The News Rundown
- Last week as we were sitting down to record Western Context the Supreme Court ruled that life sentences without chance of parole are “cruel” and unconstitutional.
- Life without chance of parole became an option in Canada in 2011 when a law was passed by the Harper government allowing sentences to be issued consecutively rather than allowing them to be served concurrently.
- Those affected by this include the 2017 Quebec mosque shooter, the man who rammed and killed 10 in 2018 using a van in Toronto, and the shooter in New Brunswick who killed three Mounties and was scheduled to wait until age 99 for a parole hearing.
- Quebec Superior Court Justice Francois Huot said that, “Canada, is not a country where we lock up the most undesirable elements of society in a dungeon, toss the key to their freedom into the wide river of collective indifference and then forget about their very existence.”
- Huot ordered the Quebec mosque shooter to serve 5 ineligibility periods of 25 years and added 15 years for the sixth victim for a sentence of life without chance of parole for 40 years.
- A 2011 Quebec appeals court said the 2011 law violated constitutional protections to not be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment and the right to life, liberty, and security of the person. The mosque shooter was later sentenced to life without parole for 25 years.
- Federal Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti says that the government will respect the court’s decision but disagreed with it: "Our position was clear, we supported a sentencing judge's discretion to impose a longer period of parole ineligibility where appropriate. However, we will respect the court's decision and carefully review its implications and the path forward."
- Among potential paths forward could include lengthening parole ineligibility for mass killers.
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper also issued a rare statement saying, “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of mass murderer Alexandre Bissonnette devalues the lives of his victims. This is a grave injustice that calls for action from Parliament. My thoughts are with the victims’ families and grieving loved ones.”
- Conservative MPs Rob Moore and Pierre Paul-Hus said, "Conservatives are calling on the federal government to use whatever means it has available to them to ensure the perpetrators of mass shootings serve sentences that reflect the severity of their crimes.”
- This story has huge ramifications for Canada and our justice system for more than just the surface level issue of whether or not mass killers will serve a true life sentence.
- That is an issue and one that should be freely discussed amongst Canadians in the next election.
- And this is an important discussion to have because the Supreme Court of Canada in its ruling said, “Such sentences are degrading in nature and thus incompatible with human dignity…” They then turned to the psychological effects saying that , “in some respects [they are] comparable to those experienced by inmates on death row, since only death will end their incarceration.”
- This is a statement from our nation’s top court that effectively changes the law of the land and Canadians presently have no input on this.
- There needs to be a discussion in Canada on criminal justice on whether we as a nation want sentences to be served consecutively and have life truly mean life, concurrently as this court ruling mandates, or if some political party was bold enough, float the idea of bringing back capital punishment.
- As we mentioned, we’re covering this because it’s a huge story but also because there was substantial reporting done internationally on this in both the Guardian and Washington Post.
- This is not only a defining moment for Canadians, it’s a defining moment for us in the eyes of the world and Canadians need to ask their leaders what kind of justice system we should have.
- The BC provincial government made a request to the federal government to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs, and in a major change to Canada's drug policy, the federal government agreed.
- Federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Carolyn Bennett and her provincial counterpart, Sheila Malcolmson, announced the policy shift together in Vancouver on Tuesday, saying that adults in British Columbia will be allowed to possess small amounts of some illicit drugs starting next year. The federal government says Canadians 18 years of age and older will be able to possess up to a cumulative 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA within British Columbia.
- Health Canada said that the exemption does not decriminalize activities such as trafficking, producing, importing or exporting controlled substances. The exemption also carries certain other limitations. It does not apply on the premises of elementary or secondary schools, in child-care facilities or airports. It also doesn't apply to Canadians subject to the military's disciplinary code.
- This first-of-its-kind exemption will go into effect on Jan. 31, 2023, and last until Jan. 31, 2026, unless it is revoked or replaced before then. The exemption means there will be no arrests, charges or seizures for personal possession at or below the 2.5 gram threshold.
- Vancouver has been the epicenter of a surge in drug overdose deaths that accelerated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. B.C. saw 2,224 suspected toxic illicit drug overdose deaths in 2021. Six years ago, B.C. declared a public-health emergency in response to skyrocketing overdose deaths from an increasingly volatile drug supply. Nearly 10,000 people have died since 2016 in B.C. alone, and advocates have pressed governments to re-examine drug laws that they say were intended to minimize harms but have had the opposite effect.
- Bennett said decriminalization doesn't equal legalization. Still, the exemption is a dramatic policy shift in favour of what decriminalization advocates say is an approach that treats addiction as a health issue, rather than a criminal one. One of the goals of decriminalization is to reduce the stigma associated with substance abuse.
- Bennett said: "For far too long, this wave of loss has been a reality in British Columbia and across the country. Today, we take the first steps in the much-needed bold action and significant policy change."
- Malcolmson said: "The exemption is a major step in changing how we view addiction and drug use in British Columbia. The fear of being criminalized has led many people to hide their addiction and use drugs alone. And using drugs alone can mean dying alone, particularly in this climate of tragically increased illicit drug toxicity."
- B.C., Vancouver and Toronto Public Health have all separately filed exemption requests to decriminalize possession of small amounts of illicit drugs. Under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act, the health minister has the authority to grant an exemption if it is "necessary for a medical or scientific purpose or is otherwise in the public interest." The federal government confirmed that the applications from Vancouver and Toronto Public Health are both still under review.
- The principle of decriminalizing possession of a small amount of illicit drugs has been endorsed by the Canadian Association of the Chiefs of Police. The B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police has also supported the idea, though it recommended decriminalizing possession of just one cumulative gram. The province asked for a cumulative 4.5 grams, but the federal exemption allows for just 2.5 grams.
- In a statement, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney criticized the move. He said: "As a neighbouring province, the Government of Alberta is alarmed by this announcement to decriminalize and we will be monitoring the situation very closely. I want to state in the strongest possible terms to the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia that Alberta will exhaust all options should their actions cause damage to Albertans."
- Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns sponsored Bill C-216, which aimed to mirror the exemption granted this week to B.C., and apply it to every province and territory in Canada. The bill also aimed to expunge certain drug-related convictions and to remove the criminal records of those with previous drug convictions from any federal judicial archives. The exemption for BC was approved just one day before the House of Commons was set to vote on Bill C-216, which got denied by both the Liberals and Conservatives.
- Johns said decriminalization in B.C. was “an important step to stop the harms of failed drug policy,” but called the timing of the announcement “cynical" and said they were doing it to 'soften the blow' of voting down his measure.
- Critics of the move say that the amount being decriminalized is far too low to actually be of use, and won't really have a major impact on curbing opioid related deaths. They also believe, like Johns, that the government is just announcing this to get good publicity, without the exemption actually doing much good.
- In the meantime, it will be a long wait until January so as we see it, not much will change in the meantime.
- Tim Horton’s is a cultural icon in Canada and most Canadians have been there at least once and likely have used their rewards service via the mobile app.
- This week a joint investigation with the federal privacy commissioner and counterparts in BC, Alberta, and Quebec laid out privacy concerns over the Tim Hortons mobile app.
- In 2020 it was found that the app was tracking people's precise location after they used the app. In one example it was able to track when a person went to work.
- Other examples include people coming and going from home and to other coffee establishments.
- It has been proven that a person’s Facebook likes can build a profile of who a person is. That can be taken one step further with Google searches.
- It goes to a whole new level when location data gets involved.
- Location data and purchase preferences can be used to build the ultimate profile of someone.
- There was a push towards the middle of the last decade in Europe for comprehensive privacy legislation
- This lead to the GDPR otherwise known as the General Data Protection Regulation law in the EU but because the corporations that had to do the most were the large multinationals, we see some of the results of this.
- In general, if a website or company wants to operate in Europe they have to be privacy compliant even down to the cookies that are stored in web browsers which has resulted in cookie notifications on most websites you visit.
- The logical step for the Government of Canada and provincial counterparts is to head down this path but we’ll see if this even happens since technology reform is historically slow in this country.
- To understand the breadth of data that was collected, it was found that the Tim Hortons app collected information on where someone lived, worked, vacationed, and when competing fast food restaurants were used.
- The app was tracking the users even while the app was not in use.
- Since this happened, both Apple and Google have put in place location data protections to offer more granular control of when location data can be used.
- It’s also now possible to completely deny an app from using location data.
- For their part, Tim Hortons is now in the process of deleting the data despite saying that they only used it in an “aggregated, de-identified basis to study business trends.”
- The case of Tim Hortons should be an eye opener because there is a very high likelihood that other reward based apps are doing this exact same thing but it has not yet been discovered.
- We’ll also use this opportunity to remind our listeners that this can also happen on the internet in day to day life.
- Anyone who uses Facebook websites including Instagram is being marketed to. Twitter does it. So does TikTok. Generally online there’s a good saying, if you aren’t paying then you’re the product.
- Freedom oriented Canadians are worried about what the government does and rightly so but corporations do it even more vigourously.
- In the year 2022 privacy is difficult but if someone is going to be privacy centric, they have to be concerned both about corporations and the government.
- It’s one of the most important issues going forward and governments in Canada will need to act.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government has adopted 72 secret orders-in-council — hidden from Parliament and Canadians — since coming to office. A review of nearly 8,900 orders-in-council (OICs) — or cabinet decrees — adopted by the federal government shows the number of secret or unpublished OICs has been rising since Trudeau came to power in 2015.
- The only outside indication that a secret OIC even exists is a missing number in the Privy Council's orders-in-council database. OICs have a wide range of applications, from stopping a foreign company from buying a Canadian business to outlining who is authorized to give the order to shoot down a commercial airliner hijacked by terrorists.
- More than half of the secret orders-in-council adopted by the Trudeau government have arrived since April 2020, a month after the COVID-19 pandemic began. Eleven have been adopted so far this year. While the Liberals criticized the Conservatives in 2015 for the number of secret OICs they adopted, Trudeau's government has adopted more than twice as many over its years in office.
- Opposition critics say there can be legitimate reasons for adopting secret OICs — but they're concerned by the large number of them adopted by the Trudeau government. They say they also fear that the government's refusal to reveal anything about the secret OICs could fuel misinformation or conspiracy theories.
- Some of the secret OICs were adopted under the Investment Canada Act. It allows the government to avoid publishing cabinet orders related to national security reviews of certain transactions, such as a foreign company's purchase of a Canadian business.
- Laurie Bouchard, spokesperson for Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, said 32 of the secret OICs adopted between November 2015 — when the Trudeau government came to power — and March 31, 2021 were related to the Investment Canada Act. The government adopted 55 secret OICs during that time period.
- But the Investment Canada Act would only explain a portion of the secret OICs that have been adopted. The Privy Council has refused to release at least two of the secret OICs adopted this year, citing a section of federal access to information law that allows the government to keep secret documents which, if revealed, "could reasonably be expected to be injurious to the conduct of international affairs, the defence of Canada or any state allied or associated with Canada, or the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities." One of those two OICs was adopted between Jan. 28 and Feb. 1, 2022. The second was adopted on Feb. 18.
- The first of those two OICs was adopted around the time the convoy protest began to occupy downtown Ottawa. The second was adopted as police began arresting protest leaders and were about to launch an operation to clear protesters from the streets. That second secret OIC also appeared a few days before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. COVID-19 was also continuing to spread at the time. The Privy Council Office refused to reveal any details of the OICs or their subjects.
- Four more secret orders-in-council were adopted around May 6 — the day before Trudeau's surprise trip to Ukraine. The one OIC in that sequence that was published added Russian individuals and entities to Canada's sanctions list. The Prime Minister's Office won't say whether those OICs were related to the conflict in Ukraine. The five remaining secret OICs of 2022 were adopted between March and May.
- Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said Trudeau promised a more open and accountable government: "While unpublished orders-in-council are sometimes necessary, the number of unpublished orders-in-council under this government raises concerns. It's incumbent on the government to provide a more detailed explanation of why the number of unpublished orders-in-council [has] increased."
- NDP ethics critic Matthew Green questioned why Canada doesn't have an arms-length, third party non-partisan review of orders-in-council. Green said: "There is a growing propensity of this government to have everything be categorized as national security."
- Green Party Parliamentary Leader Elizabeth May said she was surprised by the number of secret OICs — particularly given the cooperation between the government and opposition parties to adopt emergency measures at the outset of the pandemic. May said the government should give Canadians some indication of why an order-in-council has to be secret.
- May said: "I think they should provide a general descriptor if they're not going to make an order-in-council public, say that this is a national security concern involving our use of the such-and-such act. But to have that many orders-in-council … without any indication as to what they were is not transparency."
- Conservative MP Luc Berthold led question period Thursday by quoting Trudeau's promise in 2015 to lead a transparent government: "That is the big promise that the prime minister made to Canadians in 2015. Seven years later, that promise has melted like snow in the sun. The prime minister leads the most closed, most opaque, the most censored government that we have ever seen. We have just learned of the existence of 72 secret orders-in-council. Why are the Liberals so afraid to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?"
- One thing is for sure, Trudeau's government has certainly not been open and transparent. Even with cooperation from the NDP and the other smaller opposition parties, their actions still remain secret. What do they have to hide?
Quote of the Week
"[Leading an open, transparent government] is the big promise that the prime minister made to Canadians in 2015. Seven years later, that promise has melted like snow in the sun. The prime minister leads the most closed, most opaque, the most censored government that we have ever seen. We have just learned of the existence of 72 secret orders-in-council. Why are the Liberals so afraid to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?" - Conservative MP Luc Berthold, during question period
Word of the Week
Cruel - willfully causing pain or suffering to others, while feeling no concern about it.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Afraid of the Truth
Teaser: The Supreme Court of Canada rules that life without parole is ‘cruel’, small possession of drugs is decriminalized in BC, and the Tim Hortons app invades Canadians’ privacy. Also, the Trudeau government has created 72 secret orders in council.
Recorded Date: June 3, 2022
Release Date: June 5, 2022
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes