Screaming into silence…

July 2, 2021

McLean’s – Cindy Blackstock
Screaming into silence – Cindy Blackstock: I believe those little spirits buried on the grounds of residential schools came to ensure the work gets done to end the injustices facing survivors

Blackstock, a member of the Gitxsan First Nation, is the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and a professor at McGill University.  Her testimony about and advocacy for Indigenous children has been relentless, much to be admired for its directness and sensible critique of government policy and action.  “Screaming into silence” is Blackstock’s estimate of what a lot of effort in the past has amounted, including the first to blow the whistle on the treatment of those children Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, the chief medical health officer of the Department of Indian Affairs in 1907.  After denouncing the still existing Indian Act for its damage to all Indigenous people, Blackstock concludes:  “I believe those 215 and 715 little spirits buried on the grounds of the Kamloops and Marieval residential schools came to ensure the work gets done. We need to keep talking to the elected officials about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, even if we think they are not listening, because ultimately they will all hear us in the voting booth.”

Toronto Star – Kevin Donovan
Nathaniel McLellan’s mother aced a lie-detector test. Children’s aid and doctors cleared the parents. Why did the family only learn this now?

For some time now the Star and Donovan have presented a series of articles around the 2015 infant death of Nathaniel McClellan (Death in a Small Town – ).  Shamefully, some of the evidence that established the innocence of both parents, Kent and Rose-Anne McLellan, was suppressed until now.  OPP have now arrested an unlicensed day care operator, Meggin Van Hoof, and charged her with manslaughter in the child’s death.   Related article: Toronto Star – Jacques Gallant   ‘A hollow promise’: Advocates decry Liberals’ lack of action on criminal justice reform

The Sentencing Project – Ashley Nellis
A New Lease on Life – Comprehensive analysis on recidivism documents widespread research evidence that people convicted of homicide and other crimes of violence rarely commit new crimes of violence after release from long-term imprisonment.

As we listen to the fears about rising crimes rates, we may want to keep in mind some of the facts that people like Nellis are uncovering with regard to the long sentences contributing to mass incarceration.  There appears no advantage to long sentences since people convicted rarely commit a second crime of violence.  Keeping them in prison and off the streets does not seem to be validated for crime prevention.  This latest report offers a three page set of findings and recs, and then reviews the literature on recidivism.  Nellis also offers a more closely refined definition of recidivism – some may remember the Willie Horton episode and its impact on politicians of all stripes.  This link gives a refreshing perspective on recidivism and some of the ancillary issues.  Related references: A New Lease on Life: Andrew Hundley, Louisiana Parole Project  (3 Min video); A New Lease on Life: Michael Mendoza, Anti-Recidivism Coalition (2 Min video)

Civil Rights Corps (US) – Alec Karakatsanis
Why “Crime” Isn’t the Question and Police Aren’t the Answer

The link offers a careful analysis of the issues around all the recent talk about crime rates and defunding the police, and critically focuses in particular on the more moderate approach that bases its assessment on the notion that police reduce crime, stemming from Matthew Yglesias, a US blogger and journalist.  Karakatsanis has two concerns: first the reliability of the police reported statistics around crime, and second, that police do not in fact reduce crime and there are many alternatives proven far more effective than increasing the number of police in blind response to alleged increases in the crime rate.  Related article: NY Daily News – Noah Goldberg  –  Brooklyn judge, prosecutors toss conviction of man charged with shooting at NYPD officers on New Year’s Eve 2000

The Marshall Project – Katie Park, Keri Blakinger and Claudia Lauer
A Half-Million People Got COVID-19 in Prison. Are Officials Ready for the Next Pandemic?  People who live and work in prisons worry they remain vulnerable, even as life behind bars returns to business as usual.

This is a summary of the impact of Covid-19 to date on the country’s prisoners.  The statistical update is intended to point to the lessons learned about the struggle with the more than 500,000 cases of Covid in the prisons.  The proximity to one another, the shortage of staff – estimated by some to be in the 40% range in some states but consistently further impaired by sickness, cancellation of programming, lagging vaccination among both staff and prisoners, and low levels of testing, are all among the ills plaguing the plague.   Related article: The Marshall Project – Keri Blakinger   Prisons Have a Health Care Issue — And It Starts at the Top, Critics Say – When coronavirus hit federal prisons, the top officials had no health care experience.

Washington Post (US) – Amy B Wang, Colby Itkowitz, Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner
 Federal executions halted pending Justice Department review of Trump-era policies, attorney general says

Anti-death penalty advocates had been wondering why President Biden’s Department of Justice  had not moved on a moratorium on federal executions.  “U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday ordered a moratorium on federal executions while a review of the Justice Department’s Trump-era policies and procedures is pending.”  The move includes a review of all Trump policies in the justice department.  The decision does not impede the individual state from its scheduled executions.

McLean’s – Leah McLaren
Does Thomas Chan belong in prison? – At 19, he killed his father while high on drugs. His case is headed to the Supreme Court in one of the most polarizing legal challenges in a generation.

In some countries, crimes committed while under the influence of drugs have a built-in defence in the absence of intention, but not in Canada where the criteria is whether the accused freely took the drug.  The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled in Chan’s favour on an appeal of the issue and the Crown has in turn appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.  Outrage over the Daviault rape case is the legal precedent which prompted the Parliament of Canada to pass Section 33.1 of the Criminal Code to eliminate the same legal exception for Chan.  The Supreme Court will now likely rule again, this time over the Chan case and the extent to which the drugs removed Chan’s capacity for intention.