Nunavut Considering Wellness Courts to Assist Mentally Ill and Addicted Offenders

The Nunavut Justice Department is looking into instituting wellness courts in order to assist mentally ill criminal offenders. Wellness courts have been instituted to assist offenders with mental illness and addition disorders. Offenders who suffer from these conditions can be sent to these specialized courts and are subject to intensive monitoring as opposed to incarceration, including regular drug and alcohol testing, lifestyle monitoring, finding a job and place to live, possibly returning to school and therapy. If the terms set out by the wellness court the judge will be able to tale that account during sentencing, which usually becomes probation or community-based sentences.

The Yukon has a wellness court which is very successful and can provide a useful model for Nunavut if the go ahead is given to put a wellness court into play. Advocates for the institution of this court say that this would be useful for the Nunavut community as half of the cases that presently come before courts are committed by offenders with addition and mental health issues. Wellness courts seek to solve the underlying issues that prompt criminal behaviour, and results in Yukon have shown that they are affective.

For more information see the original story here.

BC Advocacy Group Leads Battle For Improved Veterans’ Benefits

Tensions between Veteran Affairs and unhappy veterans have been intensifying over the last year. The Canadian government introduced the New Veterans Charter (NVC) in 2006, and since then complaints about reduced funding, failures to meet obligations, and massive red tape hurdles have resulted in discontent amongst Canadian veterans. Equitas, a group of injured Afghan veterans based in BC, filed a class-action lawsuit arguing that the NVC violated their Charter rights, because it removed lifetime disability payments for injured military personnel and replaced it with a lump sum payment instead.

Read the rest of this entry »

Allegations of Violations of Language Rights in Nunavut

Nunavut’s French school board has decided to take the territorial government of Nunavut to court. The French school board has expressed that the government of Nunavut has violated the community’s right to French education guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Specifically, the board argues that the government is required to provide a similar quality of education that students would receive at school that teach in the majority language (i.e. English).

The government of Nunavut argues that it has not failed to meet its constitutional and statutory obligation. Education Minister Paul Quassa has stated that the government is currently preparing a response to the allegations made by Nunavut’s French school board.

Original story can be found here.


Vancouver Harm Reduction Advocates Call for More Safe Injection and Safe Inhalation Sites for Drug Users

Insite has operated in Vancouver since 2003, providing a place for people to inject drugs in a less volatile environment, access health care services, and connect to addiction treatment and various community supports. Since opening, Insite has remained the only sanctioned supervised injection facility in North America. Now, harm reduction advocates are calling for a similar space for crack smokers to access safer conditions and similar supports.

The idea is far from novel, and was briefly implemented by the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) before Vancouver Coastal Health was legally obliged to close the space, which was operating illegally without an exemption from the government. VANDU operated the safe inhalation and injection room until December 2013, when it was ordered to shut it down.  VANDU offered drug users a safe place to smoke and inject drugs, handed out “crack kits” to stop the spread of disease, and held educational workshops. The effort was praised by experts as one of the most positive options in harm reduction in the city. As recently reported by CTV News, the safe inhalation room helped reduce the spread of Hepatitis C among crack smokers, led to a decrease in street drug use, and provided a community safety-net for those involved.

While the recent push for more innovative harm reduction strategies in Vancouver is not new, it is gaining strength with increasingly compelling evidence of the positive impacts on tax payers and the health care system. The city’s experience with Insite has illustrated that allowing the most vulnerable to access regular and normalized health services is good for the individuals and the larger community. Advocates and experts alike agree that a sanctioned and supervised inhalation room could facilitate the entry of drug users into the health care system, much like Insite has done for intravenous drug users. The numbers are telling of the benefits as well; while clean crack pipes cost a quarter, each case of HIV or Hepatitis can cost over $250,000 in medical expenses.



Jonathan Rudin – The University of Saskatchewn & Gladue

This past Tuesday, Jonathan Rudin of Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto visited the University of Saskatchewan College of Law to give a talk on Gladue and what has changed since that monumental decision in 1999.

Recently, the Province of Saskatchewan has been under criticism from retired Judge Barnett from British Columbia for not mandating the production of Gladue reports in the sentencing of Aboriginal offenders.

Mr. Rudin suggests that the production of Gladue reports is vital to overturning the negative implications of colonization. Rudin’s main argument was that Gladue reports will allow the judiciary to properly understand the unique circumstances of Aboriginal persons in Canadian society.

In attending this lecture I agree with Mr. Rudin’s assertions entirely. There is little doubt that the criminal justice system has failed Aboriginal people’s given the high incarceration rates of Aboriginal peoples especially in the Prairie provinces.

In fact coming away from this lecture I think there is good evidence to advocate for the creation of Gladue courts that have been established in both BC and Ontario. What’s more is that there has already been a movement in Saskatchewan to establish specialty courts by way of the drug, mental illness, and domestic violence courts.

There will need to be the political will to make the necessary changes. To move forward greater pressure will need to be put on both the provincial and federal governments. As this issue becomes more prominent I look forward in tracking these developments closely.

BCCLA “Overjoyed” by Supreme Court Ruling on Physician-Assisted Death, Summarizes Carter v. Canada Decision

As reported in previous posts, yesterday, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the law against physician-assisted suicide in a unanimous ruling.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) initially launched the lawsuit with the belief “that seriously and incurably ill patients should have a voice in how their lives should end.” The organization stated that it welcomes the Court’s decision, as well as “the opportunity to work constructively with the federal and provincial governments to ensure that patients are free to seek appropriate medical treatment and make fundamental choices in the context of their physician-patient relationships.”

The BCCLA has released a 900 word summary of the decision, its history and context, which can be found here.


France: Un humoriste condamné pour “apologie du terrorisme”

L’humoriste controversé Dieudonné a été condamné, mardi dernier, à payer 30 000 euros d’amendes pour avoir tenu des propos faisant l’apologie d’actes terroristes selon la procureure française. Le 11 janvier dernier, suivant les attentats envers Charlie Hebdo, magazine satirique français, l’homme a publié, sur sa page Facebook, une version détournée du slogan tristement célèbre « Je suis Charlie ». Ainsi, il a affirmé se sentir « Charlie Coulibaly », faisant référence à Amedy Coulibaly, auteur d’une prise d’otage dans une épicerie Casher qui a fait 5 victimes au lendemain de l’attaque dans les bureaux de Charlie Hebdo. La publication a été, depuis, retirée de la page Facebook de l’humoriste.

En France, bien que la liberté d’expression soit protégée, elle n’est pas absolue. Les propos jugés racistes, appelant à la haine, à la violence ou faisant l’apologie du terrorisme sont des délits selon la loi. Dans sa décision, le tribunal dit considérer, en plus des propos tenus le 11 janvier, le contexte dans lequel ils ont été publiés et la personnalité publique qu’est Dieudonné. En effet, l’humoriste a été condamné à maintes reprises depuis 2007, notamment pour avoir exprimé des propos antisémites et avoir « incité la haine raciale».

Pour plus de détails, vous pouvez consulter cet article.


Carter Decision 7th “Strike” Against Harper Government










Today’s landmark Supreme Court decision in Carter v. Canada on Assisted Suicide represents the 7th major “strike” against the Harper government’s criminal law agenda dealt by the Supreme Court.

Below is a list of other major decisions handed down by the SCC that opposed the Conservative crime agenda:

April 25th, 2014: the SCC ruled that Parliament alone could not impose Senate term limits, allow for consultative elections for Senate candidates, or abolish the Senate altogether.

April 11th, 2014: the SCC struck down the Truth in Sentencing Act, which would have barred judges from giving inmates extra credit for pre-trial custody.

March 21st, 2014: the SCC ruled that Federal Court of Appeal Justice Marc Nadon, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by Prime Minister Harper, was ineligible.

March 20th, 2014: the SCC ruled that proposed retroactive changes to parole eligibility were unconstitutional, as they were effectively a new form of  ”double jeopardy.”

Dec. 20th, 2013: the SCC struck down the Criminal Code’s prostitution provisions (brothels, streetwalking, and living off the avails), which were strongly advocated by the Harper government.

Sept. 30th, 2011: the SCC ruled that the controversial “safe injection” facility Insite in Vancouver, BC, could stay open. The Conservative government attempted to shut it down, but the Court found that this denied principles of fundamental justice.

Unanimous Supreme Court Rules to Allow Physician-Assisted Suicide

In a long-awaited decision released today, all nine judges of the Supreme Court ruled in favour of allowing physician-assisted suicide in particular circumstances. It was found that Criminal Code sections 241(b), which prohibits helping someone commit suicide, and 14, which states a person cannot consent to death, infringe section 7 rights to life, liberty, and security of the person. They ruled that physician-assisted suicide should be permitted where an individual “(1) clearly consents to the termination of life and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”

The declaration of invalidity will be suspended for 12 months to give the government time to respond to the decision. Further, in a rare move, the Court awarded the full cost of litigation (provided the costs were “reasonable and prudent”) to the claimants.

Potential Dams in Yukon Could Harm First Nations

The Yukon Development Corporation is looking into the future development of hydroelectricity throughout the territory. However, the First Nations groups have expressed concerns about the impact these developments may have on their community. There are also concerns about how these developments will affect the ecosystem of the Yukon. One of the possible sites for development is Fraser Falls, which is in Na-Cho Nyak Dun traditional territories. Representatives from the first nations groups in the area say that if this site is chosen, the communities in the area may never be the same.

There is a history of First Nations people living alongside the river and interfering with that may, in effect, be akin to destroying the tradition and culture that region represents. This community also depends on the fish from the river as a source of sustenance and the food chain could be affected by these developments. The First Nations groups are requesting that the Yukon Development Corporation find alternate sources of energy production that do not depend on flooding traditional lands.

Original story can be found here.

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