Pandering

Under the cloak of COVID, while monies are raining down from on high, the Canadian government has decided that this is an opportune time to pander to the select groups who hold the Federal Liberals dear to their socially active and political hearts. Their slobbering self interest doesn’t seem to know any bounds and it is certainly not constrained by any concern for budget. 

Is it all aimed at a near future election call by the Liberals? Most likely. Is it cynical, opportunistic and ethically questionable? Yes it is. Do their actions have any merit? Possibly, but it would be difficult to measure. However, their motivations are obvious. 

On February 19th of this year, in a single day, the Prime Minister announced three items with that somber voice designed to instil righteousness and clearly aimed at those of us with Grade 8 education levels.  

The first, which is economically debatable but politically obvious, was the extension of the CERB benefits for an additional 12 weeks. Sick benefits were extended as was Employment Insurance for a cumulative total of 54 weeks. The pros and cons of doing this is one for the economists to debate. Clearly though, the handing out of funds never seems to engender any liberal or social antipathy and Mr. Trudeau seems to relish the daily ritual coverage of the doling out of monies, as he guides us to health and prosperity and implores us to save lives.

The second announcement was the re-tooling of the Official Languages Act, which Mr. Trudeau described as legislation to further enhance that “beautiful french language”. In this “modernization” of the Languages Act  as presented by Ms.Joly (a rumoured “favourite” of Mr. Trudeau) should raise some concern and debate; although admittedly no one seems to be paying close attention to an Act to do with languages. It seems like strange timing in terms of priority, until you read what the changes entail. The Bloc Quebecois and the NDP who are currently supporting the minority Liberals must be aware that Mr. Trudeau is preparing to try and pull the rug out from under them— by usurping their claim as being a better representative of the people of Quebec. 

The first amendment is to Section 83 —which states that “nothing in the Act abrogates or derogates from the rights of other languages, by explicitly mentioning Indigenous languages”.  This is lawyer inspired convoluted language but the intended results are that Nunavut and the North West Territories will officially recognize English, French and “indigenous languages as official languages”.  Surprisingly, little fanfare to announce that Canada has another “official” language? It may also seem trite but compliance to this could have profound effect on the courts and the providing of government services.

Also in this Languages Act the government is proposing to “encourage” further funding for french immersion across the country– including the hiring of more french immersion teachers, and even stream lining a “Francophone immigration corridor”. All this to aid them in their search for French speaking teachers outside of Quebec. 

No matter how meritorious this promotion of the french culture and language it is coming at a time when French as a language and culture is dwindling. Using their own statistics, the francophone population outside of Quebec in 1971 was 6.6%. It was 3.9% in 2011 and is anticipated to be at 3.0% by 2036.  One has to question whether an “immersed” Canada outside of Quebec is a relevant and achievable goal. The Liberals clearly think so, but they are likely more concerned in how it will “play” in Quebec. 

Finally, since 2016 the Government of Canada has been “committed” to appointing “only functioning bilingual judges to the Supreme Court of Canada”. However, there was an exception clause in the act under Section 16(1) which was purposefully placed there in consideration of the need for geographic representation on the courts and a possible lack of bilingual judges in the unilingual West. The Liberals are now going to remove this exemption, so that all will have to be fluently bilingual to serve on the highest court in the land. This could have a direct impact on the makeup of this highest court, more francophone than representative.

As an oblique aside, the Government says that “it will be necessary to keep in mind the importance of representativeness of Indigenous peoples in the highest institutions of our country….”. They then direct the Government to “actively envision the appointment of Indigenous judges to the Supreme Court of Canada”.  One has to admire the “actively envision” language as camouflage for a direct order.

Which brings us to the the third announcement of this busy day.

It pertained to Bill C-22, which is to deal with the “Mandatory Minimal Penalties (MMP) as outlined in the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.  They are announcing changes to the fourteen offences in the Criminal Code and six in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Why? If you follow this Liberal government you probably have already guessed. Because, minimum sentences “targets black, indigenous and racialized communities”. 

Their blatantly stated goal is to bring down the numbers of the Federally incarcerated who are there due to “systemic discrimination and racism” and a system which they believe punishes “black and indigenous people”.   Mr. Lametti seems to want us to believe that this “over representation” was some form of pointed racist selection process, not the result of persons having committed the crimes.

The statistics are bold and clear.

 From 2007-2017 they argue “black and indigenous were more likely to be admitted to federal custody for an offence punishable by a MMP”.  Although only 5% of the population is indigenous, they make up 30% of the Federal inmate population; blacks represent 3 % of the population but represent 7.2% of the incarcerated. The answer, according to the social progressives, is not to try and stem the crime by fighting the obvious crime instigators like poverty and unemployment in these communities. Their solution, if parties are caught in a criminal offence, is to promote “judicial discretion”. They are directing Judges that they “must take into consideration the individual and their experience with systemic racism”. 

They will even be funding $28 million to “social contracts training” for  Judges in case they are missing the message. 

Is there evidence that mandatory sentencing doesn’t work? Yes, but there is also evidence that it does work, so this reformation is not necessarily based on the evidence— what it is based on is playing to a certain minority.  

In 2008 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that minimum sentencing was constitutional but maybe not an “appropriate response” to Section 12 of the Charter which deals with cruel and unusual punishment. 

The pros of minimum sentencing point out that it eliminates disparity, provides consistency, and avoids Judge shopping. If one holds that the law should reflect the peoples wishes, in 2005 —74% of Canadians felt that sentencing was too lenient. It should be remembered that the minimum sentencing was brought into effect under the dreaded Stephen Harper Conservative government in response to Canadians and their complaints about the lack of justice. 

But none of this seems to have been the motivating factor for Justice Minister Lametti. What may be more relevant is that the multi-party “black caucus” issued a call to action  and “demanded the elimination of mandatory minimums”. Mr. Lametti a signatory to this document.  

There is little doubt that Mr. Lametti has been emboldened and given comfort by the courts, which are allowing him to play to the minority audience. 

In 2016 in R vs Lloyd, when dealing with some drug offences, the court thought that the drug offences and sentencing for them did not take into account “indigenous heritage and the impact of colonialism”.  In R vs Gladue the Judges said that a different “analysis and approach is required by Judges when sentencing aboriginal offenders and that “imprisonment is a less appropriate or less useful sanction”.  

Far be it for this writer to be in disagreement with the learned judges of the Supreme Court of Canada. They are a distinguished group of scholars, but their voting records seem to have a very natural lean to the left. Mr. Lametti and the Liberals are also playing in the Biden band and trumpeting whatever is currently playing in the North American media. The riotous Trump entourage is now thankfully gone but we now have the Trudeau and Biden love-in which could prove equally destructive and divisive with its approach to social issues, or rather its dogmatic adherence to Twitter driven policies.

Having lived most of my life in the criminal world, the positions of this Liberal government when it comes to crime and minority rights, seems at times completely ludicrous. We have been traveling down this left branch of the victim road for an interminable many years now. One has to wonder and ask that with each further step— are we getting any closer to some ill-defined justice utopia ? By creating different classes of criminals with different levels of personal and cultural responsibility are we moving towards justice and fair and equal treatment, or away from it? 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that the definition of justice is a concept on ethics and law “that means people behave in a way that is fair, equal and balanced for everyone”. Minimum sentencing seems to fit that definition whereas the policy of Mr. Lametti feels that the principal of proportionality applies and one should allow for “the role of the social context”, which seems counter-intuitive.

The symbolic scales held by the Roman Lady of Justitia symbolizes giving fair and objective consideration to all evidence, without showing bias one way or the other. Mr. Lametti and his Liberal colleagues are unhesitatingly standing on those scales and even trying to influence who hold those scales. They are brazen in their efforts, choosing a time when debate and accountability have been Zoomed out.

The fifth estate have been completely coopted by the the social agenda, content to just count the number of COVID cases and their variants. To them, application of justice, or the breach of charter and constitutional rights are far less interesting than Oprah, Harry, and Meaghan. The pablum of celebrity successfully diverting us from worthy debate on issues of importance; and, that is what the Liberals are counting on.

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey via Flickr Creative Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Freedom and the Battle with Public Safety

As a person who once wore blue— it was often drummed into our cerebellum that civil libertarians were the devil; and if not the devil, then they were doing the devils work. 

So I am approaching this well established policing tenet with some trepidation. Somewhat shockingly, I have found myself in agreement with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (The Pivot Legal Society still remains way outside my new found conversion) This dark metamorphosis has come to me parallel with an over-riding feeling that we Canadians have become sheep.  We are following an eager and willing governmental shepherd –as we traverse the rolling hills of Covid.   

Our Liberal shepherds seemingly believe and voice in convincing fashion that they are part of the greater and principled good. Their stated goal is to insure that none of us fall into harms way, they are protecting us from ourselves. Our once personal decisions have now been taken over by an all knowing government, only they in a position to know what is right and guide us. To save us in their crusade, they are clearly willing to subjugate the many for the sake of the few. They are so convinced of their noble-mindedness that there is no apparent need for any evidence or justification.  Every question is met with a perfunctory rejoinder: “public safety”.

We, the unwashed masses, in return, have become wilfully blind to the trampling of our rights and freedoms. Seemingly ignorant as to the cost of that blindness. 

The “public safety” chorus is being used as a societal hammer to nail down those non-believers, the heretics who question any or all of the protocols. To question is to be labelled un-educated, selfish, or as one local media personality called those that dare to be contrary, the “knuckle draggers”. 

The strange symbolic flag of this righteous cause has become a cloth item that fits over the ears. Remember, it is not protecting you, it is protecting them from you. A grandiose symbol that conjures up fits of love or rage—ironically produced for a few pennies mainly in a communist China. 

The “health” ordered rules have led to police identification checks, roadblocks, warrantless searches and arrests. In the last few weeks there has been a hue and cry for increased charges and allusions to possible jail time. The ever changing restrictions, rules, regulations and creation of  anonymous tip lines are supported by the exhortation that the  government is “standing with us”. 

They deflect accountability, either financially or administratively with the axiom that they are only following the “science.” The fact every Province is gathering the science and interpreting that “science” differently seems to be lost to the many. Doctors can be found on every side of the issue, doctors signing letters to have children get back to school, other doctors insisting that they are kept away. Leaders hide behind the un-elected health officials when there is any sign of push back. 

 The right to life, liberty and security as enshrined under Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been pushed aside by medical mandates designed primarily to save an encumbered and clearly inadequate health care system. But the most mystifying element is how quickly the populace fell into acquiescence. Are we so complacent in our freedoms that the removal of them is met with a shrug of the shoulders. 

Did anyone foresee that it would be a flu virus that would lead to the subjugation of basic human rights in this country? A flu virus that would cause people to turn onto each other —willing to report often minor contraventions of a health order, yelling on Twitter for the jailing of their fellow citizens for gathering in a group of more than a totally subjective pre-determined few. 

Some of the more restrictive covenants have come out of the Maritimes. Newfoundland recently  placed an almost outright travel ban, completely contrary to the mobility rights outlined by Section 6 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The CCLA decided that this was finally enough to act and brought the matter to court. They lost that case when Justice Burrage of the Newfoundland Supreme Court felt that it had been justified in the “name of public health”. (The CCLA is appealing.)

In Prince Edward Island after the revealing of four (4) new cases began closing gyms and dining rooms. There was a total of fourteen (14) cases at that time in the entire Province, which has a population of 157,000 people. That is a percentage of 0.00891%. They argued that they were being “precautionary”; the CCLA counters that in “terms of civil liberties..proportionality should trump precautionary”. 

The irresponsible media continues to fuel a rather perverse fear that non-compliance was associated with quick death. This continual marketing of fear in search of life giving headlines has played a massive role in the public acceptance of these ever increasing freedom restrictions. 

Doom scrolling has become a thing. Children afraid to leave their house, visit their friends. Suicide rates doubling, unbridled mental health issues, the education system put on hold, elective surgeries postponed possibly for years, unemployment the highest since the depression, and businesses collapsing. 

This is not to say that there was indeed a segment of the population, the elderly and the enfeebled, who with often numerous frailties would clearly be put in a struggle to survive if exposed to this particular flu variant. A drastic curtailing of those that were allowed to be near or intermingle with the vulnerable, seems more plausible and therefore more justifiable in these instances. 

For the others in society the presented justifications require a real stretching of the imagination. It is also become increasingly apparent that the battle against Covid is being waged by only 20% of the population. A large segment of the population remain unaffected. They didn’t see their income decrease, they did not lose their jobs, they were not forced to work in possible contamination. The responsibility for this fight against the virus has fallen directly on the most vulnerable and the financial underclass in Canada. The immigrant factory worker in the meat processing plant must get the product undisturbed to those of us trying out some new recipes at home. 

The mandarins making up the fight and speaking from the pulpit have not been touched by the virus in general terms. They speak to us from on high, above the tidal waters, above the possibility of drowning. The governor of California out with a group at the “French Laundry” restaurant, the Ontario finance Minister vacationing out of the country, the Kingston public servant raising a glass of cheer on her boat during the summer, another day off thanks to virus. School in, school out. Tickets to six persons playing poker, or to people not of the same residence having dinner together. 

In the news today, the clinics for the vaccine closed for the weekend in Ontario. Its a crisis for some, not for a lot of the others. It is easy to tell other people to conform, it is easy to be in the right, if the impinging on those rights does not have a palatable and economic effect on your personal circumstances. 

So with all these vagaries of cause and effect can we justify the breaching of our constitutional rights? Can we forego Section 2 which declares our fundamental freedoms of belief, expression, peaceful assembly and freedom of association? Can we forego Section 6 which encapsulates our mobility rights, the right to enter, remain and leave Canada, and the ability to move and take up residence in any Province? It is a fundamental question as to whether we should be trusting the government to make those decisions for us. Ask the people in Hong Kong.

As the years have gone by I have found myself moving from the left side of the political spectrum to the centre right; more libertarian, now wavering in my belief that the government had to play a significant role in our lives. My outlook is less philosophical and more practical, based almost exclusively on decades of observation rather then on some natural political bend in philosophy. 

Government just doesn’t do things well in many instances. This isn’t conspiratorial, this isn’t for lack of effort by sometimes well meaning government employees, but more a matter of structural logistics. (The RCMP in its current form is clear cut proof of a too big, often illogical and structurally inert governmental institution; able to see the problem, but just not capable of doing anything about it. ) The current rollout of the vaccine seems to be hell bent on proving this to be true. 

There are some instances when public safety could or may invoke restrictions on the right to life and liberty. But, at the same time, there needs to be justification with compelling and testable evidence of any governmental action. Any constriction of fundamental human rights needs to be seriously examined. It can not be based solely on possibilities. Most importantly it has to be proportional to the cause. (The latest stats: 1.625% of the population of Canada has contracted Covid—85 % of those have recovered; so 1.3% of the 1.6% have recovered. Currently there are 0.24% of the population with active Covid)

Where does this leave the police? It needs to be learned that discretion in law enforcement is always a fundamental determinant of policing.  The larger the discretionary factor in terms of law applicability, the more the difficult and subjective the job for the police. When you put in place ever-changing and questionable rules and regulations, enforcement becomes dangerous territory. The value of a police force is measured in its level of credibility and its demonstrated integrity. Moral and ethical reputation is crucial to the policing life-blood.

The arbitrary or discretionary use of force and rule applications has to be seen as consistent, practical, and effective. Otherwise, you are open to ridicule and cynicism, neither of which will be helpful when it comes to enforcing the laws. The inconsistencies in the health orders and proclamations are too numerous to mention. Should you be able to outlaw dining outside in a public space, or to attend church services, or to go to another Province, while at the same time allowing NHL hockey teams to gather in their local hockey rink, or wave the need for Blue Jays officials to quarantine or deeming liquor and cannabis stores as essential. 

 It is getting harder and harder to understand and believe in this all being a rational exercise. The din of apoplectic  doctors wanting more and more infringements of your rights in an effort to save their Intensive care units seems endless. Those same ICU units, which according to the authorities have been on the “brink” of collapse, every day, day in and day out for the last six months. 

We need to take some time, to pause and consider the obvious stomping on the Canadian Constitution which is now underway. For some it is their economic livelihood and ability to care for their families which is at stake, for others it is their mental and physical health and ability to carry on. For all of us it is our personal freedom. No one should like the direction this country is going in terms of human rights and the arbitrary and the often counter-intuitive enforcement of its laws. 

Somewhat apropos Benjamin Franklin said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”. Or if you would like something a little closer to our Canadian home, Pierre Trudeau said “I remember thinking that walking on the beach as a free man is pretty desirable”. 

Photo Courtesy of Edna Witni via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved