Systemic racism…

May 25, 2022

News Release:  Senate of Canada

The Honourable Kim Pate, C.M., and The Honourable Murray Sinclair, C.C., MSC

Bill C-5 Will Not Redress Systemic Racism in Sentencing. Parliamentarians Can and Must
Act Now to Ensure Meaningful Change

“OTTAWA, MAY 20, 2022—As the House of Commons Justice Committee considers further amendments to Bill C-5 this afternoon, time is running out to make the meaningful changes so desperately needed to achieve this legislation’s laudable goal of addressing systemic racism in sentencing, particularly for Indigenous women.

Though representing less than 5% of women in Canada, Indigenous women make up half of women in federal prisons and the overwhelming number of women and girls in provincial jails in the Prairies. They remain Canada’s fastest growing prison population despite decades of well-intentioned but ultimately ineffective criminal legal system recommendations and reforms billed—like C-5—as anticipated to redress systemic racism, sexism and colonialism.

If Bill C-5 is to avoid this same fate, it must give judges the space to do their job of determining fit and fair sentences, rather than continuing to handcuff them to more than fifty mandatory minimum penalties that Bill C-5 would leave on the books.”

Toronto Star – Editorial Board (May 24, 2022)
Mandatory sentences prevent judges from using judgment. They should be ended – ‘By removing judges’ ability to employ judgment, mandatory sentences transfer discretion to prosecutors, who decide what offences and what offenders to prosecute.’

The Star Editorial first draws attention to the deteriorating stats on the imprisonment of Indigenous people, nearly doubled due to mandatory sentences from 2007 – 2017.  Bill C-5 tries to end the practice and restore discretionary power to the judges.  Courts cannot consider alternatives when a mandatory prison sentence is required.  Further, says the editorial, there is no evidence that mandatory sentences reduce crime but they do transfer power and decision making to crowns who decide on who to charge and for what.  The star’s conclusion for the opposing Conservative Party:  “we can clear the way into prison for more and more Indigenous people, but we can’t imprison our way out of crime.”

CBC News – Catherine Tunney
Canada should rethink relationship with U.S. as democratic ‘backsliding’ worsens: security experts – Former national security advisers, CSIS directors say U.S. could become a ‘source of threat and instability’

A distinguished group of security analysts are advocating for a re-think in the relationship with the United States on the basis of the anti-democratic movements surfacing there.  “The United States is and will remain our closest ally, but it could also become a source of threat and instability,” says a newly published report written by a task force of former national security advisers, former Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) directors, ex-deputy ministers, former ambassadors and academics. Members of the group have advised both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.”   Report:  University of Ottawa Graduate School of Public and International Affairs  A national security strategy for the 2020s  (Includes a listing of contributors)   Full report (A 39 page downloadable pdf)

Christopher Blattman, Sebastian Chaskel, Julian C. Jamison, Margaret Sheridan
Cognitive behavior therapy reduces crime and violence over 10 years: Experimental evidence

This is a fascinating confirmation of what justice advocates have long been saying: preventative measures are more effective than punitive.  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is getting a lot of attention as the basis of the prevention, given that most crime comes from a small group and that there are few longitudinal studies of the crime prevention potential of CBT.  This study adds another factor to the mix: what happens if you give CBT plus an economic incentive to change behaviour?  This research was conducted over ten years to confront the notion that the new learned behaviour is only temporary.  “Overall, the results suggest that highly-targeted CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) plus economic assistance could be an inexpensive and effective way to prevent violence, especially when policymakers are searching for alternatives to aggressive policing and incarceration.”

Boston Globe Editorial Board – May 20, 2022
In prison, phone calls home aren’t a frill. They’re as important as food and clothes.  Sheriffs shouldn’t balance their budgets with onerous fees. Lawmakers can right that wrong.

In Massachusetts, like most jurisdictions, the cost of phone calls from prisoners to family are borne by the family, the average rate around 14 cents per minute from Securus, the most common source provider and a private company.  But in this state, the local sheriff has the power, now confirmed by the courts to add fees and surcharges to support the work of the Sheriff’s office.  The paper’s editorial board is calling for legislation to end the open-ended charges most frequently lodged against a prisoner’s family.

From Cindy Blackstock and Amanda Strong: A free download –
Spirit Bear: Honouring Memories, Planting Dreams   Based on a True Story (A 70 page downloadable pdf)

First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada (First Published in 2019)

Walrus Magazine – Laura Marks / Illustrated by Irma Kniivila
Ask an Environmental Expert: What’s the Carbon Footprint of the Internet?  Our digital habits are worse for the environment than flying. That toll is expected to grow

The assertion is somewhat surprising since one does not normally think of internet as a contributing factor to the deterioration of the environment.  One pointed comparison offered by Marks is that the electricity used to generate the internet and streaming activity generates more carbon than the airplane industry:  “One estimate found that the greenhouse gas emissions created by data centres, networks, and our devices—including phones and computers—is as high as 3.8 percent of the global total, and it’s expected to grow. The airline industry, by comparison, is responsible for about 2.1 percent.”  Marks, a professor at Simon Fraser University who researches the environmental impact of streaming. also questions the savings to the carbon footprint by the use of video-conferencing.