From a mere 4% in 1986 to 22% today, the number of female officers has been steadily climbing.  Both non-commissioned officers and commissioned office are just under 20%.  While Indigenous officers are approaching the population share (4%), most minorities are under- represented.  A surprising 18% are over age 50 and the number is growing.   Related article:  Stats Canada:  Patricia Conor, Sophie Carrière, Suzanne Amey, Sharon Marcellus and Julie Sauvé, Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics   Police resources in Canada, 2019   Related article: CBC News –  Kate Bueckert   Waterloo passes motion to ask region, police to reallocate money for Black, Indigenous upstream programs –  Move is a first step and no time for a ‘self-celebratory dance,’ says social work prof. Funke Oba

  Lawyer’s Daily – Christopher Guly
B.C. Appeal Court ruling latest decision to recognize COVID-19 risk in sentencing

Guly is quoting Stats Canada in saying that in deference to the Covid-19 impact on prisons and jails the populations have gone down from Feb 2020 to May 2020 by 19% or a total of 7,181 prisoners. “But COVID-19 remains a reality for those incarcerated. At the federal level, the Correctional Service of Canada reported that, as of Dec. 3, there were 78 active cases and 498 inmates identified as COVID-positive out of a total of 4,784 tested to date.”  The BC Court of Appeal held that 62-year-old Michael Shawn McKibbin, with COPD, who had been already sentenced for a cocaine offence would be in serious danger of death if imprisoned.  The Court announced “that not only would serving the sentence be harsher, but if [McKibbin] contracted COVID-19, it could well lead to an early death, which in my view does amount to circumstances justifying a suspended sentence.”  Related article: Correctional Services of Canada   Testing of inmates in federal correctional institutions for COVID-19   (CSC publicly reports COVID-19 inmate test results daily on Monday through Friday.)  (testing results by institution to Dec 7, 2020)

NY Times – Anne Barnard
New York’s $226 Billion Pension Fund Is Dropping Fossil Fuel Stocks

This announcement by one of the foremost pension funds ($226 billion in assets) carries with it good news for environmentalists pre-occupied with the damage from the same fossil fuels that Denmark recently renounced from its future North Sea oil and gas business.  The fund has already divested of coal mining stocks. “New York’s fund, the New York State Common Retirement Fund, has historically invested about $12 billion in fossil fuels. Now it is committing to sell its investments in any oil, gas, oil-services and pipeline companies that do not have clear plans to abandon the fossil fuel business. Few companies have disclosed such plans.”

CBC News – John Lancaster
2 Ontario LTC operators got $157M in COVID-19 aid. They also paid $74M to shareholders – Extendicare Inc. and Sienna Senior Living Inc. say public money spent on COVID-19 efforts, not dividends

This article not only raises question about where the federal funds for Covid-19 relief went but also shows where the two long term care homes spent income from both the federal and provincial governments for relief from the virus.  Equally distressing the article draws a picture of where the rest homes say it went and what differences it made according to the relatives of the persons in care.  Do – or should – for-profit care homes have a future?

Toronto Star – Brendan Kennedy
Basic income hailed as key in kick-starting the economy in a post-pandemic Canada

Here’s an economic analysis of the impact for the whole economy in starting a basic income program consequent to the special Covid-19 support.  “A universal basic income would not only lift more than 3.2 million Canadians out of poverty, it would also create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, grow the economy by tens of billions of dollars and eventually pay for itself with increased tax revenues.”  Full report:  Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis:  Potential Economic Impacts and Reach of Basic Income Programs

Chronicle Herald (Halifax) – Rosie Mullaley
 Inmate’s lawsuit after dental surgery names corrections officers, dentist

This article has to be stranger than fiction.  Two guards at the Bishop Falls Correctional Centre (NF) brought a prisoner – Blair Harris – to a Gander dental surgeon for dental attention.  The one guard filmed while the other guard did the dental work.  The Correctional supervisors, to their credit, informed the prisoner once the incident became known.  The guards were fired and the prisoner has a dandy lawsuit on the go…

 The Pew Foundation –
States Can Shorten Probation and Protect Public Safety – Wide variations in policies and term lengths across states point to opportunities for reform

The ratio of people in prison or jail has justly earned the moniker “mass incarceration.” But more surprising still is that the number of people on parole or supervision of some sort surpasses all those in prison at 3.5 million or 1 in 72 citizens.  “Nationwide, on any given day, more people are on probation than in prisons and jails and on parole combined.”   Full report: (Downloadable pdf – 33pages) States Can Shorten Probation and Protect Public Safety