Police deploy roadside technology to better identify drunk drivers

Police in New Zealand have begun deploying advanced roadside technology called the Booze Bus Biometrics (BBB) system to better identify drunk drivers.

According to Police Minister Michael Woodhouse, “The BBB system will enable police to confirm, within minutes, the identities of people in the system that they intend to charge with drink-driving offences by electronically scanning fingerprints, taking digital photographs and comparing the data to existing police records.”

The stated purpose of this new tool  is to aid in identifying high-risk drivers and recidivist drunk drivers at the roadside so that police will be able to respond quickly and appropriately to the circumstances, and to ensure alleged offenders are charged appropriately from the outset.

Following a successful trial of the new technology in Wellington earlier this year, the new technology is set to be installed in all 21 of the police’s booze buses by the end of November.

Under the new biometrics system police claim that will only able to keep the data they collect if an offender is convicted.

However, with new police capabilities comes the risk of abuse. Due to the ease of use of this new technology police may use it to unnecessarily intrude on the privacy of more innocent drivers than before in their mission to catch drunk drivers.

Read more here.

First Nations’ discrimination claim reaching conclusion after 7 years

Arguments on a longstanding human rights complaint, which allege unequal treatment of First Nations children by the Government of Canada, will reach its conclusion in the coming week. First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and Assembly of First Nations filed a case at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on February 26th, 2007. The parties began closing arguments over seven years later on October 20th, 2014.

The case alleges that the Federal government does not adequately fund child-welfare services on reserves.  The Winnipeg Free Press reports that services for First Nations children on reserves received 22 per cent less funding than services provided by Provincial governments to children off reserve. Cindy Blackstock, head of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, states in the Children and Youth Services Review that the effect of inadequate funding on First Nations children is amplified by their disproportionate representation as recipients of child-welfare services, and further inequity in other critical social services. The Globe and Mail reports that there was an abundance of evidence of underfunding produced throughout the hearing. Whereas child-welfare generally falls under Provincial authority according to the Constitution Act, 1867, the Federal government is responsible for services for First Nations children on reserves. The claimants widely condemned the Federal government for failing to fulfill its obligations.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, the case experienced serious delays due to questions of jurisdiction. In addition to arguments about jurisdiction, Blackstock said in 2010 that the Federal government contested the claim on the basis that the current funding plan is not discriminatory. The Federal government argued that in order to prove the plan is discriminatory, the claimants must show a differential treatment between claimants’ experience on reserves and the experience of First Nations children on other reserves — the comparison should not be made between First Nations children on reserves and children off reserves, as the claimants argued. Since the Provincial government is responsible for child-welfare services for children that do not reside on reserves, any comparison to the Provincial plan is irrelevant for the purpose of establishing discrimination. Therefore, according to the arguments of the Federal government, since First Nations children receive equally on all reserves, there is no discrimination.

The Globe and Mail reports that the arguments will close on October 24, with a decision expected in 2015. A livestream of the closing arguments can be found here.

 

Death of Lucia Verga Jimenez Reveals Shortcomings in YVR Immigration Detention Facility

Lucia Vega Jimenez was found hanging from a shower stall inside the YVR underground immigration detention centre operated by a private security firm on December 20, 2013.  A coroner’s inquest was launched in an effort to prevent similar deaths from occurring. Video showing Jimenez entering bathroom can be found here.

Jimenez was a Mexican national, and was allegedly stopped by transit police, who suspected she was in Canada illegally, and was subsequently delivered to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). Jimenez was held in a facility staffed by Genesis Security, which provides private security contract positions to the three immigration-holding centers run by the CBSA. Genesis Security won the Top Choice Award for Top Security Guard Services in Vancouver of 2014. Current and former Genesis Security guards testified at the inquest that they often had to pay for their own training, and only received a pamphlet in lieu of suicide prevention training.

The inquest also heard that Genesis frequently understaffed security guards at the CBSA site, and that the records of mandatory checks on detainees were falsified. On the day of Jimenez’s death, the female guard required for checks on the female detainees was offsite, and ex-Genesis guard Jivan Sandhu failed to check on Jimenez for over 40 minutes after she entered the showers. Sandhu agreed with the statement by BCCLA lawyer Jason Gratl that Genesis had “too many jobs and not enough bodies”

The jury at the inquest was allowed to make recommendations to prevent similar deaths, but was not tasked with finding any individual liable.  The jury made a series of recommendations, including:

  • That legal counsel and NGOs be allowed access to the YVR Holding Centre immediately, and that the facility be closed as it failed to meet international human rights standards.
  • That the CBSA reassess their use of restraints, handcuffing and shackling to only those situations where they required absolutely.
  • That immigration holding facilities be operated by government employees and not private security companies.

The BCCLA issued a statement reacting to the inquest in which it reiterated the failures on the part of the private security firm in handling immigration detainees, and emphasized the detention “is the job of the government, and then only in the rarest circumstances in which detention is absolutely necessary”

A confidential Red Cross report made to the CBSA was released under an Access to Information request, as reported in Macleans. The report revealed that in 2012, an estimated 3,952 immigration detainees were held in correctional institutions alongside criminal populations. The report also stated that this practice can be “extremely stressfulThis is a particular concern for refugee claimants who have experienced armed conflict, torture, and other traumatic experiences”.

An Access to Information request made by the Globe and Mail revealed an internal CBSA memo that stated “current legislative agenda concerning immigration matters and the potential for an increase in the daily detained population”. Changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act have made it easier to detain newcomers. 

The CBSA issued a statement following the inquest that it would be carefully reviewing all findings and recommendations.

Junior hockey statement of claim alleges minimum wage legislation violations

CBC reported yesterday that a statement of claim has been filed in Toronto alleging that the Canadian Hockey League pays its players less than minimum wage in its respective regions. In New Brunswick, that wage is currently $10.00 per hour.

The Canadian Hockey League is the umbrella organization for the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). The latter currently has 3 teams in New Brunswick playing out of Saint John, Moncton, and Bathurst. Age restrictions of the QMJHL mean that players of that league must be between the ages of 16 and 20.

This statement was claimed was filed in relation to a $180 million lawsuit which is seeking class action certification, and also alleges player entitlement to holidays, overtime pay, and vacation pay. See the full article here.

These claims have not been proven in court.

U.S. Supreme Court has Allowed Texas’s Controversial New Voter ID Law

On Saturday, October 18, a majority of Supreme Court Justices, without providing reasons for their decision, rejected an emergency request from the Justice Department and from civil right groups to prohibit the state from requiring that voters produce certain forms of photo ID in order to cast a ballot.  This interim decision was likely made in response to the quickly approaching early voting period, which began on Monday, October 20. Just a week before the Supreme Court’s decision, a U.S. District Court Judge in Corpus Christi had struck down the voter ID law following a nine-day trial. It currently awaits review by the Fifth Circuit, which put the trial judge’s decision on hold.

The ID law, enacted in 2011, was passed with the stated intention of preventing voter fraud, a problem with which the NAACP Legal Defense Fund says Texas’s electorate has had no prior experience. Section 5 of the Voter Rights Act, which was effectively eliminated by the Supreme Court in the June 2013 case Shelby County v. Holder, had effectively blocked the Texas law. The Act aimed to prevent several states with a history of discrimination, including Texas, from changing election laws without permission. With its elimination, however, Texas officials are now able to enforce the voter ID law. Eric Holder Jr. released a statement this past Saturday in which he stated that, during its nine-day trial, the Federal Court had already determined that the law “was designed to discriminate”.

Under the voter ID law, there are only seven approved forms of ID, which include concealed handgun licenses, state drivers license, military ID, or passports. College IDs are not accepted, although this is a common practice in other states. At the federal court level, the judge found that this law would exclude approximately 600, 000 voters, many of them black or latino, from voting. The U.S. District Judge called it an “unconstitutional burden on the right to vote”.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented. In a scathing, six-paged dissent, Justice Ginsburg warned that, “The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.”

Justice Ginsburg also explained how the cost of obtaining the required ID was an unconstitutional barrier to voting: “A voter whose birth certificate lists her maiden name or misstates her date of birth may be charged $37 for the amended certificate she needs to obtain a qualifying ID”. “For some voters”, Justice Ginsburg states, “the imposition is not small”.

The Court did not deal with the issue of the law’s constitutionality during its decision to not intervene. It therefore remains quite likely that the case will return to the Supreme Court after the Federal Court of Appeals passes a decision.

For more information, see here, here , here, here, and here.

 

UK to Increase Maximum Sentence for Internet Trolls

The UK government announced today that it will increase the maximum prison sentence for internet trolls to two years, up from six months. It will also increase the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution from six months from the day of commission to three years. This is in conjunction with the creation of a specific offence to criminalize ‘revenge porn’.

The offence is described as “cover[ing] sending a letter, electronic communication or article of any description to another person, which is in nature, or which conveys a message which is, indecent or grossly offensive, or conveys a threat or false information, with the purpose of causing distress or anxiety to the recipient or to any other person to whom it is intended that its contents should be communicated.”

Chris Grayling, the Minister of Justice, has described the initiative as “a stand against a baying cyber-mob”. Neither Mr Grayling nor the official press release make any comment about the underlying discrimination found in many instances of trolling.

This announcement was made just days after a high profile trolling case was made public. The daughter of Judy Finnegan, a well-known TV presenter, had receive rape threats online because of her mother’s on-air comments regarding a convicted rapists and football player. Finnegan said that Ched Evans should be welcomed back to professional sports because the rape “wasn’t violent and the victim was drunk”. Her comments solicited wide criticisms and she has since apologized, though her daughter was consequently the target of internet trolling.

For more information, see here.

Shrinking Caribou Population Clashes with Inuit Land Rights

The Kitikmeot Inuit Association heard a presentation by the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board concerning the shrinking number of caribou in the area. It was expressed that this startling decline in population could be a result of the Kitikmeot Inuit’s enterprise of selling the caribou meat online.

Pau Emingak, the executive director of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association stated that the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board is:

“concerned that, especially with caribou, that if caribou were to be sold to other communities for profit, then that would diminish the herds in the communities”

To the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Inuit have the right to sell all wildlife that has been acquired in accordance with the law. At present, the only restrictions for caribou hunting by Inuit in this area are on Southampton Island.

The decline of the caribou population in Nunavut is concerning. However, this latest crises may prompt a deeper inquiry into the balancing of Aboriginal rights with the preservation of certain animal species.

The Northwest Territories is facing similar concerns regarding the decline in caribou population.

See original story here.

 

President of Police Association: Time to Arm Police Officers

Greg O’Connor, the President of New Zealand’s Police Association, opined that with the frequency of armed incidents on the rise, it is “[t]ime to get real and arm our police.”

New Zealand Police (NZP) typically do not carry firearms. They do, however, have access to an arsenal of non-lethal weapons, such as batons, pepper spray, and tasers. Even so, NZP’s use of non-lethal weapons has not always been above reproach. Specifically, NZP’s reliance on tasers has created controversy as several groups, including the Mental Health Foundation, argue that a disproportionate number of taser victims suffer from mental illness.

NZP’s tactic of eschewing firearms in exchange for non-lethal weapons has been described as “policing by consent.” Such an approach emphasizes mutual trust between officers and the public. This approach may strike those of us living in countries where police customarily carry firearms as nearly incomprehensible.

Nearly incomprehensible because we have seen the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) rely on “a strategy of co-operation and non-confrontation… in the hope of facilitating peaceful and safe demonstrations,” during G8 and G20 protests and the 2010 Olympics. Further, we have seen the inverse of the policing with consent phenomenon; namely, the militarization of police forces has the tendency to escalate tension, with Ferguson, Missouri being a recent example.

Undoubtedly, O’Connor’s statement was prompted by a concern for the public’s safety and the safety of the NZP. However, it would be most unfortunate if the NZP abandoned its tradition of policing with consent in exchange for a policing model that has proven so very problematic for Canada and the United States, among others.

Canadian Museum For Human Rights

The first national museum located outside of Ottawa, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, opened its doors on September 19th in Winnipeg. This impressive piece of architecture is located near the site of the Red River Rebellion on Treaty One land. The museum features various exhibits focusing on topics such as residential schools, the Winnipeg General Strike, the Underground Railroad, and various atrocities including the Armenian Genocide, the Holodomor, and the Holocaust.

The museum’s opening was not without controversy.  The site of the museum may have been an aboriginal burial ground, however organizers were sure to consult with the aboriginal community before construction got underway.  Additionally, aboriginal elders helped to bless the site during its construction.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is located at 85 Israel Asper Way.  It is open 6 days a week, Tuesday through Sunday, 10 AM till 5PM.  Until November 9th, only guided tours will be available, at a reduced ticket price of $10 for adults.  The CMHR’s website can be found here.

Vancouver Police Wear Body-Mounted Cameras For Oppenheimer Park Evictions

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) equipped officers with wearable cameras to encourage transparency and “prevent people from acting in a difficult or violent manner” during Wednesday’s Oppenheimer Park evictions, reports the CBC. The VPD announced the body-mounted camera program as a pilot project in late 2013. The project is associated with the force’s Evidence Gathering Team, and similar initiatives have already been used on a trial basis in Victoria, Edmonton, Toronto, and select US cities.

The original camp at Oppenheimer Park came into existence in July, largely as a reaction to Vancouver’s lack of affordable housing. Over the past months, the site became a home for the city’s displaced and marginalized people, as well as a safe community for those facing issues including housing and addiction. Pivot Legal Society extensively interviewed and provided legal assistance to those living in the park. According to Pivot, many of the campers did not identify with sleeping in the park as part of a protest, but rather as one of the only means of survival available to them amidst a lack of response from the City in regards to accessible housing. On October 8, 2014 the B.C. Supreme Court approved the City of Vancouver’s injunction to evict the homeless campers from Oppenheimer Park. The eviction deadline came into effect on October 15 at 10 p.m. Despite no specific information suggesting there would be violence or other problems at the camp, the VPD equipped eight officers with chest-mounted GoPro cameras for the eviction. The evening progressed peacefully, with many campers dispersing, while those with no alternative housing options remained at the site.

While the force already uses handheld and pole-mounted cameras, the additional equipment is meant to enhance safety and encourage people to be better behaved with the knowledge that they are being recorded, according to VPD Chief Constable Jim Chu. The Vancouver Sun reports that “police departments have argued in favour of cameras to protect officers against unfounded allegations of abuse, insisting grainy cellphone videos that find their way onto YouTube rarely tell the whole story.” The use of cameras is increasingly regarded as a way to protect both the public and the police. “There’s an argument that it will keep both sides more civil, so the police are going to try harder to use tactical communication skills and will be even less likely to use force, and also the public may be a little more responsive, more co-operative,” said Rick Parent, a former police officer and current professor at Simon Fraser University’s police studies program.

However, this attempt at police transparency has received a fair share of criticism from those worried that not all interactions between police and the public will benefit from this type of surveillance. Before Wednesday’s eviction, D.J. Larkin, a lawyer with Pivot Legal society expressed concern about bringing cameras into Oppenheimer Park. Larkin explained that filming the “very, very emotional and very destabilizing environment” of people “who really don’t have other safe options and who really can’t access the shelter system” could escalate the situation. In another report by the Globe and Mail, Larkin also brought attention to the fact that the decision to use body-mounted cameras was turning a housing issue into a police enforcement issue, thus further diluting the concerns and realities of individuals residing in Oppenheimer Park. Josh Paterson, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association expressed his concerns about the body-mounted cameras to the CBC. Paterson’s comments echo the unease of many who feel that the balance between police interests and privacy rights of citizens should not be tipped too far in favour of the former. Paterson stated that if opting to use the technology, the VPD must adopt comprehensive policies to ensure it is not abused. Paterson added that the decision to use the body-mounted cameras sporadically or temporarily does not excuse the lack of thorough protocols.

The VPD does not have plans to introduce body-mounted cameras to all officers or for a broader range of patrol-related activities, due to cost concerns and information storage limitations. Nevertheless, Wednesday’s use of the technology raises a multitude of questions as to if, when, and how its use could be reconciled with respecting the privacy and dignity of citizens, especially in times of vulnerability and distress.

 

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