Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Just the Facts Ma'am, Conservative Attack Ads

I'd like to offer my congratulations to Justin Trudeau on winning the Leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. I look forward to M. Trudeau showing he was the right choice.

It was a good day for Liberals. It seemed a good day for the Conservative Party of Canada too. They were finally able to roll out their anti Trudeau attack ads. I imagine conservatives anticipated the election of Trudeau with the same glee as children looking forward to Christmas. Just to be clear it is the Conservative Party of Canada that is the author of the website. Scroll to the bottom and you can just make it out in very light print; "Authorized by the Registered Agent of the Conservative Party of Canada. "; yes that small and that colourNot the kind of  "pride of ownership" you might have come to associate with conservatives. 

Ads attacking liberal leaders are basic conservative strategy, they define "you" before you can define "yourself". I don't care for attack ads and there is a difference between ads attacking a candidates record which are reasonable and those attacking through the deliberate misrepresentation of the candidate. This present incarnation of conservative attack ad is of the later quality. 

The first thing a visitor sees is a quote from a by M. Trudeau declaring " Quebecers are better than the rest of Canada". Click the story and you are purported to be given the "full context" of the quote, Quebecers are better than the rest of Canada because, you know, we’re Quebecers or whatever. A lot more of us are bilingual, bicultural, a lot more awareness of the rest.”. Well that seems even worse. 

The simple accusation is that Trudeau is an arrogant anti-English, French elitist. The subtle message is that He will promote the interests of Quebec to the detriment of the Rest of Canada; a historical concern of the West.

Helpfully, the Toronto Star gives an expanded version of the Trudeau quote. "“His philosophy, certainly as he passed it on to us, has always been Quebecers are better than the rest of Canada because we’re Quebecers or whatever. I mean, this idea that a lot more of us are bilingual, bicultural…”. Justin is talking about his father's notions in an interview done 14 years ago. Useful information

The expanded quote, as it appears in the Star completely undermines the attack ad's message. The ad makers parsed a Truth till it said something completely different. This is what I find most objectionable. Anyone inclined to look no further than this website will leave with a false understanding of M. Trudeau's position. It is one thing to post awful photos of Trudeau ( they do that too) and declare them "not a Leader" and another thing to slice and dice a fact till it tells the story you want to tell. How is that different than a lie?

The site also choose to highlight Trudeau's participation in a Charity event to raise money for the Liver Foundation as an indication of his unfitness to lead. Granted it was buried in a clip comparing Harper's acumen and deriding Trudeau's; but the point was showing Trudeau engaged in a charity event, stripping context and presenting as a negative. Helping a Charity as a bad thing.

I'm sure Trudeau will make plenty of mistakes in the next two years. While I expect the conservatives to throw as much trouble as they can on Justin's way to the 24 Sussex Drive, it is not to much ask that they stick to the facts.

Monday, April 8, 2013

On RBC and Temporary Foreign Workers

In the news this weekend was a story about RBC hiring a firm to provide IT workers. It doesn't sound like the kind of breaking news that would have the Bank at the centre of a controversy; till you get the details. The temporary foreign workers are here to be trained by the existing crew; who's jobs they will then assume, till the bulk of the work is finally transitioned over seas.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program-TFWP was established to provide assistance to businesses facing labour shortages, due to skills or bodies. It seems reasonable to allow businesses to bring in workers if the lack-there-of would result in the shutting of their doors. Some have voiced concern over abuses that may arise dues to this program and older ones dealing with care givers and the agricultural sectors.

RBC has found there way into this morass. What the Bank is doing is outsourcing a piece of their business; nothing unusual about that. The problem is that you aren't allowed to bring in foreign workers to displace Canadian ones. Had RBC just outsourced the department I can't imagine it would have raised an eyebrow. The idea of training the workers imported to take your job is something all together different and subsequently very news worthy.

RBC troubles are the latest incidence of companies testing the boundaries of the TFWP. In BC a mining company applied for and was given the right to bring in Coal miners from China. They argued and had supporting evidence that they couldn't find workers or skills in Canada to construct and operate their mine. This assertion has been opposed by Unions concerned with the importation of Labour. Additional documents suggest that the the Chinese workers maybe be here for up to 14 years. Nothing temporary about that.  There does appear to be labour shortages in BC but from the looks of it there is no plan to remedy that situation. It is appears easier to to hire foreign workers than to recruit and/or train Canadian ones.

One of the advantages is in wages; the Federal government has granted businesses the right to pay 15% less to TFW. Other abuses unintended but real are unsafe working conditions  wages withheld or refused, threats of deportation. The kind of things you might expect where vulnerable people are involved.

 No business wants to pay more than they have too. TFWP is like outsourcing only in reverse. Gone are the days when if you can't find a skilled worker you train one yourself; If you can't find someone to do the job you increase the pay till you do.

And it is all about cost. When a business talks of competitiveness they no longer mean innovation, quality or customer service; they mean cost, and only cost. Where once the desire to reduce costs led to the transfer of manufacturing and other jobs to Low Wage regions; temporary worker programs have led to the importation of low wage workers for that employment that couldn't easily be exported. It is argued that TFWP has an effect of lowering working standards in Canada and I think it is a point that has weight.

 Non Western economies didn't lose their manufacturing to a Developing world that did it better, they lost out to Countries that could do it cheaper. Now for those we have arranged to recreate Low Wage enclaves in Canada.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Members Of Parliament-What Are They Good For?

The other day I wrote about the Conservative party Of Canada Vote unanimously against a Motion in Support of Science. Many saw that vote as a confirmation of the CPCs aversion, antipathy and dislike of Facts. The motion was most certainly meant to embarrass the CPC, which it did, Twice, once by highlighting the plight of science under Harper and a second time by forcing the CPC, in its entirety to vote against a motion in support of science. But that's how things go in the House of Commons sometimes. An artfully render motion exposing the perfidy of the ruling party, very swiftian.

I also noted that my MP, Rick Dykstra voted with his party, against science. I have no reason to believe he finds science a chore to believe in; his was the regular support the Party vote. That had me thinking about Dykstras voting record. Now anyone can look up how their MPs vote and I had resigned myself to the task of looking up his evry vote; then comparing it with Harper. What I wanted to see was how often He voted against his Party and by Party I mean Harper. There have been 648 votes to date; luckily I found a short cut.

This entry from the post-"Breaking rank: How often do MPs vote against their own party?" made checking effortless. Though the conclusion from evidence; that the conservatives break rank most often is factual, it is also misleading. The criteria is "voting against the majority of your party". If you Look at the Vote that most of the conservatives "broke ranks" on Motion 312, a stealth anti choice motion. I don't consider that breaking rank considering it includes Harper. Harper voted against the Motion and save for a few Ministers and the die hard Anti Choice conservatives the rank and file followed his act. 

The graphic reveals that where Rick Dykstra and Harper identical voting records, this applies to votes that were attended by both men. Is it a remarkable exhibition of unity of purpose or just the banality of party workings? But it's not just Dykstra, I imagine if I went over the results closely I'd find that most back bench conservatives and Lesser Lights share the same voting record.  We have Government MPs, mostly competent, dependable, loyal conservatives, they appear on the CBC say their talking points, they stand in the House and deliver their lines. They keep clean offices, open to  constituents, at the usual hours and they vote the way they are told to. (I make note that Harper's promise not to open the Abortion debate has ruffled the formerly quiescent back bench, though whether this leads to increasing MP independence of a material kind is up for speculation).

Lest I be accused of partisanship, I freely acknowledge that the opposition Parties vote in solid blocks. I would also think that Past Liberal and Conservative governments share a similar record of party solidarity with the Harper Government. Nor am willing to entertain that a Mulcair or Murray Government would allow for greater independence( though I would really, really hope Prime Minister Joyce Murray would find away to create space for the average MP. 

What is it that turns our MPs into seat warmers? Is it the nature of the Westminster political system? The UK seems quite raucous, Google Cameron backbench revolt and see what you get. The Australian PM has just had her leadership challenge. I guess it reflects the way we do politics here that the system itself. Anyone looking outside in, can see Natural Selection at work. It seems our MPs are being selected for quietude, loyalty and submissiveness;from the back bench, lower lights and right up to Cabinet.  You have the PM a few Cabinet heavy weights and the rest. 

The problem is the concentration of power in the person of the Party leader. A party leader's control over nominations, they have to sign the candidates nomination papers. Right from the start you know whose grip you are in. The party provides you money to contest the election. The PM doles out Cabinet post, parliamentary secretaries and committee assignments. If you want a long and interesting career in politics you have two paths; one by loyalty or the other by leadership. There are a lot more followers than leaders, odds are better if you do as you are told and you are likely to have more fun. The cost can be seen in mediocrity driving away quality, in terms of candidates.

The most effective way to counter the trend is to have Party Leaders relinquish those powers that give them excessive control over there caucus. I can see that being difficult; sometimes you need to keep your caucus in line. The trend is towards less democracy in favour of greater stability and predictability. It is a bad trend. We are a Democracy once every four years and it's not enough.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Talk Radio Topics-Lady Refuses an Open Door, Earth Hour

Two topics on Talk Radio today, a Man held open a door for a Women and was unhappy that she didn't appreciate his decency, but vows to do it again and It's Earth hour again "How it oppressed Me".

The story goes, a Man held open a door for a Woman, she said she didn't need a door held open for her, he continued to hold it open till the woman gave in and walked through. He didn't get her attitude, after all, he was  just being polite. Then there was mention made of how emasculating society is; men not able to be men.   He was not trying to subjugate her by holding an open door nor was she really asserting her Independence by refusing to walk through. Just a bit of human kindness.

The callers were split evenly between those that thought He was right to hold the door and those that thought She was wrong to object. Some people had thought he should have let the door swing close on her, being that is what she deserved by refusing the gallant offer. I believe I caught the implied five letter abbreviation of Feminist. The callers definitely thought the Man had committed no sin.

Lets take a fresh look at he incident. Man offers open door, Women says no, Man continues to hold door till she acquiesces. It was reasonable for him to open the door, it was acceptable for her to decline, it was wrong for him to hold open the door till she gave in and went through it. Just imagine the scene, the gentleman refusing to let go of the door and continue his day until she was forced to accept his polite offer. It takes all the chivalry out of the act don't you think.

It may seem rude if a person chooses not to take advantage of a proffered door, but then you nod and move on. You don't stand there and make them go through. I thought it odd this didn't occur to the man, further he asserts that he would do it again. It would seem that she was obligated to accept his actions regardless of how she felt about it. I'm sure there is a word for that kind of thinking and no it's not chivalry.

The earth hour topic come around every year, appropriately on Earth Hour; where like minded people gripe about how bad 1/8760 of the year can get. Some people turn on all there lights and electronics in protests. No way will they be forced to conserve electricity and maybe save some money. Today's comments concerned how the keeping of earth hour by other people, made life intolerable. Restaurants and bars truing off lights or Televisions. Reminds me of first world problems. I get it, you paid for a dinner or a night out and it sucks that for an hour you get a little less light and sound, but really, I mean Really. Oh and the Obligatory  observation about David Suzuki; how insufferable he is with all that "caring about the clean Air,Water and Land". Imagine the gall of that man desiring a sustainable environment. He gets paid to Talk.

Those were two topics I heard on Talk Radio today.

A Motion on Science and the Nays(Conservatives) Have It

On March 20th 2013 the NDP member Kennedy Stewart sponsored a motion on science.

That, in the opinion of the House: (a) public science, basic research and the free and open exchange of scientific information are essential to evidence-based policy-making; (b) federal government scientists must be enabled to discuss openly their findings with their colleagues and the public; and (c) the federal government should maintain support for its basic scientific capacity across Canada, including immediately extending funding, until a new operator is found, to the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area Research Facility to pursue its unique research program.

It went down to defeat with  Conservative members including my own Mp Rick Dykstra voting against the motion. This vote gave rise to comments that can summed up in one phrase, "Conservatives vote against science". Certainly the conservatives have demonstrated a contempt for Science; ignoring data on Safe injection sites; data on climate change; ending the long form census, eliminating the position of  National science Advisor; ordering government scientists to silence. You might even suggest the demonisation of the Environmental movement and its spokes people as indication of their lack of respect for science or science based opposition. 

It doesn't help the Conservative image that the Ministers of Science and Technology Gary Goodyear has taken some Heat for his positioning on evolution. 

The Governments positioning on science strikes me as political; a means to an end, rather than ideological; and end in itself. No Canadian government can oppose science on its face; everything about our modern society rests on science. You wouldn't have a Tar Sands industry without science, but you wouldn't have Tar Sands opposition without it. Safe Injection sites reduce all manner of ills, associated with drug abuse including reduced health care expenditures due to disease prevention. Cost reduction is usually an occasion for Conservative High Fives, except that it conflicts with similar conservative notions on crime & punishment;   or character and weakness. The Conservatives in serving their ideology of what is fit and correct choose to alienate the Science rather than their base. 

This Conservative Government has gone farther than any other in their attempt to weaken any opposition to their agenda, be it social, fiscal or economic. They happily employ science to advance their aims while cutting out the legs of any science that may obstruct. 

Returning now to the NDP motion on science, the Government vote is a reflex; it protects their long term goal. They vote no on free exchange of science information; control of information is a key to power. They vote no on science informing public policy  because that can impair the advancement of Conservative policy. Vote no on scientists speaking freely so that they do not embarrass or impair government agenda; a similar strategy with conservatives MP. Vote no on reversing  Environmental Lakes Area funding; the less environmental data available to use in judging the merits/harm of resource extraction projects. 

I think that the conservatives are contemptuous of science, a small bit from fear and loathing but mostly because it represents an opposition and Harper doesn't like opposition. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

On Flaherty, Interest Rates and the Free Market

On Tuesday the Finance Minister Mike Flaherty Called Manulife about Interest rates. Manulife had cut the their 5 year fixed mortgage rate to 2.89% and Flaherty thought that was to low; so he rang them up to communicate his displeasure over the drop in rates. Later that day Manulife went back to the old offered rate. This is the second call Flaherty has made to banks over mortgage rates: BMO received a call earlier this month, though they declined to take his advice and kept the new rates.

The Finance Minister has taken some criticism over these interventions into the market place. Business leaders dislike being told how to run their businesses(unless they need money). Conservatives generally opposed Government intervention in the Economy, believing that it leads to inefficiencies and likely to bring about Totalitarian Socialists dictatorships. We have the NDP leader Mulcair suggesting "banana republic behaviour"; interim Liberal leader Rae explained that "either we have a free market or we don't". Tough  going when Liberals and NDP criticizes a Conservative for intervening in the economy.

I believe Governments have the right to intervene in economic matters and should do so when the need is there and congratulate Flaherty on his ideological shift. But was there cause and are his methods reasonable?

Flaherty's concern is over an American housing crunch/debt crisis hitting Canada. Our recovery, if steady has been slow and would be damage by a collapse in the housing market. Household debt has been rising to uncomfortable levels. He already reined in amortization periods, reducing them from 40 years to 25; the longer the period, the lower the payments and the more you can spend on a home. Lower interest rates also mean lower payments making more expensive homes affordable. But as the Bank of Canada warned, interest rates will eventually go up and the consequences of that  can be defaulting on mortgages and loans. If a large enough number of Canadians find themselves in dire straights it will have a sizable impact on the Canadian economy.

Flaherty sees the mortgage sectors competition for customers, through lower rates as potentially destabilizing; putting unqualified buyers in homes they can't afford, awaiting the first interest rate shocks. A house of cards. I think he is right to be concerned and its the type of problem that requires action way in front of the problem, if there is a problem at all. The downside of ordering banks to maintain higher rates, (keep in mind very low BoC rates) is that citizens pay more for their homes. That is as unpopular as tax hikes. It is awkward that a Conservative Minister of finance must intervene personally to ensure that banks don't make bad loans and people don't borrow unwisely. That tells you a bit about what he thinks of the self regulatory powers of the Free Market that economists boast about.

Tightening rules on lending have already had a softening affect on the housing market. So it seems past actions taken by this government are working. I have no problem with Government being active in the Economy when need arises, the manner of action is important. I also accept in principle that a Well Regulated Free Market is essential to the prosperity of Canada and Canadians. So the idea of the Finance Minister cold calling Mortgage lenders and suggesting appropriate rates is too micro management and somewhat dictatorial  Are there only hammers in the Minister"s tool chest.

I applaud the concern, I question the method.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Comment on Bill C-279 Amending CCC, CHRA inclusion of Gender Identity and Expression

On Wednesday the House of Commons will vote for a third time on Bill C-279 . The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) and the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC) to include the words, gender identity and gender expression. If it passes then it will be illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of gender expression and identity; and it adds this wording  to cover in CCC section 318 "Hate Propaganda" (4) identifiable groups; and section 718.2 CCC on sentencing.

The effect is to protect Trans people from discrimination and hate crimes. If you read the purpose of the CHRA, the amendment is in keeping with the Acts stated purpose. The changes made to the CCC are reasonable as they merely reflect the changes being made to the CHRA.

There is nothing novel in expanding Human rights coverage to Trans people. Since the Acts inception in 1977 it has been altered to prevent discrimination on the basis of Sexuality, amended to include hate communication (recently that was repealed, C-304 also know as "Protecting Freedom"). It was also changed to include First Nations people. I am of the opinion that a Human Rights Act should be as expansive as is necessary to ensure Canadian citizens are as free from discrimination as we can manage.

Great news! As I write this commentary C-279 has passed third reading by a vote of 149-137 and is off to the Senate. My congratulations to the bill's sponsor NDP Randall Garrison. I noticed my MP Rick Dykstra voted nay on second reading, I hope he changed his mind this time around.

This Bill has received some opposition from the likes of the Campaign For Life, a small anti -choice group. Canada Family Action, which should not surprise anyone who reads the Section called "what we stand for",

Canada Family Action Coalition has a vision to see Christian principles applied in Canadian law, politics and society.

Christian principles applied to Canadian Law, I don't blame you for the shiver you just felt after reading that. The Bill to expand Human rights coverage to Trans people has Gained the moniker "the Bathroom Bill from its opponents. The opposition has come at C-279 in two ways an appeal to reason and a panicked shortness of breath. The first and only attempt at reasonable discourse is the suggestion that the new terms are "undefined" and would task Judges to interpret the law, Conservatives religious or otherwise are not happy with Judges interpreting law. I'm not sure exactly how you might misinterpret Gender Identity and Expression. It seems clear Identity being what gender you feel you are and expression being how you show that in your outward appearance. 

They are also concerned over potential "costs" associated with this Bill, additional bathrooms, human rights complaints( these people are not fans of the Tribunals); increased Heath care spending; and violations of the CCC . But these are really a throw away points like when  MPs Warawa andWoodworth  talk about supporting women's rights or science to promote back door anti-choice motions like motions 408 and 312. Their intention is to end Reproductive Choice.

The bread and butter points for this group of religious conservatives, (self described), are the children, women but not so much men. Children might be taught about tolerance or shudder,  understanding and acceptance of trans people. We don't want to confuse children, but I see the confusion arising perhaps from being taught one thing at home and another in school or the wider world. 

All arguments resolve into the meaning behind  the appellation "Bathroom Bill" attached to this amendment by those in opposition. If this Bill passes, women and children, will face assaults in bathrooms and showers across Canada. A  Mr. McVety considers the bill "a danger to our children". He describes a situation, 

If gender identity is enshrined in the Criminal Code of Canada, any male at any time will be permitted in girls bathrooms, showers and change rooms as long as they have an innate feeling of being female,” said McVety. “If I then try to stop such a man from showering with my little girl at the local pool I could be in breach of the Criminal Code of Canada and could face imprisonment.” 

It is quite clear what Mr. McVety thinks of Trans people. We all want to be safe, Children, Women and Men. It is beyond intolerable to conflate Trans people with sexual predators. A low point in political discourse. These are the same people that wished to deny rights to the LGBT community, like protection against discrimination; ability to adopt, marriage rights. This subset of christian believers "knows" what is right and good and true; everything that doesn't meet with that definition must be opposed and the chief tool in opposition is fear; of sexual abuse, societal breakdown and perversion. They fight against expanding rights to the LGBTQ now, but before that came opposition to minority rights, before that and still sadly Women's rights. All change seems apocalyptic. 

They are part of a larger group that understands change brings loss of place and privilege for the formerly dominate people. When you extend equal rights to cover more people or circumstances you don't diminish the rights the dominate group but you do effect their ability to discriminate and so marginalize. This inevitably leads to a transfer of some  power and opportunity to the formerly disenfranchised groups. They won't stop fighting and hopefully won't stop losing.

UPDATE: I just checked the Voting on C-279, my MP, Rick Dykstra Vote Nay on amending the CHRA and CCC to include Gender Expression and Gender Identity. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Concerning Changes to Citizen's Arrest and The Point of It All

Bill C-26 or Citizen's Arrest and Self Defence Act has come into effect. The Bill  makes changes to Citizen's Arrest. The legislation was prompted by what occurred to shopkeeper Davis Chen. A shopkeeper plagued by shoplifting took matters into his own hands when he performed a citizen's arrest on someone he caught shoplifting; the twist was that the perpetrator was caught on a return visit. The man originally escaped the store with his loot. It was on his return for more that he was caught ties up and placed into a van. A call to 911 suggesting an abduction in progress; the police arrived finding the shoplifter tied up in a van, the shopkeeper and two other were arrested on the spot. Mr. Chen was charged with forceable confinement and assault. Inadvertently becoming a celebrity among conservatives; Mr Chen represented as a man protecting himself and property because no one else was.

Mr. Chen won his case when the presiding Judge dismissed the charges. While he found that the police acted reasonable in response to the circumstances surrounding the 911 call; the Judge found that the Police's failure to respond to small crimes led people like Mr. Chen, who perceiving the gap in law enforcement, stepped up to fill the void. This leading the Judge finding reasonable doubt to Mr. Chen's guilt. I understand this to be a reflection of the judge believing that Chen was acting with need and in good faith.

The CPC made much of this case; Chen became a Hero of the conservative and their notions of self defence; a citizen acting when all others deputized to failed. He received a visit from Harper, many pictures ensued, lots of hay made. At the time I thought the circumstances surrounding  Mr. Chen were unfortunate but not entirely unreasonable; the arrest not the prosecution  I think the crown could have pursued the case with more creativity. The rules regarding citizen's arrest were clear and Mr. Chen violated them; they allow for a narrow window of time to act and for the kind of action allowed. If he had been familiar with Citizen's arrest he would not have run afoul of the law. Now to help people like Mr. Chen, you can either inform them of the correct procedure for making a Citizen's arrest or rewrite them with a little more room.

The Harper government, like every government ever, wasn't going to waste the opportunity to score some points with the base. So they proposed  minor changes to the Criminal code of Canada, concerning Citizen's Arrest in the form of Bill C-26. (Original bill died due to an election.)

The resulting Bill increased the time in which an arrest may be made, through the insertion more uses of  "reasonable" relating to what physical acts are permissible in defence of self or property and "reasonable time" for apprehension of suspect. The act gives more discretion to Judges on what they can consider reasonable under what circumstances. Interesting because recent legislation has been trying to curtail discretion.

I will end with a link to the Harper Government's Department of Justice's section on What You Need to Know About Making a Citizen's Arrest. This page will be a let down to the Gung Ho DYI Justice types. I will summarize for you what it has to say to the would be Citizen.

(1) Don't make and arrest if you don't have to, find a policeman.
(2) If you do arrest someone learn the procedure because it's important. You aren't a policeman. Be polite.
(3) You better know the kind of crime being committed because there are rules.
(4) You better arrest the right person because if you don't the person you are arresting might not take it well.
(5)  Arresting people is dangerous, you are not trained and things could go horribly wrong.  

This page is very helpful to would be protectors of property, but it practicably screams DON'T DO IT, find a policeman. You are taking a huge risk and exposing yourself to danger DON'T DO IT, unless you are very sure. Good advice.

The changes are not badly done; they do allow any citizen acting reasonably, in certain circumstances to act in defence of themselves and their property without worrying about going to jail. Just stay within the guidelines.

Concerning the Supreme Court, R v Pham, IRAP and Sentencing

The SCC handed down a decision on R v Pham. An appeal of a lower court sentence of 2 years for a conviction. The appeal was pursued due to consequences of a two year sentence on Mr. Pham's ability to appeal a deportation proceeding. An immigrant convicted of a crime and sentenced to more than 6 months must appear before an immigration board and to explain why they should not be deported. A sentence of two years or more immediately begins the deportation proceedings; no appeal is allowed. IRAP 36(1)(a).

The lower court denied the appeal of the sentence; they did recognized that reducing the term by one day would allow the defendant to appeal deportation, but as the purpose of that Section of the IRAP is there so serious offenders can be deported, reducing the sentence to allow the appeal defeated the purpose of the legislation. I note here, that the Crown did not oppose the sentence reduction. The SCC in granting the appeal and reducing the sentence by one day has overturned that decision.  The ruling can be found here. 

The SCC ruling entailed two ideas; judicial discretion and collateral effects. What the Supreme Court was saying in that ruling is that Judges have a right to discretion in sentencing. This is in the face of the Harper government's recent legislation to introduce a more mandatory sentences. The notion of mandatory sentences are popular with the conservative base but are recognized, even in places like the United States as being counter productive. Mandatory sentencing removes from the Judge their ability to act and respond to unique elements in trials; all cases are not the same and may require different approaches in sentencing. We pay Judges for their  knowledge and experience, it is a shame to render them incapable of using them. I will point out that the SCC gave Judges the leeway to alter sentences but must do so in relation to the crime and with an eye to the level if engagement by the defendant. Any reduction or increase in a sentence must be reasonable and proportionate to the crime. 

The other point raised in conjunction with Judicial discretion is what factors may be considered as relevant when sentencing. This case turned on a section of the IRAP dealing with deportations and appeals. The defendant was rendered incapable of appealing a deportation or due to the collateral effect of a two year sentence. A day less and the defendant would have leave to explain why he shouldn't be deported. The SCC  deemed it reasonable and within the judges discretion to reduce the sentence to allow Mr. Pham's appeal. Now the ruling was specific to this case; where a sentence remains reasonable and will allow an immigrant to purse an appeal regarding their deportation; the sentencing judge may reduce a sentence. I will again note that the SCC didn't give judges carte blanche to alter sentence to meet a defendants immigration needs; any alteration must be considered in relation to the crime and level of defendant's responsibility for the crime. A wider interpretation is that collateral effects of a sentence may be considered by Judges. This is a big strike against mandatory minimums.

I didn't here a lot about this decision in the news but I did find a small piece on the The Sun News site. The comments are what you want to read. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tom Flanagan In Two Parts

Two weeks ago Tom Flanagan made comments on the subject of Paedophilia. His notions on the subject; of its relative harm; personal liberty and suitable punishment were poorly received. Over the next few days friends and foes alike were treated to what has become routine for Public figures, in a Media saturated world, whose actions or words incite opprobrium. First came his associates separating themselves from him and showing public disapproval of his words. Followed quickly by  termination of employment; and the ubiquitous "early retirement" these kinds of affairs can prompt. Within 24 hours Mr. Flanagan gave an angry public an  apology, but it was too late; professionally he was done. In a very short time Tom Flanagan, a towering figure in the Conservative movement; friend, confidant and advisor to the powerful. fell hard.

Some have defended Flanagan, writing on the topic of academic freedom, declaring it is wrong to fire him for his views. His firings were Damage Control 10,  prevent whatever taint that has attached itself to your (former) friend and associate from transferring to you or your institution, Party or business. The private sector has is quick to cut its losses. A university should have other rules. Academics need to be able to speak freely on a wide variety of subjects, many delicate, without fear of dismissal. I agree. I know I would not appreciate a climate scientist dismissed from their position for voicing an opinion on the Tar Sands their contribution to climate change; or Statisticians their concern on the Harper governments subversion of the Census. So why am I, in this instance, unwilling to grant him the full cover of academic freedom.

Child abuse is a delicate subject, one that should be approached in a careful manner. His comments were short,  casual and assuming, rattled off  in a setting not properly prepared for the discussion of child sexual abuse. It is no surprise that a public, not normally engaged in detached theoretical thinking, reacted with outrage. As an academic, it is incumbent upon him to treat with gravity, subject like Child Abuse and devote the necessary time to answer very difficult questions and if he can't he should consider not giving an answer, this is not self censorship, just the simple care one expects from a professional thinker. I would be just as  inclined to fire a carpenter that worked quickly, but poorly.

Flanagan shows better of himself in an article written the National Post. If you can ignore the part where he talks of "traps". Flanagan gives an accounting of his thoughts on child abuse with greater depth, care and consideration. Anyone reading that piece can and will disagree with his position but will unlikely feel any of the same outrage provoked by his Lethbridge comments.

There were two Tom Flanagans, the one who got fired for his Lethbridge comments and the one who probably wouldn't have been for the National Post article.

Academic freedom confers on its holder a privilege and a consequent responsibilities. It is a shield against the abusive power that seeks to silence, it should never be a cover for shoddy work.