A candidate for major office with policies that appeal to the most progressive elements of the political left who is also the safe choice for so-called centrist strategic voters is kind of like a unicorn. It seems like Ontario may have found their unicorn in provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath.

According to a recent poll by Maclean’s and Pollara, Horwath and her party are in second place with 30% support. They trail frontrunner Doug Ford whose “Progressive” Conservatives are leading with 40% support, but are beating incumbent premier Kathleen Wynn whose Liberals are down to 23% support.

The writing is on the wall, or rather on everyone’s screens. Wynne can’t win. If you want to stop Ford Nation from taking over Queen’s Park, you have to vote NDP. Even right-leaning media are admitting Horwath won the first leaders’ debate.

Strategy Meets Solid Progressive Policy

So Horwath is the practical choice for those who don’t want to deal with a Ford at the provincial level. But what about those who see the Liberals as only a slightly less spiteful and ridiculous option than Doug?

Well, last time around, the NDP, under the same leader, desperately tried to position themselves as a watered-down version of the Liberals, to the chagrin of the party faithful. Now, the official ONDP Twitter account is posting stuff like this:

But they’re backing up the sassy tweets with a truly progressive platform that prioritizes universal dental and pharmacare, re-nationalizing Hydro One, turning student loans into grants, improving care for seniors by ending “hallway medicine” and raising taxes on the wealthiest people and corporations. Solid old-school NDP policies all, but the spin they put on some of them is just brilliant.

Bringing Hydro One “back into public hands” is coupled with an estimated 30% reduction in Hydro bills. Meanwhile, “creating thousands of student jobs” is the addendum to their plan to subsidize tuition.

But the best messaging, hands down, has got to be this:

“Protect middle class families by having the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations pay their fair share.”

They have successfully found a way to pitch a longstanding socialist solution to economic inequality as an appeal to the most coveted demographic for so-called moderates, the middle class.

More Left Through School and Weed

Another poll, this one by Forum Research, predicted a PC majority with the NDP as a “strong” Official Opposition. Since it doesn’t really matter how strong the opposition is in a Majority Government, the ONDP need to find a way to do just a bit better than predicted and overtake Ford or at least hold him to a Minority Government.

The only way for them to do that is to keep doing what they’ve been doing, just push a bit further. This is not the time to retreat back into old ways. Playing it safe, this time, means pushing the envelope more.

Horwath has her party’s traditional base back. Now she needs to mobilize new voters and get them excited enough not just to cast their ballot but to volunteer as well.

Proposing free tuition would be one way to do it. They could even announce how they plan to pay for it: with weed.

Seriously, I’m not kidding. Bear with me for a moment.

When cannabis becomes legal in Canada, Wynn plans to tightly control it through the LCBO. Ford, meanwhile, wants a free market, something that has garnered him support on the left.

The ONDP has remained pretty much silent on the subject and I understand why. Wynne’s position is extremely unpopular, especially among NDP supporters, but championing the free market just seems so un-NDP.

But in this case there is a third way. Have the government run medicinal marijuana and cover it as part of pharmacare but open up recreational pot sales to any business that successfully applies for a permit.

The government can regulate the product for quality and ensure proper labour standards and at the same time get a chunk of sales tax from all the places selling it, way more than they would from the mere handful of stores Wynn wants. Then they use the new revenues to pay for post-secondary education.

The spin is simple:

Wynn wants to privatize essential services like hydro and nationalize recreational products like pot with a plan that will make it unprofitable for Ontarians. Ford wants the Wild West. We see this as an opportunity to improve Ontario’s economy and provide a free education for all Ontarians.

It’s just one idea, but I’d hate to see the most left-leaning party that has a chance blow it and lose to Doug Ford over weed. The ONDP should really have a position on this issue which is currently wooing potential future hardcore supporters far to the right.

No matter what they decide to do on this front, though, Ontario New Democrats need to remember that their path to victory is keeping their traditional base and inspiring a new base with bold progressive and unabashedly socialist policy, pitching it in a way that doesn’t terrify suburbia, and driving the point home that Wynne can’t win and the only way to keep Ford Nation and all of their regressive social policies out of Queen’s Park is to vote NDP.

A unicorn is special because it’s a unicorn. If it tries to pretend it’s just a horse, then it loses any advantage it had.

* Featured image by E.K. Park via WikiMedia Commons

Free trade is a pet topic of protesters across North America, and with good cause. Those in favor of it point to the reduction of trade barriers as improving economies that allow for greater access to inexpensive goods. Those against it point out that it destroys local businesses and industries as well as mom and pop shops loved by communities who abandon them in favor of cheaper goods and services. Though Canada seems very much in favor of free trade, many of our industries such as dairy rely on protectionist policies imposed by the government to keep them alive.

The notion of free trade has been in the news lately not just because of the Orange Misogynist’s blathering about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the US, Canada, and Mexico, but also with regards to a recent Supreme Court decision on interprovincial trade. Before I go into the decision itself, we must discuss how the case got to the Supreme Court.

Gerard Comeau is a resident of New Brunswick who lives not far from the border to Quebec. In October 2012, he drove across the border into our fair province and stocked up on liquor from three different stores. Booze, as it turns out, is pricier in New Brunswick and Comeau decided he would save some money by buying elsewhere.

There was, however, a problem.

New Brunswick’s Liquor Control Act has a limit on how much alcohol you can buy out of province. Their law makes it an offense to “have or keep liquor” above a certain amount that was purchased from a Canadian source other than the New Brunswick Liquor Corporation, the New Brunswick equivalent of the Société des Alcools du Québec (SAQ).

The RCMP in the New Brunswick town on the border were concerned about the number of residents often going to liquor stores in Quebec in breach of the law. With the help of their counterparts in Quebec, they started keeping track of New Brunswickans doing so.

One of these people was Gerard Comeau.

On his way back from an October 2012 trip to buy booze in Quebec, he was stopped by the RCMP. The cops found large quantities of beer and spirits in excess of what the law allowed. Comeau was charged under the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act and was issued a fine of two hundred and forty dollars plus administrative fees. Comeau in turn decided to fight it, arguing that the provision of the Liquor Code was unconstitutional.

The Constitution Act of 1867 was written with a lot of considerations in mind. Before confederation, Canada was just a bunch of separate British colonies. As separate colonies they all had powers to impose tariffs on goods brought into one colony from another.

The country was being formed as the United States was going through the Civil War and there were concerns about the economic effects of the war on the new Dominion of Canada. One of the ways the fathers of confederation sought to solve this is by adding section 121 to the constitution. It is on the basis of this provision that Gerard Comeau decided to fight his fine.

Section 121 of the Constitution Act of 1867 says:

“All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces.”

Comeau and his legal team argued that the penal provision of the Liquor Control Act under which he was charged violates this provision of the constitution. To back up this argument, a historian was brought in to discuss why section 121 was included in the Constitution Act of 1867, formerly known as the British North America Act.

With the help of this historian who acted as expert for the defense, Comeau argued that section 121 was basically a free trade provision and therefore “no barriers can be erected to impede the passage of goods across provincial boundaries”. The trial judge agreed and acquitted him. The Crown appealed but the appeal was dismissed, so the Attorney General of New Brunswick as well as the Attorney Generals across Canada appealed to the Supreme Court.

The question the Supreme Court was charged with was whether section 121 of Constitution Act of 1867 bars any impediment to interprovincial commerce.

The Supreme Court said no.

In their decision they point out that to take the aforementioned interpretation of section 121 of the Constitution Act of 1867 is to ignore the years of legal precedents created by the courts as they were charged with interpreting the law. Doing so would not only undermine the Canadian legal system but effectively strip federal and provincial powers of their ability to legislate trade in Canada.

Aside from Quebec which relies in part on the Civil Code, most provinces in Canada rely on past legal decisions in order to interpret current ones. The higher the court, the more binding the decision on lower courts, a concept called stare decisis or “stand by things decided”.

The court went on to point out that past legal decisions on the subject point to section 121 only forbidding laws that explicitly impose tariffs on goods moving between provinces but that it should not be interpreted as to ban legislative powers from imposing laws that have the incidental effect of limiting interprovincial commerce.

Critics of the decision were hoping the Supreme Court would take a tougher stance in favor of protecting Canadian beer from the effects of free trade. Others think that this provision will make section 121 of the Constitution increasingly obsolete.

That said, Comeau is obviously going to have to pay his fine, but I imagine it pales in comparison to his legal fees.

* Featured image by Allison Caterall via Flickr Creative Commons

If you call yourself an Incel (short for involuntarily celibate) and your biggest gripe against the world is that you can’t get laid, I have some advice for you. It’s quite simple, really. In fact it’s only one word: masturbate.

If that doesn’t work and you still feel the need to lash out and make your lack of success wooing women into your bed your public identity, then your problem isn’t that you can’t get laid. It’s that you’re a misogynist asshole who doesn’t quite grasp that women are people just like you, not a commodity that must be shared equally or according to certain rules.

I’m not what you would call a Chad, I think your term for me, based on what I’ve read following the Toronto truck attack, would be Normie. That’s what I am in your world. In the world everyone but a select few live in, you’re just obsessed with being a loser.

If all this started from a crush on someone who didn’t reciprocate and instead went for someone you thought wasn’t right for her, now’s the time to realize that you’re not a gentleman, you’re the creep she should stay away from. Yes, it’s come full-circle, sucks to be you, but it sucks way more to be someone terrified of you.

Yes, terrified. You’re creepy as hell, dude. And that’s the truth even if you don’t decide to go all Marc Lepine with a rental truck.

To those who don’t see things the way so-called Incels do (ie. most of us) I’d like to stress that yes I am aware that this wannabe “movement” is a byproduct of toxic masculinity and male (generally white male) privilege and entitlement on overdrive. These are topics that deserve and are finally getting much longer analytical pieces.

While such pieces are needed, as they inform us on a huge societal problem, they also speak to those of us outside of the group of misogynists they address. Those who see themselves as Incels don’t care about our Normie analysis.

So, once again addressing those who choose to identify as losers, this is where I’d normally try to empathize by saying something like “we’ve all been there” or another platitude. In your case, though, it wouldn’t be true. We may have all experienced rejection, and many of us repeated rejection, but it takes a special kind of self-absorbed prick to try and turn it into a crusade.

Honestly, all my advice for you is in the first two paragraphs. I would have stopped then but I wanted the word count to be high enough to register on Google.

Basically, try masturbating. If that doesn’t work, maybe therapy. But above all, just fuck off.

 

Gun control is a hot button issue right now thanks to thousands of kids in the US. On March 24th, 2018, high schoolers, parents, and teachers across America took the trauma of surviving or hearing about school shootings and turned it into righteous anger at the people who govern them. They marched on Washington in numbers that made the Orange Egotist’s inauguration look like a One Direction concert on a school night.

The demands of the marchers were simple ones: stop taking money from people who value guns over lives. Make assault weapons less accessible to those who want to turn their anger on the world around them. Stop ranting about the importance of child safety while doing nothing to ensure it.

They recognize that their government is too well compensated by the gun-obsessed losers in the US and that dramatic action is needed. They want background checks, and licensing, and all sorts of other measures to ensure that dangerous people do not get access to guns.

What they are asking for is what we Canadians consider to be the bare minimum. On March 21, 2018, federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale introduced Bill C 71 which would beef up Canada’s existing gun control legislation.

This article is going to give you a crash course on gun control in Canada, specifically with regards to individual rights to gun possession.

Gun control is governed primarily by two laws: The Canadian Firearms Act and the Canadian Criminal Code. They define different kinds of weapons under Canadian law and set out rules regarding which weapons are legal in Canada and under what circumstances.

The Canadian Criminal Code defines a weapon as anything used, designed to be used, or intended for use in causing the death or injury to any person, or for the purpose of intimidating them. This includes firearms and anything used, designed to be used, or intended to be used to bind or tie someone up against their will.

That said, not all weapons in Canada require a license.

Only firearms, prohibited firearms, restricted firearms and weapons, and prohibited devices require a license under Canadian law.

A prohibited firearm is any handgun with a barrel equal to or less than 105mm in length and is designed to discharge a 25 or 32 caliber bullet. Prohibited firearms also include sawed off shotguns and automatic weapons.

Prohibited weapons include switchblades or any other knife with a blade that can open via hand pressure to a button or other mechanism, as well as any other weapon considered prohibited but which is not a firearm.

A prohibited device includes any part of or accessory to a weapon that is considered prohibited. It also includes handgun barrels equal to or less 105mm in length, with an exception allowed for competitive sport shooting weapons required by the rules of the International Shooting Union. Anything used to silence, muffle, or stop the report of a firearm is also considered a prohibited device.

A restricted firearm includes any handgun not considered a prohibited firearm and has a barrel less than 470 mm in length. It also has to be capable of discharging ammunition in a semi automatic way.

Restricted weapons are any weapon considered as such that is not a firearm. Crossbows generally fall into this category (apologies to any medieval weapon enthusiasts).

In order to have access to any such weapons, you have to apply for a licence as per the Federal Firearms Act. You are considered ineligible for a licence if in the interests of the safety it is best you not possess a weapon or ammunition.

It is generally up the chief firearms officer named by the Federal Public Safety Minister or a provincial court judge to decide eligibility. In determining applications for licenses, they generally look at the following criteria and whether or not these apply over the last five years prior to the application:

  • Have you ever been convicted of or received a discharge for offenses in which violence against a person was attempted, used, or threatened?
  • Have you ever been convicted of or received a discharge for firearms or other weapons offenses?
  • Have you ever been convicted of criminal harassment?
  • Have you ever been convicted of certain drug related offenses?
  • Have you ever been treated at a hospital, mental health institute, or psychiatric clinic for a mental illness that was associated with threatened or attempted violence (this fact is looked at regardless of whether or not an applicant was confined at the aforementioned treatment facilities)?
  • Is there is a court mandated prohibition order barring you from possession a weapon?

Once these criteria are assessed, a person must successfully undergo the “Canadian Firearms Safety Course” for the class of weapon for they want a license for and pass the corresponding exam. They also must fill out forms and provide character references.

The more dangerous the weapon for which a license is being requested, the more likely the references will be checked. Firearms themselves have to be registered with the Firearms Registrar.

It must be noted that the Firearms Act does have exceptions including those rights guaranteed as per existing aboriginal or treaty rights.

Bill C 71 proposes a few changes to the Canadian Firearms Act and the Criminal Code.

The new law proposes to do away with the five-year limit on criteria for licenses set out in the Firearms Act. It also requires that any firearms seized by or surrendered to peace officers due to a prohibition order be automatically forfeited to the Crown unless the order specifies otherwise. The remaining rules pertain primarily to grandfather clauses written into the Firearms Act in order to protect those legally possessing firearms at the time the law was put into force.

If the law is passed, C 71 will come into force in the summer of 2018. The law is likely to pass because unlike the leaders to the south, Canadians care about protecting each other from gun violence.

* Featured image by Steve Rainwater via Wikimedia Commons

Endangered species are a pet cause for many and a nuisance for many others. Social media is regularly flooded with a barrage of memes, online petitions, and articles about species on the brink of extinction due to natural or man-made causes. On March 9th, Quebec’s caribou population came into the spotlight when the Couillard government announced that they would not spend money to save them in Val D’Or.

According to the provincial Minister of Forests, Wildlife, and Parks Luc Blanchette, it would cost seventy six million dollars over the next fifty years to protect the habitat of caribou in the region. The caribou in the area have been on steady decline since the 1950s due to the logging industry.

The government had originally planned to move the remaining animals to a zoo in 2016 but that idea was withdrawn when environmental groups pointed out that the animals would not survive in captivity. The government has deemed saving them too expensive, so instead the government plans to focus on saving other caribou herds in the province.

As it stands, Canada’s caribou are considered endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA). While it is tragic that the animal that adorns our coinage is at risk, this article is not about them. It is about endangered species in Canada and what rules are in place at the federal and provincial levels to ensure their survival.

Sadly, protecting endangered species is not a simple matter in Canada, and we partly have the federalist system to blame. According to the articles of our constitution specifying federal and provincial jurisdictions, all waterways and marine life matters as well as land not claimed by the provinces are federal, whereas the management and sale of public lands in provincial territory, the exploration of non-renewable natural resources, and “the development, conservation and management of non-renewable natural resources and forestry resources in the province” are provincial. In cases where there is a jurisdictional conflict, the federal government takes precedence.

The current federal law to protect endangered species is the aforementioned Species at Risk Act which was enacted in 2002, though some of its provisions only came into effect in subsequent years. The main goal of the act is to prevent species from becoming extirpated or extinct. Extirpated as per the act means that the species is no longer found in Canada and “extinct” means the species no longer exists at all.

It has jurisdiction only over federal land, aquatic species, and migratory birds. Federal land only makes up about four percent of provincial land in Canada and even then, only areas classified as Critical Habitat are protected under the law. The federal act allows species to be classified as “at risk” or “not at risk” with assessments done by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

The Committee consists of experts, academia, politicians and aboriginal representatives and has the task of assessing the status of Canadian wildlife species; their recommendations for the classification of a given species are then passed on to the federal government. Their science-based findings are publicly available.

Once the Committee has classified a species, it must do a reassessment every ten years to see if the ones at risk are still at risk. The criteria they use are those established by the United Nations’ Red List for critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable species.

According to Environment Canada’s website, as of 2017 there are currently five hundred and twenty-one species of plants and animals classified under the Species At Risk Act as being at risk of extinction or extirpation in Canada. Once the Committee has established those at risk, it’s up to the government to decide whether or not to adapt their action plan to save a species by introducing measures such as incentives to support people helping to protect species at risk, awards and recognition programs, public awareness programs, and protecting habitats.

In Quebec, endangered species fall under the Act Respecting Threatened or Vulnerable Species. It mandates the Minister of Sustainable Development, the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change to carry out research regarding species that need protection or whose habitats need protection, establish programs to promote their survival, and delegate and enter into agreements with the people they delegate to in order to implement these measures. The Minister can also, with the government’s assent, lease or acquire land by expropriation for the protection and management of threatened or vulnerable plant species.

For those of you unfamiliar with expropriation, it is the process by which the government decides to take land for itself by offering the owner(s) compensation based on what the property is valued at. The value of the land is determined by government appraisers. In cases where the owner feels the indemnity they are offered is insufficient, they will often turn to private appraisers and attorneys to seek fairer compensation.

Several private appraisers in Montreal told me that this is quite common, and in some cases cities will even halt development on a given parcel of privately owned land for ecological reasons, resulting in them being sued for “disguised expropriation”. It is in this respect, among others, that endangered species protections can be a nuisance for some.

The Quebec government can also be gifted or left land in a will for the sake of protecting vulnerable species.

It is up to the aforementioned Minister of Sustainable Development, the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change and the Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks to come up with a list of threatened or vulnerable species in Quebec, how they should be identified, and where they are located.

The law does have exceptions and allows for parties to act in spite of it if an exemption is written into government regulations, if activities are carried out in accordance with government standards, the activity is required for educational or scientific purposes, or if activities are being carried out to repair damage caused by a catastrophe or to prevent it.

The government, like those who adopt it as a pet cause, recognizes the importance of protecting Canada’s vulnerable species as part of the fight against climate change. Let’s keep electing governments that continue to do so.

* Featured image by By Mickael Brangeon(Peupleloup) via WikiMedia Commons

If you have a regular spot along Ste-Catherine where your friends know they can meet you during the annual Montreal St. Patrick’s Day Parade, you won’t be going there this year. Well, I suppose you can, but you’ll just be standing on a street corner, quite possibly day drinking in public alone, for a few hours.

For the first time in over half a century, the parade will be a block up, running along de Maisonneuve from City Councillors to MacKay, where it will head south to René-Lévesque and finish. That’s right, it will also be running east to west for the first time in my lifetime at least.

This is due to major renovations on Ste-Catherine, currently underway around Bleury and making their way to Atwater over the next four years. While Mayor Valérie Plante may be changing some of the specifics of the plan, it was former Mayor Denis Coderre who set the timeframe, so you can blame him (or Montreal’s outdated sewage system) for the change.

This Will Be…Different

So what will a St. Patty’s Parade on de Maisonneuve look and feel like? Possibly a little more cramped and awkward than usual.

While de Maisonneuve may offer a slightly wider street than Ste-Catherine at parts, sidewalk space is, for the most part, considerably smaller (hence the cramped). That is unless you close the bike path and use it as spectator space, which I’m guessing they will do (hence the awkward).

The floats and marching bands will have enough space to make their way down the route. If you want to watch them go by, though, picking a good spot could be crucial to your enjoyment.

Most businesses in the area benefit from the parade. During the parade itself, that’s mainly depanneurs, coffee shops and restaurants. The categories won’t change this year, but those specific businesses used to dealing with a sustained rush (and in some cased inflating prices) will be relegated to a larger than normal clientele thinking ahead and vice versa.

The route

For many, myself included, parade day is also about the mid-afternoon after-party. That’s what it’s all about for area bars who have one of their biggest days of the year on a Sunday afternoon.

While there are some major bars along the parade route located between de Maisonneuve and Ste-Catherine, most that cater to the St-Patty’s crowd can be found heading south towards René-Lévesque or along Ste-Catherine itself. This is especially true in the Guy-Concordia area.

All bars in the area will, of course, be packed to one degree or another this year, but I wonder if altered proximity to where everyone is coming from will make a difference in just how packed certain places will get. This is one time of year when passing by one place first instead of another just down the street can make a difference.

But Not That Different

While a key part of the ritual that is the Montreal St. Patrick’s Day parade will be different this year, there are at least three key things moving up a street can’t change:

The Show: It’s the same parade, pretty much. The Irish dancers will still be there, so will the Shriners, the high school marching bands, the university floats, the corporate product placement, the fire department from some random town in Ontario and, of course, local media. Well, not all local media, FTB still doesn’t have a float. Sure, we never asked for one, but still… Different street, same parade.

Unexpected Meetings: My favourite part of parade day are all the chance encounters with people I haven’t seen, except for online, since the previous year, or sometimes for a lot longer. You never know just who you’re going to run into and randomly hang out with for a few minutes or a few hours and that won’t change with a different route.

Montreal Spring: No matter how cold it may be outside on the day, or the fact that it was significantly warmer the previous weekend, this is really the first sign that spring has come to Montreal. We’re all outside for a decent period of time together and we’re enjoying it.

And we can do that on de Maisonneuve just as well as we can on Ste-Catherine.

* The 195th Annual Montreal St. Patrick’s Day Parade starts at noon on Sunday, March 18th

Are you excited for the 2018 Quebec Election? With the voting just under seven months away, my answer is maybe, and that’s huge for me.

I’m a political junkie. I closely follow all political races with gusto: federal, municipal, American, European, fictional (Bartlet 2020). Well, almost all races.

Quebec provincial politics have always failed to deliver for me. Sure, I’ll vote, watch the results pour in and even write an op-ed or five, but something is lacking.

It’s not that nothing changes, it’s that change doesn’t even seem like a far-fetched possibility.

Two Parties, Same Pander

It’s not just that we’re in a two party system that has been around since the 70s, it’s not even that the Quebec Liberals (PLQ) and the Parti Québécois (PQ) only differ on a handful of issues. It’s that they’re not even trying to appear different anymore and people keep voting them in.

Sure, the PQ did sink below Official Opposition status when Andre Boisclair was leader, but that was only due to homophobia in their base. They haven’t forgot to pander to bigots since.

When the 2012 student protests forced “Charest Dehors!” (and into a law firm, guess the protesters weren’t able to find him a “job dans le nord” after all), Pauline Marois wasted no time turning her back on the reasons she got the Premier job in the first place and went all-in on Islamophobia. The Charter of Quebec Values didn’t get her a majority and cost her re-election, but that hasn’t stopped the PQ from banging the hard-right war drum.

They have dropped all pretense of being interested in progressive votes and their pander to bigots isn’t even limited to attacking Muslims anymore. They even went so far as to mock the practice of declaring that an event is taking place on unceded native land.

Now, though, the PLQ are trying desperately to pander to the same xenophobic base. Bill C-62, the law that forces bus drivers and librarians to refuse service to anyone covering their face, wasn’t a PQ invention, but rather that of the party that won government by campaigning against the PQ’s Charter.

Both main parties in our two-party system already had a similar right-leaning approach to the economy, the environment and other important issues. Now they seem in lockstep on xenophobia, too and pretty much only differ on the federalism/sovereignty divide.

So why do I think this election may actually result in some change? There are a few reasons.

The PQ is Ready to Implode

Things aren’t looking good for the PQ:

  • They have only been in power for a brief time with a minority government in the past 15 years.
  • Their leader, Jean-François Lisée, is the guy who got the job only after the guy people actually knew quit after holding the position for less than a year.
  • Their attempt to form an alliance with smaller pro-sovereignty parties failed
  • Their federal ally the Bloc Québécois is in complete disarray
  • They are banking everything on getting the xenophobic vote. Not only did that fail them last election, but now the PLQ are targeting the same voters, as is the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ).

Put that all together and there is very real potential that the PQ will sink to third or maybe even fourth party status and never recover. Even if this means another Liberal government, ugh, with the CAQ in opposition, double ugh, it also means that the two party system we have had for over fourty years is done. One down, one to go.

QS Wants to Win

Québec Solidaire (QS) is entering a new phase in more ways than one. They have two new spokespeople: Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques MNA Manon Massé, who will run for Premier, and former student leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, who would be Vice-Premier in a QS administration.

The prospect of a QS administration, or rather the fact that they are talking about what that would look like, signals a new approach for the party that is far beyond a simple changing of the guard. They don’t just want to keep the three seats they have and maybe add a couple more, they want to win. Like really win. Form government win.

It’s a longshot and an extremely improbable one at that, but political shifts in Quebec happen en masse (think the NDP’s Orange Wave), so it’s not impossible. If the PQ was reduced to a handful of ridings with the CAQ picking up most of their far-right holdings, QS would still need almost all progressive sovereignists and enough progressive federalists to flip a few Liberal ridings to break for them to make it happen, but, again, this is Quebec.

Even if the perfect storm doesn’t happen for QS this election, their change in approach will at least win them more influence, especially in a minority government. It may land them opposition or third party status, which would be huge for them and even bigger for the future of Quebec politics.

While QS is the only left-leaning party currently represented in the National Assembly (with three seats), they’re not the only one hoping to make a dent in the Quebec political landscape by promoting progressive policies and values.

A Greener Political Left

The Quebec Green Party (PVQ) is the Quebec political outfit whose policies align closest with my own. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to vote for them last time as they weren’t fielding a candidate where I lived as well as in several other ridings.

Now, it looks like that is changing. Leader Alex Tyrrell hasn’t just been spending his time running personally in every by-election that popped up in order to ensure PVQ ideas are heard, he has been building a slate of candidates to give voters a Green option in as many parts of Quebec as possible.

So far, I’ve seen two people I know and respect throw their hats in the ring as PVQ candidates in what are undeniably Liberal strongholds. While these races will inevitably be uphill battles for the Green candidates, they could be where the PVQ breaks ground.

While ambiguous on the so-called national question in the past, under Tyrrell, the PVQ have declared themselves federalist. Voters who like almost all of QS’s policies and want to vote progressive but just can’t live with voting for a party that is sovereigntist may park their votes with the Greens and those voters can be found largely in Liberal ridings.

Well, It Worked for Jack

The Quebec Greens won’t be the only ones hoping to pick up some federalist lefty votes this October. There’s a new Quebec version of the NDP (NPDQ) running. And by new, I mean there was already a provincial NDP in Quebec up until a few decades ago and, long story short, the remnants of that party are currently part of QS.

Talk of a potential new Quebec party surfaced following the Orange Wave of 2011 when Jack Layton led the federal NDP to Official Opposition status for the first time in the party’s history thanks largely to a massive shift in Quebec votes. Initially, the Quebec wing of the federal party rejected the notion of a new NPDQ, but in 2014, they registered the name.

The NPDQ went public in 2016 and this past January elected Raphaël Fortin as leader. If they are thinking that the Orange Wave can be duplicated at the provincial level, they might be right, but if it happens this election, it likely won’t be with them.

Jack Layton having the perfect response to Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe’s bragging during a debate is what set the NDP Quebec landslide in motion in 2011. Fortin probably won’t get anywhere close to the debate stage.

A good chunk of people who vote NDP federally here vote QS provincially. So if there is any kind of leftist wave, it’s most likely to break for them.

If the NPDQ’s plans are more long term and involve becoming the progressive federalist alternative to the Liberals, then they better hope they get funding and support from the federal party. The Greens are going for the same voter base and have a significant headstart.

Might Be Exciting This Time

So when you consider the potential or, as I like to think of it, imminent implosion of the PQ and then factor in the strong push for leftist votes from three different parties, it looks like things may be changing in the Quebec political sphere. Throw in the recent election of Valérie Plante and Projet Montréal at the municipal level here in Montreal and it starts looking like we may be ready to scrap the status quo in Quebec City as well.

At least the 2018 Quebec Election may be exciting for a change.

 

 

 

One of the cornerstones of any liberal democracy is a judiciary that is independent, fair, and free from bias. Unfortunately, judges are human beings and therefore vulnerable to having the same prejudices many of us have.

An ideal government will name judges that can separate their own preconceptions from what is fundamentally right and legal in rendering their decisions. Unfortunately, this is not what happened in the case of former Alberta judge Robin Camp, and it is clearly not what happened in the case of Judge Eliana Marengo.

Her story is one that shows the dangers of aggressive Quebec Islamaphobia and racism masquerading as legal secularism.

In February 2015, Rania El-Alloul went to court to get her car back after it had been seized by the SAAQ. The issue was a simple one, but Judge Marengo turned a molehill into a mountain by refusing to hear El-Alloul’s case unless she took off her headscarf, inappropriately comparing the hijab to hats and sunglasses which are not permitted in court.

El-Alloul was not wearing a headscarf. She was wearing a hijab mandated by her faith, which she politely told the judge. Judge Marengo in a recording of the proceedings said that the court is a secular space, mentioning that there is no cross on the wall of the courtroom. She then reprimanded El-Alloul, refusing to hear her case because she was “not suitably dressed” as per the regulations of the Court of Quebec.

As there is no record of Judge Marengo denying others their day in court due to them wearing visible crosses, clergy collars, or a kipa, it is most likely she refused El-Alloul because she is Muslim.

Judge Marengo gave El-Alloul two options, she could take off her “headscarf” or request a postponement and consult a lawyer. El-Alloul refused to remove it and thus far, her case has yet to be heard.

When the story broke, numerous complaints were made to the Quebec Conseil de la Magistrature (“the Council”), the organization responsible for disciplining provincially appointed judges in Quebec. The complaints came not just from El-Alloul herself, but from many others unrelated to the case who felt the judge’s conduct was inappropriate of her high office.

Prime Justin Trudeau expressed his disapproval of Marengo on Twitter, saying:

In February 2016, the Council decided to form a committee to investigate Judge Marengo’s conduct. Marengo, for her part, tried to block the investigation into her conduct by challenging the legitimacy of the Council itself. She claimed that the refusal to hear El-Alloul amounted to a judicial decision that must be addressed in an appeal and that to investigate her via the Council would be a violation of judicial independence.

Fortunately, the Superior Court of Quebec sided with Council the following year. Marengo appealed the decision but the Quebec Court of Appeal agreed with the Superior Court.

An investigation into Judge Marengo’s conduct is now underway or will be soon.

How exactly does the Quebec Conseil de la Magistrature work?

It’s a lot like the Canadian Judicial Council responsible for investigating federal judges.

In addition to administrative duties and a general responsibility to improve the justice system in the province, the Quebec Conseil de la Magistrature is responsible for investigating the conduct of judges sitting on the Court of Quebec, the Professions Tribunal, and the Human Rights Tribunal. It has 16 members consisting of eleven judges, one justice of the peace, two lawyers, and two members of the general public.

They generally conduct investigations in response to complaints filed with them. Complaints to the Quebec Council can be filed online via their website.

Like their federal counterpart, the Conseil cannot overturn judicial decisions or verdicts as those have to go through the appeals process. All the Quebec Council can do is reprimand a judge or in the worst cases, recommend to the government that the judge be removed from the bench. In their investigations, the Council must consider the Judicial Code of Ethics, a set of rules governing the behavior of judges in Quebec.

Judge Marengo will likely be investigated with regards to whether her conduct violated articles two and eight of the Judicial Code of Ethics which have been used to reprimand the racist behavior of judges in the past. They read as follows:

  • 2. The judge should perform the duties of his office with integrity, dignity and honour.
  • 8. In public, the judge should act in a reserved, serene and courteous manner.”

Judge Eliana Marengo’s behavior towards Rania El-Alloul was unacceptable. Not only did it deny an innocent woman her day in court, but it is also against the values of diversity and freedom from discrimination Quebec supposedly embraces.

Here’s hoping the Council agrees.

* Featured image of the Palais de Justice in Montreal by Jeangagnon via Wikimedia Commons

Protesters in Montreal are no longer required to provide a route to police. The Quebec Superior Court invalidated section 2.1 of Municipal Bylaw P-6 which was added at the height of the Maple Spring student protests in 2012 by then-Mayor Gerald Tremblay.

Over the past few years, Montreal Police (SPVM) used this provision to kettle and ticket protesters and to stop marches minutes after they started. The annual Anti-Police Brutality March being a frequent target.

The Quebec Superior Court had already invalidated Section 3.2 of the bylaw, the provision banning masks at protests, back in 2016. In the same ruling, the court put some restrictions on 2.1, but didn’t eliminate it entirely.

Not content with a partial victory, the plaintiffs, which included protest mascot Anarchopanda, decided to appeal. Today they won and the problematic parts of P-6 are gone and the court’s decision is effective immediately.

“Let’s not forget that this victory belongs to our comrades who take to the streets and risk police and judicial repression to fight for all our rights,” Sibel Ataogul, one of the lawyers fighting the appeal said in a Facebook post, adding: “Despite victories, judiciarisation is not the solution. Only the struggle pays.”

* Featured image by Chris Zacchia

It must be said that there is no issue more personal than that regarding our health care and family planning choices. It must also be said that in a country that constitutionally recognizes the equality of men and women, the choice of family planning method – which could include abstinence, the pill, condoms, IUDs, or abortion – is NOBODY’s business but the person directly affected by them.

Our government is responsible for upholding the constitution, which includes making sure that groups that do not recognize people’s constitutional right to make their own decisions regarding their healthcare will not get public funds. The Canadian federal government has made this clear via their recent announcement regarding the Canada Summer Jobs Program (CSJ).

The Canada Summer Jobs Program is an initiative by the federal government to encourage employers to take on summer students at the secondary and post-secondary levels by offering to subsidize the students’ wages for them.

The subsidy works for public and private employers as well as non-profit organizations and small businesses and has several priorities including the supporting employers who hire students from underrepresented groups such indigenous Canadians, the disabled, and visible minorities, and those that support opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for women. Applications for the subsidies must be made by potential employers, though recently the Trudeau government added an additional catch to the program’s requirements.

Those who apply to the CSJ program now have to attest that:

“Both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

The federal government’s website adds the recognition that women’s rights are human rights and that their rights include “sexual and reproductive rights — and the right to access safe and legal abortions.”

This announcement was never meant to turn Canada into the next front in the battle between those that believe people have a right to their choices and those who do not. That issue was already settled in the early 90s when, following the Supreme Court striking down Canada’s abortion laws in 1988, the Senate voted against a new abortion law put before Parliament by the Mulroney government. Public opinion confirms this, for according to a 2017 Ipsos poll, 77 percent of respondents feel abortion should be permitted.

The announcement was simply meant to be a way to fix a subsidy issue after the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada published a report indicating that federal funding was going to anti-abortion groups in the summer of 2016. Federal Employment Minister Patty Hadju’s office then put out a statement apologizing for the oversight and stating that “no such organizations will receive funding from any constituencies represented by Liberal MPs.”

All the Trudeau government is doing is obeying the law by enforcing the gender equality statutes in the Canadian Charter of Rights by making anyone who does not conform to them ineligible for Federal funding.

It is Conservatives who have turned this minor subsidy issue into a religious crusade about abortion. The fiasco that followed is not an ideological debate about religious freedom but rather the result of some groups’ anger at losing government money they feel they are entitled to.

Organizations like The Southern Alberta Bible Camp who have publicly said “we don’t believe abortion is right” stand to lose about $40 000 in subsidy money if they refuse to sign the aforementioned attestation.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has accused the Prime Minister – a self-proclaimed “proud feminist”- of imposing his views on faith groups. This is the same Andrew Scheer one of his supporters assured me would not take on abortion rights in Canada following his election to leadership of the party.

“I believe that the federal government should respect the freedoms that Canadians enjoy to have different beliefs and that by imposing personal values of Justin Trudeau on a wide variety of groups is not an appropriate way to go,” Scheer has said.

The government has not said that groups that openly condemn abortion and LGBTQ2 groups cannot operate in Canada. As per our religious freedoms and right to freedom of speech guaranteed in the constitution, they can do as they please within reasonable limits prescribed by law. All the federal government has done is said that they cannot get government money to hire young people to help them do it.

Since the Conservatives have turned this into an abortion issue, let’s look at those that claim to believe in women’s equality and still be pro-life.

Despite the claim of many conservatives, one cannot recognize the constitutional right of women’s equality to men and be pro-life at the same time. It is not feminism these self-proclaimed “pro-life feminists” are embracing, but rather benevolent sexism.

The reason is this: the most secular anti-abortion arguments rest on the unspoken notion that women are not strong enough, mature enough, or intelligent enough to make their own decisions regarding their reproductive health. They are welcome to every freedom men have, except with regards to their deeply personal reproductive choices. ]

They will use arguments about sex selective abortions to make this point, while completely ignoring the numbers and whether or not the procedure was necessary to save the woman’s life. It is the same kind of benevolently sexist argument the most vicious secularists make in Quebec when trying to force Muslim women to stop wearing the hijab or niqab: the infantilizing argument that presumes that no woman is capable of making such a decision of her own free will but rather makes difficult decisions out of selfishness, impulsivity, or external pressure.

It is a notion that must be recognized for what it is: a contradiction of the notion of gender equality entrenched in Canadian law.

Those who stand to lose funds as a result of this will be doing so because their mandate does not fit with that of the Canadian government. We also need to ask how much the federal government will be checking up on those who do sign the attestation.

Is this an administrative rubber stamp where people can attest to one thing and do another? Or will the federal government take steps to make sure that those who do get the funds stay true to their attestation?

Without any sort of checks, the attestation is meaningless.

If it is meaningless, then groups who really want to the money to hire a student to distribute photos of fetuses outside clinics should have no trouble signing it.

An allegedly progressive university that cannot deal with the victims of campus sexual harassment and assault is not as progressive as it claims. A culture of victim-blaming, administrative delays, and refusal to hold the perpetrators to account is indicative of rape culture that only profits the most sinister patriarchal forces in a school in dire need of change. No local example demonstrates this quite so well as what is going on at Concordia.

Concordia has a sexual harassment and assault problem.

It is a problem that exists despite the university’s policy regarding security which applies to students, employees, and visitors. According to said policy, effective as of September 2002 (and thus unchanged):

“[N]o person shall…engage in violent behavior, threaten violence, or engage in any other illegal behavior on campus.”

In addition to a security policy, Concordia has a stand-alone policy on sexual violence that came into effect at the end of May 2016. Like the security policy, it applies to all members of Concordia.

Its purpose is to provide a safe environment for students, faculty, staff, and visitors in which sexual violence will not be tolerated, while providing support for those impacted by sexual violence. It also provides definitions of such terms as “sexual violence” and “consent”.

Unfortunately, the policy focuses primarily on the victim and fails to state what consequences a perpetrator would face for sexual harassment and assault. If Concordia truly has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and assault, the penalty for such behavior should be stated clearly from the start.

Historically rules that are vague are prone to misinterpretation, abuse, and a lack of enforcement and this is sadly what has happened at Concordia. Their current policy leaves the choice of action almost entirely with the victim, which increases the risk that their abuser will get off easy if they successfully scare their victim(s) into silence.

It is to Concordia’s credit that they have recently allowed student government to participate in the drafting of an official sexual assault policy, but is this too little too late?

In November 2015, after numerous complaints to Concordia about the racial discrimination and sexual harassment she’d endured at the hands of fellow members of the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) of Concordia University, “Mei Ling” with the help of The Center for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR) and the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal, reached a settlement with ASFA.

Then there is the case of “Cathy”, who spoke to this reporter anonymously about her ordeal.

Cathy was assaulted by a fellow Concordia student at her home in 2014. The police were called and the man was arrested. She then sought medical attention for her injuries. The courts took action, knowing that victims of domestic abuse are often coerced or bullied into silence and applied laws that indict domestic assaulters regardless of whether or not the victim withdraws the charges.

A month after the assault, having been informed that domestic abusers often re-offend, she told Concordia Security about the restraining order. Her actions had no effect, for the student assaulted her again, this time on campus, in 2015.

Unfortunately for Cathy and in spite of the school’s security policy, the only recourse she could take with them against her assaulter was to seek recourse from the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. She found that what this amounted to was a formal or informal complaint that she would have to put her real name on, despite the intimate nature of the assaults and the likelihood that he would try and hurt her again.

She presented letters from a social worker and the court explaining the risk of her assaulter reoffending, and Concordia did nothing with them. They offered to have security escort her around campus, but Cathy knew it would just draw attention to her from other students, including her abuser, putting her further at risk.

At this point, Concordia seems to have given up. Despite a policy that bans violence and threats on campus, Concordia gave up on Cathy.

It took the breaking of stories of sexual and racial harassment survivors like Mei Ling and what happened to Cathy and so many others in the media to finally wake the university up.

Unfortunately for Cathy, the consequences of her assault and the university’s actions have been long term. The assaults gave her a severe concussion resulting in difficulties reading and writing and she lost hearing in one of her ears, requiring the intervention of neurologist and an ear, nose, and throat doctor.

The assaults and Concordia’s toothless responses to her ordeal ravaged her psychologically. Cathy now struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), has constant flashbacks, and she is terrified of meeting new people and trusting them.

The health consequences of Cathy’s ordeal hurt her academically and changed her career aspirations. To this day she never feels safe and cannot return to Concordia. She no longer feels university is for her and is afraid that going back to school would result in her being assaulted and dismissed again. She said of her ordeal:

“This is happening at universities all over the country, and I don’t feel like I could risk going through this again for any reason. I’d worked really hard to get to post secondary education and it had always felt like education was what would open doors, as long as I worked hard and put effort into it. Effort isn’t enough when the institutions responsible don’t support victims or make it safe for them to come forward. I’d love to keep studying… but the only way through is university.”

Cathy’s abuser got off light for his crimes.

He pled guilty and was given a conditional discharge, a restraining order to keep him away from her, and thirty hours of community service at Concordia for threatening and violent conduct.

He should have been expelled from the university.

Outrageously and despite his legally documented threat to students, he was not only permitted to stay at Concordia, but he wasn’t even disqualified from an Academic award he won.

In 2015 when the Mei Ling scandal made news, Concordia University president Alan Shephard announced in an open letter that the school considered student safety to be “paramount”. Unfortunately, the words were empty ones as Concordia took its usual tack of doing nothing for the victims.

In 2015 when the Mei Ling scandal made news, Concordia University president Alan Shephard announced in an open letter that the school considered student safety to be “paramount”. Unfortunately, the words were empty ones as Concordia took its usual tack of doing nothing for the victims.

In January 2018 when harassment complaints against a professor at the school’s Creative Writing reached the press, Shephard said that the university would “treat seriously” allegations of sexual misconduct. The Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) called for an independent inquiry while the university announced the establishment of a Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence.

Their plan to cooperate with students on this is a good one, but it needs to be enforceable and enforced in order to work. Concordia is trying to do better by its students, and they’d better.

FTB was contacted by a representative of Concordia requesting that the article be rewritten. While I added a policy update and some steps taken by Concordia not mentioned in the original version of this article, I stand by the central theme.

The rep also pointed out that there are penalties mentioned in their 2017 document, including expulsion, well, more specifically “a recommendation of Expulsion, subject to confirmation by the Provost and VicePresident, Academic” is listed as a potential consequence. On page 25 of 38. At the end of a long list of possible outcomes that begins with a written reprimand.

Not only is this a far cry from a logical policy, say immediate expulsion for anyone who admits in a court of law to assault, it also, as I mentioned above, comes only at the end of a process that is difficult for those, like Cathy, who fear reprisals, to enter into. It’s basically a second trial.

It’s also not well advertised. It took a PR rep showing us where to dig to find it. We’re media, we have the time. Assault victims generally don’t have that luxury.

An academic institution that doesn’t have an established punishment for admitted perpetrators and makes it difficult for victims to seek justice clearly isn’t doing enough to protect victims of assault.

Here’s hoping the new policy Concordia is drafting has more teeth.

* Featured image by deeelee via WikiMedia Commons

The City of Montreal put forward a controversial request to the Quebec government to amend the Quebec Highway Code to allow cyclists to perform a rolling stop – popularly known as the “Idaho stop”, named for the state that legalized it in 1982 – which would eliminate the need for cyclists to come to a full stop at stop signs, under certain circumstances.

This request has drawn the ire of many motorists, who already see cyclists’ generally unpredictable habits and disregard for the law as a threat to their comfort and safety. Common sense dictates that formalizing what is perceived as reckless behaviour would only succeed in putting lives at risk.

It must be said that what is considered common sense is not necessarily true or accurate, especially when it comes to risk assessment. Policies and practices that can improve safety are often counterintuitive, such as the example of mandatory helmet policies, which have been demonstrated to not improve overall safety.

Studies have shown that drivers are less likely to give cyclists a wide enough berth when passing, if the cyclist is wearing a helmet. Let me be clear that I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t wear helmets when cycling, but the kind of head trauma that helmets protect us from is comparatively rare to the other dangers faced on the road, and legislation should encourage rather than discourage cycling.

Which brings us to the Idaho stop.

Formally, the change will allow cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs, meaning that we could slow down, gauge if there is oncoming traffic, and carry on if the coast is clear. Functionally, we already do. As an avid cyclist in the city of Montreal for the better part of thirty years (and more recently a driver), my habits are unlikely to change and the risk of being fined for running a stop sign on my bike has never been a deterrent, which is true of most cyclists in the city.

The reason is twofold.

First of all, cycling is a very physical activity, and maintaining efficiency is what makes it worthwhile. The amount of energy expended coming to a full stop, and then starting again from zero is significantly greater than maintaining some forward motion and balancing upright while scanning for traffic. Having to do this at every intersection would be a deterrent from riding at all.

City councillor and member of the Mayor’s executive committee Craig Sauvé knows this distinction.

“Pushing a pedal in a car to accelerate is not the same as moving one’s entire body to accelerate as a cyclist does,” he told me when I asked for his input.

This difference in acceleration contributes to the second factor: safety. As is often the case at an intersection on our crowded roads, I find myself next to a car, or stopped in their blind spot. And Montreal drivers aren’t exactly known for their consistent use of turn signals.

If I’m at a full stop, and a car – or worse, a truck – suddenly veers in my direction, I very likely will not have enough time to accelerate fast enough to get out of the way. However, if I maintain motion , I can accelerate or stop as needed very quickly, and will also place myself sooner in the driver’s field of vision, so they don’t accidentally clip or crush me.

Zvi Leve, a member of the Montreal Bike Coalition, views this kind of policy as a way to shift the focus of our enforcement efforts away from ineffective traffic calming methods and towards actions which are truly dangerous to others.

“We need infrastructure which is designed for the safety needs of vulnerable road users. We have designed our cities for vehicle circulation, and then we wonder why pedestrians and cyclists keep getting injured.”

Leve doesn’t suggest that this should be a free for all for cyclists, and is quick to point out that pedestrians are the most vulnerable, and need the most protections.

“Cyclists also need to understand the ‘rules of the road’ and to cede the right of way when necessary. In fact, that is what it comes down to: The ‘right of way’ can be ceded but it should never be taken.”

Hopefully, this mindfulness of courtesy regarding right of way will catch on with drivers as well. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to further infrastructural changes that will improve safety, and in a tangible way, save lives, and so is Sauvé:

“The reality is that the current highway safety code was made a half a century ago with only cars in mind. Society has evolved and there are more and more cyclists on the road every year. We have to change our highway code in Montreal to reflect that reality.”

* Featured image by Richard Mason/Cyclelicious via flickr Creative Commons

When it comes to criminal justice, it’s safe to say that pop culture has ruined its meaning in the minds of all but a certain few. Shows like Law and Order and CSI champion police and prosecutors, ignore or sugar coat endemic problems of racism, sexism, and LGBTQIphobia in law enforcement, and equally problematic, skew people’s understanding of how certain crimes are defined by the law.

The most obvious example is with regards to how the law defines first and second degree murder.

Though everyone is dreading the next 2018 celebrity death, we need to remember that ordinary people are dying too, and often in horrible circumstances. Nothing shows this more clearly than Montreal’s first murder of 2018.

This article will tell a little about the people involved and give a crash course on how first and second degree murder are defined in Canadian Criminal Law.

On January 28, 2018 at 11:15 pm someone called 911. A woman had been stabbed in the back at her home in the LaSalle borough of Montreal. Before she died from her wound, the 61 year old victim told police her daughter had stabbed her.

The daughter, 34 year old Meng Ye, was not unknown to the police as they’d been called to the home before when she’d been in psychological crisis. The mother of a one and a half year old has since been charged with first degree murder.

According to a former neighbor, the victim had a poor grasp of Canada’s official languages and though she seemed a rude person, there was nothing about her that would provoke someone to violence.

People’s general understanding of first degree murder is a murder that is planned and deliberate. A second degree murder is thought to be more spontaneous. There is truth to both definitions, but they are incomplete.

In Canada, first degree murder is where a person causes the death of another, having meant to kill them or cause them bodily harm that is likely to cause their death. It is also considered first degree murder if you do something that you know is likely to cause death and it does, notwithstanding the fact that you didn’t want anyone to die. The rules for first degree murder however do not end there.

You are guilty of first degree murder if you cause the death of someone while you are committing treason, sabotage, piracy, hijacking, and escaping or rescuing someone from prison or another form of lawful custody. It is first degree murder if you cause someone’s death during a sexual assault, while assaulting a peace officer, breaking and entering, robbery, arson, hostage taking, and kidnapping.

The death is considered first degree murder regardless of whether or not you intended to cause the death and whether or not you knew someone would likely die IF:

  • You meant to cause bodily harm in order to commit the crime or
  • You meant to cause bodily harm in order to facilitate fleeing the scene right after you committed or attempted to commit the crime

And the death ensued from the bodily harm.

The definition of first degree murder also includes causing the death of a person if the death resulted from you administering a stupefying or overpowering thing, i.e. you poisoned or sedated the person, for the purpose of causing bodily harm to commit the crime. It is also considered as such if the death is caused by bodily harm you inflicted on a person to facilitate you fleeing the scene or you intentionally made a person stop breathing so you could commit a crime and they died as a result.

Killing a peace officer of any kind or a warden or other prison employee is all considered first degree murder regardless of whether the murder was planned and deliberate. It is also considered first degree murder if you killed someone while uttering threats intended to make them fear for their safety or the safety of anyone they knew.

If you kill someone while committing an act of terrorism, the murder is considered murder in the first degree regardless of whether it was planned and deliberate.

Last but not least, if you had a contract in which you were compensated to kill someone, “assisted” in causing the death of that person, or were paid to counsel someone to kill the person, you are guilty of first degree murder. Same goes if you killed someone for the benefit of or on orders from a criminal organization or if you killed someone while committing another crime on their behalf.

Anything that is not considered first degree murder is second degree murder. As Canada has long since abolished the death penalty, those guilty of either degree of murder are facing a minimum sentence of life in prison.

What will happen to Meng Ye and her child remains to be seen.

The Plante Administration really isn’t wasting much time implementing their election promises. The pit bull ban is gone, so is the Formula E, and now cars won’t have a mountain shortcut to get from one side of Montreal to the other as part of a pilot project this spring and summer.

The city will close Camillien Houde to cars between Beaver Lake and Smith House (the big lookout) while allowing buses and bikes to pass. This stems from a promise to do something about bike safety on the mountain in the wake of the death of cyclist Clément Ouimet last summer.

Their strategy seems to be get as much done as possible early and let Montrealers grow to like the changes over the next few years. Since this is the first time Projet Montreal, or any left-of-centre political outsiders for that matter, find themselves in power here, it makes sense.

But is this particular plan a good idea? One that we will come to appreciate in four years’ time? Yes, but only if it goes further.

Winding Highway in the Middle of the City

Not everyone is happy with this pilot project, as expected. Even some Plante supporters aren’t for the plan. Some feel this was too hasty and decided without enough consultation while others wonder why they didn’t just make a separate bike path. Most criticism, though, centers around additional traffic on other routes.

Living in Montreal my whole life but not being a driver, I have traveled that stretch by car and taxi many times. It always felt like I was in a racing video game, even with cautious, responsible drivers behind the wheel.

The lack of stops turns it into a highway by default. And at that, it’s a highway that winds and curves its way up and down a mountain. It was a bad idea to begin with, albeit a convenient one.

Yes, this will mean more cars on other roads, but the safety concerns for both cyclists and drivers outweigh the inconvenience. Also, public transit users will still be able to take advantage of this shortcut as buses will still go through.

This is a needed move. My only concern, though, is that it doesn’t go far enough.

The Shortcut is Gone, But the Risk Remains

Blocking off a chunk of Camillien Houde will mean fewer cars, but not no cars. Now, all those who drive up the mountain will be doing so to visit a part of the mountain such as Smith House and then return.

Well, almost all. There will inevitably be those unaware of the change who will make their way up expecting to end up on the other side only to find out they have to turn back.

If this seems like just a minor problem, it won’t be. The only thing worse than drivers barreling down a winding pseudo-highway is frustrated drivers trying to make up lost time barreling down a winding pseudo-highway.

A Proposal

The #11 Bus at Parc and Mount Royal about to travel over the mountain

There is an easy fix, though, and it’s one I hope the Plante administration considers:

  1. Stop all car traffic at Parc and Mount-Royal on the eastern end and Beaver Lake in the west.
  2. Create two lanes, one in each direction, for city buses and emergency vehicles, two separate lanes for cyclists and, if possible, a space for pedestrians.
  3. Add more buses on the route and create stops: one at the Camillien Houde lookout midway up from the east, one at Smith House and one at Beaver Lake for now and maybe more later. All stops should be wheelchair accessible.

If people want to visit the mountain and are unable to do so on foot or by bike (or just don’t want to), they can do so by bus. There’s already a parking  lot at Beaver Lake. For this plan to really work, the city would need to make another one near Parc and Mount-Royal. You can drive to the mountain, but not over it.

If this seems like a permanent change, then good. A pilot project can only go so far and risks alienating people without fully showing the payoff.

Eliminating the mountain shortcut will draw the same ire if you cut cars at Smith House or at Parc and Mount-Royal, so why not go all the way and fully eliminate a pseudo-highway that was a bad idea to begin with.

* Featured image of the Camillien Houde lookout via WikiMedia Commons

Think of bad relationships as faulty products. If a product malfunctions we complain and get our money back, write a review, and maybe even sue if it was really bad! When you complain about a bad product you suddenly find others that experienced what you did.

I opened a bottle of Sriracha hot sauce today and it exploded in my face causing temporary blindness and extreme discomfort. Luckily I was in a friggen science lab when it happened and was able to quickly flush my eyes with water to remove the rather hot and burny pepper sauce.

The pressure was so high it kept spewing out. Not the usual bottle I get, I was excited to try a different brand. A few had been purchased, it must be good, right? Clearly there was something wrong! It sounded like a gun shot when I opened it. What if it was a little kid or someone with a bad heart? Nobody should ever have to go through this again!

The song She Blinded Me With Science was in my head all day. Ironic AF, glad I am not blind. It really puts things in perspective. We are just a moment away from having our lives changed. You never know when things will happen. You can’t let things go without fixing the problem!

I called immediately and the customer service rep knew exactly what I was talking about, like “Oooo yea, exploding bottles, people call about that all the time. We are JUST the distributor though, not the ones who make it.” Pass the buck, not my problem.

The email on the bottle didn’t work, guess there are too many complaints!  You are the only phone number on there! Do you want to be associated with a dangerous product?

I was very lucky that I didn’t get seriously hurt. I took it back to store and got a refund. The manager took the remaining bottles off the shelf and will hopefully complain to his higher up.

Consumer accountability means SAY SOMETHING! Be the change- report things when there is a problem. Just like when anything bad happens, it is important to report it right away so it doesn’t happen again!

Same goes with rape- if it happens to you tell the world who did it to you to prevent it from happening again. He blinded you with violence. You will save someone from the torture and degradation you felt in this aggressor’s evil grasp!

Often times I see brave #metoo posts that are from a long time ago. While it is important to do it now and air the dirty laundry, doing so at the time may have stopped them from hurting even one more person.

If you are a survivor and you didn’t speak up at the time, remember that it’s still the agressor’s fault, not yours, so instead of beating yourself up over it, speak out now.

I know it is not easy to stand up. No one wants to think about something they would rather forget and risk not being believed. But, it is essential to stop the pain. You are not alone. There is a web or survivors who have your back!

I was just faced with a situation where i knew someone had raped one of my friends (like 100% proof) and he was selling shit at one of my shows. NO MORE! He is done in this town! He will never sell his crap at a show in my city and never rape another innocent person in his disgusting van ever again. Buffalo on blast. The world will know who you are, jerk off!

Don’t tell me she wanted it! Don’t say you were drinking too so it was ok, she was black out! That is never ok, how many others has he violated? How can he think that it’s ok to hurt people? He felt my hot breath on his ugly face when I told him off. It is important to SPEAK UP and tell people when you know something or someone is wrong.

I know that I have a gang of strong women ready to take him, and others like him, on and get them out. Law enforcement doesn’t work most of the time so we need to take matters into our own hands and alert our sisters. I wanted to drag him into the street and rip that shitty little beard off his face for what he did to her, but violence is never the answer. Peace, love, and spreading KNOWLEDGE.

Hold people accountable. DO NOT ENABLE! SILENCE IS ENABLING. Stop the cycle by standing up!

If nobody knows how can we stop it from happening again? You were not the first. It has probably happened before. Participate in online communities where women tell other women about abusers, then share stories about the same man or violater!

We need to help each other know who the douchebags are! It is important to make it known! They are your neighbors and friends! Some of them seem innocent but they are NOT! Serial killers have charm, you trust them until they murder you!

You can personally change the world by just speaking out against oppression. How many people must get hurt before it changes? Whether it’s a nice seeming friendly neighborhood rapist or a bottle of hot sauce prone to explosions we need to tell the world to watch out. Food recalls, car recalls, toys that kill kids, lead paint, mad cow, and other dangerous things that have been taken out of circulation due to people standing up.

Toyota just did a huge recall on cars because airbags weren’t going off. They found that out the hard way and someone got hurt, but we will never know that person’s name or how many were affected by the malfunction,

There have been many successful class action lawsuits but just as many settled out of court that we will never hear about. Silence is paid for. We know that this also happens with celebrity rape cases, but I urge all people to take the side of truth and justice over money.

Always chose people over profits and the well being of others over being scared quiet. There are white men in suits right now deciding if the money lost is more important than safety of consumers. It takes many complaints before a recall is made. It should only take one!

Big business makes bullshit that hurts the environment just like toxic masculinity makes men who can’t respect women. By speaking out and doing something we can shut down rapists, abusers, AND bad business practices.

You would not buy something off Amazon with only bad reviews just in the same way you would not go on a date with someone who was put on social media blast for sexual misconduct. It’s incredible what kind of change people are capable of by just standing up.

When it comes to issues of racism and police brutality, Canadians suffer from a bad case of denial. We think these are the problems of people in the United States despite evidence of cops brutalizing Indigenous Canadians and spraying peaceful protesters in the face with pepper spray. It is particularly clear when attacks by authorities come completely unprovoked and the perpetrators scramble to protect their own while the victim is left permanently damaged.

No case demonstrates this so clearly as that of Majiza Philip.

“I was charging them with excessive force and misconduct,” Majiza said of her latest court battle with the Montreal Police (SPVM), a case she is now demanding be reopened. This followed a judge throwing out charges of assault, resisting arrest, and obstruction of justice levied against Majiza by the police in 2014.

Majiza Philip was not looking for trouble. She had been warned by family members in the past to comply with the police who have a habit of thinking the worst of people of colour.

What happened to her was not only a display of police brutality, but of gross injustice. It demonstrates the need for an Ethics Commissioner truly independent from our province’s police forces and the abolition of laws that protect the authorities when they deliberately hurt those they have sworn to protect.

This article will tell Majiza’s story and point out all the mistakes made by those who abused their authority to hurt her. This is her version of events. Since the burden of proof in criminal cases is so high and her account was the one deemed credible by the courts, there is no reason to doubt her story.

One night in November 2014 Majiza and her friend were at a rap concert. Security was high that night due to the rapper’s reputation for drugs and violence.

After the concert her friend was forced to wait outside while she got their coats. He was soon arrested and put in a police car.

Majiza went to check on him and was informed by authorities that he’d been arrested for loitering and public drunkenness. She asked which station they would bring him to and then lightly tapped on the window of the back seat of the police car to get her friend’s attention and see if he was ok.

Suddenly, she felt a push from behind. It was a large white male officer who accused her of assaulting another officer. Majiza backed away in fear and self-defense, rightfully stating that the officer had no right to touch her.

She pleaded with onlookers for help as undeterred, the officer slammed her down on the hood of a police car. With the help of other cops, he began wrenching her arms behind her back. At one point she felt pressure followed by her left arm going limp.

Majiza was shoved into a police car and was only spared the pain of her broken arm in the short time that followed due to the adrenaline from trying to protect herself. She pleaded with the police for help as the pain kicked in and her hands numbed, but they were dismissive.

“They laughed at me a couple of times,” she recalled, noting that they were more interested in discussing their dinner plans.

“It’s REALLY hurting,” she remembers telling the officers, “and they were like ‘Oh, whatever.’ I kept telling them there was pain.”

At this point Majiza didn’t know her arm was broken. All she wanted was the cuffs off so when it finally occurred to the police to ask if she wanted medical attention, she refused.

Prosecutors would later try and use this refusal against her at trial when any medical professional would testify that you have at least fifteen minutes before the pain and extent of your injuries finally kicks in.

It eventually occurred to the police to call an ambulance where EMTs confirmed Majiza’s arm was broken. Before she was lifted into the ambulance, the police attempted to have her sign a notice to appear at her hearing but high on pain and concerned that the document was actually a waiver exonerating those who arrested her, she refused to sign it.

“I’m not signing anything,” she told the police at the time, “I don’t know why I’m here. You never told me I was under arrest.”

She told them to send it to her by mail, and though she was legally entitled to it, she never received anything.

After a disastrous attempt to get care at Saint Luc Hospital – they denied her care because her pain interfered with her ability to speak to medical professionals in French – she was given a sling and a painkiller and sent home. She went to Saint Mary’s hospital in the morning where doctors immediately put her in a cast and booked her for surgery in the following weeks.

She now has a massive scar and pins holding her arm together, the pain returning when the weather is damp. It took over three months before she could go back to work.

Majiza has no criminal record.

In addition to managing a small café in Montreal, she teaches tap-dancing to children and works in her community. The latter jobs require police checks, which she clears every time.

The night she was arrested the only reason the cops had to believe she was a danger was the colour of her skin and the fact that she was at a rap concert. Though the arresting officers made no racial slurs, Majiza points out that though her friend was also arrested that night, he – a white male – was treated far less roughly by police and with a great deal more courtesy than she was. She believes the police have a racism problem as many of them come from places in rural Quebec where attitudes towards ethnic diversity are less than enlightened.

“I just spoke up for him,” Majiza said referring to her friend, “I didn’t assault anybody, didn’t do anything and I got my arm broken and I got hit with a bunch of charges. I can’t say it was racially motivated but I do feel like they treated me differently because I was black.”

When she was able, Majiza Philip contacted the Center for Research- Action on Race Relations (CRARR), a non-profit that works towards diversity and racial equality in Montreal. They helped her file a report with the police Ethics Commissioner who allegedly took her complaint seriously and filed a year-long investigation. Unfortunately, as per the current Loi sur la Police, officers are not legally obligated to cooperate with investigations of complaints against them.

According to Majiza Philip and CRARR, this needs to change as it affords citizens no real justice against police who abuse their power, protecting the cops over the people they hurt.

At her trial she was represented pro-bono by criminal justice lawyer Arij Riahi, facing charges of assault, obstruction of justice, and resisting arrest. Prosecutors tried to argue that Philip had weak bones, making them more susceptible to breaking. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant, as Canadian law has long since recognized the “Thin Skull Rule” making a defendant liable for a victim’s injuries even if they’re especially severe due to a pre-existing yet stable condition.

The trial concluded last month with the judge throwing out all charges against her, finding Majiza’s testimony far more credible than that of the officers who mostly spent the trial scrambling to protect themselves with the one responsible for her broken arm conveniently suffering from concussion-induced amnesia. The police never even mentioned at trial that they broke her arm – a fact the judge found outrageous.

Majiza is now demanding that the new Ethics Commissioner reopen her case. With the Ethics Commissioner who handled her complaint now suspended, perhaps she now has a chance of getting justice.

Though the Commissioner has never reopened cases, Majiza can demand it in the face of new evidence. She knows that incidents like hers are more likely to be avoided with the introduction of body cameras on officers, as well mandatory ethnic diversity quotas on the police force. In addition, she calls on the government to change the law and make a police Ethics Commissioner who is truly independent of the people they are charged to investigate.

The Quebec government has two choices here.

They can confirm the stereotypes that Quebec is racist and hostile to ethnic and religious diversity, or they can give victims like Majiza Philip the justice they deserve.

* Featured image by Kym Dominique Ferguson courtesy of Majiza Philip