According to Metro the conservatives are planning on cutting youth rehabilitation programs by 20% starting in April of 2013. I can’t say that I am surprised given this government’s previous passed, and planned legislation in regards to criminal justice. This year when the federal budget came out the justice department was told it needed to find and slash $60 million in next years budget. By reducing spending on the youth of this country they will save $36 million (or over half of what they were told to save). If we have to cut $60 million from our justice department, why not cut it from youth? It’s not like youth are still easily influenced, and can still be fixed. Oh wait…
So, as my picture to the right suggests I am going to tell you why this is a load of bullshit. The first reasons is simply science. Youth’s brains are still developing, and therefore they can be shaped, moulded, and helped. In other words: youth are not a lost cause unless you make them so. The federal government currently has three components: a main fund, drugs, and gangs/violence. According to the metro last year:
It spent money on measures to target violent young offenders, to rehabilitate and reintegrate youth in trouble with the law, to deal with less serious types of offences outside the formal court process. It also funded pilot projects, helped train justice professionals and youth service providers and paid for research on the youth justice system.
As I already said youth are still developing. At 27 I am not the same person I was at 16, or 12. My values and beliefs have drastically changed. I came into my own person as a result of a variety of variables. Both environmental, and biological. The nature versus nurture debate if you will. If you have a youth that has got caught up in drugs, or gangs this doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be, or will be their future. It makes more sense to target these problems by rehabilitating, and reintegrating youth into our society, rather then take the write off approach.
So, logically speaking, this means if these types of rehabilitation programs are scrapped, cut, or poorly funded these kids will either end up in jail, or they will simply not get the help they need, due to poorly funded programs. With an end result of ultimately ending up exactly where they started. This leads me to the second reason: money. In the grand scheme of things it will cost us Canadians less to rehabilitate a youth offender than it would if the youth offender ended up getting stuck in the revolving door of Canadian prisons. Actually, it would cost us less even if the youth offender only ended up in prison for a couple years out of their whole life. about $140,000 less. It would only cost us around $10,000 a year/youth to run these programs. However, it would cost us somewhere around $150,000 a year to house them in prison. If they can be kept out of prison, and shaped into a productive member of society why the hell would I want to spend the money it would cost to keep them in prison? It just doesn’t make any sense. Hmmm let us think about this. Rehabilitate the youth who could potentially be a doctor, lawyer, trades person, vet, or any number of things, or stick them in prison and run the risk of creating a career criminal. I don’t know about you, but this seems like a no brainer to me.
Logically the place to save money would be to not have to build, and staff more prisons for faulty minimum mandatory legislation that will cost us billions of dollars while doing nothing to deter crime. Similar laws in the United States has left the state of California facing, the release of thousands of prisoners, turning away those who have been sentenced (sending the message that they can do whatever they want *cough* Lindsey Lohan *cough*) and facing bankruptcy. If the Harper government thinks Canada is immune to these problems they are more naive then I previously thought.
Once again, the government is making drastic changes to our criminal justice system without consulting any experts, and blatantly disregarding statistics, and that thing we like to call math. If anything the government should be increasing dollars to rehabilitation programs, especially when it comes to the youth of this country, and cutting their spending on useless laws that won’t actually succeed in doing what they want it to do. Despite what this government would like you to believe, they are the definition of epic fail when it comes to crime policy. When is the next election again?
Welcome to Alberta, where you are presumed guilty until found innocent. Where police, and prosecutors can decide your sentence via the charge they will administer. Yup, starting July 1, 2012 you will be found guilty during a road side breathalyser test, by an Alberta law enforcement agent, if you blow over .05. criminal charges placed when you blow .08 and above. Meaning, you will be guilty, until proven innocent. No longer will the onus be on the prosecutor to prove you are guilty. The onus will be on you to prove you are innocent (good luck with that).
Personally, I don’t drink and drive period. Even if I have one, this is because I know my body can’t handle it and although my blood alcohol level might only be .02 I am still in no condition to drive. So the law makes no difference to me personally. I am also all for getting drunk drivers off our streets. However, in this country the last time I checked people are innocent until proven guilty, at least in a court of law- in the court of media this is a different story. However, under this new law brought forth in Alberta you are guilty until proven innocent. That is, the police, and RCMP, can immediately take away your driver’s license, and impound your vehicle. Not just for a set amount of time but until the charges have been cleared up! In other words, the police officer is judge, and jury. This means that you will be without a car until your case is cleared in court. Anyone who knows anything about our justice system should have alarm bells going off here. What happens if a person needs their vehicle for work? Without it they loose their job based on an alleged DUI- that could take the courts over a year to prove. In fact, 12-18 months is the average. Alternatively what if the person is found innocent in a court of law after all. We have now taken their vehicle away, cost them their job (and probably other jobs in the same field), based on guilty until proven innocent. This doesn’t sit right with me.
The government say that they are not targeting those who have the occasional drink with dinner. But given the stiffer penalties for a blood alcohol level of .05-.07 (which btw is not illegal) social drinkers could be targeted. And given that breathalyser have continuously been under scrutiny in regards to reliability, I would be concerned about having a glass of wine and getting behind the wheel. Breathalysers are not a perfect science, they are still technology. Errors with the technology could occur under any of the following circumstances:
- The skill and experience of the tester (in other words new police officers that aren’t familiar with the technology)
- Quality of the equipment used (is it old? Properly kept?)
- Were you exposed to paint fumes, or gasoline? This could cause false blood readings (at least according to the US supreme court)
- The temperature the equipment is kept at (think Calgary, mid December, equipment thrown into the back of police vehicles for 12 hour shifts)
- Calibration of machine
- Recent consumption of alcohol. False readings have been known to occur if someone has drank alcohol within a 15 minute period and then been breathalysed.
In other words erros may be magnified if police do not follow proper procedures, such as calibrating the machine correctly, testing, and environmental factors.
Some have argued that since BC brought in similar laws to this one, a year ago, that drunk driving has decreased 40% (in other words the deterrent is working). Unfortunately, this stat doesn’t take into account that drunk driving has steadily been decreasing in the last decade due to alternative attitudes to drinking. It also doesn’t take into account that this is one of those things you can measure in a year. To see if this law has a real effect they must do a longitudinal study on the data.
Seems to me that other things could be done to catch more drunk drivers. For example, more check stops. I know people that haven’t been through check stops in Calgary in 10+ years. These types of programs are underfunded. Personally, I have been through check stops and the police only, in my experience, mostly just pull over those who appear to be under 30. Because you know, those over 30 never drink and drive. Not to mention check stops are seasonal. They are mainly present between mid Nov-Mid January, and again July-Aug. The rest of the year you never see them, and you definitely don’t hear about them. Maybe let’s fund these programs instead of spending more money on more useless legislation. But alas, useless legislation that violates rights seems to be the Canadian way lately.
Here are some details on the law:
Starting July 1, 2012
Starting September 1, 2012
Starting July 1, 2012
**It is important to know you are entitled to a second test on another device at the scene. And you can also request to be taken to the station to receive a more accurate test**
This law comes into effect July 1, 2012.
Other links to check out
Update: April 26 3:11 pm: PM Harper has told CBC new that he will not be supporting this motion brought forth to reopen the debate on when life begins. He says that he can’t stop the motion from being tabled, but that he will not be voting in favour of it. According to CBC this will go up for vote either in June, or September. Let your MP know that it is unacceptable for them to be making decisions about your reproductive system! Thursday April 26 9:00 am: The Liberal party of Canada has started a petition to tell the Harper government to keep their hands off our reproductive rights. __________ According to CBC a motion has been put forth by a conservative MP, Stephen Woodworth, wanting to reopen the debate on when life begins. Despite Harper saying numerous times that his government would not reopen the debate. The government is allowing this one hour of debate in the house of commons tomorrow then it will head to the bottom of the pile. Once they come back around it will be allowed another hour of debate. This is a slippery slope to say the least. Right now the US is in a contraceptive debate of its own. The personhood movement has been strong in the US prompting huge political figures to back motions that would not only make abortions illegal, but also make some birth control illegal. Now personhood has a Canadian counterpart found here . This is some scary stuff. Every time I turn around, some old white guy is trying to legislate my body. Some MPs are saying they want to consult their constituents before doing anything. Others are calling for all parties to allow for free “conscience” votes. So I urge everyone to contact your MPs and stand up for a woman’s reproductive rights. MP Jason Kenney was among those that told CBC he would be consulting his constituents today. Well Mr. Kenney I am one of those, and I urge you to do what your government said it would and not reopen this. My reproductive system is my own. A woman’s body is her own. And frankly I believe that people need to make their own moral choices, and the government needs to stay out of it. If this government is true to its word it will shut this down. “we will not be reopening this debate”- PM Harper This is one debate I’m going to be watching closely. I just can’t help but wonder why it is that old white men keep trying to get all up in my reproductive system.
Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything else to title this blog post. The public safety minister, Vic Toews, might actually be a moron. Today the minister announced that Kingston prison will be closing. As someone who is familiar with the justice system, the announcement to close Kingston comes as no surprise to me. Towes was quotes as telling the media:
Institutions built in the 19th century are not appropriate for managing a 21st century inmate population,The time has come to recognize its crumbling infrastructure, costly upkeep and severe limitations in effectively managing a population of maximum security male offenders, and in the case of Leclerc Institution, medium-security offenders.
This should be of no surprise to Canadians either as Kingston was constructed in 1833-1834. I could get into the back and forth about whether or not the open prison concept is good or bad for corrections. The crumbling infrastructure in Kingston, the dangerous area’s that exist, or the potential for violence etc. This is an on going debate in criminology, as well as between correctional workers. What I want to talk about is the next arguement Toews made for closing this facility:
Despite tough new law-and-order legislation many thought would result in a spike in the prison population, Toews argued the projected increase never materialized.
Toews is not referring to the Safer Streets and Communities Act (AKA- Bill C-10, Omnibus Crime Bill) he is refering to the increase that was expected with the “The Truth In Sentencing Act”. If you are unfamilar with this one, it passed last year and took away the two days for every day served in remand. Meaning that those people who could not get bail would no longer
receive time off their potential sentence for awaiting trial in a remand centre. Basically what Toews is arguing here is that everyone was wrong about the prison population increasing because it hasn’t happened yet due to legislation that was passed less then one year ago? In addition to this Tows took to Twitter to discuss it some more tweeting:
Opposition claims $19 billion price tags for new prisons. In reality we are saving $120 millions by closing needless prisons” and “we aren’t creating new prisoners- just closing revolving door of the legal system
I have several problems with these claims. First, you can’t say that new legislation is not increasing your prison population one year after you introduce it. Why you ask? The answer really is a simple one. Because the justice system doesn’t work that way. Justice is slow and there is no way we have prosecuted enough people under the Truth in Sentencing Act to truly measure the effects it will have on our prison population. Second, it is not just one policy that the problem lays with. It is the combination of new policy that is the problem. In particular is the minimum mandatory sentencing legislation. That only passed the senate on March 12 of this year. There is no way that we will see the effects of all this new legislation for at least 5 years.
To know that these policies will have dire unintended consequences all we have to do is look at the sorry state of the American justice system. California has been ordered by the US supreme court to release 30,000 prisoners, they are on the verge of bankruptsy, and they are currently trying to pass legislation that will ease up on certain drug laws (such as possession of cannabis). Meanwhile in Texas they are closing down prisons, and introducing new rehabilitative approaches to crime in order to curb their own problems that emerged as a result of the same types of legislation. Texas has also come out to warn Canada against Bills such as C-10 warning that it will only cost billions, and won’t do a thing to deter, or reduce crime.
With the introduction of all the minimum mandatory sentences in Bill C-10 that will bring Canada from 29 MMS’s to over 60. You can’t introduce such legislation and not expect a spike in your prison population, and a back log of court cases in your justice system.
A new report just released by the University of Toronto encourages the cities to consider building safe injection sites similar to the one currently operating in Vancouver. Advocates for safe injection sites argue that they save lives, reduce sharing of needles and other equipment, prevent the spread of diseases such as HIV, produces reduction in public injecting, neighbourhood litter (of needles), provides a safe disposal for needles, and that they increase access to treatment for people who are marginalized. Critics argue that the sites encourage drug use, and that the money spent on such facilities would be better used for drug treatment centres.
These arguments critics come up with are a common misconception about the safe injection sites in Canada. They are not simply places for people to go so they can just shoot up. Before they are allowed to shoot up they must speak to nurses, and health care professionals about the potential risks of the drugs they are using, they must address their mental health issues with a counsellor, and they receive information on drug rehab centres in their areas.
There were six reccomendations provided in the report about establishing these safe injection sites:
- Both Toronto and Ottawa would Benefit from Implementation of Supervised Injection Facilities.
- The Optimal Model for a Supervised Injection Facility is a Fixed Facility that is Integratedwithin an Existing Organization
- A Strong Evaluation Plan is anEssential Component of anyImplementation Plan.
- There is Insufficiency Evidence toSupport a Recommendation toImplement a Supervised Smoking Facility
- A Supervised Injection Facilityshould have Clearly Established Rules.
- The Process to Establisha Supervised InjectionFacility Should be Part of aComprehensive Drug Strategy
All of this said, it will be much harder to set up such a site in Toronto, and Ottawa. In Vancouver drug use is pretty much contained to the east side and as such the centre went up on the east side. However, in Toronto and Ottawa drug use is spread out and not as contained therefore advocates will undoubtedly run into the NIMBY issue (not in my back yard), and even possibly the NOTE issue (Not Over There Either). This is because people are not going to want these safe injection sites anywhere near their neighbourhoods, or anywhere they might possibly go in the vicinity of one day.
Personally I think the push back to the safe injection sites shows the ignorance of some people. We’ve stigmatized drug use, and labelled the user as a criminal and therefore we, as a society, would be perfectly OK if they OD’d in a ditch, or back alley somewhere. But god forbid we set up a facility where they could go to safely get their fix, and possibly get into the appropriate drug rehab program.
Besides, I think it is pretty clear the war on drugs is an epic failure. If we can somehow contain the situation, reduce the risk of spreading disease, and help some addicts in the process why wouldn’t we have these sites? I mean you people do realize that alcohol is legal and causes just as many problems as drugs… right? And in regards to cannabis, I would argue that the consequences we see from alcohol is worse.
Think about this: a 2002 study, cited in the Safer Streets and Community Act (more commonly known as the omnibus bill, or Bill C-10) stated that substance abuse cost Canadians $39.8 billion. Tobacco accounted for $17 billion (42.7%), alcohol accounted for $14 billion (36.6%), illegal drugs for $8 billion (20.7%), health care costs amounted to $8.8 billion (22.1%), and the cost of law enforcement to deal with this was $5 billion (13.6%). So, illegal drugs cause half as many issues as Tobacco, and almost half as many issues as alcohol? Even if we legalized drugs, and had a 50% increase in drug related costs it would still be less then the amount of money tobacco costs us yearly? Interesting.
I encourage everyone to start doing some research on this issue before screaming about safe havens for ‘criminals’.
Remember back in September when I talked about this story on the legalization of prostitution debate going on in Canada? If not the gist was that sex trade workers argued last year that the laws, as they stand now, prevent them from working in doors or in their homes, and prevent them from properly screening clients before they leave with them. Possibly putting them in danger. In June of this year a 5 panel committee of judges heard the case as the federal government appealed the September 2010 ruling focusing heavily on the safety concerns sex workers had regarding the laws in place in Canada. The panel grilled the government lawyers on the issue of safety. The judges on the panel challenged the government lawyer, Michael Morris, telling him that they find it “hard to understand why it is not self evident that these provisions harm the ability to carry out prostitution safely.”On June 17, 2011 the panel ordered a stay on the provinces laws surrounding prostitution stating: “”The stay will remain in effect until we say something different.” A ruling from the supreme court is not expected until this fall.
After weeks of presenting arguments, back in June, by both sides the appeal court announced their decision at 11 am local time. So what did the courts decide? According to CBC news the court agreed with the majority of Himel’s rulings last year. This comes as no surprise given the line of questioning the government lawyer faced. First, that provisions prohibiting common bawdy houses are unconstitutional in the form they are currently in. Second, they also found that not allowing people to live off the avails of prostitution was also unconstitutional. However, they found that communication for the purposes of prostitution law is not in violation of women’s rights.
However, the judges also ruled that living off the avails of prostitution law will remain in effect for the next 30 days, and that the bawdy house laws will remain in effect for the next 12 months allowing the government of Canada to draft appropriate legislation.
This decision from the appeals court in Ontario will have an interesting effect on laws across Canada. I suspect that other provincial laws will start to be called into question in regards to sex work. Paving the way for a re-structuring of the laws in Canada. I can’t wait to see how the Harper government will handle this one!
So I keep sitting down to write this blog post, and every single time I just delete it, and sigh to myself as I realize that it would make no difference anyway. The bottom line is that the conservatives are going to do what the conservatives want to do, and they really don’t care what kind of consequences their actions could have, or what the Canadian people think of what they are doing.
But then I saw this article on the CBC website a few days ago (and have seen that since 3 other provinces have spoken out) and I thought maybe, just maybe there is a point to speaking out. So for those of you who have been living under a rock let me give you a run down of this new omnibus crime bill tabled by the Harper government (also know as the Safer Streets and Communities Act). There are roughly 9 key changes this bill would bring:
- The Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
- The Increasing Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act
- Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders Act
- The Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders Act
- The Increasing Offender Accountability Act
- The Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act
- The International Transfer of Canadian Offenders Back to Canada Act
- The Supporting Victims of Terrorism Act
- Protecting Vulnerable Foreign Nationals against Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation Act
To know that this bill is scary all we need to do is look to our neighbours to the south of us. States are coming close to bankruptcy, California has introduced a policy to release a tone of their non violent offenders. People are currently sitting in jail in Califorina, who has the toughest 3 strikes legislation to date, whose third strike was stealing a doughnut. Others, are sitting in prison for life with no history of violent crime. But they broke the law three times, and can no longer be trusted in society. Not surprisingly so, most of these people are non-white, or of lower socio economic status, but that’s a whole other post.
The federal government says that this bill will cost Canadian tax payers 78.6 Million dollars over the next 5 years. This is of course just their federal costs and doesn’t include the costs to the provinces or the 2 billion it will cost to build and operate new federal prisons to handle the increase in the population. It is also only an estimate and depends on how many people end up in jail due to the new laws. In other words its a shot in the dark, and criminologists argue a low estimate.
In Canada we do not have the 3 strikes law as in the USA but this type of crime bill that the conservative government is introducing is going to drastically increase our prison population, with the same results. Just by eliminating the 2 for 1 credit we will increase the population by 4000 inmate you add mandatory minimum sentencing into this mixture and you have a much larger prison population that needs to be housed and taken care of. Several provinces have come out against this bill and have demanded that the government help pay for it, or rethink the bill (Quebec, Ontario, Newfoundland, and Labrador) while others have expressed concern about money (BC and MB).
BC is particularly worried about this as they already face overcrowding in their jails and have had to let people go free due to a backlog in the courts. This could be a reality across Canada. Currently the justice system is already crunched. There aren’t any crown prosecutors being hired, and support staff has also been cut, and budget freezes is what most departments are facing. Currently our justice system handles 90% of cases either by dropping charges, or through plea negotiations. Only about 10% of cases actually go to trial. Well with people facing mandatory minimum sentences do you think that they will take a plea negotiation? Probably not. You are going to see an increase in people invoking their right to trial and yet the justice system doesn’t have the infrastructure right now to handle it. What will happen when the demand goes even higher?
When it comes right down to it these laws are bad for policing, and ultimately bad for our criminal justice system. You might now be sitting there wondering how it could possibly be bad for policing. It’s bad for a number of reasons. The main is man power. Police will be expected to enforce such new laws but budgets will not be increased to actually cope with such needs (similar to why you won’t see cops jumping out at you to catch you texting at a Red light) they won’t have the tools they need to actually do their jobs, and we’ll be spreading them even thinner then they already are.
Another thing that is rather odd in this bill is the proposed changed for youth crime. For starters they propose that youth 14 years or older should have stiffer penalties for their crimes. But the laws that already exist around this issue are enough as they already allow for crown prosecutors to apply to move these violent youth to adult court, and then if the judge finds it appropriate they move them to adult court and can face up to life in prison for their crimes. The other thing that the Harper government wants to do is allow for the publication of youth names for violent offenses. But, the current laws already allow for this. Any youth who is convicted of an adult sentence can have their name published, an youth 14-17 who is convicted of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault, is a repeat violent offender, or if the youth is at large and a judge feels they are a danger to themselves or others. So if these laws are already in place what is the big deal? The big deal is that it makes the government look incompetent. These laws already exist why are they making new ones? We have sufficient laws already in place to deal with these crimes the government is so worried about.
We are seeing all these problems in the USA right now. Backlogs, people being released, court systems being tied up, states on the verge of bankruptsy. California has started to release prisoners because they can not house them all, and people who are being sentenced to prison are having their sentences cut. For example, Lindsey Lohen was sentenced to serve 60 days but only served 5 hours and was released due to space. This doesn’t deter her, nor does it allow for rehabilitation programs to work for her. The message that was sent to Lindsey last weekend was, we know you didn’t do your community service and that was wrong, but we can’t actually put you in jail either because we have no room. So therefore in your case there are just no consequences do whatever you want. There is also already talk today about Dr. Murray (who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the Michael Jackson murder trial). He may not serve as much time as he will be sentenced to. Why? Again, because there is no room in California jails. All these issues California has because of three strikes laws, and mandatory minimum sentences is just foreshadowing the types of problems Canada could face.
I am not saying the entire bill is bad. There are some good points. For example the increased sentences for child molesters. But it seems like the government is using that part of the bill to cover up their political agenda (the war on drugs). It just doesn’t make sense to me. If this bill is supposed to be about making the streets safer, and helping victims get justice why is it that someone who is caught with pot plants face a harsher penalty then the child rapist. I just don’t understand.
The fact is that crime is at it’s lowest level since 1966. Crime in
Canada is not on the rise. This bill is not going to make our streets safer, it isn’t that great for victims, and it’s going to cost us all a lot of money. Or as the Huffington Post put it “The last time Canada’s crime rates were as low as Statistics Canada says they are now, The Sting and American Graffiti played at the movies; Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon ruled the airwaves, and M*A*S*H was tops on TV”
Insite, which is located in Vancouver, is the only legal safe injection site in North America. Insite doesn’t provide any drugs but since 2003 it has been operating on a special exemption under the Controlled drugs and substances act to give addicts a safe place to inject their drugs. Insite has been the center of a number of studies, and controversy, since 2003 and has been proven to have benefits to society. The supreme court of Canada made their decision based on the benefits to the community and drug users in Vancouver. A reduction in public injecting, neighbourhood litter (of needles), provides a safe disposal for needles, and syringe sharing (which decreases the spread of disease), and an increase in the use of addiction treatment. There has been several studies also carried out looking at the cost benefit part of Insite. Some of the results included: $6 million in savings on HIV, and hepatitis drugs, and overdose rates dropped in Vancouver. Medical staff are present to provide addiction treatment, mental health assistance, and assistance in the event of an overdose.
Last week the supreme court of Canada made a ruling which could prove to be problematic for the conservatices ‘tough on crime’ agenda. In a
9-0 decision the supreme court of Canada ruled that closing Insite would be against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically the right to “security of the person”. Canada’s only safe injection site would remain open. Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin explained: “The effect of denying the services of Insite to the population it serves and the correlative increase in the risk of death and disease to injection drug users is grossly disproportionate to any benefit that Canada might derive from presenting a uniform stance on the possession of narcotics.”
This decision makes me wonder if the crack pipe program in Alberta could have held out. The crack pipe program began running in Calgary in November of 2008. The Alberta Health Region was handing out ‘crack pipe kits’. Each kit contained a glass pipe, mouthpiece, cleaning rod, and screens. The argument was similar to Insite’s argument. It was a way to prevent the spread of disease and bring addicts into contact with health care providers that could assist them. In these ways it was very similar to Insite, but the Alberta health region cracked when they began to feel pressure from the police associations who argued that such programs do nothing except encourage drug use. Given the exemption that Insite received, it could be argued that the Alberta crack pipe program falls under the same category and should also be allowed to operate without fear of prosecution on the parts of the health region officials.
What is important to remember about Insite, or even the crack pipe program in Calgary, is that neither of these places was a place where drug addicts could just go do their thing and leave. Like the crack pipe program had, Insite always has health professionals there to speak with addicts about: counseling options, risks to them, as well as address mental health issues with them and the dangers of drug addiction.
The war on drugs has been nothing short of a failure in the United States, and arguably, in some cases, a waste of money. The United States spends $15 billion annually to try and control drugs. Recently an International panel, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, declared the war on drugs a catastrophic failure. The report had what some would say are some common sense recommendations.
First, don’t treat drug addicts as criminals. The report argues that it is not feasible or safe to treat all the drug addicts in the world as criminals. First because it just simply costs too much money, and secondly because with injection users their is just too high of a risk of the spread of disease. Other countries who have similar programs to our Insite have also reported lower rates of the spread of disease such as HIV, and hepititis saving lives and tax payer dollars (as the tax payer has to front the bill, or at least part of it, for medications to treat these diseases).
Second, don’t waste your time with small time drug dealers. I won’t go into this one. I personally think it speaks for itself.
Third, Decriminalize or legalize certain drugs to undercut organized crime. I can’t say this enough. Legalize weed already. A study done in the US points out that legalizing weed would inject $6 billion into the US economy every year. Studies out of other countries who have decriminalized some drugs have shown that with the legalization of possession, and the means to obtain some drugs in a safe legal manner criminal suppliers became less visible. I am not saying that all organized crime would go away, but at the same time organized crime will never go away. Another interesting side effect of the decriminalization of some drugs could be decreased use. why? Because addicts could seek help without fear of prosecution. This study, done by the Beckley Foundation, on the decriminalization of drugs in Portugal looked at over all drug use and found: the use of weed increased, the use of drug treatment increased (due largely to early intervention), there was a decrease in heroin use, and there was a large reduction in drug related deaths. Of course, if I still haven’t convinced you. I’ll just say: remember prohibition?
Canada needs to take a hard look at statistics, and studies given the new policies that the conservative government wishes to pass before the end of the year. The idea is to get tough on drugs. Canadians should be looking to their neighbours to the south and asking some tough questions. It is no secret that the drug policies is costing Americans billions every year, and that the prisons are so overcrowded that some states, such as California, have had to release non violent criminals to ease the pressure on the system. I am not saying lets legalize heroin I am just saying lets not be stupid about this. Portugal has had success because they implemented education programs, treatment centers, and addicts didn’t have to worry about prosecution. Getting addicts clean from drugs should be a priority. No one wants to do drugs. People don’t wake up one morning and say to themselves “hmmm I think I am going to get addicted to Meth today”. This program has proved effective, and it allows users to come into contact with health professionals. It could be the first step. Until we have better programs implemented this is one way to ensure that needles and other drug related paraphernalia is disposed of appropriately. But more importantly it has been proven to save lifes.
I am going to take a break from my usual topic of crime to talk about some sad news this morning. Mr Jack Layton passed away at 4:45am Aug 22, 2011 of cancer. A statement was released this morning on the NDP website that read: “We deeply regret to inform you that the Honourable Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, passed away at 4:45 am today, Monday August 22. He passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and loved ones.”
This is indeed a sad loss for Canada. Mr Layton was the reason I got interested in politics and he was the reason why I didn’t stop reading about politics. He gave me hope for Canada, and the future of our government. Whether or not one agreed with his politics doesn’t seem to matter on this sad day. His death has affected people across political lines and everyone is saddened at the loss of such a passionate caring humane being:
“Jack was an enthusiastic and passionate politician who held strongly to his convictions during his long career in public life.” – Ed Stalmach, AB premier
“He was an inspiration to all who believe in a more just, open and equitable society. he embodied hope for meaningful and progressive political change in Canada. He showed us that it was possible.” – Brian Manson, AB NDP leader
“Jack gave his fight against cancer everything he had. Indeed, Jack never backed down from any fight.”- PM Harper
“I learned with great sadness we just lost Jack Layton. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.” – Governor General David Johnston
“Deeply saddened by news about Jack Layton, Arlene and I send deepest condolences to Olivia and family. He is a loss to a grieving Canada.” – Liberal Leader Bob Rae
“Collectively, Canadian hearts are breaking,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May in a statement. “Jack will always be remembered for his unfailing love of Canada and his dedication to this country and its citizens.” – Elizabeth May
“I will never forget the image of Jack campaigning as the happy warrior. His energy, enthusiasm and passion for politics and for the Canadian people were undeniable. Something I will never forget. A standard for all of us.” – American Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson
Mr Layton will always be remembered as the politician that worked towards public good, a man who truly cared about Canada. The man who put the NDP on the map with a historical 103 seats won in parliament in the 2011 elections.
Mr Layton was no stranger to politics growing up he was the son of a progressive conservative, Robert Layton. And would be elected to Toronto city council in 1982. Then on January 25, 2003 Layton would be elected as the new NDP leader and this move would forever change the role of the NDP in Canadian politics. Layton worked relentlessly to gain support for the NDP over the next 8 years and in 2011 it would pay off when for the first time in the party’s history the NDP would take away 103 seats in parliament and become the official opposition to the Canadian government.
Mr Layton wasn’t just a politician though he took on many different causes over the years. Among them
he advocated for the creation of a city-funded education team to help combat the AIDS crisis in Toronto, Canada. He was also an advocate for women and was not only passionate about stopping violence he was also one of the 1991 advocates who started an organization that is close to my heart. The White Ribbon Campaign. The White Ribbon campaign is to date the largest campaign of men working to end violence against women. The focus of this campaign is to educate men and boys and has become an education effort in over 55 countries around the world.
The campaign released a statement on their website whiteribbon.ca “The entire White Ribbon Campaign (WRC) family is shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of Jack Layton today. He died peacefully with his family by his side. We extend our deepest condolences to Olivia, Mike and Sarah and his entire great, big family. He felt men had to have both a role and responsibility in working to end violence against women, that we needed to step up our efforts in promoting gender equality, and be accountable to challenging the most harmful aspects of masculinity…. I choose to leave with another favourite quote of yours, “Don’t ever let them tell you it can’t be done.” Rest in peace Jack, we will all miss you dearly.”
A politician that gave me hope for Canada. If we all only cared as much about Canada as Mr. Layton we’d be a better country. RIP Mr Layton you will be missed. Canada will be giving Mr. Layton a state funeral on Saturday August 27, 2011. According to the release “Prime Minister Harper has exercised his discretion and has offered Ms. [Olivia] Chow a state funeral for Jack Layton. She has accepted. Canadians will have an opportunity to salute Jack Layton’s contribution to public life as well as offer their heartfelt condolences.” The NDP have set up a section on their website as well where you may express your Condolences to the family. And if you are in the Calgary area Wed Aug 24 there will be a Vigil held at Tompkins park at 730 pm.
Layton had one last thing to say to Canadians before he passed away. On Aug 22, 2011 his family released a letter he had written to Canada ( I personally recommend a box of tissues):
August 20, 2011
Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.
Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.
I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.
I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.
A few additional thoughts:
To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.
To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.
To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.
To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.
To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.
And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
All my very best,
And finally I leave you with mourners on Twitter:
“Let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” – RIP Jack Layton, Great politician, Great man
RIP Jack Layton. You are the example of what politicians need to be, honest
Canadian Politician Jack Layton died on August 22nd, 2011. RIPJack Layton.
Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. – RIP Jack Layton
I can’t stop crying after reading his letter. #RIPJack Layton.
RIP Jack Layton it makes me so sad that the only actual good prime minister candidate passed away
Makes me happy to see that RIP Jack Layton is trending worldwide. The man deserved so much more recognition than he received for his work.
Although this is a relatively old debate I wanted to look at it again because it’s been back in the news recently in Canada, and because it’s been bothering me for over a year now.
Back in September of 2010 a judge in Ontario, Canada found that Canada’s prostitution laws were a violation of the Charter of Rights. Prostitution isn’t and has never been illegal in Canada. What is illegal is everything around it (ie-communication for the purposes and living off of) and the question was, does this violate the Charter of Rights? Justice Susan Himel made the decision that the following laws were a violation of the Charter of Rights: Operating a common bawdy house, living off the avails of prostitution, and communicating for the purposes of prostitution. “ I have found that the law as it stands, is currently contributing to the danger faced by prostitutes…Force prostitutes to choose between their liberty interest and their right to security of the person” she said. In other words, these laws potentially endanger prostitutes.
Last October the Sociology Student Society at my school brought in a detective from our local vice unit to discuss the legalization of prostitution laws. The vice detective focused the conversation around the negative consequences of legalizing prostitution: human trafficking, and the impact it would have on organized crime. As I listened to her speak I also learned some things and started to genuinely rethink my position on the legalization of prostitution. I started to understand her view point and realize that it was not an issue that was as open and shut as I originally thought. No doubt, I had a problem with the state telling women what they could and couldn’t do with their own bodies, and I had a problem with the state forcing people, who are arguable some of the most vulnerable in society, underground and into dangerous situations. I found myself thinking that Justice Himmel’s ruling is too simplistic and possibly dangerous. There are too many people at risk (mostly women and children) to simply dismiss it.
This detective started presenting us with facts and figures about prostitution that I had never thought about before. One thing that that stuck out in my mind was that a person living off prostitution (a pimp) earns somewhere around $900/day/prostitute. When this number is then extrapolated to 20 or 50 prostitutes it gives us an idea as to why prostitution is so important to organized crime. It also explains to us why it is financially viable for gangs to go to the lengths they have to find vulnerable women to participate in the sex trade. This is obviously a real issue, a social problem that isn’t going to go away because we make prostitution illegal or legal. So I started to think about these issues, I’ve been troubled ever since.
Sex trade workers argued last year that the laws, as they stand now, prevent them from working in doors or in their homes, and prevent them from properly screening clients before they leave with them. Possibly putting them in danger. In June of this year a 5 panel committee of judges heard the case as the federal government appealed the September 2010 ruling focusing heavily on the safety concerns sex workers had regarding the laws in place in Canada. The panel grilled the government lawyers on the issue of safety. The judges on the panel challenged the government lawyer, Michael Morris, telling him that they find it “hard to understand why it is not self evident that these provisions harm the ability to carry out prostitution safely.”
On June 17, 2011 the panel ordered a stay on the provinces laws surrounding prostitution stating: “”The stay will remain in effect until we say something different.” A ruling from the supreme court is not expected until this fall.
Does this mean I think the ruling is wrong? On the contrary I think this is the correct ruling and I do not think it should be reversed. The ruling is about whether or not prostitutes have the right to work safely. I don’t see what there is to debate here. Everyone has the right to safety. Michael Morris, the lawyer for Ottawa, argues that prostitution was not illegal and that the laws surrounding it were specifically designed to attack johns and pimps that engage in this activity. The laws are not meant to risk the safety of the prostitutes. Ottawa I think the time has come to acknowledge that your laws have epically failed in this regard and they need to be revised. What we need is to alter the current legislation that does not protect women and girls who are at risk, and often makes decisions for us that as adults we should be able to make for ourselves.
The focus should be on criminal organizations and not on the prostitutes themselves. By altering our laws we allow those who want to operate independently do so more safely and, if done correctly, we can put more resources into doing something about the organized criminal element of this trade. We will be allowing law enforcement to work with agencies to better respond to problem elements, we will hopefully be able to better handle the spread of disease related to prostitution, and we will be in a better position to help those women who are trapped by prostitution. I am no fool; I realize it is not just as easy as that. Something like this will take time and collaboration with many different people and organizations but I think the time has come to start doing this.
Those who oppose legalized prostitution have not yet offered a solution or alternative to the troubled social problems we clearly have. While they are busy yelling and screaming about morality, women and children are being forced to work in terrible conditions and people are dying at the hands of pimps, criminal organizations, and scum like Robert Pickton. Instead of managing the problem or improving the problem we seem to be trapped in this downward spiral where women just keep getting the short end of the stick and no one actually wants to talk about the issues at hand. We can’t help anyone if they are hiding in fear of being prosecuted. It’s time to step up.