Saskatchewan Judges Failing to Implement Gladue

Retired British Columbia Judge Cunliffe Barnett, said that judges in Saskatchewan have been reluctant to implement Gladue principled sentencing, reports the Star Phoenix. In both Gladue and Ipeelee, the Supreme Court of Canada mandated that Aboriginal circumstances be taken into account during sentencing. Section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code provides that “all available sanctions or options other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered…with particular attention to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders.” Gladue reports provide a judge with details about the unique life circumstances of First Nation, Métis and Inuit people and offer recommendations for sentencing. In Saskatchewan, Gladue factors are taken into account in sentencing, but Gladue reports have been underutilized.

Barnett drew attention to Trevor Machiskinic’s recent twelve month sentence for aggravated assault. Machiskinic, a young Aboriginal man, spent time in a residential school and in foster homes during his youth, and was found to have limited intellectual abilities. His case was one of the first in the province where a full Gladue report was prepared. Barnett argued Justice Mona Dovell appeared to pay “only scant attention to it.” Mr. Machiskinic’s case is currently on appeal.

Wheelchair user says basic human rights are being ignored in N.S.

After suffering from Encephalitis, Halifax-resident Denise Fitzgerald became wheelchair-bound and was released from the hospital this past January, writes Global News . It was this experience that caused her to notice the accessibility issues in Halifax. Finding accessible apartments, medical offices, stores, restaurants in Halifax is a challenge, according to Fitzgerald.

Nova Scotia has the highest per capita percentage of self-identifying persons with disabilities, writes Global News. The Minister of Community Services, Joanne Bernard, who responsible for the Disabled Persons Commission, said that last month an advisory panel was created to look at accessibility legislation. The goal of the advisory panel is to design accessibility legislation what will be introduced in 2016.


Debate about doctors’ right to refuse treatment for religious reasons re-ignited

The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons is conducting a policy review that is renewing the debate surrounding whether doctors should be allowed to refuse treatment due to their religious beliefs, writes the Ottawa Citizen. Currently, there are three doctors that work at an Ottawa CareMedics walk-in clinic that refuse to prescribe birth control because of their religious views, outlining their position by distributing flyers to patients.

The Ottawa Citizen explains that, under the currently policy, “doctors have the right to refuse treatments and procedures for religious or moral reasons as long as they communicate their position clearly, advise patients of all potential options, advise patients they can see another physician and treat patients with respect.”

The policy review is part of a routine human rights code check. The College is asking the public and doctors for their opinions and feedback on the issue. It will also have consultations with other groups, including the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The new policy will be published by the end of the year.

On the College’s website, the response to the poll question, “Do you think a physician should be allowed to refuse to provide a patient with a treatment or procedure because it conflicts with the physician’s religious or moral beliefs?” has been met with 70% of people answering no.

Manitoban Mayorial Candidate is Target of Racism

After a debate in St Boniface, CBC News reports that Robert-Falcon Ouellette, a 37 year old Aboriginal Program Director  at the University of Manitoba, received racist comments on his Facebook page because he had argued entirely in French.  St Boniface is an area of the Winnipeg city that is the centre of the Franco-Manitoban community and Ouellette had spoken French to honour the hosts of the debate. But as a result of the decision, he received abusive messages criticizing his Aboriginal and French background.

For Oulette, this has not been the first time he has faced prejudice. He acknowledged that despite his many years of education and service to his country, there would still be some who cared more about his background than his campaign platform. Other candidates, including Dan Vandal, a Métis, had also faced racism while campaigning. Despite these incidents, many believe that the prejudice is not representative of the city and are hopeful about the prospects of electing a mayor from a diverse background.

Roma Boy Attacked in Paris

The Telegraph reports that on June 13, 2014, after being accused of burglarizing nearby flats, 16 year-old Darius, a Romanian citizen, was dragged from the encampment where his family resided and beaten by 20 youths before he was dumped in a shopping cart and left to die. According to the New York Times, Darius’ family and the residents of the camp were threatened and a ransom of more than $20, 000 was demanded for his release. Shortly after, a neighbour had found the boy unconscious with multiple head injuries, carried him back to the camp and called an ambulance. While Darius has been hospitalized and remains in a chemically induced coma, the residents of the camp, including his parents, have fled the area in fear of reprisal attacks.

Although the attack on Darius has been denounced by France’s leaders, it occurred in the context of government policies which vilify the country’s Roma community. The French government has regularly razed Roma camps and deported many back to their countries of origin. There have also been shifts in the political arena favouring additional discriminatory measures to be taken against immigrant communities. In the most recent the European Union parliamentary elections, rightwing parties like France’s National Front, which ran on an anti-immigration campaign, made significant electoral gains. As support for these policies increases, Roma and other minority communities will continue to be stigmatized and incidents like the attack on Darius may become increasingly common.


Archdiocese settles discrimination case with depressed, menopausal employee

The Archdiocese of Ottawa has settled a human rights complaint with Ginette Chaumont, a 59 year old former employee, writes the Ottawa Citizen. Chaumont had filed a human rights application  with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, alleging discrimination in employment. Chaumont claimed she was fired back in November 2011 because she was menopausal and suffering from depression.  Diocesan officials claim they did not know about her disability until one month after her termination and, therefore, could not have discriminated against her.

There had already been three days of hearings in March, however, the complaint was settled before the next scheduled hearing date. During the hearing, Chaumont admitted that her quality of work had suffered in 2011 but that it was due to her menopause and depression and therefore she should have been accommodated, not fired.

Chaumont was originally asking for damages and reinstatement to her old position. The terms of settlement are confidential so the outcome is unknown.

Only black child in Newfoundland town faces racism and bullying at school

The CBC reports that Torrence Collier, 11, is the only black child in the town of Westport, NL and has been facing racism and bullying at his school. In March, Torrence’s mother found a handwritten note by her son, expressing his desire to die. The bullying has become so extreme that Torrence now needs to be supervised all day at school and uses a separate washroom.

On June 11, an open letter to Torrence began circulating and hopes to gain signatures to show the student that he is supported across the country.

Anti-loitering spikes removed after Montreal Mayor voices outrage

Outside a music and book store in downtown Montreal, metal spikes were erected alongside the building to deter people from sitting on a ledge beside the store, the CBC reports. These anti-loitering measures are seen as a controversial effort to prevent homeless or itinerant individuals from sitting outside the storefront.

The spikes were removed after the mayor of Montreal expressed his outrage over these “anti-homeless spikes,” and he along with other city councillors demanded their removal. Quebecor, the owner of the store, subsequently released a statement denying anything to do with the spikes and stating that it does not own the building. The company was quick to distance itself from any anti-homeless sentiment, saying it is “heavily involved” in the community and “concerned about homelessness.”

Landmark homeless Charter challenge may never be heard if government wins bid to quash case

This week, lawyers representing the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) and four individuals are arguing for a chance to continue with their Charter challenge that deals with the rights of homeless individuals, writes the Toronto Star. They are appealing a decision made by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that dismissed the Application based on the Ontario and Canadian governments’ motions to strike, stating that,“[t]here is no viable issue raised that could demonstrate a breach of either s.7 or s.15(1) of the Charter.”

The Charter challenge was originally launched in May 2010 and claimed that Canada and Ontario violated sections 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by “creating and maintaining conditions that lead to and sustain homelessness”, writes the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario. The Applicants’ goal is to have the court order the federal and provincial governments to create strategies to deal with the current housing crisis.

The hearing at the Ontario Court of Appeal will last three days and will include eight interveners, including Amnesty International, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, the Colour of Poverty, and various community legal clinics.

New Brunswick’s flag protocol at schools to be reviewed

Due to concerns raised when the rainbow pride flag was prohibited at Fredericton’s Leo Hayes High School last week, Premier David Alward promised to review the province’s flag policy. The school, which has raised the flag during Pride Week for the past two years, was forbidden from flying the flag because of the provincial government’s flag protocol, which disallows non-official flags from being flown on public property.

The CBC reports that subsequently, Premier Alward has requested the ministerial steering committee on inclusive education to supply recommendations on how diversity and inclusion can most effectively be represented in the flag protocol at schools. The recommendations should be implemented by September, for the beginning of classes, he told reporters.

Many gay rights organizations and advocates have urged the Premier to change the flag protocol, as flying the pride flag is important for promoting acceptance.


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