Muslim and Canadian…

     June 7, 2015

Toronto Star – Ben Spurr and Noor Javed
What it’s like to be Muslim in the GTA

450,000 Muslim Canadians now live in Metro Toronto.  They want their story heard.  In a unique reporting format, the Star has 19 short interviews with Muslims explaining who they are and what their aspirations are.  At the same time, it’s a lesson for those stereotypes we are so reluctant to abandon.

Globe and Mail – Kim Mackrael
Federal government wary of UN indigenous rights declaration

The TRC recommended that Canada implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People which has been at best aspirational in Canada.  At first rejected in 2007 by Canada, US, Australia and New Zealand, the dissenting countries claimed “that resource rights and other claims in the document’s text could clash with the country’s constitution.”  The declaration details “the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination, autonomy and nationality, as well as to land and natural resources.”   Ottawa endorsed the declaration in 2010 but has done nothing about implementation.   Related article:  Ottawa Citizen – Shannon Gormley    Canada’s commission could help make cultural genocide a crime

Toronto Star – Rachel Mendleson
Legal Aid announces significant expansion – Very low-income residents will have access to a range of new services to tackle a significant “crisis” in access to justice that has been building for decades

Legal Aid Ontario has had a significant i9nfusion of new money to allow it to tackle both building backlogs and new programs.  Family Court is an area in particular where 50% of the litigants have no legal representation and the new funding allows for defence for first time offenders in the criminal courts.  The developments are meant to benefit the poorest and the ceiling remains the poverty line – gross income less than $27,000.  Nye Thomas for Legal Aid Ontario says: “The expansion is still a major step in the effort to tackle “the very significant access-to-justice crisis” that has been building for decades.”

Ottawa Citizen – Lee Berthiaume
Military trying to cut recruitment targets for women despite expert’s report

What is the military solution to the report from the retired Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps on sex crimes in the military?  Why, recruit fewer women, of course!  “There is an undeniable link between the existence of negative and discriminatory attitudes towards women in the CAF, the low representation of women in senior positions in the organization, and the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault,” said the former chief justice.  The target is 25% but in fact the level is currently and has been for some time at 15%, with a loss of 400 since 2013.  The military wants to cut the target to 17%.

Huffington Post (US) – Robert Koehler
Juvenile Justice and the War on Teens

Juvenile justice in Chicago does not solve problems through the intervention of the juvenile system; in fact, intervention makes matter worse and the likelihood of re-offending as adults is the proof.  The system, says Koehler, “whether it knows it or not, fits into America’s “historical context of racism and social class exclusion and oppression.”  The system interrupts school connections and special services, makes mental health worse, and increases criminal thinking to bring the youth back into the system.

Law Street (US) – Valeriya Metla
Debtor’s Prison: How Fines and Fees Trap Poor Americans in the Justice System

Here’s a frightening thought about how the legal system can accumulate fees and fines such that re-entry is made with considerable debt following closely behind.  The costs are particular severe in the case of drug crimes.  Metla draws a picture of the other fees and what they are for: pre-trail fees, sentencing fees, incarceration fees, post-release fees and other fees.

Pilot-on-line (US) – Matt Zapotosky, Washington Post
Lawsuit could overturn solitary confinement on Va. death row

Some states have a practice of automatic solitary confinement for inmates on death row and the practice is under challenge in the state of Virginia.  Though ruled constitutional, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said the issue needed to “be looked at in the context of evolving and changing moral and legal standards.”  Brian Stull, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who specializes in capital punishment says that solitary in these cases is “like a sentence of torture before execution.”