Responding to President Duterte’s Violent War on Drugs

A call for sympathy

 

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The Philippines is under international scrutiny due to President Duterte’s violent and illegal anti-drug policies. Since becoming President on 30 May 2016, Duterte has encouraged the extrajudicial killing of drug offenders from both police departments and vigilante groups, stating in his inaugural speech at Davao City to “[d]o it yourselves if you have guns, you have my support.” The numbers alone are shocking: 1,466 killed during police operations, 1490 killed from vigilante action, 16,000 suspects formally arrested, and over 700,000 drug offenders “voluntarily” handed in. And the numbers are showing no sign of stopping.

 

The international community responded in its usual fashion by naming and shaming President Duterte’s actions. In mid-August, following a number of calls to action over the summer by prominent non-government organizations (NGOs) like Human Rights Watch, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) urged the Philippines to stop these unlawful killings. International leaders have also voiced their concerns over President Duterte’s clear disregard for human rights, including President Obama.

 

What’s incredible about Duterte’s presidency is that, despite the local tragedies and despite the international pressure, he is still supported by a vast majority of Filipinos. President Duterte beat his closest rival by over 6.6 million votes during the presidential election, and Pulse Asia recently published a survey that shows 91% of Filipinos have a high degree of trust in him.

 

The lack of outrage from the national community may be less confusing given a more expansive view of the domestic landscape. For decades, the Philippines has had the highest usage rate of methamphetamines and other illegal substance in East Asia. The Philippines’ Dangerous Drug Board claims over 1.8 million Filipinos use illegal drugs, while President Duterte and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency claim as many as 3 million are drug users. The country has very porous borders and many hideouts for smugglers due to its geographic network of archipelagos and islands, making it difficult to combat drug trafficking. Consequently, the drug trade has been a persistent and powerful presence within the Philippines’ local communities. Couple this looming presence with poor anti-drug policies from previous presidents and a widespread perception of a weak judiciary, and a more understandable picture begins to reveal itself.

 

But even these are merely textbook descriptions of how deeply personal issues can affect political outcomes; numbers and figures can only do so much. I can only imagine the frustration Filipino families have been feeling for generations as members of their community succumb cycles of addiction, the anger over the political corruption and ineptitude that allows these crimes to persist, the fear that this nightmare will continue. For many, it’s these emotive and individual responses to the country’s drug problems that drive them to support the strongman persona of President Duterte.

 

The controversy surrounding President Duterte’s actions are reflective of my own issues with some of the international human rights discourse. These actors—while ultimately correct in condemning these human rights violations—often fail to properly understand and account for what’s actually happening on the ground. From a more critical framework, they seem to be applying a universal norm for human rights—in particular, one that’s deeply grounded in the social, political, and moral context of developed countries—without the nuance necessary to effectively make change. Many calls for justice in the Philippines only go as far as stopping extrajudicial killings and holding President Duterte accountable for his support. Few suggest tackling, for example, systemic issues of poverty and crime, which form the root causes of this human rights tragedy. President Duterte himself noted this gap when he responded to the UN’s condemnation: “When were you here last time? Nothing. Never. Except to criticize.”

 

Of course I want the killings to stop as soon as possible. Of course I want to eliminate the climate of fear and paranoia destroying entire communities. And of course I want President Duterte to be held accountable for his policies. However, what most human rights actors are currently doing is not working. If anything, the traditional tactic of naming and shaming seems to have only strengthened the President’s resolve and bolstered his domestic supporters. Rather than mere criticism, moving forward will require a greater level of sympathy with the Philippines’ plight and support for tackling the country’s systemic issues. Otherwise, it may only be a matter of time before the Philippines is captured by another leader like Duterte.

 

This article was published as part of the Osgoode chapter of Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR) media series, which aims to promote an awareness of international human rights issues.

 

Our website: http://claihr-osgoode.weebly.com/

 

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/claihrosgoode

Welcome (back) to Osgoode!

ohls-2The long weekend has come and gone, and somehow classes have already begun! As hard as it is to dust of the books and return to the land of 8:30am classes, we are excited to see the halls of Osgoode filled with so many people again – and L&L is here to ease the transition!

 

The Legal & Literary Society (or L&L for short) is your primary student government at Osgoode. We deal in all things community, clubs, student services, and fun! We work with Student Caucus—which takes care of academic and advocacy issues—to make sure your experience at Osgoode is as positive as possible.

 

Your legal education happens in many ways—and many of them occur outside of the classroom. Our goal is give you as many opportunities as possible to engage in the legal community and the Osgoode community.

 

We hope that you will get involved in L&L this year; whether by taking advantage of our services, coming to the JCR on Tuesday’s for a drink, joining a club, or running for an executive position.

 

If you are looking for a way to get involved, consider trying out some of these:

 

Clubs

Osgoode has more than 50 student-run clubs for you to get involved in! If you don’t see a club that interests you, or there is a club that you want to start, let us know.

 

Check out legalandlit.ca for a list of clubs and contact information.

 

Resources

Law school is hard enough; there is no need to reinvent the wheel each year. So we have put together some resources to make it easier for you. Check out our used book exchange page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/184164014989130/) or access our summary database (http://www.legalandlit.ca/student-summaries/). Remember, the 1L summary database is open access to all 1Ls! However, if you want an upper year summary the page is password protected. You need to submit a 1L summary to L&L to get access to the page.

 

Services

L&L provides a number of services as well, including designing and selling Osgoode clothing (you can buy it in the MDC), and making a yearbook. We also coordinate your student health plan with York University. One of the new(er) things you should know about the health plan is that it is opt-OUT. If you would like to opt out of the health plan this year you can contact healthplan@yfs.ca (and you will need to show comparable insurance coverage elsewhere).

 

Events

And last, but certainly not least, we plan a ton of events! These include all of your Osgoode formals, JCR Bar nights every Tuesday, and Pub Nights every Thursday. We will send out an email each week with the pub night location, or you can find the information on the Pub Night Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/150651345045174/).

We hope to see you at some (or all) of them!

 

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns this year please let us know. You can come by the L&L office (Rm 0014E), email us, or stop us in the halls – one of us is almost always loitering in Gowlings Hall!

 

On behalf of L&L, welcome (back) to Osgoode.

 

Heather Fisher 

Legal & Literary Society President 

OCI Special Edition

The Obiter’s review of Osgoode’s penultimate hiring experience.

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Today’s publication marks the penultimate edition of the 2015/2016 Obiter Dicta. As we approach the end of  another year, this issue also fittingly serves as our first foray into one of Osgoode’s most exciting, and notorious, opportunities: On-Campus Interviews. OCI’s mark for many of us the last hiring process before we seek out articling positions, and yet this moment of transition is also a source of polarity and divisiveness among students.

The OCI Survey and Special Edition come thanks to the dedicated work of Obiter staff member and Osgoode student Michael Motala. Michael did a truly amazing job coordinating with Ultra Vires at the University of Toronto, disseminating the survey, collecting the data, and putting together the Special Edition’s content and layout. It was an enormous task for a team, let alone one student, and we couldn’t be more appreciative of Michael’s work, or more proud to present the final product to you now.

With two thirds of OCI participants responding to our survey, we are confident that the Special Edition gives a useful and informative look at student impressions of the OCI process. The Special Edition begins with a review of some of the most pertinent and important results, and some of the stand-out data. The Edition goes on to an analysis of hiring trends and the makeup of the student population. It concludes with student comments and opinions on the OCI experience.

Continue reading

A Welcome Message from the Osgoode Hall Law Journal

On behalf of the Osgoode Hall Law Journal (OHLJ) Editorial Board, welcome to the 2016-2017 academic year! To those students returning: welcome back, you made it through another year. To the incoming 1Ls: congratulations on choosing Osgoode.

 

We would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate those selected as Associate Editors. The applicant pool was extremely competitive this year, and we look forward to working with each of you.

 

As a Board, we are excited for what the next eight months will bring, including symposia, new publications, and social events. Please feel free to reach out to either of us or anyone else on the Journal about our work. Best of luck this school year!

 

For more information about the OHLJ and to view our recent publications, please visit our Digital Commons page here.

 

Michael Thorburn

Managing Editor

Joseph McDonald 

Executive Editor  

Osgoode Hall Law Journal 

 

Life after Office

What do politicians do?

 

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This year has certainly been a very interesting one in the realm of politics. From the vigorous debates and drama in the US election, to Brexit,  and to the elections in Philippines and Australia, the political departments of news and media outlets have seen a busy time. With the changing political landscape, we also see a change in the people running the show. David Cameron resigned as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Nigel Farage will soon step down as an MEP, considering the UK is no longer part of the EU, President Obama will soon be no longer be in office, and Stephen Harper resigned from his parliament seat just last month.

Many students come to Law School with the hopes of one-day running for office, a trend which perhaps holds true more so for our cousins down south. One does not need to look much further than the biographies of the US Senators and Congressmen to see the designation “J.D.” followed by a law school somewhere in their introduction. Research by Nick Robinson, of Yale University shows the massive influence lawyers have had on US politics; 200 years of historical data suggests that more than half of all presidents, vice presidents and members of Congress in the US had a background in law.

The trend also continues within Canada. After all, Trudeau – a teacher by profession – is only the 7th Prime Minister since confederation to hold office without a law-degree. Canadian lawyers have had their fair say in politics though the winds seem to be changing. The Canadian parliament, once a chamber full of lawyers has certainly become less monolithic. Lawyers only comprised of 14 percent of the total MP’s in Canada’s 41st Parliament compared to the 34 per cent of the 21st Parliament in 1949. Though the Canadian Parliament today boasts a very diverse group of individuals who come from various walks of life, such as doctors, businessmen and women, and educators, the lawyers’ circle in the governing body is by no means negligible.

The debate about why so many lawyers are politicians or whether lawyers make good politicians is both interesting and ongoing. No matter what the answer is to the age old puzzle, a post-office life raises some interesting challenges. Whether you set foot in law school with the intention of one day running for office, or your ideas mature over time, it might be worth investigating your long term options.

Whether a politician is replaced by a competitor or voluntarily gives up his seat, leaving office is surely not an easy exercise. One goes from having a highly privileged position in society, a lucrative salary, private office, and staff in the one of the country’s nicest buildings to effectively being an “average person.”

Though life might not be so terrible. For those willing to work after their time an office, can usually find well-compensated consulting positions. For example, James Moore, former federal industry minister and MP from British Columbia, joined Dentons as a senior business advisor. Those with previous field-specific experience can snatch a respectable career position. For instance, Peter MacKay joined Baker & McKenzie’s Toronto office as a partner after his time as MP and attorney general. Some can even snatch a corporate board seat or a cushy CEO position. Ted Menizes, the former Minister of State of finance, resigned from parliament to become the CEO and President of CropLife Canada, an international trade organization that lobbies for the agricultural biotechnology industry.

Stephen Harper announced recently that he will take up a job with the Dentons office in Calgary to provide expert advice to clients on managing global economic and geopolitical risk.  The ex-Prime Minister is also the CEO and chairman of his consulting company “Harper & Associates Consulting Inc.”, which advises clients on developing international business.

Moving a little back in time, Paul Martin – after losing as PM, but while he was still an MP – launched a charitable organization, the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative, which brings entrepreneurship programs to schools with the goal of curtailing the indigenous student dropout rate. Apart from his charitable work, he worked with African Development bank gave advise on various policy issues within Canada. His predecessor, Jean Chrétien started his new life as counsel for Heenan Blaikie, the same firm where Pierre Trudeau also worked after his time as the Prime Minsiter. Chrétien also held many energy-related posts including a special adviser to the Calgary- based PetroKazakhstan.

Down South, life is not so bad either. Politicians are often recruited by companies as advisors or lobbyists; many get positions on boards of different companies and some even join prestigious law firms or global banks. Three-Term Senator Judd Gregg was hired as an international advisor by Goldman Sachs. In 2014, Gazprombank GPB (OJSC), a Russian Bank hired two former senators Trent Lott and John Breaux to lobby against U.S. Sanctions. Former President Bill Clinton – like Jimmy Carter – began his own philanthropic organization, the Clinton Foundation, which aims to help ameliorate the problem of global poverty and disease while vice-President Al-gore began teaching at Columbia University.

While some choose corporate careers, others go down the philanthropic route and there are still other who like the allure of academia. No matter what the career choice, it appears that the careers of politicians do not end with their political aspirations, an age old wisdom perhaps best described by Aristotle some 2,400 years ago: “politicians also have no leisure, because they are always aiming at something beyond political life itself: power and glory, or happiness.”

They Say Sex Sells

…But All At A Cost

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Lately, I observed one issue which has consistently infuriated me – dress codes in restaurants. Worse still is, Osgoodes support of one of these restaurants during the welcome orientation this year.

 

The issue of dress codes was a popular issue in the past year. Interest spiked when the CBC Marketplace inquiry raised concerns about restaurants which required female servers to wear short skirts, tight dresses, high heels, and low-cut tops to work. This media coverage prompted nation-wide attention to the issue of human rights and employment standards regarding dress codes. The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) issued a position policy on gender specific dress codes and called for employers to review their dress codes and remove discriminatory requirements.

 

The OHRC outlined human rights decisions dating back to the 1980s, which found that dress code requirements that create adverse impacts based on gender violate human rights laws. For example, in McKenna v Local Heroes Stittsville 2013 HRTO 1117, a server’s shifts were cut after the female employee voiced concerns about wearing tight clothing and wished to wear looser clothing in order to not draw attention to her pregnancy. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) found that the employer wanted to re-brand the sports bar and emphasize sexual attractiveness of staff, and therefore the HRTO found the employer had discriminated against the female employee. The woman was awarded $17,000 for injuries to dignity and nearly $3,000 in lost wages.

 

Additionally, in a British Columbia human rights case, Mottu v MacLeod [2004] BCHRTD No 68, a female server was required to wear a bikini top at a special work event. She opted to wear clothing on top of her bikini and complained to her union and employer. The woman was disciplined, assigned a less desirable position, and had her hours reduced. The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal found these actions were discriminatory.

 

Over the past summer close to my home, I have on numerous occasions walked by an establishment on the Esplanade that, similarly to the Mottu v MacLeod case, requires female servers to wear a skimpy  bikini top with an equally skimpy bottom piece. I am assuming this is a dress code requirement within this establishment, as I find it hard to believe this many women would choose to dress in the exact same way each working day. Moreover, I have only seen female servers with a particular body type working there. To be fair, I have never been inside this establishment, and have only witnessed the servers on the patio.

 

However, each time I walked by, I would be infuriated thinking about the sexist representations being reproduced. If one of the workers became pregnant, how would this affect their job? If they don’t choose to wear this clothing, what are the repercussions?

 

No one should be forced to find another job because they don’t want to be discriminated against. Once again, I realize this is all speculation as I have not spoken to employees at this establishment. However, I do feel the representations are rooted and representative of larger issues of sexism and discrimination in society, where women are routinely sexually objectified.

 

Having these types of gender-specific dress codes harms the dignity of women, reinforces sexist stereotypes, and reproduces sexualized female norms. Furthermore, while this is discrimination on the basis of gender, it can also intersect and reproduce other forms of discrimination. For example, in the LGBTQ community, these types of representations reinforce a norm of what a woman is supposed to be.

 

Some might claim that these women choose to dress this way, but I reject this common response. Believing this is all an independent female choice may be the truth for some women. However, we cannot assume that this is a choice, especially when considering the history of reproduction of gender norms, gender discrimination, and sexist stereotypes.

 

I was further disheartened to see Osgoode had chosen this establishment to be part of their orientation week event this year. Osgoode prides itself on furthering social justice issues, and this is a part of Osgoode I continue to be proud of. However, I do feel this choice was not an appropriate way to show first year students what Osgoode is about. I know I would have felt quite uncomfortable going there, and I am sure other students felt the same way.

 

Overall, this sexist representation of women is not isolated to one establishment. Rather, it is part of an ongoing, ubiquitous issue taking many shapes in society. While human rights cases across Canada have dealt with this issue, I hope the law deals with this issue in a more proactive manner, rather than dealing with it after it has had an adverse impact on a woman. There is an increased call for employment standards to address this issue, especially within the restaurant industry. At the moment, there is the perception of “choice,” but in reality this is commonly not the case when employment and people’s subsistence are linked to job security.

Jurisfoodence

The Best of blogTO’s Best of Toronto

 

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Hello Ozzies, and welcome to the first installment of this year’s Jurisfoodence! I am most humbled to be your host for this journey, where we will be diving into blogTO’s “Best of Toronto” feature and hopefully uncovering some culinary gems that may prove useful to the three people whose procrastination has led them to venture this many pages back in the Obiter.

 

Methodology: Since tastes are diverse and Osgoode is conveniently located in the middle of nowhere, my goal is to cover as large a range of places in terms of cuisine, price point and location (although these lists are infamous for favouring certain neighbourhoods—I’m looking at you, West Side—over others). Generally, reviews will focus on the #1 ranked restaurant, but if it seems ridiculously overpriced, or if I’ve eaten there before, or if I’m sick of eating on Ossington, I might go slightly down the list (very scientific, I know). Restaurants will be rated on quality of food, service, and value, leading to a possible best overall score of 5 out of 5 Dean Sossins.

 

Disclaimer: I have a degree in culinary management and worked as a chef before coming to Osgoode. My partner in crime has said this makes me picky when it comes to eating out; I prefer to call myself discerning. I hope to share some tips, tricks and insights I learned in my past career, but just a warning that my standards may be slightly higher than those of the man on the Clapham omnibus. I will try to point out when I’m being unreasonable.

 

And with that, we get to our first list: The Best Cheap Sushi in Toronto

 

Sushi on Bloor (ranked #1)

Location: 525 Bloor Street West

Atmosphere: Bright and utilitarian

 

Ah, the mythical beast I have been searching for since I moved to Toronto in 2002: good, cheap sushi. There is plenty of excellent high-end sushi in this city (if you really want to treat yourself and have ever seen the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I highly recommend Yasu on Harbord), but when I just want some nice quality rolls to shove in my mouth as fast as possible, I am usually disappointed.

 

Sushi on Bloor has been a mainstay for University of Toronto students and Annex residents for well over a dozen years. Even though there are a number of sushi places on that stretch, you can expect there to be a wait here at any given time. The line-up was four deep when we arrived at 8:30 on a Thursday night, so we were happy to be seated in about ten minutes. The interior itself definitely places function over form, and the vibe is less “first date jitters” and more “let’s pause this Netflix marathon and grab some food.” This pleases me as I prefer to consume cheap sushi in sweatpants. I will note though that the tables are decently spaced out, which was a plus, since I’ve found that restaurants like this are often quite cramped.

 

Upon seating we were immediately given two cups of tea and two miso soups. Even though almost anything you order in a similar restaurant will come with miso soup, I was really impressed by this! It is a nice gesture and helps if you’ve been waiting. The soup itself was above average and had more miso flavour than the typical tofu water you sometimes get. We also ordered drinks at around this time (LLBO-wise, the restaurant has a small selection of wine and beer), and to my partner’s extreme delight, the beer mugs came frosted.

 

The menu is very large. This often bugs me because I’ve found—at least in fine dining—that the size of the menu can tell me a lot about the quality of the food. Bigger is never better. That logic doesn’t work perfectly for all types of establishments though, and doesn’t really concern me here since you’ve also got to cater to what people are expecting. Rolls are priced between $3.95 and $9.95, but we opted to get the Dinner for Two, because it was SO CHEAP: $41.25 for seaweed salad, shrimp and yam tempura, ikayaki (grilled squid), two rolls (salmon dragon and grilled tiger shrimp), six pieces of nigiri sushi, and six pieces of sashimi.

 

The seaweed salad— topped with tobiko, and very generously portioned—came out first. It tasted like seaweed salads should taste—the typical neon green variety that comes pre-marinated and frozen in bags. There really shouldn’t be much difference in quality from restaurant to restaurant, unless they are using old product. Not that I’m knocking the stuff, I am borderline obsessed with it. Next came the shrimp and yam tempura, nicely breaded and importantly, not too greasy.

 

Up until this point I was riding high, thinking I might have found the one. Unfortunately, the meal went a bit south with the next course. I don’t expect great service at a cheap restaurant where the goal is to get people in and out as quickly as possible, but our server brought out the tempura, ikayaki, and sushi all at once, leaving us to scramble with plates in hand to find a place for everything. We didn’t see her again for the rest of the meal. To make things worse, the ikayaki was clearly steamed and not grilled (part of my chef fussiness: I have zero tolerance for menu lies). Even so, it could have been saved if the accompanying ginger sauce was less bland.

 

I was willing to overlook the ikayaki misstep though, because I was there for the sushi. And the sushi was….well, it was pretty solid. It’s been a bit difficult for me to judge sushi since Yasu, which has permanently ruined me, but this was better than the typical experience I have at the Yonge and Eglinton joints I frequent. Everything tasted pretty fresh, the rice held together well and the rolls did not skimp on fish. In fact, my main complaint is the dragon roll had too much salmon on top, overwhelming everything else. However, the tuna, salmon and shrimp nigiri all had a better proportion of rice to fish. The grilled tiger shrimp roll was not something I would normally order, but the combination of shrimp, green beans and teriyaki sauce was pleasantly delicate and added a nice balance to the rest of the salmon-heavy meal.

 

We waited a long time for the host to come around and realize we were finished. On the bright side, there was complimentary ice cream! A choice of mango, green tea or red bean. These little touches—the miso soup to start, the ice cream to finish—made this place stand out from other cheap sushi places, despite the non-existent service we received in the second half of our meal. And the value is incredible: just over twenty bucks for more food than I could eat. Overall, one of the better cheap sushi places I have been to in Toronto, but not good enough to end my quest.

 

Cost (for one, excluding drinks): $20.63 + tip + tax

 

SERVICE: 2/5 Dean Sossins 

FOOD: 3.5/5 Dean Sossins 

VALUE: 5/5 Dean Sossins 

OVERALL: 3.5/5 Dean Sossins

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What Simile said to Metaphor

And what I said to them both

 

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Simile: “Oh Metaphor, how dare you flaunt your arrogance? How dare you press two things together until they flatten into one?”

 

Metaphor: “What irony! That you would use me in an insult against me! And is it I who presses too hard? Or you who shies away from intimacy? You who are afraid the two won’t get along so well after all? I take pride in my duties to language. Duties that I fulfil with conviction you will never possess.”

 

Simile: “You confuse brashness with conviction. I provide the courtesy of subtlety. A sublime power of suggestion. Those who speak and write through me realize your presumptuousness.”

 

Metaphor: “If we are to compete in powers of suggestion, your inability to commit guarantees your loss. It is my presumptuousness that convinces the two things to a dance, a dance in which they step on each other’s toes, laugh, and hug until they agree to a second date filled with candid conversation. Simile, you instead sling silt and gravel at the two, and dismiss them as they trip and fall.”

 

Simile: “How dare you! Metaphor, you whip your tongue like a scorpion’s tail, but your slander is as flimsy as bee’s venom. In both argument and prose, you have crossed all bounds!”

 

Metaphor: “I care not for any bounds that you impose upon me, Simile. You are the discarded training wheels. The fence that guards a wild eagle. The carnivore that drinks from the life-blood of eloquence. The rust that races across a celebrated edifice. The shattered glass that looks upon a speck of dust and thinks it dead. Simile, you have no place beside me.”

 

Simile: “Careful, Metaphor. In your rambling, you have fast lost focus. You have slipped into confused exaggeration. I concede insofar that you are more powerful than I. And that I am guilty of enjoying you, sometimes misusing you. But your power veils vast responsibility dressed upon those that require your illumination. You are not invested as a puzzle or an encryption. You are not the hidden connotations but the exposed sensations. You are the synesthesia that wells up from visceral depths. You allow us to see, smell, feel, and taste words so as to reveal, not obfuscate. Your hubris is unbefitting of your humble purpose.”

 

 

Some sources consider Metaphor and Simile to be entirely divorced. Some see Simile as a derivative of Metaphor. But most definitions agree that both are figures of speech used to describe things or ideas by way of creative comparison. Metaphor is a “direct or implicit comparison often made with a copula,” while Simile is an “indirect or explicit comparison that uses the words like or as.”

 

But what good does this distinction do us? Simile and Metaphor fill similar niches in language, but which one is better and how should you decide which to use when? Despite examples comparing the use of Simile and Metaphor, one question pervades unsolved: is it better to compare implicitly or explicitly?

 

In the dialogue above, I have personified Simile and Metaphor and thrust them into this very conflict. I have adopted a theme of chaos to order. Simile opens the conversation enraged that Metaphor thinks itself superior. Metaphor retorts that it’s justified in thinking so. And so the two argue while blatantly showcasing themselves in their diatribes.

 

Simile’s final monologue is the shift to order. Simile makes some concessions, cools down the room, but does not change its assertion that Metaphor is “arrogant.” Does Metaphor exist only to make palpable the relationship between two things as Simile suggests? And is Metaphor justified in its claim to superiority?

 

Me: “Oh Simile, can Metaphor not obscure or abstract so as to invoke varied imagination? Although most writing and speech must be accessible to be of value, there are also contexts which allow and sometimes promote ambiguity: fiction such as poetry, myths, fables, and legends. Some works revel in their meandering path to nowhere. But even in non-fiction, a kaleidoscopic view can help shake up preconceptions and reach unexpected conclusions. And these things you can do also, Simile. So Metaphor, why do you believe yourself superior? Is it that your comparisons are more “intimate” and fill a more flexible syntactic niche? I agree that this is an advantage. You do not require the words like or as, and instead embrace a large class of implicit connectors. With some effort and restructuring, we can turn Metaphor into Simile. We might make the comparison more clunky, but do we gain anything in return? Simile, I think you tame Metaphor. You hold back its arrogance and allow choice in how far we take a comparison. In isolation, this benefit may be small. But Simile, you can also bring contrast and diversity to the lull of extended metaphor. Your place in language is in broadening it.”

Blaming the Victim and Concealing the Evidence

How the Crown Mishandled Ivan Henry’s Trial

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During the summer months, there was much talk about the wrongful conviction of Ivan Henry, a BC native who spent nearly twenty-seven years behind bars for a series of sexual assaults that he never committed. After being acquitted in 2010 of his ten convictions, Henry initiated an action against the province of BC for which he sought forty-three million dollars in damages. In his ruling released on 8 June 2016 Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson awarded Henry just over eight million dollars in damages: $530K in compensatory damages for lost wages, $56,692 in special damages, and $7.5M as vindication of the gross abuse of his Charter rights.

 

As part of his painstakingly long ninety-seven-page decision (available online at www.courts.gov.bc.ca), Justice Hinkson lambasted the Province for intentionally breaching Henry’s disclosure rights under ss. 7 and 11 (d) of the Charter. Using the test for wrongful non-disclosure as set out by Maldover J. in the 2015 SCC decision granting Henry’s appeal, Justice Hinkson found that the Crown intentionally withheld information that it knew was material to Henry’s defence. Some of this information included results of wiretap, DNR, and other tracking device evidence showing no link between the sexual assaults and Mr. Henry. Even more appalling was the Crown’s non-disclosure of forensic evidence showing that the perpetrator’s sperm had been located for four of the sexual assaults, and that it was not Henry’s.

 

In a haphazard attempt to defend its blatant misconduct, the Crown tried advancing the argument that the disclosure requirements back in 1983 (i.e. Pre-Stinchcombe era) were not as stringent as they are today, and that their conduct should be assessed against the more relaxed Boucher standards. While it is true that disclosure practices have become more robust since Boucher, Justice Hinkson still found that the Crown failed to live up to its most basic constitutional obligation to disclose reliable exculpatory evidence that would have exonerated Henry. In other words, the Crown’s conduct was objectionable by both the Stinchcombe and Boucher standards.

 

A second argument that the Crown tried advancing was that Henry should be held contributorily negligent for his wrongful conviction, because he chose to represent himself when legal aid was available to him. In making its argument, the Crown cited the opinion of Mdm. Justice Bennett in R v. Crichton 2015 BCCA who stated “if a person does not receive a fair trial because he or she chose to represent him or herself, even when counsel was available, the fault lies with the accused and no remedy is available.”

 

From an access to justice perspective, this argument seems particularly disturbing. Putting issues of cost aside, why should litigants be expected to retain counsel as a pre-requisite to receiving a fair trial? Is this not a form of victim blaming? As Justice Hinkson opined, if anything, the Crown should have a heightened responsibility to ensure that the defendant be treated fairly when he or she has no advocate acting on his or her behalf. Surely, this responsibility derives from the role Crown counsel play in being “Ministers of Justice.”

 

Furthermore, while cost may not have been the issue in Mr. Henry’s refusing counsel, in the majority of cases it is the primary contributing factor. In her seminal Report on Self-Represented Litigants (Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Self-­Represented Litigants Final Report, May 2013), Dr. Julie Macfarlane exposed just how difficult it can be for accused persons to retain counsel. Of the 259 self-represented litigants (SRL’s) interviewed as part of Macfarlane’s study, more than ninety percent reported that financial concerns motivated their decision to self-represent. With counsel fees averaging $350-400 per hour and legal aid requirements being prohibitive for middle and even low-income Canadians, it’s no wonder that there is an SRL crisis in this country.

 

Other reasons for self-representation as cited in a recent White Paper prepared for the Association of Canadian Court Administrators (ACCA) and referenced in the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice’s Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada: Overview Report (available online at www. cfcj-fcjc.org/cost-of-justice) include low education, low literacy, ideological motivations, and perceiving counsel as unnecessary. Indeed, in Mr. Henry’s case, the psychiatric evidence suggested that Mr. Henry’s refusing counsel had to do with his inability to understand the significance and long-term consequences of his legal predicament.

 

At the end of the day, whether or not the defence is represented, the Crown has a constitutional duty to ensure trial fairness by making the necessary disclosures that will allow the accused to provide a full answer and defence. Let us not forget the powerful words famously articulated by Justice Rand in the Boucher decision: “The role of the prosecutor excludes any notion of winning or losing; his function is a matter of public duty than which in civil life there can be none charged with greater personal responsibility.”

 

By Mitchell Perlmutter
Canadian Forum on Civil Justice

 

 

The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice is a national non-profit organization at Osgoode Hall Law School that is dedicated to advancing civil justice reform through research and advocacy. 

This article originally appeared on slaw.ca and has been edited for publication in the Obiter-Dicta.

Race and the Politics of Impotent Rage

Only one side of this issue has any right to be upset

 

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2016 has been an awkward year for race relations. After decades upon decades of watching their rights to due process getting filled with bullets and forced to pay for the spent ammunition, the black communities of North America seem to have collectively said “no more”, and began to protest on a large scale. Although I don’t largely approve of the few protests that have turned violent, an enraged response to anyone–especially police officers–getting away with murder is completely understandable. The difference between justice and revenge can be a very subtle one, and, as someone who has often confused the two, I can’t rightly judge people for wanting the latter when denied the former. Watching someone get away with a terrible act is infuriating enough before you spend five minutes on social media and see dozens of people whining about how you can’t get over it.

 

As a white, heterosexual, middle class male, I believe I have a moral obligation to call out the reactionary response towards the righteous anger of a black community that has every right to be angry.

 

First things first: All Lives Matter? Nothing about the statement “black lives matter” implies that other lives don’t matter. In a twisted way, I’m kind of impressed. You took a seemingly neutral and obvious statement about the value of human life and turned it into a reactionary response that completely missed the point of the very thing it was reacting to. In a more serious way, that kind of apathetic dismissal is what led to police brutality against black people getting to the point where a violent reaction was practically inevitable. Find a mirror and look your monster in the face.

 

That being said, it’s important to realize that racism can be extremely subtle. That’s what makes it so pervasive and sinister. Some people seem to operate under the deluded pretext that systemic racism ended in the 1960s, simply because it’s no longer painfully blatant (or broadly legally enshrined). I understand that you shouldn’t attribute to malice what is adequately explained by stupidity, but in this case, even a cynic like me struggles to believe there isn’t some malice involved. There are times when it looks like the Civil Rights Movement was a blessing in disguise to bigots. They can sneer at protesters for not measuring up to people like Rosa Parks or Muhammad Ali, or claim that the legal reforms of the 1960s sufficed to give black people full control of their own destiny (because centuries of oppression can be undone by giving people a fraction of what they always deserved). They’re wrong, but try telling them as much without getting a face-full of froth. People often look for anything they can to validate what they already believe, and the Civil Rights Movement has tragically given too many people a licence to shrug and say “hey, we tried”. Sweep the problem under the rug so you don’t see how you’re still standing on someone’s neck.

 

But it’s also subtle in ways that you can almost forgive someone for not appreciating. One of the many problems pertaining to privilege is that being privileged also means you have the privilege of not acknowledging your own privilege. I could easily slip into the standard refrain of the working class white male who claims “my race has never benefitted me”, but that would require me to ignore that my race (or sexual orientation or gender for that matter) has never worked against me in a meaningful way. Acknowledging my good fortune in being a white, cisgendered, straight male in a country that’s still functionally run by white, cisgendered, straight males takes some self-awareness, and one need only glance at the disaster currently going down in the States to see that a little self-awareness can be hard to muster. But it goes beyond that: it also means that even beginning to understand what others go through takes effort, and no matter what, I have to acknowledge that beginning to understand is the best I can ever really do. Check your privilege seems like an annoying buzz phrase that’s already been overused, but considering that a person is morally and intellectually obliged to do it multiple times every day for the rest of one’s life? Just don’t buzz it at people who are actually trying.

 

It really is just something that needs to be kept in mind. Take a personal example: I got in a car accident during a recent road trip to St. John’s. I couldn’t find a hotel in Quebec, and steered a rental car into a ditch outside of Moncton because you try driving for seven hours on two hours of so-called sleep in the front seat of a compact. No one was hurt, the car sustained only minor damages, but it had to be towed, and the RCMP arrived on the scene. As the officer collected the rental forms, he notified me that he smelled marijuana in the vehicle. It belonged to my passenger (a musician, so that wasn’t surprising), he immediately admitted to owning it, and was offered a chance to destroy it so as not to face charges. And thus did a modest quantity of the reefer meet its unceremonious demise, ground into the dirt shoulder of a New Brunswick highway. I’d call that the greatest loss of the day, because the rental car was a Yaris.

 

As my passenger and I were in the tow truck, he asked an excellent question: “how would that have gone down if we were black?” Obviously, we couldn’t know for certain. The RCMP officer was very pleasant, but would he have been less pleasant if he was talking to young black men, as opposed to two dubiously groomed but middle class white guys? Knowing what any halfway socially conscious person knows about issues of race and policing, would we have hesitated when he mentioned the pot, thus appearing obstructive and not being given the break he’d given us? Would awkward small talk about the rifle prominently displayed in the front seat (it’s for moose, by the way) have been misconstrued? Just because you can’t rightly know the answer to a question doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask it. Sometimes, that makes asking it all the more important.

 

At the very least, the last thing the world needs is more impotent rage, especially when it’s being directed at people who are simply making a stand (or a knee) for their rights. The enraged reaction to Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem is nothing short of pathetic, and stands out as the most glaring example of twisted priorities in personal politics. Kaepernick found a way to protest a continuing and serious problem in American policing without obstructing anyone in any way, and–while the outpouring of support he’s received is heartening – the fact that anyone is calling out for his blood is terrifying. Hapless men getting gunned down by the people who are sworn to “serve and protect” them is something you can shrug off, but a football player kneels during the national anthem and that’s crossing the line? Someone should start sneaking anti-psychotics into the American water supply; can’t be any worse than what happened in Flint…

 

Race remains a complex, persistent, and troubling issue in North American law. As long as people ignore it (and use their ignorance as an excuse for petty, seething, malevolent anger), everyone else has an obligation to consider it. If anything, more complicated issues require more thought, even if the effort seems futile, and watching the discussion unfold on social media makes it feel like your faith in humanity is having its organs carved out and sold on the black market.

 

…I might need some anti-psychotics too. Anyone know a guy?

An Odyssey through the Middle East

“You’re up!” Shalaw shouted this while he firmly placed an Ak-47 over my chest. I was nervous. As things unfolded, it seemed as though my life was becoming a modern sequel to Voltaire’s Candide.

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A few days earlier, I was in Istanbul. I was backpacking alone and had just finished two months of travelling in Europe and North Africa. The scenery in Turkey was a marvel handsome enough to captivate any audience. Fountains were illuminated by shifting red, blue, and green lights.  The water’s glow lightly pressed against the walls of the towering, ancient mosques, which were filled daily by thousands of tourists and locals.

 

As I sauntered down the promenade, the ground was shaken by a destabilizing “BOOM!” People scattered in all directions.  Parents were corralling their families inside—children were screaming. I ran for cover under a nearby bluff.  Most suspected a suicide bomber had ripped through a piece of the city.  But then the boom happened again. And again. Over our heads we saw fighter jets soaring. The booms, it turned out, were sonic booms.  Aircraft were tearing through the sound barrier, and, in the distance, I could hear the shredding of a chopper gunner as it unloaded its ammunition on a civilian population. Questions abounded. Was Russia getting its revenge on Turkey for shooting down its pilot? Had Bashir Assad finally reached a boiling point with his adversary in the north? No—the fight was coming from within.  The Turkish military perceived the ruling Islamist party, the AKP, as a threat to the country’s secular traditions.  President Tayyip Erdogan, they reasoned, had to go.

 

There was a television set in a nearby hotdog stand. As I and Turkish citizens stared transfixed at the screen, Erdogan came on a media network.  He was portrayed through Facetime on an iPhone. Narrowly he slipped away from capture and was headed toward Ataturk airport.  After landing, he urged the Turkish people to protest in the streets.  And they did.  Against every good judgement, I paid a cab driver $100 US to drive me through the crowds. Groups of men were flapping large Turkish flags. Chants of “Allahu Akbar” were refrained. When I opened the window, a flurry of national symbols poured into the car. Although I was neutral regarding the legitimacy of the rebellion, I was not leaving it up to the crowd to divine that. A story was circulating—only a few kilometers away a soldier had been beheaded by an angry mob. Without hesitation I began imitating their chants and waving the flag outside of the window. After the night’s horrors abated, and the last remnants of the military conspirators were rooted out in Ankara, I was consumed with exultation. I had just survived a historic military coup d’état.  And a botched one, at that.

 

This reminded me of the time I was in Tel Aviv, Israel. I was standing outside the Carmel Market with two other backpackers, waiting for a table on the patio. Although there were no “booms” shaking the earth beneath me, to my left there were reeling crowds, falling over tables in panic, with little girls’ faces gripped by terror as black tears fell down their cheeks. It was pandemonium. At this point, however, my instinct of self-preservation was arrested by my mounting sense of curiosity. Instead of running, as my comrades from the hostel had done, I turned on my cellphone and began recording. I was still unaware of whether the incident was a bombing, a stabbing, a hostage taking—or a hoax.  As I moved in slowly, I crept under tables, squatted behind impromptu parapets, and peeked through cracks. I could see squashed tomatoes and Turkish delight spattered on the ground. Eventually I broke from my furtive motions, and questioned the remaining shopkeepers. To my delight, they answered that no one had been hurt. There was no bombing, or stabbing. Rather, a man threatened a crowd with a knife, which provoked an American woman to scream “TERRORIST!” The media, for good reasons, had hardwired everyone in the Middle East, tourist or resident, to be explosively reactive to this nine-letter, three-syllable word.  Especially when bellowed at full exertion.

 

But I should return to the main thread of my story.  After the coup d’état ended, I spent a few more nights in Turkey. Just days before arriving to this part of the world, I was in Kosovo, dealing with “traveller’s burnout.” Fortunately, my time in Istanbul ended this moral drought. And my next destination was poised to do the same. As I was spinning a globe at my hostel, a fellow traveller joked that I should go to Iraq.  I had always been captivated by the “land of two rivers,” but I never saw it as a feasible option. After a night’s sleep, however, I felt a resolute desire to enter into the heart of ancient Mesopotamia, the land of Hammurabi—indeed, the home of human civilization.  By the day’s end, the ticket was booked.

 

For obvious reasons, the flight was less than half full, and within three hours I arrived in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Two days later I nervously travelled in a yellow cab to Sulaymaniyah through Kirkuk. A few kilometers to the west were Islamic State strongholds—I was fearful, but surprisingly relaxed. My mood that day was elevated by the car’s air-conditioning, as the low in Iraq that afternoon was forty-six Celsius, the high, fifty-two.  When I arrived to my hotel I tried to arrange a tour of Halabja, a city in which Saddam Hussein massacred eight thousand Kurds with mustard gas in 1988.  But there were no tour guides available that could speak English. Instead, a local at the hotel graciously agreed to drive me.

 

The next morning a fellow in a military uniform knocked on my door.  He was a pesh merga officer named Shalaw. During our first hour together he showed me the different gun shops in the city, where we purchased bullets for fifty cents apiece. He then handed me a pistol for protection. After we visited Halabja, we drove through serpentine mountains in Persia, climbed a waterfall at the border, then met with Iranian generals while we visited the leader of the Socialist Kurdish party.  To confirm that I was capable of using the gun, he drove us out to the barren desert.  At this point I was among several Kurdish fighters. All of them were friendly and surprisingly gentle, kind-looking men.  Shalaw shot the gun off into the hill which stood twenty feet ahead of us. Then he handed me the gun, encouraging me to do the same.

 

The dry, desert air had made my throat indistinguishable from sandpaper. I requested to shoot the pistol before I used the semi-automatic rifle: I needed to ensure that when I pulled the trigger, I was able to control my posture. And it was about time I started thinking about my safety. Luckily my use of the pistol succeeded—and even impressed my new comrades. Shalaw then slapped the Ak-47 into my arms with a reassuring physiognomy, and I turned to unload the clip into the hill. When I realized I was in control—handling a gun, in the desert, surrounded by Canadian allies in the war against IS—the nerves dissipated. Shalaw swung the Ak-47 on his back and asked if I would now like to see the frontline.  Of course I did.

 

We arrived at a derelict building. I had the pleasure of seeing the stereotypical image of Kurdish fighters giving each other massages and haircuts. Surrounding us was a yellow sea of desert and shrubs. There was hardly any furniture, food was scarce, and the heat was sweltering. In the distance I could see IS strongholds, fortified with fragile rocks and the threatening aura that attends every IS brigade. At any moment, I thought, they could fill their trucks with C4 and lay waste to the entire redoubt. Reality was beginning to set in, and my instincts began to reassert themselves. The fear of imminent death awakened my desire to live, and temporarily cured my fever for novelty.

 

I realized then that I had seen enough: it was time to go home.

A Woman Went Down Beside Me

It was Todd who said it, flailing about like an eager pre-schooler anxious to answer his teacher’s question. “Me, me; pick me,” his flung-up finger eagerly solicited, as the heads of everyone whirred in his direction, multiple sets of eyes dilating on his ruddy expression. “Statistics show,” he said academically, “that when emergencies occur amid a group of people, response to the ailing is always delayed.” “Everyone,” he continued, “expects that someone else will rush to give relief, so no one reacts right away.” I swallowed hard to soothe the drought in my throat on hearing his remark. It was prompted by my report of the woman on the train.

 

Rush hour. The subway car was filled to capacity, teeming with commuters hurriedly making their way. In the head-spinning cosmopolitan commotion, I tucked myself into the last available seat beside the entrance near the unoccupied operator’s cabin. Bodies big and small, tall, short, and average gathered about me, carried by semi-alert proprietors of all hues and shapes. Not a few were frazzled by the din of another morning on a crowded subway. At that unrighteous hour, many would have preferred to have still been sleeping. The ones who were standing squeezed into every inch of space. They formed a human screen, obscuring my view. Crouched as I was against the glass pane thrown up at the entrance, I could no longer see people’s faces, only silhouettes from their abdomen to pelvic. So when the train stopped to permit another exchange of commuters, I saw her right away.

 

I saw, her belly. She entered, wearing a tracksuit: grey trousers and matching hoodie which hugged her taut middle-section. The belly protruded slightly from her tiny, delicate frame, not yet like a fully inflated balloon. “Ah.” I mentally registered, “She’s pregnant.” The curiosity of the thought sent my eyes trailing behind her, as she meandered past the human screen and found herself a spot over by the operator’s cabin. My eyes ascended the belly in search of her face, as she stood there. But the hoodie was pulled over her head and hay coloured tresses dangling from its peripheries, completely shrouded her traits. The only other data I registered was that she was young…and black. My distracted thoughts wistfully echoed, “Hmm: young, and black, and pregnant.” Somewhere in the fathoms of my semi-conscious, I rued the fate of my own little sister. Still, distracted and semi-alert like the sorority of commuters stretching their inadequately rested bodies above me, I reburied my head in the pages of the book that I had previously been reading.

 

I read on, as the pollyannaish voice of the announcer proclaimed in a sing-song fashion over the PA system, “Pleeeassse stand cleeeear of the clooosing doors.” The locomotive jerked forward, exuding a sigh of complaint, as the operator released the brakes. It bucked under the strain of carrying so many hundreds of lumpen people. Then, it heaved forward, confidently steadying itself, picked up speed, and swiftly chugged on, on its way. Fifteen minutes flew by with the wind rushing beneath the engines. I was reading something about power and by now had become quasi-entranced, lulled by the mechanical rhythm of the side to side tilting car I was in. Then there was a shuffle. And a panicked female voice exclaimed, “My God!” I glanced across to the operator’s cabin from whence the cry came. Time … stood still.

 

I must have lost myself in that moment. For everything else receded. Except, across from where I sat, a pair of eyelids languidly parted, revealing hazy, dilated pupils. They stared forlornly at me, as if in accusation. I stared back, enthralled, trying to make sense of what I had seen. A woman had collapsed and was keeled over on her side, not completely on the floor, but felled all the same at an awkward, preposterous, diagonal angle. Her head had smacked against a wheeled trolley bag as she fell. I lost my bearings: there in that interminable moment, trying to figure her out. No one moved; no one did a thing. People were standing and people were sitting. Everyone stared. And the keeled over woman remained on the ground beneath us, propped up in that suffocating corner. The fashionable young Somali who sat beside me and immediately near the collapsed woman, did not scamper up to assist her. And I continued to sit and she continued to sit. And those standing around and those seated remained as rigid as mannequins.

 

In the seconds that followed, my semi-tranquilized mind slowly recovering itself, a feeble “Are you okay?” escaped from my lips. But even then, I was still sitting, snuggled up against the glass pane by the subway doors. The woman on the floor was the fragile expectant mother.

 

I have once before witnessed a miscarriage. The woman whose birth canal had prematurely expelled the semi-developed foetus was the wife of my mother’s brother. She must have been two hundred pounds at the time. Yet she was as melancholy and pitiable in her demise as the delicate expectant mother who now laid before me. People who faint lose all awareness of the event. They may look out from glossy eyes, but they are incapable of seeing. I don’t recall whether my mother and I had helped my aunt to the bathroom on that occasion. But I remember the blood-clotted placenta that had slipped spontaneously from beneath the folds of my aunt’s ample nightgown. None of us expected it. My aunt had lost consciousness, and along with my mum, I had to struggle to keep her from collapsing. That was a decade ago.

 

Much earlier, I had seen a baby violently ruptured from the safety of its mother incubator. That mother too was young and delicate, barely finishing her teens. For some reason, and I don’t know why, she was being carried by a male hospital worker. Where was the gurney? The man carrying her had no right to hold her that way: he had had her strewn across his chest, as flaccid legs dangled over one of his arms and her moribund head hung over the other. Her abdomen was squashed against her torso. She was not lifeless, but she had evidently been unconscious. The hospital staff sauntered by with her and were made to carry her up some stairs. It was at that moment that the baby gushed out from her pelvis. It was ghastly, as it was sad and unpleasant. The orderly shrugged, struggling up the stairs with his cargo while the woman’s little stranger, that was not to be, laid abandoned on the cold hard floor, its life ebbing away with the seconds. Women do not easily recover from the premature loss of their infants.

 

Why did such thoughts not rouse me as I sat in stupor watching this woman on the subway floor? And why did no one else dash to her rescue? This author I recently read wrote in resignation that “we too often stand paralyzed in the face of urgent collective challenges.” I think it was David Held that said that. What’s missing, he suggested, is solidarity: “By solidarity I mean not just emphatic recognition of another’s plight, but the willingness to stand side by side with others.” Natalia Ginzburg penned an essay, Le piccole virtù, where, exploring this same interpersonal disconnect, she contended that the required ingredient is education not in the small virtues of human interaction. Rather, we need socialization in the larger constituents of human generosity: in courage, charity, regard for others, l’abnegazione, in defiance of danger, “e il desiderio di essere e di sapere.”

 

Fortunately for the woman on the subway floor, someone did have their wits about them. “Help her up,” instructed a sober stranger looking across to the persons standing by. The dazed pregnant woman was foisted to her feet while the Somali beside me echoed my question, “Are you okay?” But she was still sitting, so the woman who issued the instruction spoke again, “Let her sit,” she said. The Somali stood up and the mother-to-be hunkered down beside me. By now, people had begun to mill around, their interest in the woman actively awakening. “Wait. Are you pregnant?” intoned a stick-like woman with flat-ironed hair. She had come over and was quizzically eyeing her subject who now slouched beside me. “Is she okay?” an Asian-accented female voice chimed in.

 

I leaned forward and peered beneath the hoodie that was still drawn over her face. Beads of perspiration, like raindrops on roses, settled on her adobe-tinged nose and forehead. Her cheeks were moist; her eyes unopened. Blond locks cascaded in curls around her face; she glowed in the aura of a cherub. “Are you going to be okay?” I discretely inquired. “Should we call for a doctor?” The imperative of another person on the train rang out above my head, “Get her some water,” it said. Within seconds, a hand stuck out from amid the abdomen of the group that had gathered before us. A can of Ginger Ale was proffered by a young metrosexual male. It had made its way from someone standing in the middle of the train. I collected it and handed it to the visibly exhausted woman. She was just then opening her drowsy eyelids to answer, “Yes,” to my first interrogative, and “No,” to the second. It was a noble display of courage. “Perhaps,” I said to her playfully, “it was just your little stranger – your baby – that gave you a kick.” She smiled timidly at this while I wondered who in their right mind would let a pregnant young mother travel alone on a rush hour train.

 

The sense of outrage I experienced over my moral abnegation during this episode has remained with me since. It has served the useful function of making me alive to the people around me. Not long after this incident, I boarded the Rocket to York University. It was about 10am that day and, as usual, scores of commuters crowded on with me. Among the last few passengers, a pregnant woman got on. She climbed up the platform to the back of the shuttle and ended up standing beside me. I was sitting. I made to get up, so as to offer her my seat. But she intercepted me, “Oh, no. It’s okay. I’m alright,” she said. I shifted to reposition myself in the seat, but judging better I swirled around and exited from my place. “I prefer, that you sit.” I told her. Perhaps it was my tone of resolution: she took my place with nary a sound of protest. I was glad for that and glad too that, for once, my faculties were working.

FEWER WORDS, MORE ACTION: MODERNIZING THE TORONTO POLICE SERVICE

Details remain elusive at TPS consultation meeting with Jane and Finch community 

 

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At a public consultation at the Driftwood Community Center on 7 September 2016, members of the Toronto Police Service (TPS) – including Chair of the Toronto Police Service Board Andy Pringle and Chief Mark Saunders – engaged the Jane and Finch community in a public consultation to elicit feedback on their interim report aimed at revamping the TPS.

 

The initiative comes at a time of particular tension between the public and law enforcement, due in part to recent events in the United States, as well as events here at home, including the killing of Sammy Yatim by Constable Forcillo in July 2013, the shooting death of Andrew Loku by Toronto Police in July 2015, and the death of Abdirahman Abdi in July 2016  as Ottawa policeattempted to arrest him. The deaths of these three men reflect a number of common issues, which were rightly raised by the community members present. Their deaths highlight the TPS’s persistent difficulty in handling situations involving those members of society suffering from mental illness. This issue highlights the need for revamped police de-escalation techniques in crisis situations, but perhaps more significantly, it highlights the need for increased accountability and trust between the police and the communities they serve.

 

The TPS Interim Report, “The Way Forward: Modernizing Community Safety in Toronto,” highlighted five major necessary changes: a change in police relations with the public; the delivery of police services, access to those services, sustainability and affordability, and a change in police culture. The most challenging area and perhaps the area met with the most skepticism was culture change, an area intrinsically related to accountability.

 

Details of this proposed change in culture and accountability were sparse at the community meeting. Questions were posed by community members relating to other issues such as the broken police complaint system, a legitimate fear of the police within the community, and a lack of consequence for police misconduct. In response, Mr. Pringle and Chief Saunders generally recognized the legitimacy of the issues, reiterated the need for change, and concluded with a statement assuring the community that the TPS is interested in addressing these issues in their final report. Details, however, were not discussed.

 

The TPS’s interim report was not completely devoid of detail and did provide a high-level overview of some of the proposed changes to come. As a means of enhancing accountability, one recommendation proposed a robust performance-based talent management strategy for TPS members. But this change alone is an insufficient solution. A change in police culture requires more than an enhanced employee-management system like the one proposed; it requires a broader systemic change to our present system in how police misconduct is investigated and disciplined. At present, and despite the existence of a formal system in place to deal with police complaints, the process of filing a complaint against the police can be frustrating and can often produce disappointing and incomplete results, an issue which was raised at the consultation meeting. In our present system, in instances where the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is called to investigate police misconduct, SIU reports are not made public. The SIU report on Andrew Loku’s death was an exception; it was released at the urging of Black Lives Matter Toronto, and even then, only nine of thirty-four total pages were released, omitting key information. Bureaucratic smokescreens like these unfortunately do little to assure the public that police accountability can be counted on, or that a change in police culture is on its way.

 

Credit must be given to the TPS’s recognition of the necessity of change in these sensitive and challenging areas, but this recognition is without value unless it can be supplemented with the action, or at least the details of any planned action, to back them up. As with justice, accountability must be seen to be done. Here’s hoping the details to come on the TPS’s proposed change in culture and accountability will result in tangible results sufficient to promote a sense of mutual trust and respect that is so needed within the communities, like the Jane and Finch community, that they are called to serve.

 

The final report is scheduled to be released in December of 2016.