Public Health wins…

April 18, 2021

BC Government News
B.C. moves forward on drug decriminalization, new overdose emergency response funding

In a news release dated April 14, 2021, the BC Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson has announced that the provincial government intends to apply for an exemption from the criminal code for possession of drugs of any kind.  Five years ago the government declared addiction a public health issue.  “Taking action that is aligned with calls from police chiefs and public health officials, the Province is moving forward with vital measures to combat stigma and turn the tide on this crisis…To address stigma, B.C. will officially request a federal exemption from Health Canada to decriminalize personal possession of drugs in the province to remove the shame that often prevents people from reaching out for life-saving help.”   Related article: Blogger Russell Webster (UK) – The impact of parental conflict and substance misuse on children – Literature review for DWP examines links between parental conflict and substance misuse and the impact on children’s outcomes.

Toronto Star – Wendy Gillis
Stereotypes. Tunnel vision. Silos. Landmark review reveals systemic flaws in Toronto police Gay Village investigations

Justice Gloria Epstein of the Ontario Appeals Court thinks that Toronto police dropped the ball badly in the investigation of serial killer Bruce McArthur.  “Tunnel vision and silos. Key investigative steps that were overlooked or delayed. A “troubling” resistance to linking missing persons cases to one another, and a “deeply flawed” interview with a serial killer years before he was caught.”  The assessment comes after an independent review cited “a damning account of compounding investigative and system failures” by the police.   Related article: National Newswatch: Virginie Ann, Canadian Press    Political party governing Montreal mulls disarming police and redirecting funds

 The Seattle Medium (US) – Jesse Jackson
George Floyd Justice in Policing Act Would Set Smart National Standards for Police Behavior

The US House of Representatives has passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act for the second time.  The act intends to set national standards for police.  “It bans the use of chokeholds of various sorts, like that used to kill George Floyd. It bans no-knock warrants that led to the shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville. It restricts the transfer of military weaponry to police forces. Federal assistance would be conditioned on local police forces requiring the use of body and car cameras, as well as anti-discrimination policies and training. It restricts the qualified immunity doctrine that shields police from civil liability.”    Related article: Globe and Mail – Richard Cowan   U.S. House Democrats try to advance bill that could lead to reparations for Black Americans  Related article: York Dispatch – Logan Hullinger  ACLU: York City surveillance proposal could create more potentially fatal encounters with police  Related article:  East County Today (California) – SB 299 Would Help Survivors Better Recover From Physical and Emotional Injuries Caused by Police: The Equal Access for Victims of Police Violence Act  

   The Lawyer’s Daily – John L. Hill
Solitary confinement continues

Hill cites the case of Terry Fitzsimmons, a multiple murder case, which occurred after Hill had been release from Kingston Prison in 1993 where he had served six years in solitary confinement.  The sentences for the murders were mitigated when evidence of the destructive mental consequences of solitary were first introduced in Canadian courts.  Several courts have since affirmed that prolonged solitary confinement is unconstitutional and a violation of human rights.  Says Hill:  “Although the prime minister has called the use of solitary confinement (or the practices that continue to exist under its new iteration, structured intervention unit) “unacceptable,” neither Public Safety Minister Bill Blair nor CSC commissioner Anne Kelly seems to be doing much to bring practices in line with law.”   Related article: Toronto Star – Nick Wells, Canadian Press   B.C. families push for changes as special committee examines provincial Police Act

 Blogger Russell Webster (UK)
Prisons and prisoners in Europe

Russell compares the UK prisons to the European operations.  “The statistics show that the overall European imprisonment rate- the number of persons in prison per 100,000 inhabitants – fell again slightly in 2020, consolidating a trend that started in 2013. On 31 January 2020, there were 1,528,343 inmates in 51 prison administrations (out of 52) of the Council of Europe member states, which corresponds to a European prison population rate of 103.2 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants.”  The report adds info about the type of crimes, the gender of prisoners, and the percentage imprisoned by country.  Norway is lowest in the rate of imprisonment (59 per 100.000).

CBC News
Ontario walks back new policing powers following pushback – Canadian Civil Liberties Association pauses legal challenge following amendments

 Almost as quickly as Doug Ford announced that police were required to stop people and cars without reason except they were in public, police forces across the province announced they would not do it and the Canadian Civil Liberties announced a court challenge.  The events mark a disturbing piece of Canadian law and policing.  On the one hand the law allows stop-and-search without legal cause; on the other hand, the events raise an issue about who controls policing and while we applaud their decision, we must also ask on what grounds can so many municipal police forces determine on their own that they will not obey the law, however misdirected.   Related article:  Blogger Michael Spratt   Related article: Toronto Star – Jennifer Pagliaro  Ford government walks back increased police powers and ban on using playgrounds   Related article: CityNews – Canadian Press   Ontario walks back new police powers following backlash   Related article: Toronto Star Editorial Board (April 17, 2021)   Ford government should focus on source of the pandemic, not flail about with pointless restrictions    Related article: Global TV News – Donna Friesen  Why the RCMP is in crisis: policing expert  (A six minute interview with policing expert Gary Clement who examines the RCMP current status)  Related Blogger Jeffery Bradley – My reaction to increased police powers in Ontario. Defund the police!! Why do we always try to use the punishment logic to get ourselves out of a crisis? It doesn’t work. Real solutions lie in faster vaccine rollout, paid sick days so people can stay home when sick, and care.

The Marshall Project (US) – Simone Weichselbaum and Joseph Neff
Why Is It So Hard To Prosecute White Extremists? Citing the protections of the First Amendment, prosecutors often use other charges as a workaround to go after members of hate groups.

The question seems to evoke the easier path response rather than a definitive legal answer.  But it also raises issues about how non-white groups who always seem to wend through the charging approach with more ease and consequences.  “It’s easier to send someone to prison for traditional crimes, often involving guns or drugs, than to convince a judge that repulsive hate speech breaks the law.”  The article analyzes almost 700 Federal “work-around” cases from 2012 to 2020, two thirds of which were about white supremacist gangs formed while in prison.  Much of the other investigative work not leading to convictions is shrouded in privacy because they are “knock and talk.”  Black groups declaring supremacist views rarely surface because, the authors say, they are so few.

Human Rights Watch (US) –
US Congress Advances Slavery Reparations Bill – Measure Is Historic Step toward Repair

April 14 is a historic day for the children of former slaves in the US: it is the day that the 117th US Congress voted 25-17 to begin the process of examining reparations for harm done under slavery.  “The centuries-long injustices of slavery and its legacy, fueling the persistence of racial inequality today, remain largely unaccounted for,” said Dreisen Heath, racial justice researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch. “As states, cities, and other institutions pursue reckonings, Congress should step up to lead the nation in accounting and atoning for the ongoing impact of slavery. The committee vote on H.R. 40 is a crucial step in that direction.”   Related article: US Congress House Judiciary Committee – All Information (Except Text) for H.R.40 – Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act    Related article: – Gregory Svirnovskiy   A bill on studying reparations is getting a House vote 30 years in the making – The House Judiciary Committee will consider a bill that would create a federal commission to study reparations.