“Charges withdrawn……

…….against 4 Toronto cops”

So read the Toronto Star headline over Wendy Gillis’ November 10, 2017 column.

“A high-profile case involving four Toronto police officers accused of planting heroin on a car dashboard then falsifying court testimony has collapsed before going to trial, after the Crown withdrew the more than two dozen perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges.”

Last week we posted Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan’s September 2015 ruling that found four Toronto police officers had planted drugs in Nguyen Son Tran’s car back in January of 2014. Morgan threw out the seized drugs as evidence and stayed the charges against Tran.

After that decision and the publicity around it, the police’s professional standards unit investigated. That resulted in a total of 25 charges against the four officers, including 10 directed at 10-year veteran Benjamin Elliot. A downcast Toronto Chief Mark Saunders told a January, 2016 news conference that all four officers were suspended…with pay…and faced professional misconduct charges under the Police Services Act.

So, what happened?

In March of this year, that same Toronto Police professional standards unit advised the Crown Attorney prosecuting the case that privileged information had been inadvertently disclosed to the officers’ attorneys. A back-and-forth between the police and the Crown over how this might impact the viability of the court action meant the Crown had a duty to review and re-examine its “voluminous” case, and conduct a “painstaking and detailed reappraisal.” How this privileged information was characterized wasn’t mentioned.

In any case, the delay would postpone the trial until at least the fall of next year, exceeding the timeline limits established by the Supreme Court’s decision in R v. Jordan. The Crown felt it had no choice but to withdraw the charges, and that despite remedies available to sidestep the Supreme Court limits. As one Toronto criminal lawyer put it, “that the Crown attorney on such an important case would simply give up in the face of these issues is shocking and disheartening.”

At the same time, lawyers for the accused considered this a victory, and more, that the four officers were vindicated

What really happened though is that the Toronto Police Service sabotaged a criminal case against four of its own, based on an investigation it had conducted. One would think the forces professional standards unit would be professional standards experts, wouldn’t one? As Nguyen Son Tran’s lawyer said, the police “screwed up their own disclosure obligations? It just stinks.”

One other question appears never to have surfaced at any point, or with any observer. What did Tran do to warrant so much interest from Toronto police back in January of 2014?

PONDER THIS FOR A COUPLE OF WEEKS. WE’RE TAKING A CHRISTMAS/NEW YEAR’S BREAK……..BACK AGAIN ON JANUARY 7, 2018!

Now, here’s a twist….

…..first the ‘set-up’

The Toronto Star, Friday, September 11, 2015
Marco Chown Oved, staff reporter
“Judge rules police planted heroin in order to frame driver”

It’s the afternoon of January 13, 2014 in Toronto. Nguyen Son Tran is in his car, stopped at a red light. He has a criminal record, pleading guilty a year earlier to heroin possession, although he claimed at the time it belonged to someone else. As he sat waiting for the light to change, Tran noticed Toronto Police Detective Constable Benjamin Elliot in plain clothes pull up beside him in an unmarked car. It was Elliot who had arrested him the year before.

The light changes, and after driving through the intersection, Tran is pulled over by Constable Jeffrey Tout in a police cruiser, later testifying Tran ran a red light. Tout is on his cell phone as he approaches Tran’s car, and is overheard to say, “exactly him” as he comes within earshot. Tran steps out of his car. Elliot arrives on the scene in less than two minutes. Sergeant Michael Taylor and Detective Constable Fraser Douglas also show up. Elliot searches Tran’s car and shortly produces a bag of heroin, saying, “I found it.”

This is a part of the written findings of Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan when he tossed the seized drugs as evidence and stayed the drug charges against Tran in September of 2015. According to the police, they noticed a pile of loose heroin powder on Tran’s dashboard, which led to the search of the car. Eleven more grams of the drug was found wrapped in plastic and stowed behind the steering column.

But, police couldn’t explain how loose heroin got onto the dashboard; there was nothing to indicate how it got there. And why wouldn’t Tran have simply brushed it away when he was stopped. The judge’s conclusion? The heroin was planted.

According to Justice Morgan, the four officers all presented differing versions of what happened on that 2014 afternoon ….except they all did agree to the loose heroin on the dashboard. He ruled they “obviously colluded” in their testimony, describing their actions and false testimony in court “egregiously wrongful conduct.” He cited a number of points where he found police testimony to be patently untrue.

What consequences the officers would face, if any, did not come up at the time, although Toronto Police Service’s able spokesperson, Mark Pugash, did say judge’s comments are taken very seriously.

What’s going on here? Next week, we’ll skip forward two years and pick up the ‘play.’

A comeback – No-Fault Murder?

…..unexpected, but one more reason to persist.

The November 12 post, No-Fault Murder?, included the November 6 letter to Ontario’s correctional service minister Marie-France Lalonde, challenging the decision not to lay charges in the death of Soleiman Faqiri. Eight parties were copied.

Within days, Will Herbert, Inspector of Support Services for the Kawartha Lakes Police Service, and one of the copied, responded by email:

“The City of Kawartha Lakes Police Service acknowledges receipt of correspondence from you dated November 6th, 2017. Please be advised that the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) manages public complaints against police. Should you wish to formally pursue your complaint, the OIPRD can be reached at……

….the website followed….the message concluded….

Feel free to contact me if I can of any further assistance.
Best regards”

Innocent enough, but this is a circumstance that involves the unnecessary loss of life. And, the loss of a citizen’s life at the hands of public servants no less. Every opportunity to comment should be exercised.

We waited a few days:-

“Thank you for your November 9 email in response to my November 6 letter to Ontario’s Minister of Community Safety & Correctional Services, and which was copied to KLPS. This was not so much a complaint against the Kawartha Lakes Police Service or any of its members but more a part of an ongoing social media conversation around the fraternal cooperation among civil servants to avoid accountability. I hesitate to use the stronger language I hear from parties whose frustration leads to rash judgments, although I can understand the irritation.

No doubt, Mr. Faqiri’s family has legal representation, and whether or not an inquiry into his death is held, we can be certain a settlement with a non-disclosure clause is in the works.

In the meantime, there is no point in approaching the OIPRD with a complaint addressing the investigation at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay.

What is the point, and what is more important here, is using what faculties we have to move public opinion.

I appreciate you taking the time to write.

Yours truly…..”

The ‘stronger language’ referenced in the message includes the word COLLUSION, which can be justified with certainty, but needs the weight of that public opinion to have any hope of impact.

We know the drill……stand up, speak up, etc., etc.,

U.S. Sovereignty……..

……in Canada

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has sounded the alarm over the provisions in Bill C-23, which is now in the Senate. The BCCLA has a point.

The 1974 Preclearance Act makes travel easier when U.S. Customs is cleared at Canadian airports before departure. There’s no question that passengers going through the process are still on Canadian soil, in Canadian territory, and retain all the associated rights and benefits.

Bill 23 will expand preclearance areas and broaden the powers of U.S. border agents within those areas.

Right now, a person can exit a preclearance area at any time, but Bill 23 would authorize U.S. border guards to detain and question people who make that choice. Further, U.S. agents would be able to strip search a traveler if Canadian guards are not available, or if Canadian guards refuse to conduct a strip search.

What’s more, there appears to be no measure in the new legislation to hold U.S. guards accountable for their decisions.

The BCCLA made a submission to Parliament on this bill back in June and some changes were made, but the three concerns around detention, strip searches, and a lack of accountability are still in place. The association wants Canadians to contact Ottawa to express displeasure. But, most Canadians have no idea these changes are in the works, and there’s not likely to be any outpouring of outrage.

The federal government may have acquiesced to American demands for greater border security, and it isn’t hiding the thrust of this bill. It’s just not running it up the flagpole for a broad scrutiny.

Too bad for us.

ONTARIO – Get with it II!

……continued from November 5.

“There is a need to reinforce the commitment to Charter rights throughout the correctional practice.” This was Howard Sapers’ studied response when asked if Ontario’s jail system complied with the Charter.

Sapers, Ontario’s independent corrections adviser, had just released his 240-page report for the province’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and was answering media questions about its contents. It was October 3rd, and the ministry was working on prison legislation it intends to table by the end of the year……’labouring’ is how the Globe’s Patrick White saw the agency’s reaction to calls for reform.

Sapers’ report makes 62 recommendations he claims the province must implement to keep its commitment for a rights-based jail system. This is his second report since the province retained him last year after his long stint as Canada’s federal correctional investigator. The review issued in May revealed the misuse and overuse of solitary confinement for mentally ill inmates, and the negative impact of long-term isolation on that vulnerable population.

This latest report is wide-ranging and detailed, covering all facets of jail operation. “I’m pushing them very hard,” Sapers said during his Queen’s Park news conference, referring to the work he expects of MCSCS. “The recommendations are very achievable.”

“My goal is to bring forward most of Mr. Sapers’ recommendations either through legislation or as we move forward,” was the response from Corrections Minister Marie-France Lalonde.

That is not only easier said than done, but the minister’s endorsement is not what we should have expected, given Sapers’ mandate. His team found numerous differences between existing MCSCS policy, and practice. As an example, the inmates-complaints policy says all inmates have access to “formal and informal complaint procedures.” This just isn’t so, and only one provincial institution had a dedicated process for grievances.

Health care, which often drives most inmate complaints, indigenous over-representation, and the availability of rehabilitation programs came under scrutiny. However, it was family visits, inmate-death investigations, and the parole process that were targets for particularly strong comment in the report.

All Ontario institutions are maximum security, except for one that is classified as medium; there are no minimum security provincial jails in Ontario. This compromises attempts to initiate progressive policies for family visits and parole provisions. As for deaths in custody, the Sapers team learned the ministry doesn’t follow up deaths in jail with a “thorough, fully arm’s-length and independent review” process. There weren’t even any definitive figures on the number of deaths in Ontario’s jails for the last decade.

What should stand out in this report, and what should concern us all, and what is worth repeating, is that difference between policy and practice in public institutions. We have civil servants who are apparently unable or unwilling to act according to instructions from their superiors, and are at times flouting the law.

Compliance and enforcement and oversight are in short supply, and substantial consequences for failures are non-existent.

And, we shouldn’t expect Ontario to be significantly different than other Canadian jurisdictions.

No-Fault Murder?

“No charges in mentally ill man’s death at Lindsay jail” headlined Fatima Syed’s piece in the October 31st Toronto Star, referring to the in-custody beating death of Soleiman Faqiri at the Central East Correctional Centre on December 15, 2016.

To quote: “The Kawartha Lakes Police Service told the family in a brief email sent on Friday that the conclusion of an investigation into the death of Faqiri, 30, had been reached after a thorough analysis of all the evidence and witness statements, and after consulting with the Office of the Crown Attorney and medical experts.”
No charges would be forthcoming.

Oh, really?

Further, that “the family has responded to the email with shock, anger and most of all, confusion.”

You think?

November 6, 2017

The Honourable Marie-France Lalonde,
Minister of Community Safety & Correctional Service,
18th Floor, 25 Grosvenor Street,
Toronto, ON M7A 1Y6

Re: Soleiman Faqiri

Dear Minister Lalonde:

“You’re kidding”, is a polite reaction to the news that no charges will be laid in the beating death of Soleiman Faqiri at Central East in Lindsay in December of 2016.

Quite simply, this man was alive on the morning of December 15 last year, and in custody at a provincial jail. There was a three-hour-long ‘interaction’ with a dozen or so uniformed public servants. By day’s end, this man was dead.

Enclosed is “No detective needed!”, an October 8th illumination of December 15, posted on turnoverarocktoday.com,, and composed in the greater part by a guest writer. Look at the site too for “Soleiman Faqiri…..one for the ages” posted October 15.

I wonder. Is it the uniforms the investigators couldn’t see passed?

Frankly offended,

Charles H. Klassen

cc Kathleen Wynne – Premier, Province of Ontario
Nasir Naqvi – Attorney General, Province of Ontario
John Hagarty – Chief of Police, Kawartha Lades Police Service
Renu Mandhane – Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Right Commission
Douglas Houghton – Superintendent, Central East Correctional Centre
Nader R. Hasan – Ruby, Shiller, Chan, Hasan
Matt Galloway – CBC, Metro Morning
Fatima Syed – The Toronto Star
turnoverarocktoday.com

Tens of thousands of Ontarians know where culpability lies here. The greater tragedy is the reticence of so many to challenge the judgement of their civil servants.

How many times does this need to be said… We must stand up. We must speak up. We must act up. Or, we must pack up!

ONTARIO – Get with it!

The Ontario Human Rights Commission reached a binding ‘landmark’ legal settlement with Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services in September of 2013 in support of inmate Christina Jahn’s complaint that she had spent 210 days in solitary confinement at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, where she endured cruel and inhumane treatment because of her gender and mental illness.

Among what were called “public interest remedies” to address the treatment of women and mentally ill inmates in provincial jails, MCSCS committed to prohibit placing mentally ill inmates in segregation except under extreme circumstances, plus a greater monitoring of segregation practices, and the development of enhanced mental health screening. In addition, every inmate sent to segregation was to be given a handout, a booklet explaining the conditions of a solitary placement, and the rights, recourses and resources available.

Not much happened, despite the agency’s claim to the contrary.

MCSCS was taken to task again, and again it claimed to be moving forward with what it had agreed to do. Admitting to the ministry’s shortcomings though, Minister Marie-France Lalonde insisted work was underway to correct them.

Since the settlement was reached four years ago, 11 people have died in Ontario segregation units. What’s more, Howard Sapers, Canada’s former federal correctional investigator who is acting for the province to report on the state of provincial jails, and recommend improvements, issued findings on solitary confinement in May of this year. It showed the segregation of mentally ill inmates had increased in the years since the Jahn settlement.

Renu Mandhane, Ontario’s head human rights commissioner, told a news conference in the fall that, “when the province signs on the dotted line, it should be held accountable for its promises.”

And so, on September 26, 2017, the OHRC took new legal action, asking the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to expedite an order for the government to implement the terms of the agreement it had voluntarily accepted. The human rights commission intends to press for an speedy resolution.

This is one further example of why policy around our prison industry operations needs to be enshrined in legislation, and not left to the whims of mandarins in the public service.

Ontario…..a place to stand, a place to grow? How about a place where the government keeps its word, and does what’s right!

Correctional Service Canada……

….keeps breaking its own rules, year after year after year.

Another archived file is a Canadian Press release from July 16, “Failure to comply with video taping rules for use-of-force incidents ‘alarming’: correctional investigator.”

Canada’s new Correctional Investigator, Ivan Zinger, is picking up where Howard Sapers left off, and has been publicly vocal in his criticism of CSC when and where the agency doesn’t measure up. The standards Mr. Zinger applies are not only the best practices in force in other jurisdictions, but CSC’s own procedures.

Of the 1,436 use-of-force incidents by guards against prisoners reviewed by the correctional investigator’s office in fiscal 2016-2017, there was a problem with video evidence about 67% of the time. Note this applies only to those cases where the OCI was informed and subsequently took a decision to become involved, and not where use-of-force was not reported, or where no records exist.

CSC policy says that guards must use hand-held video cameras when use-of-force is planned, and as feasible in spontaneous situations. Statistics show there’s a problem with compliance in both circumstances.

To quote from this press release on the absence of video evidence:
“One recent example is the case of Timothy (Mitch) Nome, who alleged guards in March at Kent Institution in Agassiz, B.C., beat him in his cell without provocation. The independent investigator from Zinger’s office found no hand-held video of the incident was available for reasons not properly explained.
The lack of video evidence that could have proven or refuted Nome’s allegation left the investigator with little choice other than to say he couldn’t conclude what happened in Nome’s cell that morning, his report shows.”

Compliance has improved in the last few years, but issues such as delays in getting cameras to where they’re needed even when resources are available, not recording pre-incident briefings, and not filming decontamination practices where chemical agents have been employed, continue to plague the process.

“This is behind the wall and it’s always very secretive so there’s even more of a necessity that you follow policy with respect to video evidence,” Zinger said. “It’s to the benefit of everybody to make sure that cameras are used appropriately.”

Wouldn’t you think that consequences follow failures to comply with directives? What would the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers recommend as a remedy?

As for Correctional Service Canada, spokesperson Laura Cumming wouldn’t comment on the data in this report as the agency hasn’t verified the information. She also said policy breaches are not tolerated and would be investigated.

Correctional Service Canada spokespeople always say policy breaches are not tolerated and would be investigated. They say it over and over and over, year after year.

Cruel & unusual punishment….

….okay in Canada, federal prosecutors say.

Section 12 of the Charter states: Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

Dipping into our archives to review what’s been sitting on the back burner waiting for attention is Toronto Globe and Mail justice writer Sean Fine’s, “Federal prosecutors defend use of cruel, unusual punishment,” from last spring.

Several convicted people are using section 12 to challenge the legality of a Conservative-era law that imposes a financial burden on all convicted criminals, no matter how poor. “The mandatory victim surcharge was a centrepiece of the Harper government’s push to give more rights to victims and fewer to accused and convicted offenders,” says Sean Fine in his column.

Lawyers from the Public Prosecutions Service of Canada defended the surcharge before the Ontario Court of Appeal in mid-March, citing section 1 of the Charter where the government may seek to justify limits on rights, and courts must decide if the limits are reasonable. They claim the law is fair because the poor have extra time to pay, and cannot be jailed for defaulting.

The law ignited a judicial rebellion from the onset when judges in many provinces gave offenders up to 99 years to pay, or charged as little as thirty cents, or simply ignored it. And, the defence arguments are deeply at odds with the Liberal government’s present position on this law, and on the primacy of the Charter.

The federal prosecution service acts independently from the justice minister to avoid possible or perceived political interference. The minister does have the authority of a final say, and this case raises an issue about when that power should be employed. As it is, the present government is intent on reviewing the status of legislation that is not consistent with its commitments to a progressive approach to criminal law, and its support of Charter values.

An interesting sidebar is that if the prosecutors succeed in their arguments that the government can justify cruel and unusual punishment, the ruling might be used to defend practices up to and including torture.

One justice scholar recalls a 1982 conversation with Pierre Trudeau, father of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the Canadian prime minister who initiated the Charter. According to the senior Trudeau, “You know, I think section 12 might be the only absolute right.”

The appeal judges reserved their decision.

Soleiman Faqiri…..one for the ages.

“No detective needed!”, posted October 8, sketched the proverbial tip of an iceberg in Ontario’s prison industry. Would observers in other provinces say differently about British Columbia or Manitoba or Nova Scotia? Not likely. Is our federal penal system immune? There’s plenty of evidence that says it’s not.

True, few inmates die, and only a minute number of survivors step forward to fight for the attention warranted. And, what does the general public say? Tear some away from their brain-hacking mobile devices long enough to see there’s a problem, and most will shrink into their shells, afraid to assert their authority, overwhelmed by circumstances over which they believe are beyond their control……or, lacking the interest to accept responsibility for the bad decisions of their public employees.

Yes, there are honest men and women with ethical intentions and moral centres working in provincial and federal institutions, but the constraints of a forced conformity negate good will and progressive foresight.

What about management? What about ministry staff? What about the politicians charged with the oversight of our jails and prisons? Yes, what about them? Where is the accountability and transparency? Are these civil servants of ours thick-headed, unable to recognize what is under their noses?

Of course they’re not. There’s an old Victorian adage which says, “I don’t care what you do, as long as you don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.” Just keep a lid on whatever might float to the surface, damage control the leaks, and disparage the naysayers. When the pot does boil over, deny, deny, deny……and, quietly make the mess go away.

Change? Now that’s difficult. The ebb and flow of policy ‘corrections’ are meant to mollify the doubters and activists. Confining legislation is a necessary first step. But in spite of constant setbacks, there’s always hope.

For now, Soleiman Faqiri gave his life to ask us all…….where were you?

It didn’t have to happen!