May 21, 2019

CBC News (NS) – Angela MacIvor
‘Toxic, dysfunctional’: N.S. prisons leave workers feeling bullied, fearful

An internal workplace report from two Nova Scotia federal prisons has lots of long term advocates claiming I-told-you-so.  The two institutions are Springhill and the Nova Institution for Women in Truro where the work environments is described as “toxic, dysfunctional and having a very low morale.” One anonymous worker added:  “”Toxic is too light and fluffy. It’s a cesspool in Nova Institution. It’s really, really bad and it’s been going on for several years and it’s just gotten worse.”  Staff absences are in the 30% range and bullying and harassment charged as commonplace.

 Toronto Star – Pauline Worsfold
Defence of public health care has begun in a B.C. courtroom

A trial in BC going on since 2016 may eventually impact everyone in Canada through changes in the public health system.  “The question before B.C. Supreme Court Justice John Steeves is fundamental: Are we going to have a health care system that treats everyone the same and in which access to care is based on need? Or, are we going to move to an American style, two-tier health care system where there is one system for the wealthy and another one for everyone else?”  The issue is unfolding in a case brought by Brian Day, CEO of Cambie Surgeries Corporation, who wants to charge more than public health rates within a two tier system, impacting on public health and private insurance at once by for-profit health care.

The Star (Edmonton)
Nazis for neighbours: How a flag became a burning symbol of the racial divide in a tiny Saskatchewan town

Here’s an article about Nazi endorsement in a small Saskatchewan town of Kelliher where the KKK appears alive and well while tensions recently led to the burning of a Nazi flag flying on a man’s house.  “The flag has cast a shadow over the town — but it’s also underscored what some have described as long-simmering racial tensions of a different stripe.”  The tensions appear rooted in relations between the Polish and Ukrainian on the one hand and the Indigenous People on the other.  The Colton Bushie controversy is simmering in the background in Saskatchewan.   Related article:  CBC News – Angela Wright   White supremacy isn’t a problem just for conservatives — it’s a problem for everyone – White nationalists are constantly trying to gain relevance by infiltrating political parties

  CBC News – Brigitte Bureau and Sylvie Robillard
‘Distasteful alliances’: The secret story of Canada’s fight against migrants – Canada’s anti-human smuggling mission led to some unlikely, and alarming, partnerships abroad

While thinking about displaced people always leads to asking why they are displaced to the point of becoming refugees in the first place, this article may illumine somewhat what Canada has been doing in places where the refugees are originating since 2009.  The article has its roots in the  Migrant Smuggling Prevention Strategy Harper created but has since been maintained and even given additional resources under Trudeau, now nearly $18 million a year.  Since Canada is impotent in foreign countries – without legal authority – the tactic often involves local liaisons with the target country’s officials – sometimes unsavoury liaisons.   Related article: Toronto Star – Nicholas Keung   Immigration program aims to boost Canada’s high-tech sector   Related article: Toronto Star – <itch Potter  Looming election turns up the heat on refugees

Prison Reform Movement (US)
Thomas Silverstein, America’s Most Isolated Prisoner, Dead at 67

A man credited with a significant role in prompting US federal prison authorities to build the “supermax” prisons has died in custody at age 67 after 35 years in solitary.  Though he lost his shine as “Terrible Tommy” over the years, his years of solitary did not violate the ban on cruel and unusual punishment in two separate court rulings, the first in 2011 and the second in 2014.   Full story: Westworld – Andrew Prendergast   Thomas Silverstein, America’s Most Isolated Prisoner, Dead at 67

 The Lawyer’s Daily – George Thompson
Ontario’s legal aid cuts strike most vulnerable | George Thomson

Thompson says that the legal aid cuts will impact the most vulnerable but will also harm the internationally recognized and admired system of 72 legal aid clinics across the province. “Ontario’s legal clinics are lean. All staff serve clients; there is no distinct management cadre; there is no capacity to absorb cuts without reducing client services…  Ontario’s legal clinics are local. They are governed by, and work on specific priorities established by, volunteer boards from the communities they serve.”  Additionally, the total funding cuts in the Ministry of the Attorney General are disproportionately passed to Legal Aid.

VERA Institute (US)
Through Their Eyes – Stories from people who live and work in transformed jail and prison units.

The link is to a multi-media resource developed by the incarcerated and staff of PACT or People Achieving Change Together, at Middlesex Jail in Massachusetts.   The idea is to outline a vision for how jails could be transformed for the better, to offer a model for transforming the lives of people incarcerated by looking through the eyes of the inmates themselves, with their consent.  The VERA site itself has a lot of recent news worthy items around prison reform efforts. The Through their eyes site offers a series of stories from the mentees (young inmates), the mentors (older inmates usually serving long sentences), the professionals.

USA Today (US) – Matthew Daly, Associated Press
House approves Equality Act, sweeping bill to expand gay rights

The Act includes LGBTQ people under the protection of the Civil Rights Act and federally prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, loan applications, education, public accommodations and other areas.  Eight Republicans voted with the Democratic majority to get the approval passed 276-173.  The real test comes with the Republican Senate where the bill now goes.

CBC News – Don Pittis
The disturbing question of why Canada’s done so little to end money laundering: Don Pittis

We have heard about off-shore hiding of assets and lax enforcement.  We have also heard of our real estate market inflated by money laundering.  Pittis looks at why Canada is an easy target for those with dirty money for so long and what needs doing to make laundering more difficult.  Margaret Beare, author of the 2007 book Money Laundering in Canada: The Chasing of Dirty and Dangerous Dollars, notes that lawyers are excused from reporting and that they can take fees from the dirty money.  Knowing the problem but ignoring resolution makes advocates for changing the law wonder if there is something else inhibiting reformed law.  Says Pittis:  “Canada does not have a special immunity to corruption. And while B.C.’s new public inquiry where witnesses can be subpoenaed and forced to testify may open up a Pandora’s box, experts say it is crucial to get to the bottom of that difficult question: Cui bono?”    Related article: Toronto Star –  Natalie Obiko Pearson (Bloomberg) and Natalie Wong  ‘Dirty money’ in Vancouver laundering scheme proves tricky to tally

Huffington Post – Allison Jones
Sylvia Jones Says Ontario Provincial Police Can Handle $46M Budget Cut – The largest funding cut comes from “field and traffic services.”

The Minister for Community Safety thinks a lot of the power for more frequent oil changes to prolong the life of the OPP vehicle fleet.  There is a cut of $46 million for the OPP – directed mostly at field and traffic services – and an additional cut to the Corrections budget of $36 million.  While the minister assures the public that the number of OPP officers will not be reduced, repeated analysis of the Correctional Services have determined that staff shortages are a considerable part of the current unrest and internal problems in Ontario’s jail and prisons.  There is also a promise of a new jail for Thunder Bay.

 Ottawa Citizen – Dave Pugliese
‘The fight of your life’: Mark Norman finally tells his side of the story – Norman was in the kitchen in April 2017 when his wife Bev, astonished, called out to him. ‘I think the prime minister was just talking about you’

The storyline is frighteningly like something from a political TV show, and given greatly to innuendo and secrets.  The Crown dropped its case again Norman well before the August 2019 scheduled trail and then all those involved in the prosecution floundered around how to rectify what was acknowledged as a blatant miscarriage of justice and a disservice to Canada’s military.  The story unfolds in Pugliese’s extended article but has not yet completely resolved the inherent legal and justice issues.