By any other name…

Feb. 28, 2021

Globe and Mail – Robyn Urback
There’s only one group of Canadians the government can get away with torturing

Dr Anthony Doob and Jane Sprott recently published a report on the status of solitary confinement in Canada and they, and other experts, including the United Nations, have identified the practice as torture.  Many may react to the label rather than the practice, already condemned by Canada’s courts.  Urback wants you to understand that the practice is real torture, especially given that many prisoners already suffer from untreated mental health and medical issues.  “There are easy ways to shrug off Prof. Doob’s torture claim for those who are inclined to do so…but even granting them, it still does not follow that 22 hours – the UN’s guidelines on solitary – locked in a small cell for days or weeks is a reasonable solution to inmate problems, particularly when plenty of research shows the practice can cause psychosis, increased aggression, self-harm and other serious mental-health issues.”  Urback provides a list of references on the question of the impact of solitary confinement.

 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1987)

Article 1:  For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

(Ed note: The convention obligates that signatories to the convention make torture a criminal offence in its own national law and include education in human rights for all law enforcement persons. The UN defines more than 22 hours per day without other human contact and more than 15 sequential days in such solitary as torture.  The Canadian use of the structured intervention units clearly falls within the prohibition.)

Related article: Toronto Star – Jim Rankin   ‘It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my 16-year career’: Human rights complaints detail racism, toxic culture at Toronto South jail   

Related article: CBC News – Lenard Monkman   Memorial ride to Headingley jail held for William Ahmo, who died after incident with corrections officers

Related article: CBC News – Judy Trinh   Assault victims angered by plea deal for ‘dangerous’ police officer  –  Const. Eric Post pleaded guilty to 5 charges related to violence against women

Related article: CBC News – Dr. S. Monty Ghosh   Changing how police departments respond to overdose calls could save lives – Many people aren’t seeking help during overdoses due to fear of repercussions from law enforcement

Related article: The Marshall Project –  Amelia Thomson-Devaux, Laura Bronner and Damini Sharma    Police Misconduct Costs Cities Millions Every Year. But That’s Where The Accountability Ends. If not for inconsistent and shoddy record-keeping, we might know if settlements make a difference in police misconduct.

Related article: CBC News – Alain Babinbeau   Most officers aren’t racist, but the nature of modern policing must be reimagined – Racial profiling is a systemic problem, and not a case of a few bad apples

Related article:  Globe and Mail – Canadian Press   Alberta woman who admitted to shooting husband appeals prison sentence


Senator Ratna Omidvar
The Diversity Deficit in the Boardrooms of Canada’s Charities

The link is part of a larger effort to broaden the effectiveness of charities by first allowing them to partner with community agencies as opposed to spending all their CRA tax receipted money strictly on their own letters patent.  The effort now also includes the notion of a broader ethnic and gender diversity in the board membership.  There are approximately 180,000 registered charities in Canada, and many other charitable organizations which are not registered charities.  Some will undoubtedly benefit from these changes.   Related article: Toronto Star – L. Robin Cardozo and Matt Fullbrook  Are board diversity and inclusion mostly window-dressing in not-for-profits?

Toronto Star – Bruce Campion-Smith, Public Editor
‘Epidemic of misinformation’ is eroding trust in institutions and media, finds a new survey

Trust is at the heart of all communications whatever the nature of the content.  Lisa Kimmel, chair and CEO of Edelman Canada, on the findings of the communication firm’s 2021 trust barometer:  “There is an “epidemic of misinformation and widespread mistrust of societal institutions and leaders around the world,” the firm said in its findings… Adding to this is a failing trust ecosystem unable to confront the rampant infodemic,” it stated.”

CBC News – Catherine Tunney
Canada’s spy agency wants more power. How would that work?   CSIS director took aim at the spy agency’s enabling legislation earlier this month

“The agency he runs fell afoul of the Federal Court — and now the country’s chief spy is intensifying his campaign for new powers and sounding the alarm about the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s ability to keep tabs on hostile foreign states… But civil liberties advocates are urging Parliament to be skeptical if it agrees to crack open the legislation that governs CSIS.”

 The Guardian (UK) – Sonia Sodha
To expand women’s prisons is idiotic and inhumane. We should phase them out

The commentary first tackles the gender equality issue and insists on recognizing that harm coming from males and females merits maintaining that difference in how the society deals with repairing harm.  Conservative fallback to ‘treat-them-all-the-same’ has resulted in a renewal of intent to build more prisons and more cells for women.  “Prisons are a case in point for the different treatment of men and women. There are far too many minor offenders serving short prison sentences that increase reoffending rates and draw people into more serious crime. But women are failed particularly badly by a system that treats them as if they were men.”  At the same time there is in the shadows that prison is hardly suitable to anyone’s rehabilitation.  Related twitter from Canadian Senator Kim Pate: “2/3 of women in prison are survivors of abuse; women who kill abusive partners, after years of violence, often get long sentences for murder & manslaughter while abusive men who kill women get shorter custodial sentences when they plead loss of control.”