Ontario lawyers to combat systemic racism in profession

Update:

Justice. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
Justice. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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There is a serious problem that needs to be addressed,’ working group chair says.

Larger law firms would be expected to work toward racial diversification and have to report on their progress under recommendations approved without opposition Friday by the profession’s regulatory body in Ontario following hours of emotional debate.

In addition, the Law Society of Upper Canada will look to put measures in place to ensure legal workplaces do more to combat  systemic racism and discrimination in their ranks, its governing body decided.

The recommendations — 13 in all — flowed from a working group that looked at the career obstacles black and other visible minority lawyers face. The group, set up in 2012, spent the last few years coming up with its report based on consultations and submissions from around the province.

Raj Anand, co-chairman of the group, who said he’s been the subject of racial slurs, called it gratifying the law society approved the report.

Exterior of Osgoode Hall. This is where the Law Society of Upper Canada is housed,
Exterior of Osgoode Hall. This is where the Law Society of Upper Canada is housed. photo by fightyourtickets.ca.

‘A serious problem that needs to be addressed’

“There is a serious problem that needs to be addressed,” Anand said.

“We now can move forward to implement these important recommendations, which reinforce the special responsibility of lawyers and paralegals to promote human rights in their own workplaces — and in their relationships with the justice system and the public.”

Under measures that are now slated to be put in place, any firm with at least 10 lawyers and paralegals would have to designate someone responsible for implementing a policy that addresses issues such as fair recruitment, retention and advancement.

Companies would also have to do a diversity self-assessment, and send the information to the law society every two years.

The governing body would also keep tabs on the progress law firms with at least 25 lawyers and paralegals are making in promoting diversity by looking at a “demographic data and inclusion index.”

http://fightyourtickets.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/PC294006_6970.jpg
The Law Society of Upper Canada. The law society, which governs more than 50,000 lawyers and 8,000 paralegals in Ontario, will set up a specialized and trained team to address complaints of discrimination. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

Visible-minority lawyers argue professional barriers linger

One lawyer, Sid Troister, sparked passionate discussion by questioning whether one measure should be mandatory as recommended. He called for a separate vote on each recommendation rather than a vote on the package as a whole. His motion was easily voted down and the report then passed with one amendment.

Although the proportion of visible-minority lawyers has increased in the last 15 years, many of them have long complained of the professional barriers they encounter, and relatively few black lawyers practise in large firms.

The working group, struck in response to the complaints, found a culture in which racialized lawyers and paralegals face significant challenges throughout their legal careers. Problems include assumptions of incompetence from judges and clients, denial of opportunities for professional advancement, and colleagues who shut them out of workplace social gatherings.

‘Overt discrimination and bias’

“Overt discrimination and bias are a feature of daily life,” the group found. “Racialization is a constant and persistent
factor.”

Another recommendation is to make it explicit that any systemic discrimination or reprisal for complaints of discrimination and harassment would be considered breaches of professional conduct, which would spell out that members are obliged to promote principles of equality, diversity and inclusion.

The law society, which governs more than 50,000 lawyers and 8,000 paralegals in Ontario, would also set up a specialized and trained team to address complaints of discrimination.

Paul Schabas, the treasurer of the law society, called Friday’s adoption of the report and its recommendations a big step toward ensuring the legal profession is “diverse, inclusive and free of discrimination and harassment.”

Toronto road tolls, championed by Mayor John Tory, OK’d at executive committee

Update:

Nathan Philips Square which contains Toronto's City Hall. The parking ticket counter at Metro Hall at 55 John Street will close today and be temporarily re-located to the main floor at Toronto's City Hall at 100 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5H 2N2
Tory’s motion to implement the road tolls — which could cost around $2 per trip — was approved, although with some amendments introduced by other councillors, including a potential yearly cap on how much commuters will pay in tolls. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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Hotel and short-term accomodation tax also clears major city hall hurdle after debate.

Mayor John Tory’s executive committee unanimously approved moving forward with road tolls for the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway on Thursday, though not without some fierce debate.

Council voted 24-21 in favour of the so-called hybrid plan for the eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway, which runs from Jarvis Street to the Don Valley Parkway.
Gardiner expressway, east of the DVP. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

Council will also consider a tax on hotels and short-term accommodations, like Airbnb rentals. The city won’t, however, seek permission from the province to tax alcohol or tobacco sales, an option that had been tabled at the beginning of the day.

The budget committee, meanwhile, will be asked to look at the possibility of introducing a 0.5 per cent property tax levy that will be directed to the City Building Fund. It will also consider changing the land transfer tax rebates given to first-time homebuyers so they are in line with the new rules unveiled by the province last month.

Motorists entering this ramp from Bay street will now be soon be paying for the opportunity to drive on the Gardiner Expressway or the Don Valley Parkway. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

The city is grappling with how to pay for $33 billion worth of major transit and infrastructure projects.

Tory’s motion to implement the road tolls — which could cost around $2 per trip — was approved, although with some amendments introduced by other councillors, including a potential yearly cap on how much commuters will pay in tolls.

Queen's Park. Tow Trucks in the GTA took their "awareness campaign" to Queen's Park this morning, in an effort to inform the motoring public and other tow truck operators of the government's plans under Bill 15, specifically placing tow truck driver's under the authority of the CVOR. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
Queen’s Park. City council would still have to approve road tolls before they come into effect. The city would also need approval from Queen’s Park. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

City council would still have to approve road tolls before they come into effect. The city would also need approval from Queen’s Park tolls in.

Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who represents Ward 34, Don Valley East, introduced the motion calling on city council to cap the amount Torontonians will pay on tolls per year, though he declined to set a specific amount.

“My residents are affected more than any other community in the city,” he said.

“You have to spread the pain of these revenue tools.”

Minnan-Wong’s motion also suggested looking at how the tolls will be collected, suggesting a dynamic pricing model could be put in place.

The executive committee also unanimously approved a motion by Coun. David Shiner that recommends asking the province to exempt any road tolls from the Harmonized Sales Tax.

Drivers may not like paying the tolls, Shiner said, but they’d hate “paying a tax on a tax.”

Budget Chief Gary Crawford, meanwhile, defended dropping the potential alcohol and tobacco taxes, saying the revenue tools the executive committee did approve were the fairest, most affordable and most transparent.

Gardiner Expressway. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
Tory wants to impose a toll of roughly $2 on the two major highways leading to Toronto’s downtown core. photo by fightyourtickets.ca.

Some fighting back against taxes

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who showed up to the meeting with a pair of boxing gloves, told CBC Toronto he is going to fight “every tax and every fee.”

“In a flash, we’ve approved an unprecedented amount of taxes and fees to be looked at without consulting the rest of Toronto,” he said.

Sean Meagher, executive director of the non-profit social justice organization Social Planning Toronto, expressed concern that road tolls would affect the budget years from now, but are not an immediate fix.

“The city manager’s named a bunch of very useful tools — things like harmonizing the land transfer tax, closing some tax loopholes for corporations,” he said.

“Those are things we can have in the immediate term.”

‘A step in the right direction’

Potential road toll revenue is earmarked for transit and infrastructure projects. With this plan, city council is “finally beginning to take action on fighting congestion and building more transit,” Tory said during a midday news conference.

But Tory has previously said that, while road tolls will raise about $200 million annually, the potential revenue would still fall short of addressing all the city’s transit needs.

“It’s a really good start but it’s not going to be sufficient,” said City Manager Peter Wallace during the morning meeting session.

Speaking to CBC Toronto, Coun. Joe Cressy, who represents Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina, said the proposed tolls and taxes are a “a step in the right direction.”

“The city of Toronto doesn’t have the money today to maintain the city we have, let alone the money to build the city we want,” he said.

“And if you’re going to build a strong city, and a fair city, you need to pay for it.”

Tory not backing down

In his news conference, Tory said he’s glad to have a “good, open, lengthy discussion” about the proposed revenue tools.

But he coupled this with strong words to anyone opposing the measures, either at city hall or Queen’s Park.

“If they are opposed to road tolls, and some of these other measures as a means for paying for some of these kinds of things, I think they have an obligation to spell out what they would use instead,” Tory said.

Or, he added, detractors should “indicate honestly to the public that they would have no intention of supporting the measures that I believe are absolutely necessary.

Two men sentenced to 120 days in jail in separate assaults on TTC employees

Update:

TTC personnel are assaulted everyday by passengers. The Criminal Code was amended in December 2015 to acknowledge this reality. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
TTC personnel are assaulted everyday by passengers. Dundas subway station. The Criminal Code was amended in February 2015 to acknowledge this reality. photo by fightyourtickets.ca.

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Two men have been sentenced to jail in separate incidents for assaulting TTC employees.

Moses Sanderson, 61, was sentenced to 120 days in jail for assaulting two TTC student ambassadors this summer.

On August 19, the two employees were working as Customer Service Ambassadors at Bloor-Yonge Station. Sanderson approached one female student from behind and slapped her on the buttocks and lunged toward her in a threatening manner. He also spit at her and another employee.

TTC Special Constables arrested Sanderson at St George Station shortly after the incident. He was found to have a criminal record and three previous convictions of assaulting streetcar operators in late 2015 and early 2016, and was on probation in relation to those previous assaults.

Sanderson pleaded guilty to two charges of assault and failing to comply with probation and was sentenced to four months in jail.  Sanderson was also placed on probation for one year, during which time he must stay away from the victims and not to be found on TTC property.

– – –

The TTC is planning on eliminating collectors in collection booths, such as this one at Greenwood Subway Station. They hope on reducing costs. Where will passengers go for help, once the collector booths disappear? photo by fightyourtickets.ca
The TTC is planning on eliminating collectors in collection booths, such as this one at Greenwood Subway Station. They hope on reducing costs. Where will passengers go for help, once the collector booths disappear? photo by fightyourtickets.ca

 

 

Mathew Lidster, 27, was sentenced to 121 days for assaulting a TTC Bus Operator.

On July 6, Lidster rose from his seat at the back of a bus on St. Clair Ave. W., approached the driver’s area and, without warning, punched the operator in the head.

The Toronto Police Service attended and arrested Lidster, charging him with assault. Lidster pleaded guilty to assault and other unrelated charges and was sentenced to four months in jail. Lidster was also placed on probation for two years and ordered to stay 200 metres away from the employee.

On average, one to two TTC employees are assaulted every day, ranging from punching and slapping to spitting, and more are threatened with physical harm or death.  The TTC’s Court Advocates work with Crown Attorneys and the Courts to ensure the stiffest penalties possible for those convicted of assault or threats on TTC employees, and continue to seek limits on the use of public transit in Toronto for those convicted of these crimes.

In 2015, the Criminal Code of Canada was amended so that when a court imposes a sentence for assault, it considers as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the victim was a public transit operator engaged in the performance of his or her duty.

 

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (assaults against public transit operators)

S.C. 2015, c. 1

Assented to 2015-02-25

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (assaults against public transit operators)

SUMMARY

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to require a court to consider the fact that the victim of an assault is a public transit operator to be an aggravating circumstance for the purposes of sentencing.

R.S., c. C-46

Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:

 The Criminal Code is amended by adding the following after section 269:

Marginal note:Aggravating circumstance — assault against a public transit operator
  • 269.01 (1) When a court imposes a sentence for an offence referred to in paragraph 264.1(1)(a) or any of sections 266 to 269, it shall consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the victim of the offence was, at the time of the commission of the offence, a public transit operator engaged in the performance of his or her duty.

  • Marginal note:Definitions

    (2) The following definitions apply in this section.

    “public transit operator”

    « conducteur de véhicule de transport en commun »

    “public transit operator” means an individual who operates a vehicle used in the provision of passenger transportation services to the public, and includes an individual who operates a school bus.

    “vehicle”

    « véhicule »

    “vehicle” includes a bus, paratransit vehicle, licensed taxi cab, train, subway, tram and ferry.

 

Federal Government Reviews Mandatory Minimum Sentences Law

Update:

Justice. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
Justice. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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For instance, relief from a mandatory minimum could be granted in the case of a juvenile offender or an early guilty plea.

OTTAWA—The Liberal government is studying the idea of building some wiggle room into the controversial convention of mandatory minimum sentences to avoid unduly harsh penalties in cases that don’t warrant them.

The examination is part of a federal review of changes to the criminal justice system and sentencing reforms ushered in by the previous Conservative government, a frequent champion of setting minimum penalties for crimes involving drugs, guns and sexual exploitation.

A report prepared for the Justice Department says “a politically viable strategy” is to craft exemptions to mandatory minimums that kick in when certain criteria are met, as seen in several other countries.

For instance, relief from a mandatory minimum could be granted in the case of a juvenile offender, an early guilty plea or when an accused provides substantial help to the state, says the report by criminologist Yvon Dandurand of the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia.

Prison Bars. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
Prison Bars. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

“The main argument in favour of creating exceptions to the application of mandatory minimum penalties remains the need to avoid unjust and arbitrary punishment,” says the report, completed in March and recently disclosed under the Access to Information Act.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is looking at mandatory minimum penalties and other related issues “as a key priority” in support of her criminal justice review, said Whitney Morrison, a spokeswoman for the minister.

In finding mandatory minimum sentences for certain firearms offences unconstitutional, the Supreme Court of Canada said last year that minimums amount to “a blunt instrument” that can result in a disproportionate sentence.

Such laws prescribe minimum sentences of 90 days for a repeat offence of selling a large volume of contraband tobacco, six months for distributing child pornography and five years for trafficking someone under age 18.

Conservative justice critic Rob Nicholson, who served as justice minister in the Harper government, makes no apologies for mandatory minimums, saying they send a stern warning that some crimes carry stiff penalties.

“I believe that the steps that we took were reasonable in terms of protecting the public and standing up for victims and sending out a message that some of this criminal activity was completely unacceptable,” Nicholson said in an interview.

Department of Justice Canada Headquarters. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is looking at mandatory minimum penalties and other related issues “as a key priority” in support of her criminal justice review, according to a spokeswoman. Liberals are looking to build exceptions to the mandatory minimum sentences in order to avoid unduly harsh penalties. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
Department of Justice Canada Headquarters. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is looking at mandatory minimum penalties and other related issues “as a key priority” in support of her criminal justice review, according to a spokeswoman. Liberals are looking to build exceptions to the mandatory minimum sentences in order to avoid unduly harsh penalties. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

Dandurand’s report updates research he carried out four years ago for the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, which highlights inconsistencies in legislation across the country and makes recommendations for improvement.

It notes that mandatory sentences take many forms, but generally prescribe both the type of penalty and the minimum level of the sanction. Sometimes they apply only to repeat offenders.

In the majority of countries where mandatory minimums exist — including England, the United States, Sweden and Australia — “some exceptions to their imposition have been provided by law,” Dandurand found.

Courtroom. Mandatory minimum sentences remove the discretion from the judge hearing the case. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
Courtroom. Mandatory minimum sentences remove the discretion from the judge hearing the case. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

In some cases, the mandatory scheme specifically spells out grounds under which a court can override the presumption of a minimum sentence and exercise judicial discretion.

However, such “safety valve” provisions are almost non-existent in Canadian sentencing law, the report says.

Several jurisdictions have shown that it is “possible and useful” to introduce exceptions to mandatory minimum penalties, based on criteria that set a high threshold for any departure from the legislated minimum, the report concludes.

The Conservatives would challenge any attempt by the Liberals to water down mandatory sentence provisions, Nicholson said.

“I’d say, why are you doing this? Did you consult with victims’ groups? What’s the problem? The bills that we brought in, I believe, were reasonable.”

Ottawa’s New Air-Travel Policy Catches Dual Citizens by Surprise

Update:

Canada's Passport. Air carriers are obligated by law to confirm that all persons seeking to travel to Canada carry both proof of citizenship and proof of identity. A valid Canadian passport satisfies these requirements for Canadian citizens, and is the only acceptable travel document for the purpose of air travel.
Canada’s Passport. Air carriers are obligated by law to confirm that all persons seeking to travel to Canada carry both proof of citizenship and proof of identity. A valid Canadian passport satisfies these requirements for Canadian citizens, and is the only acceptable travel document for the purpose of air travel.

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Starting on September 30, Canadians with dual citizenships must use their Canadian passport to travel back to Canada by air. The new rule is being denounced as a cash grab.

Canadian citizens with dual citizenships will soon be allowed to fly into the country only if they have a Canadian passport.

The policy will come into effect Sept. 30 as a final phase of Canada’s move to an electronic screening system to step up border security and boost exit control of travellers, including Canadians on government benefits.

Veteran pilot Capt. Ian Smith says laser attacks on planes typically happen when an aircraft is landing or taking off, the two most critical times during a flight. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
Jet. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

The upcoming requirement has caught many by surprise calling the practice “discriminatory” against dual citizens and a money grab, and is expected to create havoc as travellers with dual Canadian citizenships may find out only at the last minute when trying to board on a flight.

“What is changing is that the Government of Canada is implementing a new electronic system to assist airlines in verifying that all travellers have the appropriate documents to travel to or transit through Canada by air,” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson Lindsay Wemp told the Star.

“Air carriers are obligated by law to confirm that all persons seeking to travel to Canada carry both proof of citizenship and proof of identity. A valid Canadian passport satisfies these requirements for Canadian citizens, and is the only acceptable travel document for the purpose of air travel.”

Currently, Canadian citizens with dual citizenships can use the passport of the other country to enter Canada by air if they can provide proofs of residency in Canada, such as a driver’s licence and Canadian citizenship card.

According to the 2011 Census, at least 2.9 per cent of Canadians — 944,700 people — had multiple citizenships; the most frequently reported other citizenships were the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Poland.

Ottawa rolled out the electronic travel authorization, or eTA, system last year, requiring air passengers — including all applicants for study and work permits, as well as those from countries that currently do not require a visa to come to Canada — to submit their biographic, passport and other personal information through the immigration department website for prescreening or face being denied entry. American citizens are exempted.

Airline pilots must have their health and safety respected at all times. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
Jet descending in the sky. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

However, Canadian citizens will be ineligible for eTA of Sept. 30, because they will be expected to carry their Canadian passports which, by default, bar dual citizens from using the passport of the other country to return to Canada. What baffles several observers about the new rule is that it only applies to air passengers.

“This proposed policy change is discriminatory to dual citizens and for the life of me, I cannot see why it is necessary. It would appear to be a money grab with no benefit and huge inconvenience for any of us who live overseas,” said Craig Campbell, 60, who was born to a military family in Manitoba and is a dual Canadian-Australian citizen.

“There is time to fix this appalling discriminatory policy. I served the country of my birth as did my father, uncles, aunts and grandfather before me. This is simply a shameful way to treat one very small category of proud Canadians for no discernible benefit to the country.”

Calgary-born Carey Du Gray, 45, who has lived in the U.K. since 2009, said he only found out about the new requirement when he was trying to book travel two weeks ago to fly home in October.

“My daughters were born in the U.K., but they are Canadian citizens. They would not be able to travel to Canada using their British passports. What lunacy, eh?” asked Du Gray, a fundraising consultant based in London.

“What followed was a 48-hour scramble to get all of the documentation and photos together. The guidance on the (Canadian) website said they were taking up to 40 business days to process new passport applications on account of the flood of them that are coming in ahead of the policy change.”

Canadian expatriate Sandi Logan, who worked in the Australian immigration department, said the requirement on dual citizens’ travel just doesn’t make sense.

“It’s bad policy on so many fronts. It discriminates against dual citizens of Canada for starters. It discriminates against dual citizens of Canada flying into any Canadian port, as opposed to arriving by sea or land,” said Logan, 59, who was born and raised in Toronto before settling in Australia in 1980.

“From my vast bureaucratic experience in the public service, it has all of the hallmarks of being a simple revenue grab masked as ‘border security,’ with no discernible impact on safe and stronger borders.”

(It currently costs $120 for a five-year Canadian adult passport and $160 for one that lasts for 10 years.)

Wemp said the federal government is doing everything it can to raise awareness among dual Canadian citizens about the importance of travelling using a valid Canadian passport.

A handout has been distributed at airports of entry, along with a media and social-media blitz via Canadian overseas missions since March of this year. Global Affairs Canada officials have also notified registered Canadian citizens abroad of the upcoming change by email and through their websites.

“All Canadian citizens have a Charter-protected right to enter Canada. Canadian law requires that all persons entering Canada carry both proof of citizenship and proof of identity,” said Wemp.

“A Canadian passport is the only reliable and universally accepted travel and identification document available to Canadians for the purpose of international travel. As the government does not want Canadians to face travel-related delays, we strongly encourage all Canadian citizens to travel using a valid Canadian passport.”