Canadian freedoms

Mar 7, 2022

Ottawa Citizen – Lawrence Greenspon
Using the federal Emergencies Act — Unfortunately, Canadians are always willing to trade away their freedoms – It was wholly unnecessary for Trudeau to use this legislation during the trucker protest, but the fact that most Canadians welcomed it is not surprising.

Greenspon thinks Canadians give in to government invasion of rights too easily, without considering the implications or consequences.  He cites several incidents in our history where the bar was too low and unjust actions by government led to later apologies.  He quotes the charter and invites us to measure the realities that prompted the invocation of the Emergency Act:  “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”  Related article: Policy Options – Sunil Sarwal and Tan-Nee Ng  Order & law: The role of police is to protect the white male social order – Weeks of police inaction in Ottawa shook the trust of many Canadians because we aren’t honest about what the police were there to do.

Calgary Herald – Bill Kauffman
‘Deplorable:’ Lawyers seek probes into deaths of Bowden inmates due allegedly to medical negligence

Again the issue is the quality of health care offered prisoners in both federal and provincial prisons.  While the official view of Corrections Canada seems to insist on the same quality health care inside as outside the prisons, people inside are testifying to a shocking lack of both medical and psychological services.  “Accounts from several inmates detailing the 2021 deaths of Albert Penney and Armand Lacoursiere paint a picture of sadistic neglect by corrections officers and medical staff despite months of warnings and pleading.”

The Lawyer’s Daily – Michael Lesage
Attorney general disregards bench/bar 

Lesage charges that the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General has been sufficiently negligent such that Ontario’s digital approach is “a low-performing court system that couldn’t timely try cases.”  Already faced with a one third rejection rate for common filings, the new limits on how a lawyer can sign electronic documents will further degrade the legal services.  “Friday’s Notice adds further time and expense to the process, for apparently little benefit… Like most problems in Ontario’s legal system, Friday’s Notice arose from a lack of consultation, feedback or accountability. The attorney general identified a real or perceived problem, then ordered a top-down solution, without any input from, or consideration by those who would be affected.”

Indeterminate sentencing…

In the last newsletter, the practice of applying for dangerous offender status allowing a person to be sentenced indeterminately to prison, that is, to be held in prison until the Parole Board determines that the person is safe for release.   Here’s a fuller explanation and analysis from Smart Justice Network’s Lorraine Berzins, commenting on our report in the March 3 newsletter:

Your wording gives the impression that it is the courts that will decide the date of release of a ‘dangerous offender’ sentenced to be held indeterminately. It’s not. It is the Parole Board…Also, a person can be designated ‘dangerous offender’ but nevertheless be sentenced to a definite sentence. Section of the criminal code – S. 753 (4) – sets out all the sentencing options.

Dangerous Offender legislation is very unjust to many offenders to whom the designation tends to be applied – for sociological reasons- and it is used more and more frequently – also for sociological reasons. It can be the kiss of death, again for sociological reasons, because: how do you prove someone is not dangerous – and who wants to be responsible for having made that decision, in the event that something goes wrong?”

 There is unfortunately little information available about this dangerous offender designation or about the frequency of application or imposition of the indeterminate sentence.  This week there have been two we are aware of – the one in Sudbury reported in Mar 3 Newsletter and a more recent one in the Alberta Court of Appeal, also on March 3 and reported by the Lawyer’s Daily ( )

There has also been one inevitable consequence to the indeterminate sentence and the reluctance to allow parole for anyone so designated.  An 82 year old woman, Lois Jean Reid, sentenced in 1993 as a dangerous offender on a second degree murder change died this week in custody at the Grand Valley Institute for Women.

CTV Montreal – Stephane Giroux
Canada should make it easier to get criminal convictions pardoned, new coalition argues

Giroux laments the impossible burden our pardons system places on people who, once convicted and prison sentence served, must now wait an additional 10 years to be eligible for “a record suspension” rather than a pardon.  The criminal record becomes an obstacle to pretty well all significant employment and a genuine pardon is no longer available.  “People don’t realize how compromised a person with a criminal record is, how marginalized they are,” says veteran defence lawyer Ralph Mastromonaco, who says 70 per cent of people with criminal records are first-time, non-violent offenders…People think it’s a limit to employment, but there’s a lot more to it. That person is stigmatized with being a criminal.”    Tweet from John Howard: “Most large corporations and governments will not hire a potential candidate based on the existence of a criminal record, making it hard for a former convict, even for a minor offence, to find stable employment to minimize chances of reoffending.

The Conversation (Queen’s) – Scott White

Canadian press agencies and reporters have been struggling to find a way to support press freedom while also finding a way to pay for the newspapers we read, sometimes in print but increasingly digitally and for internet free.  This commentary, and the additional commentary on Ukraine, is a worthwhile milestone along the way illustrating the potential for damage when a totalitarian government controls the news service.  Says Editor-in-chief Scott White:  “If I was writing this newsletter from Moscow, I might be in jail by the end of the day. That’s because as of today, a new law passed by the Russian parliament makes it illegal to spread “false information” about that country’s war with Ukraine. Oops, it’s not a war…according to the new legislation. It’s a “special military operation.” Russia has also blocked access to international media outlets that publish Russian-language stories. Breaking this new law could send Russian journalists to jail for 15 years.”  Related article: CBC News – Thomson Reuters   CBC and BBC suspend reporting from inside Russia in face of ‘fake’ news law, blocking of Western websites – Facebook and many Western news sites, including BBC, Voice of America and Deutsche Welle, are blocked  Related article: New York Times – Anton Troianovski   Last Vestiges of Russia’s Free Press Fall under Kremlin Pressure – “Everything that’s not propaganda is being eliminated,” a Nobel Prize winning editor said as Russian authorities moved to control the narrative in the Ukraine war. Related article: New York Times – Jane Coaston    A Reminder From Russia of How Precious Free Speech Is

 CBC News – Catherine Tunney
Mounties starting to lean on deterrence methods over force, new report says – Officers displayed or pointed a firearm at a member of the public 3,315 times in 2020

Reliance on lethal weapons as opposed to de-escalation methods seems to be winning the day sometimes with the RCMP.  The latest report from the Mounties themselves says that 4,840 incidents of ‘police intervention’ took place in 2020, the highest number to date but already two years old.  “Drawing a firearm remained Mounties’ most common deterrence method in 2020. RCMP officers drew and displayed or pointed a firearm at a member of the public without firing 3,315 times that year… While RCMP officer-involved shootings were down in 2020, the year saw a new record set in fatal Mountie-involved shootings — 14 deaths. An RCMP officer was also shot and killed that year.”

Richard Mireles (US) – Host of Prison Post

Here’s a commentary fairly rare in prison talking: the relationship between the prisoner and the correctional officer with a view to the personal environment for rehab of the two:  “I don’t hate correctional officers, I grew to care for a few of them, but make no mistake about it, the majority see us as subhuman, it’s part of their training, and their beliefs about us have led them to commit every crime under the sun upon us with little to no repercussions.”  The twitter link offers a string of commentary on the subject.  Mireles is himself a former prisoner, now communications director of re-entry services in California called CROP.  CROP Website:   Link to Prison Post (YouTube podcasts on a variety of topics)

 Washington Post Editorial (US) – March 5, 2022
A landmark verdict in the George Floyd case confirms that police must stop crimes by fellow officers

The Post editorial notes that in the case of the three Minneapolis officers indicted and convicted in the George Floyd case and the follow up federal charges for violation of civil rights, this case is the first on record when officers have been charged with failure to intervene when one of their own is the perpetrator.  “The verdicts are an affirmation of the decision by the Justice Department under the Biden administration to aggressively pursue civil rights violations. Just days before the Minneapolis jury delivered its verdict, federal prosecutors secured hate-crimes convictions against three White men in Georgia in the killing of a Black man who was chased down while jogging. The verdicts against the three former Minneapolis officers may cause some police to think about quitting and give pause to those considering entering the profession. Yet the verdicts underscore the constitutional obligations of police to intervene when they see fellow officers breaking the law.  They should spur police departments to make sure their officers are properly trained to uphold the law — even when the transgressor is a colleague.”