Two sides of honor…

Mar 7, 2019

Toronto Star – Tanya Talaga
The rightful honouring of Ed Metatawabin by a two-sided Canada

Here is a rather pointed contrast and equally pointed explanation why there remains obstacles to the resolution of the Indigenous residential school issue.  The same hand that gives appears to take away.  Efforts to resolve turn quickly into efforts to sustain the very approach that is at the roots of the problematic government treatment of the Indigenous people of Canada.  “Last Tuesday, Ed [Metatawabin] a leader to many and former chief of Fort Albany First Nation, received the Order of Canada in Quebec City…This was a moment. A confluence of the two very different sides of Canada. Or, as Ed calls it, a country that is a confused, two-headed entity with two different philosophies. One head seems to say, “We want to honour you,” while the other says, “We will see you in court.”

Ottawa Citizen – Randy Boswell
Jody Wilson-Raybould’s last act as justice minister a big step in Indigenous litigation reform

This link provides a parting gesture from former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould providing new direction and a policy shift on the legal file and the policy of adversarial relations between the federal government and the Indigenous people. “The new mindset “emphasizes the importance of resolving conflicts expeditiously and collaboratively, reducing the use of litigation and the courts.” Wilson-Raybould was quoted in a press release, universally ignored by news media at the time, saying: “Moving forward with recognition and reconciliation means we cannot continue to rely on adversarial court proceedings to lead the way.”

The Guardian (US Desk, Manchester, UK) – Albert Woodfox
After 40 years in solitary, activist Albert Woodfox tells his story of survival

The article is from Albert Woodfox’s book Solitary (March 2019).  Woodfox was serving a 50 year term for armed robbery in Angola Prison, Louisiana, when a white guard was killed.  Woodfox and another Black Panther, Herman Wallace, though innocent, were blamed for it.  A third Panther, Robert King, joined the resistance to arbitrary prison violence and together became known as the Angola Three.  The defiance, says Woodfox, was what gave him hope.  The article details in a very personal way the impact of the long-time solitary and the inhumane treatment.  This story is a powerful testimony to both inhumanity and the capacity to overcome the worst we give one another.

Toronto Star – Betsy Powell
Senior judge slams ‘unacceptable’ lockdowns at crowded Toronto South Detention Centre

The link exposes a continuing deterioration of jail conditions at Toronto South Detention Centre whose problems are translating into reduced sentences because of increased allowance for time served under those very conditions.  The assessment by Superior Court Justice John McMahon calls conditions “unacceptable and unfair.”  Correctional authorities say the problems are over-crowding and under staffing, two conditions acknowledged now for some extended time in Ontario jails.  The real question, also found in other places such as the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, is why the conditions are not properly corrected.  Related article:  CBC News – Alexandra Zabjek  Edmonton prison guard charged with sexual assault also named in two harassment lawsuits

CBC News – Brandie Weikle
More Canadians live alone than ever before: StatsCan report – Single-person households have more than doubled in the past 35 years

Single person household in Canada is now the most common.  Once the widow or the widower, the single household age has re-focused on the 35-64 year old and has become very diverse.  The report from Stats Canada suggests that the cause may be the present no-fault divorce process, the increase in divorce, and the likelihood that the children will stay with the mother.  The report also found that higher education may be a factor in the choice to live alone.  Further, the report identifies a new category:  “a living apart together (LAT) relationship — involved but not residing with a significant other.”

Globe and Mail – Brett Bundale, Canadian Press
Nova Scotia offers free legal representation to sex assault complainants

The link offers a rationale for making available legal advice for a sexual assault complainant if a defence lawyer seeks to introduce the complainant’s history of previous sexual activity.  “The goal of the law is to eliminate gender stereotypes from courtrooms, including banning the “twin myths” of rape – that women with sexual experience are more likely to consent to sex, and that women who are sexually active are less trustworthy.”  Complainants have been protected by provisions of Section 276 of the Criminal Code but no lawyer has previously been appointed to defend the complainant against unreasonable, irrelevant or intrusive query by the defendant’s lawyer.

Catholic News Services – Dennis Sadowski
N.Y. congregation’s concern leads bank to end private prison financing

Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood in New York led by Sr. Pat Mahoney have drawn together a group of faith based investors to raise concerns about the investment practices of JPMorgan Chase.  The bank invests in private prisons and the faith community objects to the presence of the private prisons in the handling of detained immigrants and other prison services.  The investment policy by the bank previously supported two of the largest US private prison groups: Geo Group Inc. and CoreCivic.

 CBS News (US) – Ben Mitchell
Cory Booker introduces new round of criminal justice legislation

Senator Cory Booker in the early stages of a US presidential bid for the Democrats will this week introduce a follow-up bill to the First Step Act.  “”The Next Step Act,” co-authored by New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, would implement a series of sweeping reforms to “sentencing guidelines, prison conditions, law enforcement training, and re-entry efforts.”  The Bill has prompted individual reactions to criminal justice reform from the other presidential candidates, each with his or her own pre-occupation.  Booker’s bill includes the end of marijuana prohibitions and expunging the records of those convicted for use and possession under federal marijuana laws.  The Bill may serve to redefine the political parameters for the reform movement.   Related article: Tennessean – Anita Wadhwani and Adam Tamburin   Special report: In Tennessee, 185 people are serving life for crimes committed as teens  Related article: National Public Radio (ILL) – Dusty Rhodes  Opening Minds Behind Bars   Related article: (US) – Ashley Remkus    Another Alabama inmate dies in prison suicide   (This report is recording the 14th suicide in Alabama prisons since December 2017)