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Louise Arbour accuses military of foot-dragging, blasts progress on misconduct reform

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Retired Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour accused military leaders of dragging their feet when it comes to fighting sexual misconduct in the ranks on Tuesday, even as Defence Minister Anita Anand staked her reputation on their success or failure.

Arbour delivered her scathing indictment to the House of Commons defence committee six months after issuing dozens of recommendations to improve the military’s handling of inappropriate and criminal sexual behaviour.

Her testimony coincided with an update from Defence Minister Anita Anand on the progress on those recommendations, all of which have now been accepted.

While Arbour acknowledged some positive steps, such as the appointment of an external monitor to keep tabs on the military’s progress, she was exceedingly critical on many other fronts.

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Chief among them was what she saw as resistance to one of her key recommendations: That the Canadian Armed Forces be permanently stripped of its jurisdiction over the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault and other related crimes.

“It’s very obvious to me that those involved in that process are dragging their feet on the military side,” said Arbour, who previously served as the United Nations high commissioner for human rights.

In her own update presented before Arbour’s committee appearance, Anand said the government is consulting with provinces and territories about transferring responsibility for sexual crimes from military police and prosecutors to civilian counterparts.

Military officials have also revealed there were difficulties transferring those cases. Anand issued an interim order to do so in November 2021, but civilian police declined to accept 40 out of 97 cases referred to them by military police over the past year.

This comes as some provinces and municipal police forces have complained about the need for more funding and other resources to absorb the military’s cases into their own systems.

However, Arbour suggested such requests for money amounted to “posturing,” given the number of alleged sex crimes involving military personnel each year represents a tiny fraction of the total in the civilian system.

During her appearance before the defence committee, Anand emphasized the importance of acting on the recommendation but rebuffed calls for immediate change, saying several challenges need to be addressed.

Those include how to handle cases outside Canada and the capacity of civilian police and courts to take on more files.

Anand also repeatedly referred to the amount of time needed to change the law to officially remove the military’s jurisdiction over sex offences, but refused to say when legislation would be presented to Parliament for approval.

“My officials will come and present options,” she told the committee. “It would be imprudent of me to simply provide a date to this committee and to Canadians.”

While acknowledging that amending legislation would take time, Arbour noted civilian police already have jurisdiction over such cases if the military decides not to take them.

“Therefore, all that needs to happen today is that the military system stops, and the civilian side takes on investigations of sexual assault and other forms of sexual offences committed by CAF members, on CAF bases or anywhere,” she said.

“So that requires no change whatsoever. Just this: The military side stops, and the civilian side takes it on.”

Anand later pushed back against suggestions that the government and military would repeat past failures by pretending to agree with Arbour’s recommendations only to let them gather dust on a shelf.

“The way that we ensure cultural change occurs in the military is by trying every single day to get it right,” she said. “And the gist of my tenure as minister of national defence is to ensure that that occurs.”

Arbour also took issue with the military’s failure to remove “the duty to report,” which requires that troops report inappropriate or criminal behaviour even if the victim doesn’t agree. That had been flagged as a major issue by victims’ groups.

The former judge also blasted the Armed Forces for not having launched a promised review on the costs and benefits of Canada’s two military colleges — and accused them of having already decided that closing the institutions isn’t on the table.

“We’re now seven months after the production of my report … and we’re still at a stage of examining parameters and terms of reference,” she said.

“All of that against the backdrop of a suggestion that the military colleges as they exist are ‘superior institutions.’ It doesn’t suggest the kind of open mind with which I think this kind of exercise should be undertaken.”

Anand in her own testimony said the review will be focused on the quality of education, socialization and military training at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., and its French counterpart in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. — not whether they are required.

“These colleges attract some of the best that Canadian society has to offer,” she said. “But let’s be clear: The culture at our military colleges must change significantly, and we will ensure that this occurs.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 13, 2022.

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St-Onge urges provinces to accelerate efforts to make sports safer for athletes

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Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge says ending abuse in sports will require complaints processes that include provincial-level athletes, not just national ones.

St-Onge and provincial sports ministers will meet during the Canada Games in mid-February where their agenda will include the ongoing effort to address widespread allegations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in sports.

She says she asked the provincial ministers at an August meeting to look at joining the new federal sport integrity process or creating their own.

The national sports integrity commissioner can only investigate allegations of abuse from athletes at the national level.

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But St-Onge says the vast majority of athletes aren’t in that category and only Quebec has its own sports integrity office capable of receiving and investigating complaints.

The national sport integrity office officially began its work last June and has since received 48 complaints from athletes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2023.

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Justice is a Privilege Reserved for the Few

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History is full of examples showing us that Justice is a privilege reserved for the few, the wealthy, politically and financially connected, in fact, those of the right colour or race depending on where and when this justice was to be dealt with. Justice must be earnt, and it expends a colossal cost. What do I mean?

When a justice system demands proof of your innocence, while viewing the accused as guilty until that proof surfaces, the system of justice seems to be blind to all but those with the ability to hire known lawyers and a defense team to point out any misunderstandings that arise. A Black Man with many priors stands before a judge, accused of violent crimes. Will such a man have the ability to raise money to get out of jail and hire a powerful legal team? If he is a financially well-off man perhaps, but if he is an “Average Joe”, the justice system swallows him up, incarcerating him while he waits for his trial, and possible conviction. While the justice system is supposed to be blind to financial, sexist, and racial coding, the statistics show White men often walk, and Black-Hispanic and men of color often do not. Don’t think so?

America’s Justice system has a huge penal population, well into the millions of citizens in public and private prisons across the land. According to Scientific America, 71% of those imprisoned are not white. So do you think these men and women got there because of their choices or did the system help to decide that while whites can be either excused, rehabilitated or found not endangering the greater society, “the others” are threats to the nation’s security and population?

White privilege is still prevalent within our system, with financial privilege a close second.

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The World was white, but now its really black(non-white)
Justice for all is never achieved, just verbatim.
What can justice do for the lowly man
while jails fill and are built anew continually?

When you are seen as an outsider always,
and the precious few escape societies’ hungry grasp.
Justice for all is the cry we all hear these days,
While the policeman stamps your future out at last.

Martin L says the Black Persons going to win this war,
and a war of attrition it truly has been.
Justice is a privileged and socially mobile thing,
leaving the many to pray to the spirit of Tyre Nichols,
asking what the hell can we do???

I walked through an airport recently with no problem and no questioning. Customs and border officers were busy getting into the face of many non-white travelers. To this very day, a non-white person flying anywhere with a long beard, and dressed like a Muslim could get you unwelcomed trouble. Being different will always create difficulties. Being out of your place in another financial-ethnic society will be a challenge. Race, financial and political privilege will forever be with us. The powerful will always be able to dance around the justice system’s rules and regulations. Why? Well, the justice system is an exclusive club, filled with lawyers and police. The administrators and enforcers of the system. Some other form of the judicial system is needed, with a firm root in community equality. Can our Justice System be truly blind to all influencers, but the laws of the land? Can victims of crime receive true justice, retribution in kind for the offenses carried out by criminals against them?

” In the final analysis, true justice is not a matter of courts and law books, but of a commitment in each of us to liberty and mutual respect”(Jimmy Carter). Mutual respect of all actors in the play known as the Justice System, influenced, manipulated, and written by lawyers and academics. God help us.

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca

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By the numbers for British Columbia’s overdose crisis

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British Columbia’s chief coroner released overdose figures for 2022, showing 2,272 residents died from toxic drugs last year. Lisa Lapointe says drug toxicity remains the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C., and is second only to cancers in terms of years of life lost.

Here are some of the numbers connected to the overdose crisis:

189: Average number of deaths per month last year.

6.2: Average deaths per day.

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At least 11,171: Deaths attributed to drug toxicity since the public health emergency was declared in April 2016.

70: Percentage of the dead between 30 and 59 years old.

79: Percentage of those who died who were male.

65: Children and youth who have died in the last two years.

82: Percentage of the deaths where the toxic opioid fentanyl was involved.

73,000: People in B.C. who have been diagnosed with opioid use disorder.

8.8: The rate that First Nations women are dying, is a multiple of the general population’s rate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2023.

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