Back to Parliament…

Nov 23, 2020 

 Policy Options – Adeline Iftene
Abusive uses of Structured Intervention Units and the Correctional Service’s conduct mean Parliament must get rid of SIUs or adopt Senate amendments.

The link provides a summary of the controversy over the failure of government and Correctional Services Canada to implement the changes in solitary regulations through the SIU (Structured Intervention Units).  The summary includes the episode with refusal to provide the Doob committee with any data whatever on the use of SIU’s (some data arrived after the Committee had resigned).  Such is the blatant defiance that Iftene, a professor of law at Dalhousie, says can only be remedied by going back to Parliament.   Even before the Doob Committee, when “solitary was debated in Parliament, an open letter signed by lawyers and academics argued that the creation of SIUs in response to the courts’ findings was simply window dressing.”  It now appears to be worse than window dressing.

(Ed note: John Howard, Elizabeth Fry and Prisoners Legal Services with Dalhousie are hosting Spotlight on Solitary: A Fifteen Day Spotlight on Solitary Confinement in Canada.  The spotlight exercise extends to the end of November and highlights the variety of names under which solitary is still practiced within Canada’s prisons.)  cf  also also cf   Related article: CBC News – Kathleen Harris   Federal stonewalling left solitary confinement panel ‘powerless,’ says ex-member – ‘I was used,’ says criminology professor Anthony Doob Related article – Alert for Today’s video session: John Howard Society Spotlight on Solitary:   A panel discussion on structured intervention units – Anthony Doob, Jane Sprott and Adelina Iftene   Mon, Nov 23, 2020 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM EST    Free / Register at

 National Post – Ryan Tumilty
New documents detail the guns — all illegally obtained — used by Canada’s worst mass murderer – Gabriel Wortman had more firepower than the officers he encountered: A Colt Law Enforcement Carbine, a Ruger mini-14, a Glock pistol, a Ruger P89 pistol

Wortman is the alleged Nova Scotia mass murderer who killed 22, aided by a replica RCMP cruiser and uniform.  The weaponry was superior to that of the actual RCMP who confronted him and eventually killed him.  Wortman used two automatic rifles, both now banned in Canada, and two pistols.  Experts say that despite not having registering the guns or having a firearms license.  Says Matt Hipwell, former RCMP officer and firearms store owner:  “He had no intention of following the law, so banning firearms, banning semi-automatic rifles and handguns would not have stopped him,” he said. “There are strict storage and transportation regulations that go along with those firearms. So there’s a lot of boxes and regulations in place already that this individual did not check.”  The two hand guns were smuggled from the state of Maine.

Toronto Star – Charlene Theodore and Jody Berkes
Mandatory minimum penalties are preventing judges from arriving at just sentences

Theodore is the first Black woman ever to be the President of the Ontario Bar Association.  The article brings her to question the confluence of disproportionate Black presence in prisons and the supposedly discredited minimum sentence practice.  “Courts have ruled some mandatory minimums unconstitutional, but that is not an acceptable substitute for justice reform. The COVID pandemic has emphasized that good leadership requires putting politics aside and listening to evidence and expert advice that serves the public interest.”   Related article: Superior Court of Justice (ON):  Nov 23 2020-Jan 4 2021 no new jury selections will occur in any court location except in Green Zones. Jury trials in progress can proceed, subject to the trial judge. 10 person limit in courtrooms in Toronto & Peel. Virtual proceedings strongly encouraged in all regions.

N.Y. Times – Allison McCann
How a Man With a Van Is Challenging U.K. Drug Policy – A former drug user turned activist is addressing Scotland’s alarming drug death crisis by running the nation’s first drug consumption room — and risking arrest to do it.

The van parks on Parnie Street in central Glasgow.  Inside, the van’s back has two tables, two seats, a supply of hypodermic needles and several biohazard trash cans.  Scotland has nearly 20 overdose deaths per 100,000 people – the US is at 18.  In spite of the deaths, Scotland and the UK have been strongly resistant to safe consumer places for opioids.  “We may keep people alive, but this has always been about a push for an official establishment,” he said. “We can’t provide a service for hundreds of people from the back of one transit van.”

The Canadian Refugee Lawyers
CBSA oversight needed

The link connects to a witter thread that advocates on the basis of some frightful experiences a control or supervision mechanism for the Canada Border Security Agency.  Ibrahim Toure, a refugee applicant, was held in custody for six years, mostly in a maximum security prison.  Efforts to document the CSBA demand for deportation came from “egregious methods” of one officer.  “As of 2019, at least 15 immigration detainees have died in CBSA’s custody. CBSA is responsible for deciding where immigration detainees will be held and for putting forward arguments at detention review hearings regarding the reasons detainees should remain in detention.”  The effort to establish oversight of CBSA has already failed twice in Parliament.

Southern Poverty Law Center – Will Tucker
Freedom Denied: Alabama parole board keeps beloved community member imprisoned for crime few think she committed

The link offers more than a commentary on the hardness of the system.  In Alabama where federal investigations have exposed all sorts of untenable practice around prisons and jails, this article becomes a measure against which one can norm the various aspects of prison reform, particularly gratuitous violence by prison guards.  Prisons are overcrowded, and Scarlette Annette Orso was an ideal candidate for parole but summarily denied.  Orso is serving 20 years for manslaughter, a charge to which she pleaded guilty to avoid the murder change in an incident in which many of her community said she was innocent.  Related article: The Sentencing Project:  COVID-19 in Juvenile Facilities

 El Camino College / The Union (US) – Alexandra Davenport
California voters approve ‘greater societal change’ with passage of Proposition 17

The College has a specific program intended to make it easier for former prisoners to acquire post-secondary education and employment.  Proposition 17 which passed the voters with a 58.6% majority restores the voting franchise to approximately 50,000 parolees.  “Isabel Gonzalez, FIRST success coach, said that although formerly incarcerated individuals, like herself, have done their time and should have a chance at life again, many face challenges when returning to society, such as obtaining jobs or low-income housing.”  Many of the obstacles contribute to recidivism, Gonzalez says.   Related article: The Sentencing Project:  Estimates of People Denied Voting Rights Due to a Felony Conviction file:///C:/Users/mjmma/AppData/Local/Temp/Locked-Out-2020.pdf