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Governance Health Human rights Justice Population

Now that assisted suicide and euthanasia is legal, what Canadians can expect: Literature review

The arbitrary second deadline set by the Supreme Court of Canada for the coming into force of its arbitrary and senseless decision to invalidate Criminal Code protections against assisted suicide and euthanasia has arrived. Unless further extended, as of today Canadians wishing to commit suicide but too squeamish to do so themselves can take a shot at finding a doctor to kill them.

While the government will likely make the case for pushing through its proposed legislation, Bill C-14 a.k.a. the Medical Assistance in Dying Bill, it will have little practical effect. While presented as taking a conservative approach by only allowing individuals whose “death is reasonably foreseeable” to consent to being killed, Bill C-14 contemplates extending such consent to “mature minors” and those with mental illness within less than 180 days after it’s passed.

So what can Canadians expect to flow from this ill-considered decision to legalise consent to being killed? Unfortunately, a review of the literature in jurisdictions that legalised assisted suicide and euthanasia prior to Canada isn’t encouraging.

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Governance Health Human rights Justice Population

Bill C-14, an assisted suicide and euthanasia law by any other name

Canadian Members of Parliament are set to vote on Bill C-14, also known as the Medical Assistance in Dying Bill. The bill will repeal numerous legal protections against assisted suicide and euthanasia in the Criminal Code, in line with 2012 Supreme Court of Britisch Columbia and  2015  Supreme Court of Canada decisions that found such protections unconstitutional. Notably, both Parliament and the courts have reversed course on previous decisions that upheld the constitutionality of those same legal protections under nearly identical circumstances.

Bill C-14 has been promoted by the federal government as taking a conservative approach, only allowing assistance in cases where “death is reasonably foreseeable” and implementing “safeguards” against abuse. However, as written it clearly contemplates broadly legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia, even for “mature minors” and those with mental illness.

Conspicuously absent from the debate has been any discussion about the experience with similar legislation in the United States and European Union, where both legal and medical reviews have been decidedly critical, second-guessing the wisdom of even having such legislation. That’s likely because the rationale for such laws, the topic to be covered here, is questionable at best.

Categories
Employment Financial security Governance Immigration Justice Race and ethnicity

Why Canada avoids asking about race, and why that’s a problem

Making waves in his first speech after taking office in 2009, outgoing US Attorney General Eric Holder then described his country as a “nation of cowards” afraid to confront racial issues. While the US had made remarkable progress on civil rights in the latter half of the twentieth century, election of a biracial president aside, there’s evidence to suggest it has recently regressed. There are anecdotes, like recent incidents in Detroit, Michigan and Ferguson, Missouri. But there are also race-based statistics collected, compiled and published by various US government agencies, from Justice to Labor to even the Federal Reserve.

If fear of confronting race is cowardice, what does one call fear of even asking about it? Because that’s where Canada is at the moment.

Categories
Governance Health Justice Transparency

In debate over drug legalisation, it’s worth revisiting Prohibition (which actually worked)

Canada’s pot policy needs to sober up
Andre Picard, The Globe and Mail August 21, 2014

Sometimes, you catch news items a bit late. Today, that item is Globe public health reporter Andre Picard’s recent write-up on Canada’s marijuana legalisation discourse (which closely mirrors that taking place in the US).

As succinctly stated, a more sombre reflection on the possible / likely ramifications of legalisation than what’s so far passed as ‘debate’ is needed. Mr. Picard seems to pull back a bit in his August 2014 column, grouping pot as a, “recreational drug, such as tobacco and alcohol”. In an earlier (April 2014) column, the ‘recreational drug’ reference was to opioids, such as abused prescription OxyContin and heroine.

While cannabinoid and opioid are distinct, they “share several pharmacologic properties”. The science is far from settled on whether in therapeutic use the combination of the two is more beneficial or harmful. The science is far clearer on the combination’s recreational / mis-use: It’s quite harmful, and can be fatal. Since it targets similar (but not the same receptors) as opioids, cannabis can likewise be addictive (the distinction between ‘habit-formation’ and ‘addiction’ is more art than science).

Decriminalisation, or legalisation?

Cannabis use can be quite socially harmful, to individual users’ health (cognitive development, mental health), and to the greater public (motor vehicle, workplace accidents). There’s also economic harm, to individuals (criminal record implications), and to the state (enforcement, rehabilitation). The interesting debate, it would seem, is whether to simply decriminalise possession or legalise commercial trade (production, distribution, sale).

The interesting line in, and jump-off point from, Mr. Picard’s column:

But there are a lot more alcoholics than there are stoners.

Yes, there are. Now. When one can purchase alcohol at just about every convenience and grocery store. Along with a pack of smokes. For less than ten bucks. Will that still be the case when a pack of marijuana cigarettes is sold alongside the Players and duMaurier for a similar price?

One of the most disingenuous arguments put forward for marijuana legalisation is that government regulation will keep it out of children’s hands – like alcohol and tobacco. It’s a transparently absurd argument to anyone who’s attended Canadian high school any time in the past half century. Because Canadian high school kids don’t have access to alcohol and tobacco.

Similarities to Prohibition debate

Did Prohibition Really Work? Alcohol Prohibition as a Public Health Innovation
Jack S. Blocker, Jr, American Journal of Public Health February 2006

Actually, Prohibition Was a Success
Mark H. Moore, New York Times October 16, 1989

 

Categories
Civil liberties Human rights Justice

The sorry state of Canadian civil liberties: Quebec police hit cyclist, run him over, twice, killing him… for going wrong-way on one-way

Guy Blouin ID’d as cyclist run over by Quebec City police car
Witness says he saw cruiser run over man twice; bicycle and police car moved from scene by officers
CBC News, September 4, 2014

Can’t wait to read about how the officers got away without murder charges, on account they couldn’t reasonably have foreseen that running over a human being, twice, with a police cruiser, could kill them.

You can be sure their union, the Police Brotherhood, will do its utmost to see to it these thugs not only get away with murder, but that they don’t even lose their jobs, if a day’s pay. Remember that the next time you see one of these camo-pantsed fools protesting.

Update 10/09/2014

The story’s made it to VICE magazine

A recent cop-related fatality has revealed the flaws in Quebec’s police review system
Simon Van Vliet, VICE  September 10, 2014

To paraphrase Johnnie Cochrane (of O.J. trial fame): “Who police the police?” As VICE points out, in Quebec, the police police the police. And apparently, they have a hard time finding fault with themselves:

Over the past 15 years, there have been on average 30 people a year who died or were seriously injured in police operations in Quebec. Police-led investigations have resulted in accusations against police officers in less than one percent of cases.

Categories
Aboriginal - First Nations Accountability Civil liberties Justice Race and ethnicity

The sorry state of Canadian civil liberties: Hate crime up, race primary motive

Canada_injustice

Hate crimes in Canada: Most violent against gays, black people most targeted racial group
Craig Takeuchi, straight.com June 27, 2014

The referenced StatsCan release. As the article notes, the majority of all police-reported hate crimes (704 incidents, or 52 percent) were racially or ethnically motivated. Yet, remarkably, the few stories published focused on sexual orientation, a far less frequent motive (185 incidents, or 13%), albeit one involving greater incidence of violence.

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Aboriginal - First Nations Accountability Civil liberties Justice Race and ethnicity

The sorry state of Canadian civil liberties: Defining away ‘diversity’

peter-mckay_mph

Photo above appears to be from The Canadian Press (original source unknown). The white rubber wristband federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay appears to wear is interesting. It’s popularly associated with the Make Poverty History campaign. Among the issues discussed by the Canadian MPH campaign is homeless veterans – interesting, given the accompanying Support Our Troops lapel pin.

Cynical symbology is a useful segue to the latest scandal Mr. MacKay finds himself facing, over a Mother’s Day greeting / supposedly sexist quip about female judges. Its absurdity was recently highlighted by an exchange of open letters between a columnist and his wife.

What the beleaguered Justice Minister wrote or said is secondary to his (can’t stress this point often enough) as well as previous Canadian governments’ policy decisions and resulting outcomes. And those outcomes are far worse for racial / ethno-cultural minorities than for women. Which begs the question(s): When/why/how did ‘diversity’ in judicial appointments become exclusively associated with female nominees, especially when the imbalance is many times greater for racial and other actual minority groups?

Categories
Accountability Justice Transparency

‘Broken Trust’ in Canadian justice system goes beyond lawyers’ criminality

Law Society of Upper Canada

Project: Broken Trust
Kenyon Wallace, Rachel Mendleson, Dale Brazao, Andrew Bailey, The Toronto Star May 2014

The law society is responsible for regulating Ontario’s 46,000 lawyers and 5,000 licensed paralegals… Of the approximately 4,700 complaints received annually, about 3,100 are authorized for full investigation. About 100 make it to a disciplinary hearing each year… 236 lawyers were disciplined by the law society for behaviour the Star characterized as criminal-like. Of those, 41 were charged criminally… 12 served time in jail…

Amount of client money these lawyers were responsible for misusing by stealing, defrauding, failing to account, overdrawing, improperly dispersing and other law society classifications, as found by the Star: $61,457,642

236 lawyers, $61.5 Million stolen – and those are just the ones against whom complaints were filed and disciplinary action was taken. The first story in the series gives an example: a defrauded client who had to pay $50,000 in legal fees to recover a $90,000 claim from the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC). Given that it takes more than a bit of time, effort, and financial security to file a complaint against a lawyer, that 1:10 complaint-to-lawyer ratio along with the total funds stolen by Ontario lawyers is likely the tip of the iceberg. That LSUC lawyers are more likely to become judges could help explain the dismal state of the Canadian justice system.

Categories
Aboriginal - First Nations Civil liberties Justice Poverty Race and ethnicity

The sorry state of Canadian civil liberties: ‘Hurricane’ passes as his adopted country regresses

Rubin-Carter-0421

 Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter dead at 76: Former professional boxer became an advocate for the wrongly convicted
Mark Gollom, CBC News Apr 20, 2014

The extensive record clearly demonstrates that the petitioners’ convictions were predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure.

Wrongful Convictions in Canada (PDF)
Kent Roach, University of Cincinnati Law Review 2012

… the Canadian experience is of interest because in recent years an increasing number of wrongful convictions arising from guilty pleas have been discovered. This phenomenon suggests that the unknown number of wrongful convictions may be much larger than many have appreciated. In other words, wrongful convictions may result not only from contested trials, but from the majority of cases in which accused plead guilty…

How many wrongful convictions in Canada are never detected? Even if the error rate resulting in wrongful convictions in Canada was exceedingly small, there may be large numbers of undiscovered  wrongful convictions, given that about 90,000 criminal court cases result in a person being sentenced to custody in Canada each year. An error rate of only 0.5% would result in approximately 450 wrongful convictions a year

Two-thirds of cases in adult criminal court result in  convictions on the basis of guilty pleas, but given the recent evidence of  innocent people making both irrational and rational decisions to plead guilty, it cannot be assumed that all those in Canada who plead guilty  actually are guilty. The prosecution terminates most of the remaining third of criminal cases. Only 3% of cases result in an acquittalsuggesting that criminal trials only reject a very small percentage of all prosecutions.

That ‘error’ rate is not only 0.5%. And those ‘errors’ tend to overwhelmingly accrue against socio-economically disadvantaged Canadians: Aboriginal / First Nations, visible minorities and low-income individuals. That they’re also far more likely to be charged and denied due process is just another unfortunate ‘error’. Or not.

It would seem the vast majority (2/3) of criminally accused are pleading guilty as they perceive little chance of receiving a fair trial. That a statistically insignificant (3%) share of Canadian criminal cases result in acquittal underscores that in Canada – despite efforts to portray the country as progressive, governed by the rule of law and due process, without prejudice – an accused is not just de jure ‘guilty until proven innocent’, but de facto guilty.

On the bright side, at least Canada doesn’t have the death penalty… yet.

And the Canadian government wonders why it has no credibility when it criticises other nations’ human rights records…

Categories
Accountability Governance Justice Transparency

Federal budget 2014: “If the critics of the government are terrorist organizations…”

jim-flaherty_ibn-gazma

Jim Flaherty says budget 2014 will crack down on money laundering
Federal finance minister says measures will be announced in Tuesday’s budget
The Canadian Press, February 7, 2014

It’s been argued the current federal government’s been particularly partisan with its budget announcements. Rightfully, critics point to the increasingly onerous ‘omnibus’ budgets laden with public policies that simply don’t belong in a budget bill – in the process denying Parliament the opportunity to properly vette and debate those policies.

Those same critics conveniently overlook the hyper-partisan, perpetual politicking that’s come to characterise an increasing number of Western so-called democratic governments today.  It’s gotten to the point where, in a hocus-pocus move to at once fabricate a balanced budget and stifle debate,  apparently Finance has taken to announcing spending on one page while anticipating not making use of the same expenditure allocation on another. All Canadians suffer from such political chicanery.

The latest twist, quoted in the title, is probably the most disturbing yet. The absurd notion that the budget will be yet another vehicle to crack down on the ever-illusive terrorist threat is something else. Who gets to decide If and which critics are terrorists exactly? Well, the government, natch. It’s a transparent ploy to silence dissent, effectively undermining any pretense of democracy.