Aug. 4, 2020 

Toronto Now – Enzo DiMatteo
Op-ed: Nova Scotia mass shooting smells like a cover-up – The feds have finally called a public inquiry but the RCMP’s handling of the investigation looks more like a whitewash with each new revelation in the case

Shortly after the federal government decision to change from review to public inquiry in the murder to 22 people in Nova Scotia, Minister Bill Blair is suggesting that reporting from the commission will take significantly longer than one year.  Additionally, one of the three commissioners originally appointed to the review and confirmed for the inquiry, Anne McLellan, has withdrawn from the process.  Already the fight over the release of documents by the federal attorney is underway with 17 of some 23 such documents withheld.  Terms of reference for the inquiry have not yet been released and at this point no one has been named to replace McLellan.  Related article: National Newswatch – Michael Tutton   Anne McLellan, former Liberal minister, drops out of mass shooting public inquiry

The Daily Appeal (US) – Dawn R. Wolfe
Arrests on Nonviolent, Concealed Carry Weapon Charges Are Soaring in Detroit amid Pandemic

Something odd seems to be happening in Detroit around carrying concealed weapons.  The process for permits to carry seems backlogged, the arrests have soared for carrying a concealed gun, and the enforcement seems disproportionately to target to Black and poor people.  The police chief seems to voice support for gun ownership and concealed carrying.  Observers are puzzled about what is happening and want charges against what amounts to a 190% increase dropped.  Gun violence appears up over the past year.

Toronto Star – Jim Rankin
Two Black safety dispatchers hired at Metrolinx lost their jobs after failing Toronto police background checks. They have no criminal records

The link is an insight about what it means for Black job applicants to have encounters of any kind recorded by police when later events require police vetting.  The report not only makes clear a guilt-by-association in hiring but also raises questions about the extent to which police vetting is required and the scope of its pass / fail (no further comment) assessment, its impact on jobs and education.  In Toronto, such checks may also include carding information, a practice now regulated by the province.

Toronto Star – Wendy Gillis
These mental health advocates are working on an alternative to police intervention when someone is in crisis. They say ‘all of a sudden’ people are interested

Toronto police get 30,000 mental health calls each year.  A common consensus among police and health care workers is having police as first responders will often escalate the crisis rather than pursue appropriate mental response.  There is a renewed interest in having mental health workers as first responders for mental health related crisis, spurred by the current record of deaths and escalation of these crisis.  Mental health advocates and police are exploring the models and experience of such responses.

Social Planning Toronto – Lisa Ferguson
Senior poverty in Toronto: Report finds troubling levels of senior poverty and deep inequities decades after Canada’s retirement income security programs implemented

The link offers a disturbing view of the current status of seniors living in large urban centres and a breakdown of the impact of the Covid-19 (based on the 2016 statistics for seniors).  The conclusion is that in retirement income, far from addressing the poverty issue for seniors, the “gaps in the system are leaving many Toronto seniors behind, particularly those who are Indigenous, racialized, and immigrants.”  One in six seniors in poverty, immigrants twice as likely to be in poverty (much higher for certain groups), and a scandalous 90% of Indigenous seniors in poverty.

The Marshall Project (US) – Maurice Chammah
Your Local Jail May Be a House of Horrors

Lots of time, information around imprisonment comes from the federal and state prison system.  Chammah is reminding us that the experience of jail always begins locally first and that in many cases these conditions are beyond the purview of the policy makers and left to local sheriffs. This link focuses on St. Francois County Jail in Missouri where 36 year old Billy Ames was strapped into a restraint chair, banned in some places and thought to be directly responsible for over 50 deaths in the US since 1990.  The families, the lawyer, the detainees, all have a commentary about local jail conditions and the treatment.   Related article: Southern Poverty Law Center (US) – Ebony Howard   DOJ Report Highlights Desperately Needed Reforms in Alabama Prisons

The (US) –
How Police Reform Affects Schools

As the defund-police movement gains strength and perhaps credibility, advocates are looking at the suggested waste of funding intended for other purposes through the presence of police resource officers in the schools. Much of the discussion is prompted by incidents in which police school officers have become a substitute for the school’s disciplinary and educational processes, leaving students with a police record.  The point of these panel members is that police make the school less safe, especially for Black students.  (A 34 minute video of a panel discussion favouring ending the practice.)

Pro Publica – Marshall Allen
How a $175 COVID-19 Test Led to $2,479 in Charges – A global pandemic ravaging America is no time to forget the first rule of American health care: There is no set price. One out-of-network medical provider in Texas seeks permission from patients to charge fees as high as six-figures to their insurance.

Canadians are generally mystified by two things American: how the opinion is split on government health care and how powerful dedication to guns defies all control.  This article is helpful in understanding the complexity of the US health issue and the extent to which health is a for-profit venture.  This narrative comes from a lawyer who went looking for a Covid-19 test and used her health care provisions to cover the cost.  “There is no set price. Medical providers often inflate their charges and then give discounts to insurance plans that sign contracts with them. Out-of-network insurers and their members are often left to pay the full tab or whatever discount they can negotiate after the fact.”  Read on for the slips and turns…

N.Y. Times (US) – Katrin Bennhold
Body Bags and Enemy Lists: How Far-Right Police Officers and Ex-Soldiers Planned for ‘Day X’ – Germany has woken up to a problem of far-right extremism in its elite special forces. But the threat of neo-Nazi infiltration of state institutions is much broader.

This link exposes the growth of neo-Nazi groups in Germany and their effort to organize into par-military forces to pre-empt what they see as objectionable government agenda.  With origins in chat networks for former soldiers and police officers, and abetted by pronounced resistance to immigrants, the movement now has infiltrated a skilled segment of German society and “Day X — a mythical moment when Germany’s social order collapses, requiring committed far-right extremists, in their telling, to save themselves and rescue the nation… Today Day X preppers are drawing serious people with serious skills and ambition. Increasingly, the German authorities consider the scenario a pretext for domestic terrorism by far-right plotters or even for a takeover of the government.”  Related article: National Post   Nazi sympathizer network buying up Cape Breton properties with ‘colony’ in mind: German report – Germans Eva Herman and Andreas Popp have denied the accuracy of the report by German magazine Der Spiegel   Related article: Halifax Examiner – Joan Baxter   Report: German Nazis are buying up land in Cape Breton