Aboriginal Offenders Serve More Time Before Being Paroled

The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has released a report entitled Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview.

Among its many findings, the report showed that aboriginal offenders serve more time on average in prison before they are paroled.

Parole is an important part of rehabilitation and social reintegration. As Lydia Bardak, a spokesperson for the John Howard Society, said, “Releasing someone at the end of their sentence does not make a safe community.”

Aboriginal offenders are more likely to spend their entire sentence in prison than non-aboriginal offenders. They are thus at a disadvantage as compared to their non-aboriginal peers.

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Magna Carta turns 800

In a meadow in Runnymede, on June 15, 1215, at the behest of his rebellious barons, King John affixed his seal to Magna Carta, the Great Charter, which guaranteed certain fundamental rights for the people of England.

The basic protection of the rule of law was enshrined in clauses 39-40 of the original document, which can be translated as:

“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”

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Abortion on the agenda in Prince Edward Island

On Tuesday, a petition signed by hundreds of Islanders will be tabled in the Prince Edward Island legislature. The petition calls for abortion services to be provided on the island. As the Charlottetown Guardian reports,

[T]he word ‘abortion’ has only been uttered three times in the P.E.I. legislature. In each instance, abortion was only being used as an example of a controversial health service. There has never been any real debate or discussion about abortion in the legislative assembly of the only province in Canada that does not offer abortion services.

For more than 30 years, Island women have been unable to legally access abortions on-island. Instead, they must travel to New Brunswick or Nova Scotia for the procedure. If the women have the abortion in a hospital, PEI Medicare will pay the physician and hospital costs, but will not if the woman has the abortion in a private clinic, like Fredericton’s Morgentaler clinic (now Clinic 554). In either case, the woman must pay for their travel and accommodation expenses themselves. Until recently, Island women had to seek a referral from an island doctor. As the CCLA argued in 2011,

Setting up procedural barriers, such as requiring doctors’ referrals in advance of such a time-sensitive medical procedure, is prohibitive and discriminatory.

Removing that requirement is a good first step toward respecting the civil liberties of Island women. Seriously considering abortion access in the legislature will be a good second step.

High Court rules that Medical Marijuana includes Brownies, Teas and Oils

On June 11, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down limits on what constitutes legally acceptable medical marijuana products.

The court ruled unanimously that medical marijuana can be legally consumed in a range of ways, from cannabis-infused cookies and brownies to cooking oils and teas.

The challenge was brought by Owen Smith’s arrest in 2009. The CBC reports that:

Smith, a baker for the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, was found with more than 200 cookies and 26 jars of liquids, including cannabis-infused massage oils and lip balms.

Until now, federal regulations stipulated that authorized users of medical marijuana could only consume dried marijuana, as per Sections 4 and 5 of the Controlled Drug and Substances Act

The Court noted in its judgment however, that limiting medical consumption to dried pot infringes on liberty protections under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The seven justices said the national medical pot program was flawed, impinged patients’ fundamental rights, and was not saved by the section of the constitution that allows reasonable infringements for worthy societal goals.

The initial trial judge in Smith’s case gave the federal government a year to change the laws around cannabis extracts, but the Supreme Court said that its ruling takes effect immediately.

While this ruling offers relief to many patients, it has been met with strong and swift criticisms from the government.

Read the full decision here: http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/15403/index.do

Federal government’s funding for sex workers of limited reach

Last Friday, Justice Minister Peter MacKay commented that there are more groups than money available for the government’s proposed $20 million plan to help sex workers exit the industry.

The government is set to announce which groups will receive funds. Having the criteria to determine how funding will be delivered is a “challenge,” according to Justice Minister MacKay. At least one organization has reportedly already had their request for funding turned down.

The funding, to be distributed over 5 years, was included under Bill C-36: An Act to amend the Criminal Code in response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Attorney General of Canada v. Bedford and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Concerned groups and individuals stated early on that $20 million would not be enough.

Bill C-36 was drafted in response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, which found several provisions of the Criminal Code regulating sex workers to be unconstitutional, violating prostitutes’ right to life, liberty and security of the person under section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The bill became law last November.

Jakarta paye le prix?

Le gouvernement de Joko Widodo a protesté hier contre la décapitation d’une citoyenne indonésienne condamnée en Arabie Saoudite pour le meurtre de son employeur. L’exécution de Sitti Zeineb a eu lieu à Médina mardi dernier.

Selon la lettre de protestation de la diplomatie de l’Indonésie, qui a été suivie de la convocation de l’ambassadeur saoudien à Jakarta, ni la famille de Zeineb ni l’ambassade indonésienne n’ont pas été préalablement informées de la date de l’exécution. Les autorités indonésiennes, qui ont récemment condamné et exécuté des prisonniers étrangers, avaient en vain fait appel à la miséricorde en faveur de sa citoyenne.

Le quotidien The Jakarta Globe affirme que l’Indonésie a perdu la morale pour y demander clémence et note que le pays paye le prix de sa politique de sécurité basée sur la peine de mort. Il y a actuellement 229 indonésiens condamnés à l’étranger, notamment en Malaisie et en Arabie Saoudite.

Sources :
http://www.bbc.co.uk/portuguese/noticias/2015/04/150415_indonesia_enforcada_hb

Inquest into Inmate Death Reveals Staff Didn’t Perform Required Checks

A jury has recommended changes following an inquest held last week into the death of inmate at the Prince Alberta Correctional Facility.

Nineteen year-old John Bob Glen Custer hanged himself in his cell while being held on remand and was found on November 24, 2013.

At the inquest, the two corrections officers on duty at the time of Custer’s death revealed that they did not perform the hourly checks on cells in segregation as required. One officer admitted to filling out log sheets detailing the hourly checks in advance. The other described how on the night in question, the two officers watched two movies instead of performing the required checks. Both officers no longer work at the correctional facility.

The director of the PA Correctional Centre testified that since Custer’s death cameras have been installed to monitor the cells and there have been policy changes. There have not been any cameras installed to keep staff accountable.

PA Correctional Centre has not indicated whether it will implement the recommended changes which include increasing staff on the night shift, providing suicide awareness and education training and checking more frequently on at-risk inmates.

“Home Burglary Bill” Targets Indigenous Youth

The Western Australia Parliament is currently debating a bill that would disproportionately target Indigenous youth, says Amnesty International.

The Criminal Law Amendment (Home Burglary and Other Offences) Bill 2014 expands mandatory sentencing laws for youth aged 16 and 17.  It is estimated that the Bill would put an extra 60 juveniles behind bars within four years.

Amnesty International claimed that Indigenous peoples were already over-represented in the prison system, and the Bill would make “that problem worse.”

Since 1996, offenders receive a strike for every burglary conviction. However, if several burglary charges were heard concurrently, then the offender would only receive one strike. If an individual received three “strikes,” then that individual was subject to a one-year mandatory minimum sentence.

The Home Burglary Bill amends Australia’s “three strikes” law in two ways. First, offenders will receive a strike for every burglary conviction, even if those convictions are heard at the same time. Second, the one-year mandatory minimum is doubled to two years for adult offenders. Juveniles are still subject to a one-year mandatory minimum.

Julian Cleary, Indigenous Rights Campaigner at Amnesty International Australia, recognized the importance of safe communities in Western Australia but criticized the proposed Bill for failing to “address the underlying reasons that cause people to commit burglary.”

Auditor General’s Report Finds Inadequate Rehabilitative Programming for Yukon’s Prison Population

According to Canada’s auditor general, Michael Ferguson, Yukon’s correctional system is failing in its task of providing the programs necessary to adequately rehabilitate its inmate population.

When an offender is sentenced for a criminal conviction the sentence imposed serves different objectives depending on the nature of the offence. Violent offences typically attract sentencing objectives of denunciation, separation, and deterrence. Other, less serious, offences might require a stronger focus on rehabilitation and restoration.

A criminal sentence that includes rehabilitation of the offender as a sentencing objective might still result in incarceration. The concern for the offender, the community, and possibly the victim, is that while imprisoned, the offender will have access to meaningful rehabilitative programs that will help ensure success reintegration into society.

According to the CBC, Michael Ferguson’s report also notes that programming in the community is virtually non-existent. It is trite to say that there is relationship between crime and socio-economic indicators. Many within Canada’s prison population are young adults who come from marginalized groups or who might suffer from mental health and addictions issues. If one of the goals in Canada’s sentencing regime is to lower the rate of recidivism, communities and correctional facilities alike must ensure that adequate programming exists.

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Class Action Against Nova Scotia’s East Coast Forensic Hospital Certified

This past week, Justice Boudreau of Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court certified a class action lawsuit against the East Coast Forensic Hospital (ECFH) in Dartmouth.

On October 16, 2012, thirty-three ECFH patients were stripped and searched for illicit drugs. Brenda Mate, Rehabilitation Manager of the ECFH, swore that she believed the ECFH had reasonable and probable grounds for the search. No illicit drugs were found on any of the thirty-three patients searched.

Mark Murray, one of the forensic patients strip-searched, filed a Notice of Action in Nova Scotia Supreme Court. He is suing the ECFH for breach of his section 8 Charter right to be secure against unreasonable search and in the tort of intrusion upon seclusion (a cause of action recognized in 2012 by the Ontario Court of Appeal in Jones v Tsige). He also sought an order certifying his action as a class proceeding and appointing him as the representative plaintiff.

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…a joint project of CCLA and Pro Bono Students Canada… un projet de l’association canadienne des libertés civiles et Pro Bono Students Canada…

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent CCLA or PBSC policy. Please visit CCLA’s website, www.ccla.org, for official CCLA publications and policies…Les opinions exprimées ici ne représentent pas nécessairement ACLC ou PBSC politique. S’il vous plaît visitez le site Web CCLA, www.ccla.org/fr, pour les publications officielles CCLA et politiques.

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