When Reason Fails – An Example

This December 16 letter to the Minister of Public Safety belongs in the two assigned categories. When our government panders to its voter base in the face of common sense, it deserves to be throttled as much for its stupidity as it does for the corruption it creates in the administration of justice.

December 16, 2014

The Honourable Steven Blaney,
Minister of Public Safety,
Ste. 306, Justice Building,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Re: Solitary confinement/segregation in our federal prisons

Minister Blaney:

House of Commons, Monday, December 8 (reported in the Globe and Mail, Tuesday, December 9)……Canada’s prison practices are “fully aligned with Western countries’ modern practices and we fully trust our correctional services to do the appropriate thing.”

House of Commons, Wednesday, December 10 (reported in the Toronto Star, Friday, December 12)….regarding segregation, “This is a procedure that is applied with a lot of common sense by our correctional officers.”

Really? Assuming the newspapers quoted you accurately, the fingers of both hands must have been crossed behind your back.

Only the uninformed or anyone with an agenda that skirts the truth would believe this, and there are tens of thousands of us in the community who are embarrassed on your behalf. Imagine. A Minister of the Crown giving voice to such nonsense! One wonders what causes an intelligent person to support such counterproductive measures. Thankfully for you, this is a country where armchair activism wins over street protests.

There will come a time when you are no longer in public life, and an opportunity to have you reflect upon your present positions from that perspective would be welcomed by many.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen
cc turnoverarocktoday.com
system.

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Supreme Court of Canada – Police rights to Search Cellphones

On December 11, 2014, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that police can conduct limited searches of suspects’ cellphones without a search warrant….but, they must follow strict rules. The search must be directly related to the circumstances of an arrest, and detailed records of the search must be kept.
The Court’s 4 to 3 ruling is a margin so narrow one wonders how much sway tipped the decision one way or the other.
This writer is ambivalent on the subject, but there’s a tendency to agree with the Court. The problem though, and the issue I have with the SCC’s ruling, is best articulated in Heather Mallick’s December 15 Toronto Star column, “Court ruling on cellphones ravages people’s privacy.” It questions the Court’s belief that the police can regulate themselves, and will follow the rules. There can be information on a cellphone subject to broad interpretation, stored for personal but non-relevant purposes, and in some cases outdated and awaiting deletion. Check out this column on the Star’s web site. In any case, we can foretell legal challenges are to come.
One important question Ms. Mallick asks in her column is, can a suspect refuse to provide a phone’s password to the police. I was able to email her the answer. No, suspects are not required to provide passwords, BUT the police know that most people don’t know that and they will press for the information. The message……be informed….and inform. And, choose passwords wisely.

Were we really expecting something different?

For the week ahead of Correctional Service of Canada’s scheduled December 11 response to the 104 recommendations that came out of the 2013 inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, the Globe and Mail ran daily articles on the subject of solitary confinement in our federal prisons. In its 28 page response to the inquiry’s findings, CSC hardly did better than to acknowledge that there had been an inquiry and it was expected to say something……anything….but it wasn’t about to make any substantive changes.

December 15, 2014
David Walmsley, Editor-In-Chief,
The Globe and Mail,
444 Front Street West,
Toronto, ON M5V 2S9

Re: Solitary confinement in Canada’s federal prisons

Dear Mr. Walmsley:
I’m a Correctional Service of Canada “specialist”. I’ve spent more than twenty years in research and observation of this institution.

If I give ground to Steven Blaney and his staffers at Public Safety, or Don Head and others at CSC’s National Headquarters, it’s for their lack of accurate information of how federal prisons operate in the trenches where thousands of inmates and CSC employees live and work. But I surrender only a few millimetres because I’m convinced Mr. Blaney and Mr. Head, et al, would prefer not to know. It’s like the old Victorian adage, “I don’t care what you do, as long as you don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses.”

It doesn’t take much research/observation, or the expertise of the proverbial rocket scientist, to support my long-held view that Correctional Service of Canada is dishonest, abusive, morally and ethically corrupt, and a blot on the landscape of this country. So many have become frustrated with the organization’s absence of accountability and transparency, and its refusal to comply with the law, international treaties, best practices, and a plethora of calls for change. When I was recently given an opportunity to help underwrite a legal action against CSC on behalf of an inmate, I ran headlong to get involved.

Your recent series on the use of solitary confinement/administrative segregation in the federal prison system is a welcome insight into practices which are entirely unacceptable. You and all the contributors to this project are to be commended for making this effort to bring about change. Sadly, we see how intransigent some of our public servants can be. Strange, given the meaning of “servant” is not abstruse.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

cc Steven Blaney/Don Head/turnoverarocktoday.com

Lawsuits against the Toronto Police Services

There are hundreds of complaints filed against the Toronto Police Services every year, plus many more incidents where citizens believe a complaint is warranted but not worth the effort. Many are dismissed summarily, whether or not they have merit. And, we don’t have any figures because no government body is required to oversee and issue the statistics. It’s up us to research the material.
In additional, where there is a financial resolution to a dispute, we are not entitled to know the details, even though tax dollars are involved, either directly or indirectly as liability insurance premiums.
TPS is quick to deflect criticism, and Mark Pugash is adept at the work he does. That’s why it’s important to take him to task when the opportunities arise, even if there’s a delay is getting to it.

December 9, 2014

Mark Pugash, Director,
Unit Commander, Corporate Communications,
Toronto Police Services,
40 College Street,
Toronto, ON M5G 2J3

Re: Man reeling from arrest seeks closure in court
Toronto Star, September 24, 2014

Dear Director Pugash:
“It’s important to note that it is not at all unusual for lawsuit claims to fail in court. Unfortunately, the Toronto Star provides a platform for unproved claims but rarely, if ever, lets its readers know when the claims it prints are judged to be baseless.” This is part of your response when Wendy Gillis asked about Tyrone Sparks’ multi-claim suit against the Toronto Police Services as printed in the above article.

You’re right. Outcomes rarely appear in print. In an email exchange I had with the Star’s Jim Rankin in June of 2013 on just this subject, he admitted they could do a better follow-up job but noted that neither party to an action is prone to report any outcome. As well, he agreed with my assessment that a resolution, particularly where gag orders prevent the disclosure of details, is generally not newsworthy.

I have a lengthy list of newspaper items of legal actions launched against the police where nothing further appears. More pertinent though is “Mayor calls for review of police litigation” from the Globe and Mail’s Tuesday March 15, 2005 edition, where David Miller “was responding to a CBC Radio report that the city spent more than $30-million on more than 8,000 lawsuits against the police since 1998.” The figures stagger! Consider also the additional number of people who may believe they had grounds for a complaint but just didn’t bother filing. Then too, how do the last ten years stack up?

Here’s a suggestion. Given your position with the Toronto Police Services, the resources you have and your access to the media, plus the sense that you feel the TPS is ill-served by the press, why don’t you publish the outcomes of these varied and many actions?

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen
cc Wendy Gillis, Toronto Star
turnoverarocktoday.com

Our duty to assist – for change!

“Information is the lifeblood of a democracy. Without adequate access to key information about government policies and programs, citizens and parliamentarians cannot make informed decisions, and incompetent or corrupt governments can be hidden under a cloak of secrecy.”
Stephen Harper
Montreal Gazette, 2005

Stephen Harper was commenting on the Liberal government of the day. This is the same Stephen Harper who became Prime Minister not long after, and soon began closing doors, shuttering windows, and building a guard post at the gate to control all and sundry comings and goings. His fellow caucus members in the Conservative/Reform Party are complicit in cutting off “the lifeblood of a democracy.” If for no other reason, this government deserves to fall.
There are a number of tools Mr. Harper, et al, is using to keep Canadians uninformed. One of the more effective is budget cuts. The Access to Information and Privacy divisions of government ministries, departments, and institutions, for example, are legislated to adhere to the provisions of two Acts, plus applicable departmental directives. Using Correctional Service of Canada as a sample familiar to me, when an information request is received at CSC, it returns an acknowledgement that includes this attachment:-

…………………………..Duty to Assist………………………….
The Federal Accountability Act and Treasury Board Secretariat directives apply to the Access to Information Act, and require that all government institutions “make every reasonable effort to assist” individuals making a request for records, regardless of who the requester is. The Correctional Service of Canada is committed to ensuring that we:
• Process your request without regard to your identity.
• Offer reasonable assistance throughout the request process
• Provide information on the Access to Information Act, including information on the processing of your request and your right to complain to the Information Commissioner of Canada.
• Inform you as appropriate and without undue delay when your request needs to be clarified.
• Make every reasonable effort to locate and retrieve the requested records under our purview.
• Apply limited and specific exemptions to the request records.
• Provide accurate and complete responses.
• Provide timely access to the requested information.
• Provide records in the format and official language requested, as appropriate.
• Provide an appropriate location within the government institution to examine the requested information
When applicable, requesters will be given the option of having their request processed informally. However, the requester should know that only formal requests are subject to the provision of the Act, including the right to complain.
For additional information, please refer to the Treasure Board Secretariat’s Directive on the Administration of The Access to Information Act, Frequently Asked Questions on the ATIP page of CSC’s internet site and/or contact the analyst responsible for processing your request.

 

The Act stipulates there is a 30 day time limit to respond to requests, but a provision permits the head of a government institution to invoke an extension of an additional 30 days under specified circumstances. A “requester” is entitled to complain to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and/or the Information Commissioner of Canada if the process or response doesn’t satisfy. My experience with CSC’s ATIP division has generally been positive, and even when answers to my requests linger beyond the permitted legislated time limits, I know the delays are most likely caused by the information source.
So, what happens when an office, or institution, or department does not follow through on what they are mandated to do, regardless of the reasons? Why, a requester files a complaint with the Commissioner, of course. But, budget cuts to that office means a complaint will wait about six months before an investigator can be assigned. In the meantime, the offending information source knows repercussions are far off, if at all, and the requester may have abandoned the enquiry to boot.
Here’s a suggestion. Reread the paragraph at the top of this post, and the next time you see a television spot in which our federal government is spending tax dollars to promote itself, give it a raspberry……and, remember where the “x” belongs in the 2015 election. Now, that’s not so hard, is it?