Crime as Political Distraction…

Jan 10, 2021

CBC News – Kathleen Harris
Conservatives slam vaccine rollout plan that prioritizes some federal prisoners – Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says government has ‘duty of care’ to protect vulnerable inmates

Who makes up a vulnerable population for priority on the Covid-19 vaccination list is fast becoming a political issue.  Prisons are commonly compared to a petri dish to illustrate the suitability of environment for growing and transmitting the virus.  In turn, prison staff and suppliers transmit the virus to “a captive audience” where the most frequent defense is isolation, bringing on a whole new set of issues.  The crossover of personal rage and medical science should invite cooler heads to prevail, if not the legal obligation of care that Blair offers. “Public Safety Minister Bill Blair confirmed that about 600 federal inmates who are elderly or have pre-existing health conditions will be vaccinated on a priority basis. He said the federal government is following the advice of the national advisory committee on immunization, which identified congregate living settings, including prisons, as “high risk” locations.”

Globe and Mail – Lisa Kerr
What Erin O’Toole is really saying when he says criminals shouldn’t get early access to vaccines

Kerr, an assistant professor at the faculty of law at Queen’s University, first reminds us that front line health care workers are already designated as priorities.  So what is the impact of the O’Toole pronouncement?  Who is it meant to exclude?  Both prisoners and staff are vulnerable populations.  So lawyers are asking if those with criminal records are the focus of the remarks – some 3.8 million Canadians? And if so, how will those administering the vaccine determine who is the criminal and what will such an interim step do to the already slow roll out?  Take care Canada, says Kerr:  “All democratic governments, after all, must offer something to voters in order to stay in power. Instead of focusing on the provision of public goods such as education and health care, “governing through crime” is a strategy that uses and amplifies public fear of crime and promises protection with a wide range of tactics and policies. These include increased policing, aggressive prosecution and harsh punishment.”  Related article: CTV News – Kimberly Johnson and Ted Raymond    Federal inmates set to receive COVID-19 vaccines starting Friday   Related article: Criminalization and Punishment Educational Project (CCEP) – Justin Piché   Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Linked to Canadian Carceral Institutions – December 2020    Related article: Justice Exchange – Vicki Chartrand  COVID-19 & Prisons: Why Communities Should Care    Related article: BC Tyee – Paul Willcocks  Opposing Prisoner Vaccination, Erin O’Toole Is Unmasked  And underneath we find the same old callousness of Conservative leaders before him.

Halifax Today – Canadian Press
Nova Scotia eliminating use of ‘dry cells’ in all provincial jails: justice minister

Dry celling to the NS government is the practice of keeping a prisoner in a cell without a toilet for a protracted period allegedly to determine if there are drugs hidden in the body cavities.  The government is acting from a report it will not release but appears related to a prisoner’s rights lawyer’s claim that a law allowing a 16 day solitary experience should be struck down as a human rights violation of the charter.  The case, involving Lisa Adams of New Brunswick, also drew support from the Elizabeth Fry Society who agreed “dry celling amounted to legalized torture.”

The Marshall Project (US) – Maurice Chammah and Keri Blakinger
What Lisa Montgomery Has In Common With Many On Death Row: Extensive Trauma. Mental illness, childhood abuse and brain injuries affect a large share of those who face the death penalty.

Jan 12, 2021 is the date for the execution of Lisa Montgomery barring some sort of unexpected intervention.  This case is worth paying specially attention to on the grounds that it presents everything that is wrong about the death penalty.  But equally, it presents many elements that are wrong at the core of the criminal system where mental illness and childhood trauma have taken a prior toll.

Toronto Star – Susan Delacourt
Donald Trump unleashed dark politics in America. Could it happen in Canada?

The single word answer is “Yes!”  For the last few years this newsletter has been reporting a growth in the size and location of these ultra-right wing groups and equally serious their efforts to link with one another.  Delacourt offers a more cautious view reminding us of several recent incidents around the Ottawa Parliament and suggests that Canada, in spite of these incidents by individuals, does not yet have the polarization nor the leadership available for the type of incident in the US Capitol.  Related article: Toronto Star – Alex Boutilier   The storming of the Capitol has Ottawa wondering: Are we ready?   Related article: MacLean’s – Paul Wells   So when do we start promoting democracy?   Related article: CTV News – Rachel Aiello   Feds looking at declaring Proud Boys a terrorist organization in wake of U.S. rioting