A “carding” game. Wanna play?

A group of Toronto Star journalists, Jim Rankin included, has initiated a campaign to help people find out what information the Toronto Police Service may have collected and recorded during “carding” stops.

The paper’s front page on July 18 asks “Think you’ve been carded? Let’s find out.” Instructions detail how to file a freedom of information request, and offers help if money is a problem. The Star would like the results shared with the newspaper, stipulating that no sensitive pieces of information will be published.

It will take some time to compile what comes out of this. The TPS ATIP division may be overwhelmed with the response to the Star’s effort to inform the public of what is in the police database.

Want to participate? Have questions?

email:     carding@thestar.ca

or, write:
Jim Rankin, Reporter,
The Toronto Star,
One Yonge Street,
Toronto, ON M5E 1E6

Let’s watch. Stand by.


How many times can you be conned?

Contrasting perspectives:

“Ottawa tightens prison visit rules in drug crackdown”, appeared on the Toronto Star’s Sunday July 5 front page. The federal prison system’s new rules for preventing contraband from getting into institutions loosened the justifications that permit guards to conduct searches of anyone coming into a prison.

Taken at face value, the revised policy seems a reasonable response to relieve a perceived problem, although the degree of subjectivity presents opportunities for legal challenges. What is implied though is the enhanced procedures introduced in stages over the last many years have not had the impact Correctional Service of Canada and the government intended. In other words, tighter and tighter enforcement has failed.

What this article further suggests is the Canadian government’s ongoing focus on punitive measures rather than restorative programming is expensive, ineffective, and counter-productive.

Then, a few pages into the front section of that same Star edition was another item, “Obama will free dozens of inmates.” The president’s clemency power primarily affects non-violent drug offenders. This action strikes a blow against mandatory minimum sentencing and the so-called tough-on-crime agenda prevalent in the States for so long. Obama will likely free more before his term of office finishes next year.

The President of the United States is not a renegade. The U.S. is moving in the opposite direction to the course this country set many years ago under the current federal government. He’s doing it with the support of many in his own party, as well as a solid Republican base, and most of the Western World is in sync. Why are we so out of step?

As the title asks, how many times can you be conned?

Toronto Police Service….what has it got to hide?

We often disagree with the Toronto Star’s Rosie DiManno, but her “Activist ombudsman trumped by police” in the paper’s June 24th edition fell on our side of the fence.

Ontario Ombudsman André Marin has lobbied for years to have oversight of the MUSH sector (municipalities, universities, school boards, and hospitals), and the provinces new Accountability and Transparency Act passed last December did just that……or so Mr. Marin thought. The Star’s Rob Ferguson reported a few days before Ms DiManno’s column appeared that the provincial government had quietly excluded police boards from the ombudsman’s jurisdiction.

A provision in the Act allows the government to claw back what’s already given, but in the case of police boards, Treasury Board president Deb Matthews claims there was no loss of oversight but rather police boards were just not added. Marin’s office was provided some time back with a list from the government, naming about a dozen agencies that would be excluded under the Act….like library administration…..but police boards were not on that list. It was the intervention of a number of police chiefs, including Toronto’s, that caused the province to enact the regulation exempting police boards from the Ombudsman Act.

This is a bad move. Our letter to Premier Wynne points that out.

July 1, 2015

Kathleen Wynne, Premier,
Legislative Building,
Queen’s Park,
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1

Re: Accountability and Transparency Act

Dear Premier Wynne:

Sorry, Premier, it’s not good enough!

That police services boards were excluded (or, “it’s that it wasn’t added”, as Deb Matthews said) from Ontario Ombudsman André Marin’s oversight just doesn’t cut it.

The Toronto Police Services Board, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, the Special Investigations Unit, and the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, along with municipal and provincial politicians, seem to tuck neatly into our police chiefs’ back pockets.

Tell me Premier Wynne, if all these bodies provided what was needed, why then does an organization such as John Sewell’s Toronto Police Accountability Coalition exist? Why are we getting newspaper reports every week of judges criticizing police practices? Why? The TPSB, et al, are not working on behalf of the people, from whom all authority flows.

It’s time to stop fearing our men and women in uniform, and begin giving our police services the direction they deserve.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

Oh Canada…..really?

Another update…….

On Wednesday, July 1, as we were going around town, ending at the church for the noon Eucharist, “Happy Canada Day” was floating through the air, tripping off tongues as easily as ‘how-de-do’. We weren’t so ready to be patriotic, and disappointed ourselves by limply answering with “and to you, too”, rather than speaking out.

Why? Just that morning, another email from our Montreal lawyer told us that federal civil servants, our federal civil servants, employees of Correctional Service of Canada, are continuing to procrastinate on delivering potentially incriminating and damaging information which they are compelled by law to disclose. This is how CSC operates……obstruct, delay, challenge, obfuscate, stall. For instance, this lawyer has a client who has been waiting five years so far for CSC HQ in Ottawa to respond to a third-level grievance.

What to do, we asked in a response to Montreal? Take it up a notch. Go over their heads. Go to Ottawa and picket CSC headquarters on Laurier Avenue. Get some media attention. Tell their mothers. Options there are. But, the need for them is inexcusable.

We received another email on Monday, July 6, after Montreal made further efforts to shake fruit from the tree. Not to worry, he was told by the information and privacy division of CSC, but processing requests that include 5 videos takes longer than projects involving only the scanning of documents. That’s their story now, but they know we’re approaching the end of their line. The new estimate for completion of the work is one week, and Montreal asks us to wait for an outcome before looking at options.

Oh, Canada? …..not so much for us.

Ontario provincial jails don’t follow the rules either. Surprised?

Toronto Star reporter Amy Dempsey published “Jails flouting new rules on solitary” in the paper’s June 22 edition.

Christina Jahn spent more than 200 days in solitary during 2011 and 2012 at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, without help for cancer or mental illness. In a 2013 financial settlement with Jahn, Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services also committed to updating its prisoner handbook to include the rights of inmates in solitary, and to proactively distribute the handbook to them. Jahn had refused a cash settlement alone, and insisted that remedies had to be part of any agreement because she hoped it would improve conditions for other inmates.

The terms of the remedies are mandatory. Nevertheless, when the Toronto Star reviewed the updated 30 page document it found a glaring omission: it contained no information about the rights of prisoners in solitary which was central to the required update. As a result, the ministry agreed to a separate handout for inmates sent to segregation, and was to begin distribution in March of 2015 while the handbook was in another revision.

Despite direct orders from the ministry, some Ontario jails are failing to follow instructions.

And so, for the second time the ministry has been accused of breaching the terms of its agreement with Jahn. Her lawyers are taking legal action against the province and asking the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to declare that MCSCS has contravened the settlement by not taking the required actions, and is seeking $1,500 damages for each alleged violation.

In the meantime, Jahn’s cancer is now terminal, and she is not available for comment.
We’ve added an observation of our own:-

June 23, 2015

Steven Small, Assistant Deputy Minister,
Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services,
18th Floor,
George Drew Building, 25 Grosvenor Street,
Toronto, ON M7A 1Y6

Re: Jails flouting new rules on solitary, inmates say
Toronto Star, Amy Dempsey, June 22, 2015

Deputy Minister Small:

From your March 23 memo to Ontario jail superintendents, referring to the segregation handout:
“(It) is mandatory that all inmates being placed into segregation be provided with this handout effective immediately.”

Well, I can tell you that as of this week, inmates moved into segregation at the Toronto South Detention Centre are NOT getting this handout.

What’s more, inmates in provincial institutions are often angered by activists like me when speaking about policies that are not followed. What we don’t get, it’s been claimed, is that rules and regulations, policies and procedures….and even the law…..mean nothing to any number of MCSCS front-line staffers. They do as they please….with impunity.

They do as they please because management will not manage, and the Ministry’s priority is to keep the lid on whatever might disturb the peace.

Yours truly,

Charles Klassen