Carding: no grave too deep!

“(Carding) is a form of arbitrary detention contrary to section 9 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” André Marin, former Ontario Ombudsman

Back in the third week of September, the Peel Police Board, which includes the mayors of Mississauga and Brampton as members, instructed their police to suspend carding. But, Police Act restrictions do not give police boards the authority over operational functions, and Peel police chief Jennifer Evans refused to implement the ‘recommendation’.

That is but one recent example fueling the protests against carding, and which prompted Ontario’s CSCS minister Yasir Naqvi to announce on Thursday, October 22, that the practice would be illegal “by the end of fall.”

Well, not quite. The Toronto Star’s headline a week later read, “Random Carding – The End” heralding Ontario’s announcement of a strict set of regulations for the interaction of police with members of the community. In other words, administration but not elimination. Desmond Cole’s companion piece that day, “You can’t legislate police decency”, applauded the new policy but argued that this good start is only a beginning to protect marginalized people from abuses of power.

Both the Star and the Globe ran editorials the next day on October 30. The Globe’s “Don’t regulate carding. Just ban it”, was echoed by the Star’s “Good riddance to carding.”

As expected, by November 7, the Star was reporting that “Chiefs, officers push back against new carding rules.” Police were making a last-ditch effort of halt aspects of the province’s restrictions on street checks before they became law during the 45 day review period of the proposed legislation. What impact they have is pending.

Arguments are now made from different sources that what’s proposed are nothing more than ‘toothless political band-aids’, that the Police Act must be changed to empower civilian police boards to control operational procedures, and that police officers will continue to do as they wish, law or no law.

Only we can bury carding. That, and lots and lots and lots of cameras. Most people don’t know their rights, are too timid to speak up for themselves or others, and frequently believe they are not vulnerable to abuse. Those attitudes must change.

Remember, the People are sovereign in a democracy, police officers are first and always public servants, deserving of respect and good will, but in the end, we still pay for their underwear.


Great! But, will they comply?

“Liberals to curtail solitary confinement” ran over Patrick White’s byline in the Globe and Mail’s Saturday, November 14 edition. The story was subtitled, “Trudeau directs Justice Minister ban long-term isolation and implement recommendations from inquest into Ashley Smith’s death.”

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society filed a January suit claiming solitary confinement contributes to prisoners’ deaths, indiscriminately targets mentally ill and aboriginal inmates, and is unconstitutional. Separately, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies also filed a lawsuit asserting the federal practice is unconstitutional.

Don Head, Correctional Service Canada Commissioner, denied federal prisons use ‘solitary confinement’ when he testified last March at a Senate Committee hearing into the death of Edward Snowshoe. Mr. Head is full of bovine excrement! A short letter copied below tells him so.

The move would bring Canada into line with guidelines set down by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and the direction both the United Kingdom and the United States are taking. Needless to say, it also reverses the so-called ‘tough on crime’ agenda of the previous government.

“This is a good start,” according to Howard Sapers, our federal inmate ombudsman. But, like him, before we celebrate an end to our medieval penal practices under a new and enlightened Liberal government, let’s remember that while it is one thing to order change, it may be quite another for a sometimes obstreperous civil service to enthusiastically carry out those orders.

November 18, 2015

Don Head, Commissioner,
Correctional Service Canada,
340 Laurier Avenue West,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0P9

Re: Liberals to curtail solitary confinement
Globe and Mail, Saturday, November 18, 2015

Commissioner Head:

You testified at a Senate Committee hearing last March into the death of federal inmate Edward Snowshoe.

“The term ‘solitary confinement’, which has been used in the medial quite a bit, actually refers to something different than what we do in Canada,” you were quoted by the Globe as saying at this hearing.

Mr. Head, you are full of bovine excrement!

Very truly,

Charles H. Klassen


The light beam flickers…….

In the last posting on Brennan’s trek for justice (“Finally…a beam of light”, August 16), he wanted copies of everything Stephen Fineberg received from Correctional Service of Canada in response to Access to Information requests, even though the written material was in French. Brennan is most anxious to get his hands on the video showing him screaming in pain, the sounds coming out of him not like one would expect from a human being, while guards are laughing off camera.

It’s likely however that getting all the relevant material, like the video content Brennan specified above, will take much more effort. Here’s why.

There was a hiatus on this project here in Toronto while other matters needed attention, but Brennan and Stephen Fineberg finally spoke on Wednesday, October 7. Firstly, Stephen had some equipment difficulty initially viewing the videos. That was resolved and he was sending all five on to Toronto. Secondly, he’d made copies of the written material, and asked if he should send that as well, recommending that he draw up an English summary. Our decision on that would be forthcoming. Thirdly, he had filed a complaint with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, suggesting Correctional Service of Canada may have held back more than the law strictly requires. The OPC may support CSC’s decisions, but anything at all which might be released as a result of the complaint would be a positive outcome. However, the OPC would not take the process further until it received written authorization from Brennan that Stephen Fineberg acts on his behalf, and this in spite of already available information indicating he does represent Brennan.

A few days later, we advised Fineberg that Brennan didn’t want the written material. And, Brennan’s letter to the OPC authorizing his lawyer to act on his behalf was mailed on the 14th, with a copy to Fineberg.

The videos arrived on the 17th. Only the first has been viewed to date. CSC has edited out any portion of that segment which shows CSC guards violating policy and the Criminal Code. It was difficult to watch, and our reaction has delayed further work, but it’s a job that must be completed within the next week or two.

Keep in mind this ‘event’ at the Regional Reception Centre in Ste-Anne-des-Plaines on July 22, 2014 began about 3 in the afternoon when Brennan was taken from his cell, did not finish until 11 that night when he was returned, and video was shot for 100% of those 8 hours. Stephen Fineberg’s October 26 email answered questions we had around the identity of the guards involved that day. He strongly suggested we authorize him to send us copies of the French written material along with his English summaries. We gave him an okay. In addition, once we can recognize and identify the gaps in the videos, he will include that in his complaint to the OPC.

You’d think we would be moving quickly on this, but we’re in an environment in Toronto where conflicting priorities challenge our best efforts to move forward as we’d prefer.

Please stand by………