At the end of May it came to light that Karla Homolka, the Barbie of the Ken and Barbie Killers, was volunteering at her kids’ elementary school in NDG. Outrage erupted with some saying that Homolka was entitled to her privacy at least for her children’s sake, while others said that the nature of her past crimes should disqualify her from ever being around children.

For those of you unfamiliar with Homolka’s story, Karla and her husband Paul Bernardo went on a rape, torture, and murder spree in the early nineties. Her victims were all underage girls – Leslie Mahaffy, age 14, Kristen French, age 15, and Tammy Homolka, Karla’s own sister, age 15. Karla and her husband were eventually caught in 1993 and in exchange for a plea deal, she sold out her husband who is now serving life without parole.

In order to get this plea deal, she had to rat on Bernardo and convince the prosecution that she was a hapless pawn in his plan to rape, torture, and kill. Some time after the deal was struck a tape surfaced of the crimes demonstrating that Homolka was not only not a victim of Bernardo, but was a willing participant in the crimes.

She was released from prison in 2005.

This article is not just about Karla Homolka, though there should be no question that while her kids are certainly entitled to their privacy, she who raped, tortured, and murdered three girls should never be trusted around other people’s children.

This article is about our parole system.

Parole is a kind of conditional release from prison in which an offender can serve out the remainder of their sentence in the community.

The rules regarding parole in Canada are governed primarily by the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Canadian Criminal Code. The purpose of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act is to ensure that prisons are safe and humane and by assisting in the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders so they can become law-abiding citizens.

The Act’s section on parole starts with reiterating that the purpose of any kind of conditional release is to ensure a just and safe society by making the best decisions regarding the timing and condition of release in a way that will best suit this purpose and the goal of rehabilitation.

The Parole Board of Canada (PBC) is the federal body with almost exclusive authority to grant parole. The Act allows for provinces to set up their own parole boards for offenders sentenced to two years or less, though only Quebec and Ontario currently have them.

The PBC can not only grant parole, but can also revoke it, or cancel a decision to grant it.

The Parole Board has to base their decision to grant parole on several factors including “the nature and gravity of the offence, the degree of responsibility of the offender, information from the trial or sentencing process and information obtained from victims, offenders and other components of the criminal justice system, including assessments provided by correctional authorities.”

Their decisions also have to be consistent with the protection of society.

Parole is granted only if the Board is convinced an offender will not pose a risk to society by re-offending if released from prison before their sentence is up, and if the release of said offender will actually facilitate the protection of society via their rehabilitation into a law-abiding citizen.

There are two types of parole in Canada.

Full parole means a person can finish out their sentence in society provided they obey certain conditions designed to keep them from re-offending and report regularly to a parole officer. Offenders in Canada automatically become eligible for parole by serving one third of their custodial sentence, with the exception of those sentenced to life without parole. Those offenders are only eligible after a number of years specified in their sentence.

Day parole means an offender can work or participate in community activities but have to go back to prison or a sort of residence at night. As per the act, an offender is typically eligible for day parole when they reach the date of eligibility for full parole.

Once a person is released and have completed their parole, they can theoretically get on with their lives, but that’s not as easy as it seems. Ex-cons often have difficulty reintegrating into society, and these difficulties often lead to recidivism. Fortunately, there are legal protections in place for former offenders. The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, which applies to both private and public entities in Quebec, forbids discrimination, stating:

“No one may dismiss, refuse to hire or otherwise penalize a person in his employment owing to the mere fact that he was convicted of a penal or criminal offence, if the offence was in no way connected with the employment or if the person has obtained a pardon for the offence.”

The question at the end of the day is does criminal rehabilitation work?

*Eve, who served four months for conspiracy to traffic narcotics and has since been pardoned, thinks that likelihood of rehabilitation depends a lot on the character of the offender and that the system is ineffective in determining who is a danger. She believes that Karla Homolka got off too lightly but accepts it because it resulted in Paul Bernardo’s life sentence. Though she pities Homolka’s children, Eve thinks that like any pedophile, Homolka’s crimes mean she’s not entitled to her privacy.

Rape, torture, and murder are three of the most heinous crimes there are. Any rate of recidivism for these kinds of crimes is cause for alarm, so while most ex-cons like Eve deserve to have their crimes forgotten, Karla Homolka most certainly does not.

*Name changed for privacy reasons

On June 1st, 2017, Premier Philippe Couillard announced that the time has come to reopen the constitutional debate in Quebec. The response across much of Quebec and Canada was: WHY?

As it turns out, the announcement is merely a confirmation of a promise Couillard made in 2013 when running for leadership of the province. Back then he boldly said he planned to get Quebec to sign the constitution by Canada’s 150th anniversary. As it stands, Quebec has never signed the Canadian constitution. In order to understand why, we need to go back in time.

(The story is a long one, so apologies to any history buffs who feel that vital information is missing.)

Before 1982, Canada’s constitution remained in London and only the British government could amend it. However, the act of getting permission from Great Britain became a purely symbolic act as Canada and other former British colonies asserted their independence. All Canada had to do was ask the British to amend their constitution and the crown would rubber stamp their request. Nonetheless, in the late 1970s and early 80s, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, father of our current prime minister, came up with a plan to bring Canada’s constitution home.

Trudeau’s plan consisted of repatriating the constitution, modifying it by entrenching his charter of rights, what we now know as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and establishing an amendment formula. In order to do so, he got provincial leaders together, one of whom was the father of the Quebec Sovereigntist movement, René Lévesque.

The goal was to get the provinces to agree to Trudeau’s plan. At the same time, the Prime Minister put the question of what was allowed to the Supreme Court in a case we now know as the Patriation Reference.

The Supreme Court had to answer many questions, but the main one was whether Ottawa was bound by law to get the consent of the provinces to amend the constitution. The Court said no.

Quebec wanted recognition of itself as a distinct society, a veto over constitutional amendments, as well as an opt out clause that would allow provinces an out of certain aspects of the constitution with some kind of compensation so they would not have to pay for any federal actions that were not in their interests. Lévesque and Quebec were denied, and the constitution was repatriated and entrenched without Quebec’s consent.

Two more attempts were made to get Quebec to sign the constitution, but both failed. As it has never consented to the current constitution, Quebec remains bound by it only because it remains part of Canada.

With Couillard’s announcement came the release of a two hundred page document outlining his government’s vision for Quebec and its place in Canada. The document cannot be called a plan because it sets no timeline for Quebec to sign and no step by step procedure his government would want to use.

The document has a lot of words, but says nothing of value.

It asserts the Quebecois identity as “our way of being Canadian” but when it comes to identifying the people of Quebec, the text limits them to four groups: French speakers, English speakers and the First Nations and Inuit. Allophones such as the Jews, the Greeks, the Italians, Eastern Europeans and the Asian communities who helped to build Quebec are almost completely left out.

The only time Allophones are mentioned in the text is in the context of “interculturalism” and “integration” which, when put together, sound dangerously like assimilation. Since Quebec policy treats Allophones as potential Francophones by making their children go to French school, this is hardly surprising. The text also fails to address the growing problem of Xenophobia in Quebec, which begs the question as to whether the document’s definition of the English Speaking Quebecois refers exclusively to white English-speakers in the province.

What Couillard’s document does do is reiterate what Quebec wants from a relationship with Canada as party to the constitution:

  • Recognition of the Quebec Nation
  • Respect for Quebec’s areas of jurisdiction
  • Autonomy
  • Flexibility and asymmetry
  • Cooperation and administrative agreements
  • Shared institutions

This is all sealed together with the assertion that Quebec’s “full and complete participation in Canada” must come from a “concrete and meaningful recognition” of the province as “the only predominantly French-speaking state in North America and as such, heir to a rich and unique culture that must be protected, supported, and developed.”

Couillard’s plan to reopen the constitutional debate has been met with mixed feelings.

Bloc Québecois leader Martine Ouellet acknowledges that it’s a political move but welcomes it as an opportunity to reopen discussions about Quebec sovereignty. Though the Parti Québecois has decided to put aside the issue of sovereignty for the time being, leader Jean-François Lisée commended Couillard for acknowledging the need to address Quebec’s place within Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has more or less said it’s not a topic to be reopened, while Amir Khadir, an MNA for Québec Solidaire, claims it’s a ploy by the Couillard government to deflect attention from the scandals surrounding the Premier and his party.

It is Khadir’s interpretation of Couillard’s move that seems the most plausible. A simple Google search of Couillard’s name with the word “scandal” will reveal much about the shortcomings of his government. There is everything from the arrest of deputy-premier Nathalie Normandeau for corruption, to Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette’s mismanagement of our health care system and Barrette’s defensive victim-blaming, to the police surveillance scandal, to the Bombardier executive bonus scandal available to learn about online. With his government up for reelection next year, there is much Couillard needs to deflect attention from.

Let’s not take the bait, and keep our eyes where they belong: not on a can of worms that should not be opened, but on the government holding the can opener.

On May 24, 2017 Quebec construction workers walked off the job after failing to sign a collective agreement with their employers. Though the provincial government threatened pass Bill 142 which would force them back to work the following Monday if they failed to do so, the Couillard government chose to table said bill and construction workers remain on strike.

Labour disputes are as Québecois as poutine and tire sur glace. No matter the time of year, some group from public prosecutors to hotel workers to teachers to nurses is always on strike because in Quebec we have an expression:

“Au Québec, on syndique!”

In Quebec, we unionize.

Though for many people labour disputes are nothing more than a public nuisance characterised by service delays and screaming picketers, unions play a vital role in protecting thirty to forty percent of workers in Quebec.

Historically, it was the unions that fought for living wages, reasonable working hours, and safer working conditions. Unions were at the forefront of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution that fought government corruption and the oppressive hold of the Catholic Church on the province.

Today unions and the laws that protect them keep big business from trampling all over their employees and no case says that better than the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in 2014 in United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 503 v. Wal Mart Canada Corp..

We’ve all heard stories like this before.

Wal-Mart opens a store, treats its workers like garbage, and when they exercise their legal right to form an association to protect themselves the company fires the lot of them by closing the store. Wal-Mart always claims that it’s because the store in question wasn’t profitable and had nothing to do with the unionization of its employees. Normally companies like Wal-Mart get away with this sort of thing, but not in Quebec.

In Quebec we have the Labour Code, which establishes strict rules of what employers and employees can and cannot do when it comes to unions and collective bargaining. Though the Code provides rules on unions of employees and associations of employers, this article will focus on the unions.

The Labour Code defines a union or association of employees as a:

“a group of employees constituted as a professional syndicate, union, brotherhood or otherwise, having as its objects the study, safeguarding and development of the economic, social and educational interests of its members and particularly the negotiation and application of collective agreements”

Associations of employees can engage in bargaining with their employer(s) to establish a collective agreement, which is a written contract between them establishing the conditions of employment. These agreements are generally drafted, negotiated and signed when the union is formed, and when they’re up for renewal. That said, the Code has a series of obligations and rights for employers and employees.

Employees in Quebec have the right to belong to an association of their choice and can participate in said association’s formation, activities, and management. Employers and their representatives are not allowed to threaten or intimidate someone with the intent to scare them out of joining or participating in such an association. At the same time, associations of employees are not allowed to use those tactics to get a worker to join them.

Unions are not allowed to solicit membership during working hours, and they’re not allowed to hold meetings at the place of work unless they are certified by the Labour Tribunal and have their employer’s consent.

Employers are not allowed to “dominate, hinder or finance the formation or the activities” of the unions, a provision undoubtedly put in place due to Quebec’s long tradition of corruption. They are not allowed to refuse to hire someone for exercising their rights as per the Labour Code, and they’re not allowed to engage in threats, intimidation, discrimination, reprisals or dismissals for exercising those rights.

If an employer engages in these illegal behaviors, employees can file a complaint with Quebec’s Administrative Labour Tribunal within thirty days of the sanction or action. If the Administrative Labour Tribunal agrees that an employee tried to exercise their right under the Labour Code, any action taken against said employee by their employer is presumed to have been the result of attempting to exercise said right.

It’s then up to the employer to prove those actions were for a “good and sufficient” reason. If the Tribunal doesn’t buy the employer’s explanation, it can in turn order the reinstatement of the employee within eight days of the tribunal’s decision, and even order that the employer pay the employee an indemnity equivalent to the salary and benefits lost due to reprisals against them.

The Code establishes rules of how unions can decide to go on strike, voting procedures within the union, and the certification process in which the union applies for recognition by the Administrative Labour Tribunal to act as representative for the workers of a given employer. It describes who counts as a union member and procedures for negotiating a collective agreement.

What Wal-Mart was caught for is a violation of article 59 of the Labour Code that bars employers from changing the conditions of employment during the unionization process. The union successfully argued before the Supreme Court that closing the store was a prohibited change in employment conditions. The Court ordered Wal-Mart to compensate its former employees.

If all negotiations for a collective agreement fail, either the union or the employer or both can apply to government to force arbitration. Arbitration is somewhere on the legal spectrum between mediation and a trial. Like in mediation, both parties submit their dispute to a third with the goal of finding a decent solution for both parties, but like a trial the decision is binding. This typically happens in cases of serious impasse.

Though strikes in Quebec can be a public nuisance, labour laws and unions not only protect Quebec workers but also allowed us to spank Wal-Mart.

* Featured image: lifeinquebec.com

After years of tax exemptions, the religious communities in the City of Montreal are facing big tax bills. It has recently come to light that once exempt institutions like the Cote des Neiges Presbyterian Church are receiving tax bills from the City. Inspectors from the City of Montreal are now visiting churches more regularly, taking pictures and noting how every space in the church is used.

Municipal property inspections are nothing new. It’s how the City of Montreal assesses how to tax you and for how much. Religious institutions, however, are the exception.

According to the Quebec Act Respecting Municipal Taxation, a property “in the name of a religious institution… used by it or gratuitously by another religious institution… not to derive income but in the immediate pursuit of the religious or charitable objects” is exempt from all municipal or school property taxes. That means that as long as a given space is owned by a religious institution and is used exclusively for worship or other religious ends, it is considered to be exempt from property taxes.

The problem is that many religious institutions in Montreal don’t use their property exclusively for worship, hosting vital community organizations in available spaces within their buildings. The tax bills and increased inspections likely mean that the City is interpreting the law more strictly so that they can tax houses of worship for the spaces they don’t use for religious services and prayer.

The City of Montreal claims that they are simply trying to prevent people from defrauding the system, but not everyone agrees.

M, an expert on municipal assessments and taxation, said that they’re doing it because it will result in tax revenue from sources that weren’t providing any tax revenue before.

I asked M what the municipal assessors would be looking for when deciding how much to tax a religious institution.

“Proof that there are parts of a church that aren’t being used for worship,” he replied.

A room used for worship is tax exempt, a room used for anything else would hypothetically be subject to taxation.
I asked M if the City could tax some parts of a house of worship while exempting other parts of the same building from taxation.

“They can split the assessment, and they do. I’ve seen it before. They can send a bill that indicates the taxable portion and the non-taxable portion,” he said.

That begs the question as to whether facilities that while not used exclusively for worship, would be considered an essential part of any building, let alone a church. Though people rarely worship while on the toilet, for example, it should be considered an essential part of any space’s facilities and subject to any exemptions tied to a given space.

Though some have praised the City’s move to start taxing religious institutions as an assertion of the separation of church and state and a break for taxpayers, there is reason to believe the move will come at the expense of community organizations.

NDG City Councilor Peter McQueen points out that important community groups in NDG such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, as well as the NDG Food Depot and the NDG Community Council rely on the City’s churches to provide spaces for them to meet. He explained that this is because historically the churches were involved in charity work separate from the state.

I asked McQueen how he felt these groups would be affected by the new taxation rules.

“Terrible! I mean, if these groups had to leave the churches they’d be in a major quandary here in NDG.”

He said that if these groups had to find other places to meet, the City would have to step up and meet the demand. Currently in Cote des Neiges and NDG most community spaces are used for sports or borough offices. Houses of worship have until now been filling the need for spaces for these community groups to meet, but that may change with the new taxation rules.

At the end of the day, the issue comes down to one of money.

Will this move by the City of Montreal make the City more money, or cost it money in the long run?

Peter McQueen thinks it will end up costing the City, as it will have to step up to meet the demand for community meeting spaces that had previously been filled by the churches.

M thinks the City may choose to simply not fill that need, which would come at the expense of the community that relies on these groups to help the needy and provide safe activities for their children.

There is the additional risk that some congregations may fold altogether under the new taxation rules, as their dwindling flocks and basic expenses put houses of worship in the red before they ever see a tax bill. They can always contest the tax assessments in court, and there will likely be legal challenges if there are enough tax dollars involved.

At the end of the day, it will be the community that pays for this.

Currently one of the hardest things to do as a writer is cover the explosion of nepotism, treason, espionage, bigotry, misogyny, greed, and comical idiocy that makes up the 45th presidency of the United States. Nothing so pointedly demonstrates this difficulty than Allan J. Lichtman’s book The Case for Impeachment.

Allan J. Lichtman is a legend.

A distinguished professor of history at American University in Washington DC, he has successfully predicted the outcome of eight US presidential elections. In November 2016 he predicted that the Orange Con-Man would win the election, and that he would be impeached. It is therefore no surprise that Lichtman and his publishers worked to get this book out before any such proceedings could take place.

After a couple of introductory chapters explaining impeachment rules, Lichtman, chapter by chapter, launches into a full scale indictment of the Orange Buffoon.

It’s a good book, but it’s incomplete. It’s incomplete because it could have used the notion of impeachment to make a broader point about the state of American politics, but didn’t, and it’s incomplete because that Entitled Orange Bully damns himself too quickly for most writers to follow.

The book is focused and because of that, it’s an easy read. In each chapter Lichtman talks about Cheeto-Head’s conduct before and after taking office, ties it to a legal issue or an aspect of the President’s character, and then argues it as grounds for impeachment.

Before we get into the indictments in The Case for Impeachment, we need to talk about impeachment itself.

What is Impeachment?

Impeachment does not guarantee a removal from public office. It does not fire the president. What it does is act as a formal charge of misconduct that can be brought against the president, the vice-president, and all civil officers in the United States. The power to impeach is vested in the US Congress, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, though only the Senate has power to remove an official from public office following an impeachment.

The process works like this: any member of either house in Congress can draw up articles of impeachment aka charges against said public official. The House can approve or reject article(s) of impeachment, usually following an investigation, by a simple majority vote. If the House votes in favor of impeachment, the accused is impeached.

The case is then brought before the Senate which holds a sort of trial. Each side can present witnesses and the president is allowed to use his own lawyer if he wants. If the one facing impeachment is the president, the case is presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, currently Justice John Roberts, who has had clashes with the current president before.

Once the trial is heard, the case goes to the Senate, which acts as a sort of jury. It takes a two thirds majority in the Senate consisting of sixty-seven votes to remove an official. If convicted, the president would be removed from office and lose any privileges and immunities he had in office, and the vice-president would take over.

In the nineties, the House voted in favor of impeaching Bill Clinton, but because he was popular at the time, his opponents failed to get the sixty-seven votes needed to remove him, thus allowing Clinton to finish up his term.

Grounds for Impeachment

According to the US Constitution, the president can be removed from office “for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” According to Lichtman, this has historically been given broad interpretation allowing for impeachment due to conduct before or after taking office. Lichtman also contends that a conviction for any of the aforementioned acts is not pre-requisite, just the fact that the president did them. That said, there is also the Emoluments clause in the Constitution that says that:

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

An emolument is a salary, fee, or profit, and the notion of emoluments is especially relevant given the mounting evidence that the Orange Administration and the Russians colluded with one another.

Lichtman’s indictments of Nacho-Face are numerous.

He talks about the president’s war on women, mentioning sexual harassment charges and disgusting entitled behavior. Unfortunately, his chapter on the subject does not go far enough. He refrains from mentioning accusations that the president sexually assaulted a thirteen-year-old girl while at a party of now convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the president who prided himself on procuring underage girls for rich men. It does not address the Orange Bully’s remark that women who get abortions should be punished.

Lichtman also talks about the president’s disgraceful business practices, pointing out that for a man claiming to be for getting jobs for working Americans, his track record suggests a preference for employing illegal immigrants because they’re more easily exploitable. He mentions the man’s denial of climate change, but perhaps unwisely implies that the Syrian refugee crisis was largely due to it, when we can all agree that drought does not make evil leaders do what Assad has done.

In an extensive chapter devoted to Russia, the author describes how deeply entangled the president’s businesses are with forces in Eastern Europe. He also devotes chapters to the Orange administration gross disregard for the Constitution, the law, and basic human decency.

One of the best things about this book is that it is fundamentally an American work. There are little to no comparisons with other countries or leaders and refrains from references to international history.

This perhaps is a mistake.

The Orange Administration is doing what stereotypical Republicans have dreamed of: an America where the poor look to people of colour and immigrants as the source of their misfortunes, allowing the upper one percent to hold onto their wealth by cutting their own taxes, effectively destroying American healthcare, education, employment, and infrastructure.

History has taught us that people eventually catch on to who is really hurting them, and as the French Revolution teaches us, a reluctance of the wealthy to help the poor leads to catastrophic civil unrest. If the White House isn’t careful, they may one day be faced with an angry mob and a guillotine.

It is appalling that in 2017 we still need to have a conversation about sexual consent.

In April 2017, Alexandra Brodsky published an article in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law titled RAPE ADJACENT: Imagining Legal Responses to Nonconsensual Condom Removal. It brought to light the sinister practice of men taking off condoms without their partners’ consent (the slang term for it being “stealthing”). This practice does not exclusively affect women having sex with men, as gay men have also been victimized.

This article is not going to dignify the practice by calling it by its slang term as doing so trivializes a violation of a person’s right to bodily integrity and self-determination. It is not going to address the personal failings of those – usually MRAs – who advocate for or practice non-consensual condom removal, though it is HIGHLY tempting to do so.

This article IS going to revisit the notion of consent and discuss the practice of nonconsensual condom removal and the potential legal ramifications of it under Canadian criminal and civil law. This article will limit discussions to nonconsensual condom removal as I covered the topic of consent in detail in December 2015 and thus far those laws remain unchanged.

Consent is not transferable

By law, consent is the voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. Without consent, sexual activity becomes sexual assault.

It is widely recognized that consent for one sexual act does not constitute blanket consent for any and all others. Consenting to vaginal sex does not mean, for example, that you also consent to anal sex. In the context of nonconsensual condom removal, agreeing to have sex with a condom does not mean you consent to have sex without one.

There is no consent if a person, having consented to sexual activity, “expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to continue to engage in the activity”. That means that a person has every right to stop things at any time, and continuing despite their reluctance constitutes sexual assault. This is notion is important as nonconsensual condom removal often happens right before re-penetration. That means that the guy in question will pull out, take the condom off, and then re-penetrate their partner.

If the victim catches the person doing this and demands a stop to the activity and the person persists, that person crosses the line between consensual sexual activity and sexual assault.

As Brodsky points out, most victims of nonconsensual condom removal only realized the condom removal at the moment of re-penetration, when their partner ejaculated, or because their partner told them the next morning.

Intent is important

When Brodsky interviewed victims of nonconsensual condom removal, what was telling was the behavior of their partners afterward. According to the article, the men were dismissive, and often refused to help pay for emergency contraception or STI testing even though pregnancy and STIs are potential consequences of not using a condom. In her research Brodsky went online anonymously to look at what proponents of nonconsensual condom removal had to say about it.

The motivation for the practice stems in part from the desire for increased physical pleasure, but what’s more problematic was that it also stems from the thrill of degrading their sex partner and their belief in men’s inherent right to violence and to spread their seed.

All of this is extremely important in the context of mens rea for determining guilt for sexual assault.

Most crimes in Canada have two aspects, actus reus – meaning the act of the crime itself, and mens rea- the ‘guilty mind’ referring to the knowledge, recklessness, or negligence of the perpetrator engaging in the crime.

In Canadian Criminal law, the mens rea required for sexual assault cases is whether the perpetrator knowingly, recklessly, or negligently engaged in the sexual activity without the victim’s consent. One could argue that the dismissive attitude of a man engaging in this practice towards his victim combined with online expressions of his belief in his right to remove the condom for whatever reason and his taking glory in the degradation of his partner by violating their consent would provide the needed mens rea.

If Canadian Criminal law will not recognize nonconsensual condom removal as sexual assault, there is always civil law.

The Quebec Civil Code recognizes the inviolability and integrity of every person. It also recognizes that every person has “a duty to abide by the rules of conduct incumbent on him, according to the circumstances, usage, or law, so as not to cause injury to another” and that should a person endowed with reason cause injury to another – be it bodily, moral, or material – that person is bound to make reparation for it.

Bodily injury in Quebec Civil Law refers to damages to your physical body, material injury refers to damages to your property, and moral refers to psychological damages. While not an ideal remedy for the violation of bodily autonomy and fear of unwanted pregnancies and STIs, a victim of nonconsensual condom removal could sue on one or all three of these grounds.

Any STIs or unwanted pregnancies that ensue could be argued as bodily injury, loss of a job to deal with the fallout, physical or mental, of the violation could be grounds for a demand for material damages, and the psychological impact of the violation could be cause for moral damages.

Birth control rebuttal

In response to recent discussions about nonconsensual condom removal, there have been lots of people claiming that if this practice is illegal, it should also be a crime to lie about being on the birth control pill. People claim laws are unfair to men given that in March 2017, an Ontario court ruled against a man who sued a woman who lied about being on birth control prior to them having sex. She got pregnant and he sued for psychological damages.

While there is no disputing the immorality of lying about being on birth control, there are some fundamental differences between lying about being on the pill and nonconsensual condom removal.

First, there is no online cult of women working to deceive men about being on birth control due to a belief in some inherent right the way there is one of men who feel entitled to spread their seed regardless of the wishes of their partner. It should also be noted that birth control sabotage is not performed primarily by women desperate for a baby, but by abusive male partners looking to make a woman more dependent on him.

Second, lying about the pill does not put the man at risk of STIs the way removing a condom without consent puts the victims at risk.

Brodsky points out the third when she discusses the danger of legally enforcing demands for full reproductive transparency, which is that it puts vulnerable people at risk, such as those who cannot take birth control for health reasons but are stuck with partners who demand sex but will not use condoms.

It should also be noted that the reason why the Ontario courts ruled against the man in the aforementioned case is because it was judged primarily on family law grounds. In Ontario, family law cases are assessed in ways to benefit children and not favor one parent over another.

His case was dismissed primarily for the sake of the child that resulted from the woman’s deception, but also because it became clear that the plaintiff’s issue was not the sex, but the ensuing unwanted parenthood and potential financial obligations connected to it. Given that, a better equivalent for this case would be that of a man who lied about being sterile or having had a vasectomy in order to have consensual sex without a condom which resulted in a pregnancy.

In cases of nonconsensual condom removal, the victims only agreed to a specific sex act, one with a condom. The removal of the condom nullified their consent, and the willful violation of that consent is just that, a violation.

* Featured image: Women’s Health

According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, young people should get used to temporary employment. That means that Generations X, Y, and Millennials should get used to badly paid uncertain employment with lousy or no benefits to speak of.

This article is not about how our Prime Minister rode the younger vote into office on a promise to fix unsteady employment. It’s not about the fact that Trudeau turned his back on young Canadians the same way protesters turn their backs on him.

This is about getting fired.

Dismissals are increasingly common as work gets more unstable. Fortunately, there are laws that protect people from the worst behaviors of employers.

In Quebec we have two main laws to protect employees: the Civil Code and the Act Respecting Labour Standards.

The Civil Code’s provision on dismissal says that if your period of employment is for an unfixed term, you are legally entitled to a notice of termination.

The notice of termination is a written document announcing that you’ve been dismissed from the job. If you’ve been working constantly at the job for three months or more, you are legally entitled to that notice.

The time between that notice and the day you are actually supposed to stop working depends on how long you’ve been there. If you’ve been working continuously at a job for between three months to a year, you’re legally entitled to one week’s notice. If you’ve been working one to five years, you’re supposed to get two weeks notice. For five to ten years of service, you’re entitled to four weeks notice, and for over ten years of service, you’re legally entitled to eight weeks of notice.

Most employers do not want you at the job after they’ve decided to fire you, and they are allowed to ask you to leave, but there is a catch. If they don’t want you working during the mandatory time between serving you the notice and the time you are legally entitled to, they have to pay you an indemnity equivalent to the wages you would have gotten for that period. That means that if you’re entitled to two weeks notice and they ask to leave right away, they owe you two weeks’ pay. It should be noted however that if your employer fails to give you that notice or indemnity, you are legally entitled to ask for it and should.

When it comes to the act of actually firing someone, there are only a few legitimate reasons an employer can use. They can fire you for misconduct, for having a bad attitude, for your lack of skills, insufficient performance, or your incompetence, all of which are considered “good and sufficient cause for dismissal”.

What employers cannot do is fire you as punishment for something they’ve already reprimanded you for. It’s the double jeopardy rule of employment law that means that if, for example, you screwed up at work and your boss suspended you for a week for your actions, they’re not allowed to fire you for the exact same mistake.

Employers are also not allowed to engage in “constructive dismissal”, known in French as “congediement deguisee” or disguised dismissal. This is the practice where instead of firing you outright, in which case they’d have to give you the proper notice, indemnity, and paperwork, your employer makes a unilateral and fundamental change to your employment without reasonable notice, thus making your working conditions so unpleasant that you quit on your own.

This includes, for example, cutting your hours by crazy amounts when you’ve worked a certain number of hours at this job for years, or unilaterally cutting your pay without explanation. If the changes to your working conditions are so dramatic you’ll have to quit your job to find conditions equivalent to the ones you had before, you can argue that you’ve been the victim of constructive dismissal. Constructive dismissal can also take the form of psychological harassment making your job so unbearable that you quit.

The almighty layoff is another way you can lose your job, but it does not carry the same stigma as dismissal. Permanent layoffs are related to the internal or economic life of the employer and supposedly have nothing to do with the employee(s) they let go – the sort of “it’s not you, it’s ME” version of dismissal. Reasons for layoff can include a decline in the company’s business, reorganization of the business, the implementation of new technology, or the sale of the business.

Regardless of whether you were terminated or laid off, the rules regarding notices of dismissal still apply. If you suspect your employer has mishandled letting you go, feel free to call the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail at 1 844 838-0808 to see if you have any legal recourse.

If you decide to go after your employer for how they treated you, you have a few options. If you had two or more years of uninterrupted employment before being dismissed and feel that you were let go without a good and sufficient cause, you can file a complaint with the Commission des normes within forty-five days of your termination. The complaint must be in written form and failure to do so within that time makes you lose your right to pursue it.

The Commission des normes de travail can then act on your behalf to come up with some kind of agreement between you and your employer to ensure the law is obeyed. You also have the option of suing your employer in civil court. If you cannot afford a lawyer, remember that legal aid may be an option for you.

In this era of unstable employment, employees need to protect themselves more than ever. The next time you get let go, contact Normes de travail. You may have more rights than you think.

On April 13, 2017 the Orange Racist Misogynist US President’s Mar-a-Lago resort was found to have at least thirteen health violations.

This article is not about the current US President, who seems to waste too much time at a resort that improperly disposes of fish parasites and stores food on rusty shelves, thus causing health risks to his fellow wealthy white male gasbags.

This article is about food safety.

Anyone who has endured severe nausea, vomiting, cramping and diarrhea after what seemed to be a safe and pleasant restaurant meal knows that food poisoning and food safety are no laughing matter. Food poisoning can cause hours or even days of discomfort and in some cases, even death. It is for this reason that food safety is so important.

In Canada, food safety is a major priority and every food-related industry is affected. Since the process of food inspection spans farming to fisheries to restaurants to the production of processed foods, this article is going to focus specifically on restaurant and food service safety and inspection.

Food safety and inspections relating to restaurants and food services in Canada are generally handled by the provincial authorities, though when there’s a big city involved, the provinces often delegate to municipal authorities, as in the case in Quebec.

In Quebec, restaurant and food safety is handled by primarily by the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pecheries et de l’Alimentation (MAPAQ). MAPAQ delegates responsibility for food safety inspections in Montreal to the City of Montreal’s department of food inspection. Both organizations must enforce the Quebec Food Products Act.

The Quebec Food Products Act is a law that covers basic food safety in the province of Quebec. It defines food as anything that can be used to feed man or animals, including beverages but excluding anything alcoholic, which falls under the Act respecting the Société des alcools du Québec. Ice and bottled water are also considered food as per the act if they are intended for sale by volume or for preserving or preparing food. This information is not only useful for those charged with enforcing the law, but also handy for anyone arguing with a loved one about whether or not their favorite snack food is actually “real food”.

The term “restaurateur” as per the act refers to anyone who serves or sells meals or refreshments for consumption. This includes operators of schools and establishments governed by the Act respecting health services and social services, the Act respecting health services and social services for Cree Native persons, the Act respecting the Québec correctional system, and the Government and their departments or agencies.

The rules for food safety as per the Act are clear.

No one can prepare, keep for sale, purchase, sell, and resale or give as promotional items food that is unfit for human consumption, so deteriorated as to be unfit for human consumption, or if the safety of the food is “uncertain”.

Facilities used for food preparation and the vehicles used to transport it must be clean and sanitized. Machinery used in food preparation must be in good working order, designed for their intended use, and permit the cleaning and disinfecting of the machine when necessary. People involved in food preparation must comply with hygiene and sanitation rules prescribed by government regulations.

The City of Montreal’s Food Inspection Department has been around since 1927 and is now charged with enforcing the Act in the city. Their team of forty inspectors works to protect food consumers by ensuring the quality and safety of food prepared in restaurants, retail establishments, and in the transformation, preparation, storage, and distribution of food sectors. The City’s food inspection team is also responsible for temporary establishments, such as food stands set up for special events like the Montreal Jazz Festival, Grand Prix, and Just for Laughs.

The job of the inspectors is to inspect food and food related businesses and activities in terms of health risks and safety. They can also advise food business operators on good food safety practices, and conduct food quality and safety analyses.

As they have been charged by MAPAQ with enforcing the Act, the City’s food inspectors can charge and impose penalties on those in violation of the Food Products Act, which consist of fines ranging from two hundred and fifty dollars to two thousand dollars for a first offense, with fines increasing for every subsequent offense.

The City often imposes fines in response to complaints, which can be made by anyone witnessing unsanitary conditions at a restaurant or retail food seller, or following the consumption of food at an establishment that made the person sick. You can either phone in a complaint at 514-280-4300, or fill in an online form available at the City of Montreal’s website. In order to successfully submit a complaint online, all you need to provide are your name and contact info, the name and address of establishment, and the date and a brief description of the incident. The information provided is considered confidential and once a complaint is received, the City inspectors should respond within twenty-four hours.

Want to try a new restaurant or café but doubtful of its cleanliness? The City of Montreal has a page allowing you to see if a place has previously been cited for food safety violations. You can search for it according to the name of the place, the address, the street, city, or type of business. Just remember that a previous citation for health violations doesn’t necessarily mean the place is not up to code now.

The City of Montreal gets about 1900 complaints a year for everything from unclean conditions, to spoiled food, to vermin, to illness following food consumption. In a city that thrives on vibrant restaurant culture, food safety is a major priority, so don’t be afraid to give them a call the next time your food makes you sick.

* Featured image by Michela Simoncini, Creative Commons

On March 15, 2017 the US Department of Justice announced that they were laying charges against four people accused of hacking four hundred Yahoo email accounts in 2014. Two of the accused are Russian intelligence officers and a third was in the US but has since fled to Russia. The fourth is one of our own, Hamilton native Karim Baratov, age 22.

Baratov has been roasted by media and law enforcement because he openly flaunted his love of luxury items online. When people asked how he could afford these things, his reply was that he was providing online services.

In the court of public opinion, it sounds like Baratov is guilty of the crimes he’s accused of, even though “online services” could mean everything from sexy video chats to tech support.

This article is not about Baratov. He is currently in jail awaiting his bail hearing in April and plans to fight his extradition to the US where he would face charges of conspiring to commit computer fraud and abuse, conspiring to commit access device fraud, conspiring to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

This article is about how we address hacking in Canada.

It should be said right off the bat that not all hacking is illegal. One of the definitions of hacking is writing computer programs for fun, which is not illegal if the programs are harmless.

The other definition of hacking is the one most people are most familiar with, which is the act of getting into a computer illegally.

Though it’s never called hacking in the Canadian Criminal Code, the section dealing with the crime is the one used to address mischief. That’s right; the laws against hacking are in the same place you find the law punishing leaving flaming bags of poop on doorsteps on Devil’s Night.

The crime of hacking in Canadian law is called “Mischief in relation to computer data” and is defined as willfully:

  • Detroying or altering computer data
  • Rendering computer data meaningless, useless or ineffective
  • Obstructing, interrupting or interfering with the lawful use of computer data
  • Obstructing, interrupting or interfering with a person in the lawful use of computer data or denying access to computer data to a person who is entitled to access to it.

The punishments are the same as for any other kind of mischief crime. If the act put a life in danger, you’re liable to spend life in jail. If the crime caused damages worth five thousand dollars or more, it’s an indictable offense with a maximum sentence of ten years in jail or a summary conviction which would mean six months in jail or a five thousand dollar fine. If the value of the damage was less than five thousand dollars, you’re facing either a summary conviction or an indictment with up to two years in jail.

Like many crimes, hacking is often done with intent to commit other crimes like fraud, theft, and unauthorized uses of credit card data. A person guilty of hacking could therefore also be found guilty of additional crimes, some of which – like fraud – carry stiffer penalties than mischief.

Canadian law also holds a person responsible if they counseled or made it easier for someone else to commit a crime and they can face the same penalty as the perpetrator who actually did it. They can also face those penalties if they knew or should have known the crime could be committed as a result of their actions or lack thereof.

Though Canadian governments have been criticized as being ill equipped to tackle computer crime, the government seems to be doing its best not only to protect itself from cyber-attacks but also to teach us to protect ourselves.

In 2010, the Harper Government launched the Cyber Security Strategy outlining a long term national plan to deal with computer crime. The website getcybersafe.gc.ca was created by Public Safety Canada and is full of guidelines for ordinary citizens and businesses with the goal of keeping Canadians safer by increasing awareness of common online threats and how to fight them. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Center was created by a joint effort by the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police, and the Competition Bureau to fight mass marketing fraud online and is regularly updated with information regarding popular scams.

Technology is advancing at a greater pace than ever and our governments are trying to catch up to protect the victims. The problem with their initiatives is that they seem to place most of the pressure to protect against cybercrime on potential victims, which could lead to victim-blaming even in cases where, due to age or infirmity, a person may not be tech savvy enough to take every precaution. Their plan needs work to put the onus back on law enforcement to protect against cyber-crime back on those charged with protecting us, but at least it’s there.

After a train exploded in 2013 in the small town of Lac Mégantic, killing 47, many of the mourning families turned to the American justice system in hopes of getting better compensation. Four years later, the three firms representing them have charged them around $40 million in total, despite doing virtually nothing, according to information gathered by Radio-Canada’s Enquête.

40 of the 47 families have contracts with the Garcia Law Group (GLG). According to Radio-Canada, they have paid them between 10 and 15 million so far, with nothing to show for it. The firm is based in Southern Texas and owned by Wilfrido Rogelio Garcia. It was first registered there only a month after the Lac Mégantic accident.

Despite what his clients believe, Garcia is not even a lawyer. In fact the only lawyer on the firm’s payroll seems to be his daughter, Maria Garcia. GLG’s modus operandi is to pressure grieving families to sign contracts, so they can resell their cases to lawyers.

“They said to me that with some plane crashes in Europe, [Garcia] or his people were there in less than 24 hours. They were proud of that,” said Michele Whitmore, who once worked on a contract with GLG, as quoted by Radio-Canada. Garcia found clients in the aftermath of at least four plane crashes, in Peru, Greece, Russia and Indonesia, where the number of casualties ranged from 48 to 129.

GLG was the first law firm to get to Lac Mégantic after the tragedy They approached the families of victims and invited them to meetings to convince them that GLG could seek justice for them through the American system.

Ginette Cameron, who lost her daughter Geneviève in the explosion, remembers Garcia asking her several times if she would like another mother to live through what she lived through. She and her husband signed the same day.

Experts agree that such behaviour is against every deontological code. According to Bill Edwards, a lawyer interviewed by Radio-Canada, it is plainly illegal. Reporters have been unable to speak to anyone from Garcia Law Group.

Enquête’s full report will air tonight at 9pm on Radio-Canada.

* Featured image: Google Street View of the address listed on the Garcia Law Firm PLLC website

On March 7, 2017 Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould announced plans to clean up the Canadian Criminal Code and rid it of “zombie laws”. If you think of zombie laws, you probably think of the rules one would have to follow during a zombie apocalypse. Sadly, zombie laws aren’t related to the undead, but they ARE interesting, and like the zombies in fiction, can be rather annoying.

Zombie laws are laws that are no longer in force but still technically, physically, on the books.

The issue of zombie criminal laws recently came up due to the case of Travis Vader, the man convicted of murdering two elderly people in Alberta. The judge sentenced him for culpable homicide aka second degree murder.

Unfortunately, culpable homicide no longer exists in Canadian criminal law, it’s a zombie concept. If you kill someone, you can only be convicted of murder or manslaughter.

The provision the judge used to convict him – section 230 of the Criminal Code – had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1990. Vader’s lawyers argued for a mistrial, but fortunately for the safety of everyone, they did not get one. The judge in question instead sentenced Vader to life for two counts manslaughter.

This is not the first time zombie laws have caused problems. Though the law prohibiting anal sex for people under the age of eighteen has been ruled unconstitutional by appeals’ courts, there are claims that sixty-nine people have been charged with the offense between 2014 and 2015.

Stephen Coughlan, Professor at Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in Halifax came up with a list of zombie criminal laws. These laws include:

  • Spreading false news: This provision of the Criminal Code was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1992 for violating constitutional protections of freedom of expression.
  • Vagrancy: This was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1994 in R v. Heywood for violating the constitutional rights to life, liberty, and security of the person, and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
  • Procuring a miscarriage aka abortion: Struck down by the Supreme Court in 1988 in R v. Morgentaler

Restrictions also still on the books include those against dueling, fraudulently pretending to practice witchcraft, and crime comic books – yes, crime comics used to be illegal.

The Canadian Criminal Code is over eight hundred forty nine provisions long.

Law enforcement, prosecutors and judges rely on it to determine who to arrest, who to charge, how to convict, and how to sentence a person for a crime. Though people in the legal and law enforcement professions are expected to stay up to date in their field, it’s impossible to keep track of every law and many will still look it up when in doubt.

If a law in a text they rely on to inform them has been declared unconstitutional but was never actually removed from that text, mistakes like the one in the Travis Vader case are inevitable, because the source material they rely on – and should rely on – is full of mistakes.

So why haven’t federal governments worked to remove these laws sooner?

The most likely reason is because governments are busy and removing something from a body of law as vast as the Canadian Criminal Code takes a lot of work they don’t have the time for.

In order to amend the Criminal Code, the government will have to present a bill calling for the changes. That bill will have to outline every single zombie provision and when it was struck down, declared unconstitutional, or why it’s not used anymore. That means that someone or a group of someones will have to go through the Criminal Code and the Canadian judicial system’s vast body of case law to determine which ones are zombie provisions. The extensive work of Professor Stephen Coughlan on the subject will undoubtedly be a useful starting point.

Once the bill is drafted, it will have to go through the same grueling process every other federal law has to go through. That means that it will have to be formally presented to Parliament, debated, debated again, and voted on. If it passes, it will have to go to the Senate for its own round of debate and votes. Either house can kill the bill.

If the law proposing to update the Criminal Code is passed, the next step is arduous process of actually doing it. That means not only removing the zombie provisions but also going over the Code in its entirety to make sure the text is clear and consistent through and through. There’s also the issue of where the current Criminal Code will stand while the updates are in the works.

Though the process is going to be a long and annoying one, removing zombie laws is a necessary job that’s long overdue. The difficulties will come not only in drafting and passing a law to actually do it, but in figuring out an efficient way to do it without leaving dangerous voids in our legal system.

Will the Federal government’s plan work? Only time will tell.

In movie treason trials, a person facing a cruel, usually male, judge and screaming prosecutors is accused of betraying their country while they plead innocence and national loyalty. Sometimes the trial will end in a hanging, other times it will end by firing squad, and still others end with electrocution. Rarely is the accused set free.

In real life, treason cases are a lot more complex.

Despite the enhanced vigilance of Canadian and American law enforcement in the face of terrorism, people are rarely prosecuted for treason.

Since Canadian and American criminal laws have their roots in the British legal tradition, it’s time to look at how we and our southern neighbors define the crime and how it should be prosecuted.

In Canada, treason is defined in our Criminal Code.

There are two types of treason: regular, called simply treason and high treason.

High treason is defined as committing one or all of the following acts if you are a Canadian citizen:

  • Killing or attempting to kill the Queen (Canada’s de jure head of State) or causing bodily harm leading to her “death or destruction”
  • Maiming, wounding, imprisoning, or restraining the Queen
  • Making or Preparing for War Against Canada
  • Assisting an enemy at war with Canada or assisting any armed forces Canadian forces are fighting regardless of whether those armed forces are at war with Canada

Treason is defined by one or all of the following acts:

  • Using force or violence to overthrow the Canadian government or the government of a province
  • Communicating “without lawful authority” scientific or military information or sketches, plans, or documents of a scientific or military character that you knew or ought to have known could be used by an agent of another state against Canada
  • Conspiring to commit the above and manifesting an intention to go through with it via an overt act
  • Conspiring to commit high treason and manifesting an intention to commit it by an overt act. Conspiring with a person to commit treason is considered an overt act.

The law not only defines the crime itself and the penalties, but also who can be convicted of either kind treason and under what circumstances.

According to the Criminal Code, the rules on treason apply to Canadian citizens.

A crime of high treason can be committed while in or outside of Canada, as can acts of regular treason.

A conviction for high treason carries the penalty of life in prison.

The penalty for regular treason is a bit more complex.

If you’re convicted of using force or violence against Canadian government or province with the intent to overthrow it, it’s life in prison. The penalty is the same for communicating military or scientific information, documents etc. knowing or having ought to know that they could be used by another country or even conspiring to do so and manifesting intention to carry it out by an overt act while Canada is at war with that country. If you communicate or conspire to communicate this stuff when Canada is not at war, the penalty becomes a maximum of fourteen years in jail.

The penalties for treason are heavy in Canada as in most countries, so the rules of evidence and procedure are extremely strict in these cases.

Proceedings against people accused of violent attempts to overthrow the government have to take place three years or less after the alleged crime was committed. For overt acts of treason, the words of information expressing the overt act have to be laid under oath before a justice within six days of the alleged overt act, and a warrant for the person’s arrest has to be issued within ten days of that.

There can be no conviction for treason on the evidence of only one witness unless that witness’ testimony is corroborated my material evidence.

Only two people in Canadian history have been tried and convicted of treason.

The first is the Métis leader Louis Riel, who was hanged in eighteen eighty five.

The lesser known, Kanao Inouye aka the Kamloops Kid, was responsible for interrogating and torturing Canadian Prisoners of War in Japanese occupied Hong Kong during the Second World War. He was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death by a British war crimes court, but his lawyer successfully appealed on the grounds that Inouye was a Canadian citizen and therefore could not be considered a war criminal. Inouye was instead tried for treason and hanged by the British Hong Kong Supreme Court in 1947.

In the United States, the laws regarding treason are similar. As the nation was born in defiance of the British Monarchy which had been known to charge people of the crime willy nilly, the crime of treason is clearly and strictly defined in the US Constitution.

Article III, section 3 of the constitution defines treason as:

“…levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

As in Canada, the rules for a conviction on the charge of treason in the US are strict. American law requires the testimony of two witnesses to the crime or a confession in open court to convict someone of treason.

As in Canada, convictions for treason are rare. Most civil war veterans, for example, were granted amnesty by the US government instead of facing treason charges. In some cases, such as that of Iva Toguri D’Aquino, the trials and investigations were corrupt and ultimately resulted in presidential pardons and apologies.

The penalty for treason in the US can be imprisonment or death.

With the implications of treason so heavy, it’s no wonder people are rarely charged with the crime. However, with the revelations of the Orange Administration’s willful conspiring with the Russian government to corrupt their elections and push an agenda hurting the American people, the only question left is whether law enforcement in the south will grow a pair and prosecute those clearly guilty of the crime.

On January 31, 2017 US President Cheeto-Head named Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The nomination fulfills Cheeto-Head’s promise to name a conservative justice “in the mold of Scalia” if elected president (legally or illegally). Since so much of what the Orange Racist Misogynist Tax Evader has done is questionable at best, it is time to take a serious look at the man he has appointed to the highest court in the United States.

Neil Gorsuch is in many ways the embodiment of what conservative Christian Republicans think a judge or politician should be. He is a white middle aged male who Is devoutly Christian, but not Catholic (his family are Episcopalian). He is well spoken, looks good in a suit and tie, and while he and his college sweetheart wife and two kids raise horses, chickens, and goats at their home in Colorado, they are no rednecks.

His family has a history of serving Republican presidents. Gorsuch’s mother, politician and lawyer Anne Gorsuch Burford, was appointed by former president Ronald Reagan to run the Environmental Protection Agency. For Republican climate-change deniers, Gorsuch Burford was ideal for she slashed the EPA’s budget, cut most clean water regulations from the books, and filled vital positions within the Agency with people from the very industries it was supposed to be checking. The scandals resulting from her actions led to her resignation in 1983.

Gorsuch’s resume is impressive. He is a graduate of Columbia, Harvard, and Oxford. After a couple of clerkships with conservative judges, he worked in private practice at a prestigious law firm in Washington DC for ten years and eventually ended up as a Federal Appelate Judge based in Colorado. At the same time Gorsuch has served as an occasional adjunct law professor at the University of Colorado.

There are also a lot of concerns about Judge Gorsuch.

People are worried that he is anti woman and would choose religious freedoms over people’s right to self determination.

There is a lot of evidence to support this worry.

While at Oxford, Gorsuch studied under Professor John Finnis, an Australian legal scholar who is considered an expert on natural law. After his studies, the Gorsuch and Finnis remained close. This seems harmless, but it’s not when you consider that Gorsuch’s mentor wrote about “the evil of homosexual conduct” in 1994 and has been branded a hatemonger by many.

As a judge, Gorsuch has a history of favoring religious freedoms over people’s right to health care and self determination. In the famous Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases involving for-profit corporations demanding religious exemptions from the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act requiring corporate health plans to cover contraceptives for female employees on penalty of fines for refusal, Gorsuch sided with the corporations. In the Little Sisters of the Poor decision, he wrote that it was:

“An issue that has little to do with contraception and a great deal to do with religious liberty … When a law demands that a person do something the person considers sinful, and the penalty for refusal is a large financial penalty, then the law imposes substantial burden on that person’s free exercise of religion.”

Though Gorsuch has never decided an abortion case, he did publish a book called The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in 2009 and many argue that the views expressed in it could easily transfer to abortion. In his book he says that human life is “fundamentally and inherently valuable, and that the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

Whether this view actually extends to abortion remains to be seen, but it has caused enough concern that the National Institute for Reproductive Health has called his appointment “an extension of the Trump administration’s attack on women’s rights,” and Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted on January 31, 2017 that:

Despite his worrisome track record on certain issues, Gorsuch does show promise for two fundamental reasons.

First, he is outspokenly against excessive criminalization. That means that he thinks there are too many criminal laws punishing ordinary behavior on the books.

In 2013 he gave the 13th Annual Barbara K. Olsen Memorial Lecture in which he points out that too many laws violate people’s rights to fair notice to the point that “criminal law comes to cover so many facets of daily life that prosecutors can almost choose their targets with impunity.”

Neil Gorsuch’s legal decisions reflect this belief as he often sides with defendants in criminal cases. This bodes well when it comes to issues of race for African Americans and Hispanics are excessively targeted and prosecuted in the United States.

Another reason to hope is because of Gorsuch’s belief in the judiciary’s role in containing the excesses of Executive Power. He is in favor of term limits for elected officials because “men are not angels.”

Though, like Scalia, he believes in interpreting the constitution from the perspective of its authors. This comes with an understanding of the need to enforce the checks and balances on the legislative and executive branches to save the country from abuse by those who govern it.

Though thus far only lower courts have halted the enforcement of abusive and illegal Executive Orders from the Oval Office, Gorsuch’s reputation as a principled jurist against executive excess suggests that he would not hesitate to rule against the White House if he ascended to the Supreme Court.

Though there is hope for the United States, there is also the danger of a deadlock. Democrats are still bitter about the Senate’s refusal to confirm Judge Merrick Garland, who was named to the Supreme Court by Barack Obama. Like Garland, Gorsuch is mostly respected across party lines, so the question remains whether the Senate will do its job this time, or give the Cheeto Administration the silent treatment.

On January 27, 2017 the President of the United States signed an Executive Order, one of his first acts as leader of the free world. Its premise is to protect Americans from the alleged threat of terrorists pretending to be refugees in order to get into the United States.

There has been a lot of discussion about this Order. Some people are calling it a Muslim ban, while others are justifying it as a legitimate and reasonable approach to American security. What no one seems to be doing is actually reading the Order itself.

Whoever wrote the Executive Order deserves a medal for literature. It is subtle and eloquent in a way the man who signed it will never be.

Does it ban Muslims outright?

No.

What the Executive Order does is suspend immigrant and non-immigrant entry into the United States from certain countries “of Particular Concern”.

Refugees from Syria are denied entry until the president says otherwise. People from countries designated by the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security as having repeatedly provided support for international terrorism are also banned, but for a period of ninety days.

This list (so far) includes Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. Saudi Arabia, which is known for encouraging the extremist Islamic beliefs adopted by terrorists, is suspiciously absent from this list. Whether this is due to the President’s business dealings with the Kingdom or vested American interest in maintaining relations with them is unclear.

The Order also changes the criteria for refugee claims, prioritizing those “made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality”.

As most of the refugees are from Muslim-majority countries, most of those seeking safety in the United States are Muslim.

Though the Order says that “the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including ‘honor’ killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation”, it does not offer any protection to people fleeing persecution due to gender, sexual orientation, or race. Being a member of a religious minority seems to be the only exception to the ban.

The Order speaks of these new rules as necessary in part to “reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies”. However, it calls for a flurry of security reports to be provided by the Secretary of State, Director of Homeland Security, and the Directors of the FBI and of National Intelligence and says that the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security can admit individual refugees on a case-by-case basis. All this sounds like MORE of a burden, not less.

Is this Executive Order legal?

Not according to the former acting Attorney General Sally Yates. A holdover from the Obama administration, she was asked by the new administration to stay on until the president’s nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is confirmed by the Senate.

Last night, Yates told the US Department of Justice not to defend the Executive Order in the courts. In a letter to Justice Department lawyers, she said:

“I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right…At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”

She is not the first to acknowledge the Order as potentially illegal.

On January 28, 2017, a Federal Court in New York presided by Judge Ann Donnelly granted an Emergency Motion of Stay Removal to Hamid Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi who’d risked his life acting as interpreter to the US army during the Iraq war, and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, another Iraqi who was en route to reunite with his wife and child in the US. Both were detained at the airport under the Executive Order and with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, fought back.

In her decision, Judge Donnelly said

“The petitioners have a strong likelihood of success in establishing that the removal of the petitioner and others similarly situated violates their rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”

Many other federal courts have followed suit, granting stays blocking the Executive Order from being enforced.

When you read the US Constitution, something the president has clearly never done, it is easy to understand why the motions were granted.

Article I, Section 9 prohibits laws that single out any particular group for punishment without trial. The Fifth Amendment goes even further, stating that no person should be “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law”.

As far back as the Second World War, American courts have recognized the danger of Executive Orders like these. In 1944 in Korematsu v. The United States, the Supreme Court said that

“All legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group are immediately suspect… courts must subject them to the most rigid scrutiny. Pressing public necessity may sometimes justify the existence of such restrictions; racial antagonism never can.”

The President has rambled on about the danger of foreign terrorists masquerading as refugees, but neither he nor his administration have presented any numbers to back this up. Instead, he fired Sally Yates for refusing to enforce an Executive Order that is legally unenforceable, leaving his administration without anyone with the legal authority to sign warrants authorizing the surveillance of the foreigners he fears so much.

The reaction of protesters, public officials and the American courts are reasons to hope for all who hate xenophobia, for as comedian Aziz Ansari recently pointed out:

“Change doesn’t come from presidents. Change comes from large groups of angry people.”

If the protests and lawsuits are any indication, change is coming.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has been in the news a lot recently. This past December, they outraged Canadians by backtracking on a promise to reveal to a Senate Committee how many journalists they’ve spied on in the past, citing “operational security”.

Whenever the issue of terrorism or Bill C-51 comes up, CSIS is always mentioned. With all the talk about the organization, it’s time Canadians knew what they’re all about.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is informally known as Canada’s spy agency. Created in 1984 with the passing of the CSIS Act in the aftermath of the Iranian Hostage Crisis and Quebec’s first sovereignty referendum, its official role is to investigate threats to Canadian security.

As per the CSIS Act, the following are considered threats to Canadian security:

  • Espionage or sabotage that is against Canada or is detrimental to the interests of Canada or activities directed toward or in support of such espionage or sabotage.
  • Foreign influenced activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person.
  • Activities within or relating to Canada directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property for the purpose of achieving a political, religious or ideological objective within Canada or a foreign state.
  • Activities directed toward undermining by covert unlawful acts, or directed toward or intended ultimately to lead to the destruction or overthrow by violence of the constitutionally established system of government in Canada.

Lawful protests, advocacy, and dissent are not considered threats to Canadian security as per the Act unless they are accompanied by the acts listed above.

CSIS is headed by a Director who is named by the Governor in Council – the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, for a five year renewable term. As per the CSIS Act, no director can serve for more than ten years, a measure undoubtedly put in place to prevent corruption.

The current director of CSIS is Michel Coulombe, a former intelligence agent who was appointed by the Harper Government in 2013. He controls and manages and CSIS and all matters connected with it and he and his proxy are in charge of hiring CSIS employees.

Considering a Career?

While the RCMP has a long list of base qualifications such as health and psychological standards, visual and auditory acuity, and official language proficiency. CSIS’ requirements for employment seem much shorter and simpler.

In order to be considered for a position with CSIS, you need to be a Canadian Citizen eligible for Top Secret Security Clearance, have ten years’ worth of viable information – something that undoubtedly refers to employment, health, social services and financial records so you can be properly traced and vetted and have a valid permanent Canadian driver’s license for some posts. Detailed descriptions of various positions on CSIS’ careers’ website give greater insight into what’s needed to work for them.

Intelligence Officers are required to have a Bachelor’s Degree, three years of relevant experience, and be knowledgeable in the Service’s mandate and Canadian security threats as well as current events. They need to be good communicators verbally and in writing, analytical, adaptable, and sensitive to Canadian cultural mores – whatever those are, the website does not specify.

They also need to be willing to relocate anywhere in Canada or abroad depending on CSIS’ needs, be willing to travel and work irregular hours, and be without a criminal record. Though the CSIS doesn’t require bilingualism, knowledge of a foreign language is considered an asset.

Duties, Functions and Limits

The specific duties and functions of CSIS are set out primarily in the CSIS Act. Their primary role is intelligence collection and analysis, security screenings, and reducing threats to Canadian Security. Though the organization is widely perceived to be without limits, the law has many safeguards to keep it from overstepping its bounds.

Any measures taken by CSIS to reduce threats have to be proportional and reasonable to the nature of the threat as per the “reasonable availability of other means” to reduce it. They cannot take said measures if they will contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or any other law. There is an exception to this rule, but it requires a warrant from a Federal Court.

CSIS is not allowed to cause death or bodily harm either intentionally or by criminal negligence. They are not allowed to obstruct, pervert, or otherwise impede the course of justice, and they cannot violate the sexual integrity of a person.

While CSIS can provide security assessments to the government, they cannot do so willy nilly. They are only permitted to provide security assessments with the permission of the Federal Public Security Minister, and if they want to provide provinces with assessments, that is only with the consent of the provincial governments.

Whenever CSIS gets in trouble they always claim there’s nothing wrong with what they do or refuse to do because of all the safeguards in place to prevent abuses. The problem is that because the organization slips beneath the radar of the average citizen, no one ever bothers to check how strictly CSIS’ safeguards are enforced.

With our neighbors to the south slowly slipping into the depths of hell, it’s time Canada checked itself and our agents to ensure our continued place as the world’s sober voice of liberal democracy and freedom.

* Featured image of CSIS Headquarters in Ottawa from dailytech.com

The holidays are finally over.

It started for most of us with a nerve-racking family dinner and ended with a New Year’s Eve party where we drank away the stress of having to spend too much time with our relatives. Many of us spent the eve of the New Year drunk and partying and it’s likely that at least a third of us engaged in some kind of behavior that night that we now regret. Most of this is not blackmail-worthy, but in a world where lives are ruined by crimes like revenge porn, it’s important to know what laws are in place to protect us.

Revenge porn is the publication of explicit images, videos, or films of a person without consent in a situation where the victim would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Though revenge porn at its root is used to cause the victim distress, it’s often redistributed by some porn sites for commercial gain.

Fortunately, Canadian law is on it and has been working to tackle this crime.

Before 2014 the people in Canada who distributed intimate photos or videos of others without their consent could only be charged under the Criminal Code’s provisions on voyeurism, extortion, obscene publications, criminal harassment, defamatory libel, and in some cases child pornography. Unfortunately these laws have very specific requirements to get an indictment and conviction.

For example, extortion requires that the intimate material be used as a threat to force the victim to do something. Criminal harassment requires that the conduct make the victim fear for their safety or the safety of a loved one.

Sometimes charging people under these offenses worked, and sometimes it did not.

The people who drove Rehtaeh Parsons, a Halifax teen, to suicide in 2013 were charged with the distribution of child pornography. Parsons hung herself after photos of her being sexually assaulted by four boys circulated through her school resulting in texts and Facebook messages calling her a slut and soliciting her for sex.

Though none of the boys who assaulted her were charged with rape due to insufficient evidence, two of her attackers who filmed her later pled guilty to child pornography charges and were put on probation. Many agree this is hardly a sufficient punishment for people who drove an innocent young woman to her death.

Fortunately in 2014 the Canadian Criminal Code was amended to include article 162.1 regarding the unlawful publication of intimate images without consent.

It defines intimate images as a photo, film, or video where the victim is nude, exposing their genitalia, anal region, or breasts or is engaged in explicit sexual activity in circumstances where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. A trip to the bathroom to use the toilet or shower is an obvious example of circumstances where most people would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The new law says that everyone “who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, makes available or advertises an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct, or being reckless as to whether or not that person gave their consent to that conduct, is guilty.”

That means that it doesn’t matter whether the person transmitting the image or video intended to cause the victim harm. All the crime requires is that the person knowingly made the material available and they either knew or were aware of the possibility that the image or video was taken without the victim’s consent and distributed it anyway.

Those guilty of this offense are looking at a maximum prison term of five years. Or if they get a summary conviction, a maximum of six months in jail and/or a two thousand dollar fine.

The law limits the kinds of defenses one can use against such a charge. The motives of the accused are considered irrelevant. The only way to get out of a charge under this law is to either prove you didn’t do it, or prove that your conduct somehow served the public good but did not go beyond the minimum required to do so.

This defense was clearly added to the law to protect journalists and investigators in the execution of their professions. A journalist who snaps and distributes a photo of a politician with a sex worker when the politician is anti-prostitution could find himself charged under this act, but could conceivably argue that his actions were for the good of the public and not excessive.

If criminal charges are not laid in the face of the distribution of a person’s intimate images, in Quebec you can always sue the distributor.

The Quebec Civil Code (“the Code”) guarantees the individual right to privacy and protects people from invasions of their privacy without their consent.

As per the Code, the following are particularly considered invasions of privacy:

  • Entering your home and taking something
  • Intentionally intercepting or using your private communications
  • Appropriating and using your voice or image while you are in a private place
  • Keeping your private life under observation by any means
  • Using your name, image, likeness, or voice for any purpose other than the “legitimate information of the public”
  • Using your correspondence, manuscripts, or personal documents

If your privacy is violated in this way resulting in physical, material, or psychological damages, you can sue the perpetrator. The catch is that lawsuits are costly and invasive and it would mean going public with the extent of the violation you experienced.

The laws in Canada regarding revenge porn and privacy are not perfect, but they’re there. In 2017, let’s protect ourselves and keep the scum of society in check.