Human rights…

Dec 13, 2021

Canadian Bar Association
Business and Human Rights

The Bar uses the UN Guiding Principles (UNGP) (2011) and its update in 2018 to the UN General Assembly as the basis for lawyers to advise clients doing business internationally in countries where there are human rights violations practiced.  “Despite their expressly voluntary nature, the UNGPs provide the substantive basis for a developing landscape of material legal, financial and reputational risk for businesses. The UNGPs have also become the basis for the development of legislation in multiple jurisdictions.”  The Guidelines insist that states are responsible for human rights, that business is responsible for respecting those human rights and that there must be a remedy when there are violations.   Related article: Nation Talk (Canada) / Department of Justice (Dec 10, 2021) – Government of Canada advances implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act  Related article: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) (US) – International Accountability for Racist Police Violence  “The United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights recently released a historic report that globally addresses systemic racism and law enforcement violence against Black people and people of African descent.”  (A petition to President Biden)   (Related article: United Nations Report / resolution:  Human Rights Watch –  Marina Riera   UN Condemns Systemic Racism, Police Violence – Unanimous Resolution Brings Scrutiny to Global Violations   Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS)  “On #InternationalHumanRightsDay, we are thrilled to give you a sneak peek of the newly conceptualized “Human Rights in Action: In Prison – A Handbook for Federally Incarcerated Women and Gender-Diverse People in Canada”, launching in January 2022 1/5

Basic Income Canada

“Depression is a response to things going wrong. To deep unmet needs.” Basic income is one solution to our growing mental health crisis”  Johan Hari discusses his book: Lost Connections  Related article: Mayor John Tory of Toronto on Universal Basic Income:  Toronto mayor @JohnTory supports the adoption of a UBI in Canada, which would help us navigate future pandemics with a lot more ease and a lot less disruption.  Quotable: “There are no “minor inconveniences” when you’re poor. They’re all major and potentially life threatening.”  Nina Monei

 Toronto Star – Sara Mojtehedzadeh
Wage theft. Deportation threats. Defamation suits. Inside Brampton truckers’ fight against a ‘billion dollar scam’ – Long-haul truckers have filed thousands of complaints over unpaid wages and other abuses. How drivers in Brampton are mobilizing against a mounting crisis.

This article may well lead to the notion that the adjustment for the Covid-19 in re-defining who is an essential worker should also apply to the wages and benefits for those truckers trying to get fair compensation for their role in our supply chain.  Wage theft is now frequently part of that equation:  “Over the past three years, long-haul truckers have lodged more than 4,800 complaints to Employment and Social Development Canada for unpaid wages and other employment abuses. That is more than 12 times the number filed in any other federally regulated sector, though truckers make up less than a fifth of that workforce.”  In spite of new regulations from the federal government, and its reputation as “a billion dollar scam,” not a single case of redress has happened in the intervening year.  Related article: Armine Yalnizyan  This is what Ontario does not yet seem to get, despite @MonteMcNaughton‘s excellent rhetoric about the #FutureOfWorkers: the care economy is a driver, and no future of the economy/work can ignore or dismiss it. If, as the Minister says, “The future is now” why not act like it?  (The attached string is particularly helpful with sources.)

Death Penalty Information Center (US) –
Federal Government Carries Out Two More Executions, Capping Deadliest Federal Death Penalty Year since the 1890s

Despite promises from US President Joe Biden in his 2020 election, the US has set a record for the most federal executions in its history.  Of the two back-to-back executions (Dec 10 and 11 of 2020) one had serious questions of guilt and the other questionable intelligence for the guilty charge.  The executions were carried out while the then President-elect Biden waited for inauguration and while under the authority of Donald Trump.  Three of the eight Supreme Court Justices dissented in the go-ahead.   Related article: National Public Radio – Juana Summers   House Democrats are introducing a bill to overhaul the clemency process  “A group of House lawmakers on Friday are set to unveil new legislation that would remove the federal clemency process from the Justice Department and instead create an independent clemency board for people who have been convicted of federal crimes.”   Related article: Washington Post – Caren Chesler   How role-playing helps police do their job without firing their guns

The Marshall Project (US) – Keri Blakinger, Jamiles Lartey, Beth Schwartzapfel, Mike Sisak and Christie Thompson
As Corrections Officers Quit in Droves, Prisons Get Even More Dangerous – Fewer guards lead to more lockdowns, rising tensions and scant access to healthcare.

The chance for an improved job scene as well as better pay and opportunity consequent to the pandemic has created what amounts to crisis in many state and federal prisons in the US.  One economist, Betsy Stevenson of the University of Michigan put it this way:  “By failing to protect prisoners from COVID, the criminal justice system not only created an unfair risk of severe illness and death for the incarcerated, but the increased COVID risk to employees has undoubtedly contributed to staffing shortages.”

Wall Street Journal (US) –   Clark Neily and Somil Trivedi
The Unconstitutional Convictions You Don’t Know About – Though right to a jury trial is enshrined in the Bill of Rights and Constitution, it’s hardly ever enforced. 

Neily and Trivedi are commenting on the implications of four recent jury trails in the US and what those implications mean for trust in the jury system.  Though enshrined in both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, in fact, juries are rarely invoked in criminal charges.  “Yet today jury trials are rare. More than 95% of criminal convictions come from guilty pleas, meaning that criminal jury trials, though constitutionally prescribed, seldom happen. The Supreme Court noted in Lafler v. Cooper (2012) that “criminal justice today is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials.”  The consequences, say the co-authors, are draconian: “That imperils Americans’ constitutional rights by exposing them to coercive pressure to plead guilty, along with other forms of police and prosecutorial abuse that regularly produce false convictions.”

N.Y. Times (US) – Maia Szalavitz
Opioids Feel Like Love. That’s Why They’re Deadly in Tough Times.

“Science now shows that this comparison is more than a metaphor. Opioids mimic the neurotransmitters that are responsible for making social connection comforting — tying parent to child, lover to beloved.”  With 75,000 deaths in the US this year from opioid overdose, the science deserves an attentive listening to the possibility that opioids are a substitute for, and driven by, biologically defined “social connection.”  Related article: BC Tyee – Moira Wyton   BC Government Defends Failure to Halt Rising Drug Deaths – Chief coroner says the lack of effective action to save lives will be a ‘stain on our province for decades to come.’   Related article: Canadian Drug Policy Alternatives Leading human rights and public health organizations release national drug decriminalization platform for Canada

The bill that the federal government introduced this week to repeal mandatory minimum sentences and offer alternatives to prosecution for simple drug possession is a step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough.