Feb. 18, 2021

Here are a number of items on the current controversies around banning / buying back military assault rifles and handguns.

Twitter from Justine Trudeau on guns…

Ottawa Citizen – Jon Willing
Mayor Watson seeks police guidance on federal proposal to empower cities on handgun bans – Toronto city council in 2019 voted overwhelmingly in support of calling for a national handgun ban.
HuffPost Canada – Jim Bronskill, Canadian Press   Long-Promised Liberal Bill Would Give Cities Power To Ban Handguns – The proposed legislation also calls for a buyback program for banned firearms.
CBC News – Catherine Tunney
Liberals introduce buy-back program for banned firearms but price tag unclear – In May, PM announced ban on use, sale and importation of more than 1,500 makes and models
Toronto Star – Editorial (Feb. 16, 2021)  Still not the handgun ban Canada needs  Also: Toronto Star – Alex Ballingall   Justin Trudeau’s new gun control law stops short of the handgun ban Toronto wanted


The Atlantic –
Anissa Jordan Took Part in a Robbery. She Went to Prison for Murder. – The legal doctrine that allows people to be prosecuted for murder even if they didn’t kill anyone has fallen out of favor across the globe. In America, it remains common.

The legal doctrine of ‘felony murder’ is still widely in use in the US despite the rejection of the doctrine internationally.  It means that one who participates in a crime in which a death occurs is as guilty as the one who directly causes the death.  “More than 40 states and the District of Columbia still have some version of the felony-murder rule on their books. (In many states, including Texas and Georgia, felony murder or its legal equivalent can be a capital offense.) American prosecutors of both parties run for office on the basis of their tough-on-crime bona fides, and felony murder has given them a powerful tool for pursuing harsh punishments for violent crimes—frequently, as in Jordan’s case, robberies gone awry.”

The Sentencing Project – Ashley Nellis
No End in Sight: America’s Enduring Reliance on Life Imprisonment – In the United States, more than 200,000 people are serving life sentences – one out of every seven in prison.

Longer sentences are part of why there is mass incarceration in the US.  This report illustrates the need for sentencing reform.  “Nearly five times the number of people are now serving life sentences in the United States as were in 1984, a rate of growth that has outpaced even the sharp expansion of the overall prison population during this period.”  Besides those sentenced to LWOP for murder, the system has come to believe that deterrence calls for longer sentences for other crimes as well.  Increasingly, the assumption that long sentences keep the public safe are being challenged by more careful research and analysis.  Distressingly, there are still 8600 serving LWOP for crimes as minors.   Related article: The Pew Foundation – Jake Horowitz & Kyleigh Clark-Moorman   Local Jail Spending Grew 13% Over a Decade, Despite Falling Crime – New analysis shines light on the cost of maintaining large jail populations   Related article: The Pew Foundation – Tiffany Russell & Alyssa Doom   Dallas Works to Avoid Sending People in Crisis to Emergency Rooms or Jails – Pilot program shows early success in rethinking responses to mental health emergencies (A December initial report updated)

N.Y. Times Morning – Dave Leonhardt
Two Men, Two Decades, No Evidence – And what else you need to know today.

This is the story of Curtis Flowers, convicted of quadruple murder and 22 years on death row in Mississippi.  “He was a victim of prosecutor misconduct. A local district attorney, Doug Evans, convicted Flowers on weak evidence that later fell apart: To this day, no witness or physical evidence even puts Flowers at the scene of the crime. The U.S. Supreme Court threw out his conviction in 2019, citing Evans’s blocking of Black jurors.”  Evans was charged but a judge dismissed the civil rights lawsuit case against him even though he re-tried the murder case six times against Flowers.  This is one of those incidents that make advocates despair of setting right miscarriages.  Related article: American Public Media Reports – Parker Yesko    Judge dismisses lawsuit against DA Doug Evans – The suit had asked a federal court to prevent Evans’ office from dismissing jurors because of their race

Scottish Legal News – Iain Smith
Forget being hard or soft on crime – be smart instead!

Smith is a criminal defence lawyer who advocates for significant changes to the criminal system on the grounds that many of those convicted and sentenced – Scotland has one of the highest rates of imprisonment and the highest rates of drug overdose deaths.  What he discovered was the impact of ACE or adverse child experiences as a common denominator of crime, prison and deaths.  “Recognising that trauma has an effect on capacity is key. The system currently holds all people who commit crime to be responsible for their actions, but many are not response-able due to toxic stress impeding their development in childhood. A 13-year-old victim of sexual abuse does not make a reasoned choice to consume heroin to self-soothe and disassociate, at least not in the true sense of choice. I recognise it is not always easy to be empathetic, particularly when the offence committed has left another victim in the aftermath. But victimhood runs deeper than what we see on the surface of a crime. Only through compassion, hope and perseverance can we even flirt with the prospect of repair.”

The – Jerry Iannelli
Los Angeles D.A. George Gascón Leaves California’s Powerful D.A. Association – Gascón is battling a lawsuit, filed by his own line prosecutors and backed by the state DA association, against his criminal justice reforms.

California has been playing out the struggle over the undue influence of the district attorney in charging, and sentencing once convicted.  The degree of discomfort with the extremes from this one prosecutor may be witnessed by the people launching the lawsuit: people in his own office and the professional association.  “Statewide prosecutors’ associations are among the most punitive forces in the criminal legal system, in California and elsewhere. While they are largely unknown to the general public, they have historically lobbied local and state governments to keep prison sentences long and to protect prosecutors’ vast powers.”  Gascón’s resignation may well mean that at least in California these practices need to change now but Gascón is not leaving without a fight.

St. Thomas More Institute and Brian McDonough invited you to:
Indigenous Legacies: A Conversation with Suzanne Methot

Feb. 19, 2021 7-9PM (EST)  Registration is free and mandatory. Fill out the form at this link to receive the information that you will need to join on Zoom:



Read excerpts from Suzanne Methot’s Legacy and Jody Wilson-Raybould’s From Where I Stand here:


Ottawa Citizen – Sarah Speight and Jean Piché
Ion scanner rollout in Ontario jails is expensive, ineffective and harmful – Rather than funding such high-tech responses to the overdose crisis, the province should increase access to harm reduction services that don’t criminalize drug use.

The Ontario government is back to installing ion scanners to detect drugs on entry to its 10 prisons at a cost of $385,000.  There is already a full body X-ray scanner project started in 2016 and these ion scanners are considered a compliment in detection of drugs inside the body cavity.  Unfortunately the ion scanner is super sensitive and detects even the drugs found on the hand from handling currency bills in general circulation.  Speight and Piché want the technology to give way to harm prevention and treatment:  “Drugs enter OCDC and other provincial jails through a variety of ways. Investing in oversensitive and unreliable technologies isn’t evidence-based. Rather than funding ineffective high-tech responses to the overdose crisis, Ontario should increase access to harm reduction services that don’t criminalize drug use and put naloxone in the hands of prisoners to allow them to keep each other safe, should they continue to use drugs while in custody.”

Blogger Russell Webster / Centre for Women’s Justice (UK)
WOMEN WHO KILL: how the state criminalises women who we might otherwise be burying

This is an unusual study for a number of reasons.  The study involves 92 women and took place over five years.  What it records is the unusual number of women who kill someone abusing them and are yet guilty of murder or manslaughter and sentenced accordingly.  Of the 92, only six were freed on self-defence, 43% convicted of murder and 46% convicted of manslaughter.  The problem has been long standing.  The study looks at the trauma when the woman first meets the responders and at the court processes involved.   (153 page downloadable report)