Only in Canada, eh…

Jan. 19, 2021

 CBC News – Jonathan Montpetit
Montreal servers hosted TheDonald, far-right site blamed for stirring up violence at Capitol riot – Servers provided temporary home to website amid crackdown by tech companies

We may draw some comfort from the fact that that the servers were owned by OVD, a company headquartered in France but operative in Montreal.  The comfort is short lived when the issue devolves into control of scurrilous international sites promoting violence and political insurrection.  Originally appearing on the Reddit site, TheDonald was closed down in June but not before the site had navigated elsewhere.  “Reddit shut down /The_Donald in June, saying the forum’s violent and racist content violated its policies… By then, however, operators of the forum had already set up TheDonald as a standalone website, using the Montreal servers belonging to OVH, a cloud computing company headquartered in France…The posts with calls for violence had 40,484 engagements,” said the report by Advance Democracy, which monitors extremism in the U.S. and is headed by a former FBI agent.  “The calls for violence ranged from calls for the execution of those involved in ‘stealing the election’ to calls for the killing of DC police officers who may attempt to control the protesters.”  As of Jan 9, 2021, the site was taken down presumably by the promoters.

Boston Herald – Marie Szaniszlo
Somerville moves toward decriminalizing psychedelic mushrooms

The municipality of Somerville in Massachusetts has declared by unanimous vote of the town council that no resources of the town can be used to respond to the use of ‘magic shrooms,’  decriminalizing psychedelic mushrooms and other entheogenic plants.  The town’s mayor, Joseph Curtatone, said:  “There is evidence that entheogenic plants can be helpful for some people, so this is also a form of harm reduction.”  The mayor thinks that the war on drugs has been a complete failure and that research has shown a medicinal capacity.  “A November 2020 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found one in two patients with major depression went into remission after two psilocybin therapy sessions, making it four times more effective than standard depression medications…A 2017 Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine study of 44,000 Americans found that psychedelic use also was associated with a 40% reduced risk of opioid abuse.”

The Chronicler Herald (Halifax) – Chris Lambie
‘It gave me a bit of hope for the year ahead’: Anonymous donors help Halifax woman fighting for pardon

In 1994 Tina Reilly shoplifted diapers, food and toys from Zellers, a store now closed, and a judge sentenced her to a week in jail.  Years later, encouraged by Elizabeth Fry, she decided to pursue a pardon – in Canada a record suspension.  She discovered that she owed $2600 before she could escape the employment consequences of her theft – $2,000 in restitution and $632 application fee for the suspension.  The link tells of the secondary punishment that many who steal for survival, especially child survival, are still encountering.  Canada needs to return to actual pardons and to more effective re-entry solutions.

The Parole Board of Canada on Twitter…

The Parole Board wants you to apply for a record suspension if you were ever convicted of simple possession of marijuana.  We may encourage them to do their job but we also may want to say to them and to the politicians with power to change these rules, “Why are we still facing record suspension, and only after you pay for it, and only if you apply for it.  Why did not the legalization of marijuana bring with it automatic and immediate, and free, pardons?”  This may be an occasion to further examine ‘the secondary punishment’ that is part of all convictions but especially for historic possession of marijuana.  These questions need be asked of politicians not the Parole Board, especially as rumours about a spring election swirl.

Radio IQ WVTF (Virginia) – Michael Pope
Effort to Shut Down Virginia’s Only Private Prison Dies an Early Death in Richmond

As more and more the failures of the private prison and immigration detention institutions are exposed to light in this beginning of the end of the Trump era and prison reform is starting to find some formative energy, this news is hardly welcome nor even understandable.  State lawmakers have rejected ending the for-profit practice while Democratic opposition legislators are pointing out failed medical services and gouging in supplying aspirin and telephone services.

The Brennan Center for Justice (US) – Michael German
Hidden in Plain Sight: Racism, White Supremacy, and Far-Right Militancy in Law Enforcement

The latest report from the Brennan Center may be helpful in discernment around the issues in the defund-the-police debate.  The report summary declares:  “The government’s response to known connections of law enforcement officers to violent racist and militant groups has been strikingly insufficient.”  The report insists that specific reforms prompted by egregious and evident acts of misconduct by police do not address the underlying systemic racism in the way police are trained and assessed by supervisors.  The report includes FBI assessment and the long history of white supremacy nestled in the foundational and operational side of policing.  German also points out the lack of mitigation policies to protect the community from officers who act outside the scope of their terms of engagement when federal police often shirk their duties.  It is in policing public protests that the police bias is most frequently seen.  German offers a number of recommendations for both local and federal authorities.  The article has promise for discussion and pursuit.   Related article: CBC News (Thunder Bay) – Logan Turner  Hard questions about systemic racism, accountability asked of Thunder Bay police after pre-inquest hearing – Thunder Bay police filed motion to exclude video from inquest into custody deaths of two Indigenous men   Related article: The Crime Report (US)  – Jennifer Cobbina and Alex S. Vitale  Why Police Diversity Won’t Fix the Problems of Policing  (The article is from the John Jay College in NY)    (Cf also: Judah Oudshoorn’s commentary: )

 Globe and Mail – Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond
To end racism against Indigenous peoples, we have to name it and speak up

Turpel-Lafond is a professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia.  Her November 2020 report on racism in Indigenous Health Care in BC is called: In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in B.C. Health Care  The recommendations in the report first deal with structures, behaviours and beliefs, with implementation recommendations as well, and a key information piece explaining the basis of the rec.  Though specific to BC, the report may have considerable helpfulness to other jurisdictions.   (Full report: A 236 page PDF  – Recs start at p. 181 – at:

The Marshall Project (US) – Keri Blakinger
Zoom Funerals, Outdoor Classes: Jails and Prisons Evolve Amid the Pandemic – But will high-tech programs replace “the human touch” when the virus ebbs?

The Marshall project takes a look at the changes brought about by Covid-19 in the operational side of the prisons and wonders which ones will endure beyond the pandemic and what the long term damage may be if processes designed to prevent human contact endure as more expedient or safer.  Family funeral participation, family visiting, classes are some of the activities encompassed by the circumstances.  “There’s a lot of reasons why agencies could see advantages here, but what they need to understand is what’s lost,” Deitch (Michele Deitch, a prison oversight expert and senior lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs) said. “Nothing replaces human touch.”

Blogger Monia Mazigh Author and Human Rights Activist –
Should the Proud Boys be labelled terrorists?

A few days ago the Canadian government mused aloud or perhaps sent up a trial balloon about whether the Proud Boys, a Canadian far right group, should be labelled ‘terrorist.’  Mazigh offers a lukewarm endorsement of the anti-terrorist legislation and suggests that it is a mostly a political tool to disenfranchise racialized minorities.  She says:  “Anti-terrorism legislation is the wrong tool. It overwhelmingly targets racialized people, Muslims in particular. We will forever call for its abolishment. But in the meantime, and while it remains in place, can we use it to eliminate violence done by white supremacists against marginalized groups? Yes, I totally think we should. It is a matter of survival. Until the “master’s house” is dismantled, until that day, I see no other choice than to use the “master’s tools” to protect ourselves and our communities from white-supremacist violence.”

 Twitter:  Line in the Street (US)

The term gerrymandering is coming in for increasing examination as the US Republicans are called on to end the practice and to revert to true democracy.  The link provides an excellent visual and spoken account of how one practices ‘gerrymandering’ and what the consequences are for elections.