May 30, 2022

 Lawyer’s Daily – Cristin Schmitz
Judge strikes down national security gag law in parliamentary privilege case

In what the lawyers involve think is the beginning of a case going eventually to the Supreme Court, a challenge by Lakehead University constitutional historian and lawyer Ryan Alford has won a judgment in Ontario Superior Court from Justice John Fregeau.  “The thrust of the arguments accepted by Justice Fregeau is that “everything that is essential to the functioning of a legislature as a legislature, all of those rights that we put under the label of parliamentary privilege, is beyond the power of ordinary legislation to amend,” Alford said. “And that allows for effective oversight; it allows for responsible government to take place.”  The challenge is basically that the legislature or the executive powers of government cannot supersede the basic written and unwritten rights of free and open parliamentary debate.

Lawyer’s Daily – Cristin Schmitz
SCC strikes down sentencing provision that authorized life without parole for multiple murderers

The Supreme Court of Canada in a 9-0 decision has struck down as unconstitutional a sentence in which a multiple murder conviction can have multiple and stacked separate 25 years to life sentences on each murder.  The effect of the stacked sentences is to produce life without parole.  The original sentence of “the shooter Alexandre Bissonnette’s six 25-year periods of parole ineligibility for the six life sentences he received for murdering six people in Quebec City’s Great Mosque in 2017 must be served concurrently, not consecutively: R. v. Bissonnette, 2022 SCC 23.”  The ruling is expected to trigger appeals from anyone currently in prison and historically convicted of multiple murders and sentenced under multiple consecutive life sentences.  What appears to be strengthened in the ruling is the notion of a ‘faint hope” clause.

The Toronto Star – Alex Boyd
Why the type of guns used in the Texas school shooting have been at the centre of debate in Canada for five decades – The controversial AR-15 semi-automatic weapon and its various knock-offs have featured in mass shootings.

Boyd does us a favour in his review of the availability of the AR-15 and knockoffs here in Canada, including the troubled past of gun control and in spite of the AR-15 presence in a number of similar mass shootings here.  He recalls a 1976 stunt by a local newspaper columnist to have his 13 year old son but an AR-15 through the mail.  It worked then, and likely would now as well, given that promised bans on the military assault weapon have been invoked – 1500 on a banned list – and then an amnesty invoked for gun owners.  Professor R. Blake Brown of St. Mary’s University, Halifax, a gun historian notes the lack of constitutional guarantees is a major difference with the US:  “Firearms are definitely allowed to be held in Canada, but not for personal protection,” he said. “The firearms community in Canada divides itself into three groups … hunters, those that used call themselves target-shooters, now, I think they prefer the term sport shooters, and gun collectors.”   Related article: (US) –   Nicole Narea, Li Zhou, and Ian Millhiser   America’s unique, enduring gun problem, explained – The factors that lead to tragedies like Uvalde are deeply ingrained in US politics, culture, and law.   Related article: Vox News (US) – German Lopez  (A dated article from March 2018 but helpful)  How gun control works in America, compared with 4 other rich countries – In general, the US has very relaxed gun laws compared with its developed peers.  Related article: Toronto Star – Hina Alam, The Canadian Press  Handguns present in majority of firearm-related violent crimes, says StatCan report

The Marshall Project (US) – Keri Blakinger and Beth Schwartzapfel
The 1990s Law That Keeps People in Prison on Technicalities – How the Supreme Court expanded the most important law you’ve never heard of.   

“Serial finality” says Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas is what prevents the overturning of a death penalty conviction in which at least four other judges have already conceded a likelihood of an improper and innocent conviction.  “Despite those high-profile decisions, when it comes to protecting prisoners’ rights and avoiding executions of innocent people, the top courts in the land are oddly impotent… Earlier this week, the Supreme Court told Arizona prisoner Barry Jones that even though four federal judges agreed he may well be innocent of the 1994 murder that sent him to death row, the high court couldn’t overturn his conviction or stop Arizona from executing him. (Jones had argued he was hindered by poor lawyering at multiple stages of his case.)”

The Intercept (US) –  Natasha Lennard
Uvalde Police Didn’t Move to Save Lives Because That’s Not What Police Do – It should not take an event so devastating to break the spell of policing mythology about what cops do — and what they don’t.

This commentary is at the very least upsetting and perhaps at once re-asserting all the questions that have populated the discussions about policing, militarizing the police, and the interface of police with the people they police.  Defunding police is not a reach in the light of the leanings of this opinion on the police response at Uvalde where both money and training have been amply provided.   Related article: Intercept (US) – Miroslav Macala  We All Know Mass Killers Love the AR-15. Now Meet Their Favorite Bullet.   After Uvalde, there’s still no gun control on the horizon. We can start by regulating hyper-destructive expanding ammunition then.   Related article: Washington Post – Annabelle Timsit   U.S. marks Memorial Day weekend with at least 11 mass shootings