Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Another Route To Justice



Those that follow such things will know that proving police brutality is very difficult. Absent video evidence, the police narrative usually is that the one claiming to have been brutalized was in fact the perpetrator, and charges of assault on police almost invariably result.

Such was the situation that Toni Farrell faced when she was viciously assaulted by OPP Sgt. Russell Watson in 2013, a situation I wrote about in January. Russell's 'crime'? She tried to help police find the three men who had viciously assaulted a woman.

Happily, the charge that she assaulted Watson was tossed out by Ontario Court Justice George Beatty, who ruled that she was only being a Good Samaritan. The SIU chose not to investigate Watson, but relented when the story hit the media.

Knowing that if justice is to be achieved, she must pursue it herself, Farrell is suing Watson, the police force and the local police services board for close to $4 million.
Tonie Farrell, 48, “has sustained permanent and serious injuries including, but not limited to, a fractured leg, crushed knee, lost tooth, as well as bruising, spraining, straining and tearing of the muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves throughout her body including her neck and back,” alleges the statement of claim, filed in Newmarket Superior Court in January.

The OPP “knew or ought to have known that Sgt. Watson had a history of using excessive or unwarranted force but failed to take appropriate steps to address the issue,” the statement alleges. “It continued to employ Sgt. Watson when it knew or ought to have known that Sgt. Watson was a danger to the public.”
Farrell's list of grievances is long:
Farrell is demanding $4 million in general, aggravated and punitive damages, and $100,000 in Charter of Rights and Freedoms damages. Her family members are each asking for $100,000 in damages.

The statement alleges Watson “is liable for the tort of battery,” saying he “owed a duty to the plaintiff . . . not to make harmful or offense (sic) physical contact with her in the absence of legal justification or authority.”

It also alleges that he wrongfully arrested Farrell, that he was “negligent in failing to carry out a reasonable investigation,” and was “actively involved” in the “malicious prosecution” of Farrell.

The statement of claim goes on to allege that Watson “caused and continued prosecution against the plaintiff in order to conceal or obfuscate his misconduct; he deliberately misstated the events in his notes in hopes of securing a conviction; he counseled fellow officers to misstate evidence to the court in order to secure a conviction.”
If anyone is able to break through that thick 'blue wall' the police regularly hide behind, I suspect it will be Toni Farrell.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Some Inspiration From A Clear-Thinking Citizen



That's what I derive from Donald Crump's Star letter. It is a shame more of our fellow citizens are not possessed of such critical faculties:

Increasing risk of terror in Canada
When a government starts making decisions based primarily on getting re-elected, with little regard for what is best for the country, we should all take notice. In Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s view, the fact that a majority of voters support his “war on terrorism” is reason enough for his government to increase the risk that terror will come to our shores. I think we have learned since 9/11 that terrorists cannot be defeated through the normal rules that apply to wars between countries. Rather than feeling safer because our Armed Forces are fighting in the Middle East, we now have a large target painted on our country, a target that gets larger and more tempting with each passing day to those who would do us harm.

I understand the political motivation for our leaders to show decisiveness in the face of a threat, but I don’t understand the blind pursuit of a political strategy that can have no outcome other than to make us less safe and secure. If, as Harper professes, the terrorists hate our freedoms, the measures under Bill C-51 to restrict those freedoms seem to be giving ISIS et al. exactly what they want. Coupling that with attempting to bomb them into submission through military excursions that may be illegal if they include Syria is the height of folly — and arrogance — and will inevitably anger those terrorist organizations and motivate more to join them.

For my part, I would rather live my life in freedom, accepting that occasionally bad things will happen. That is the price of being free and is a price we should all be willing to pay. The remote risk that a terrorist act would affect any individual Canadian should not justify a government creating fear and exaggerating that risk.
It’s time for our government and opposition parties to show leadership and consider effective means to combat terrorist organizations rather than knee-jerk revenge measures and totalitarian restrictions on our rights to be free.

David Crump, Toronto

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Quiet Eloquence Of Harry Smith

His is a quiet eloquence that speaks far louder than all the braying our political 'leaders' engage in with abandon. Harry Smith, about whom I previously posted, is a man who has seen much during his long life. He has seen the worst that happens when society treats the majority of its people with contempt, condemning them to short lives of poverty, illness, and despair. He has also seen the best when society recognizes the obligations government has to the less advantaged through the construction of a comprehensive social safety net. It is the latter that he now sees being steadily eroded, as the neoliberal agenda works hard to return us to that earlier time when only the relatively few mattered, the vast majority abandoned to only their own devices and the charity of individuals to sustain them.

The first video is a trailer for his memoir, Harry's Last Stand, which he describes as
"a rallying cry to a younger generation" to fight for a social safety net "that allows every citizen the right to decent housing, advanced education, proper health care, a living wage, and a dignified old age free of want."

Many of these post-war gains, achieved by his generation after the Second World War, are being clawed back, with the poor and middle class losing more and more ground in the face of growing inequality, says Smith.


The second brief video is a stinging indictment of Stephen Harper's agenda which, despite political rhetoric to the contrary, favours the few while disdaining the majority.
In a blistering attack on the Prime Minister, broadcast Saturday at the Broadbent Institute's Progress Summit 2015, the 92-year-old Smith said Harper "has treated veterans with disdain, intimidated scientists, environmentalists, and most importantly the poor," "robbed the vulnerable" and "enriched the 1% at the expense of the 99%."


All disengaged citizens, especially the young, need to hear Harry Smith's message and act upon it.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mandatory Church Attendance?

I'm sorry. As Johnny Carson used to say, "I do not make these things up, folks, I merely report them."



Perhaps Americans have far more in common with that theocracy in Iran than they realize?

Penetrating The Fog Of War



Today I turn, once again, to Star letter-writers to inspire both sanity and hope in our troubled land:

No ‘middle’ in Mideast war debate, March 25
Prime Minister Stephen Harper bet Canada’s future on oil prices remaining abnormally high. Some economist! Now he is about to order our Armed Forces to take another series of baby steps into that miserable immoral morass known as the Middle East. Why? To distract voters from taking a hard look at his government’s dismal record. History shows banging the drums of war is by far the best way to manipulate people’s emotions. Attacking thoughtful critics for being unpatriotic or cowardly is another ploy used by tyrants and bullies.

Horrendous atrocities have occurred in the Middle East and will continue as long as that region’s despotic quarrelling nations support local terrorist groups. Western governments and their multinational energy corporations have been maliciously meddling in the area for more than a century. If only the seeds of democracy had been planted and nourished during that time. But nobody cared about the ordinary people. The ongoing violence has turned the Arab world into an irrational religious-based kaleidoscope of warring factions. The cradle of civilization is becoming enveloped in a shroud of acrid smoke and the putrid stench of death. Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread.

Lloyd Atkins, Vernon
Harper’s flip-flop on war fits larger pattern of deceit, Column March 26
Haroon Siddiqui speaks volumes when he describes our leader’s ill-conceived venture into Syria. As I flip more pages in the Star and see a country of interracial harmony, I am saddened by the fact that our new generation, which was created by a young nation built with a vision for transparency, peacekeeping and diplomacy, is now relegated to fear mongering and misrepresentation of our foundation.

Peter Keleghan, Toronto

Friday, March 27, 2015

CBC: The Appeasement Continues*



Those who read my blog on a regular basis will know that I have felt disaffected from the CBC for some time. While I am a supporter of public broadcasting and believe in its adequate funding, the CBC's futile policy of appeasing its Conservative overlords has eroded my respect for the institution. As well, the recent imbroglio over Amanda Lang's clear conflict of interest and the Corporation's subsequent whitewash has earned it no brownie points with me.

Over at Canadaland, investigative journalist Jesse Brown has uncovered more damning evidence of decline and rot at the Mother Corp. This time, it has apparently succumbed to outside pressure and scratched from its lineup a documentary entitled Volunteers Unleashed, a program critical of 'voluntourism' that my wife had intended to watch earlier this month. While no explanation was offered, Brown has uncovered that
the reason Volunteers Unleashed was pulled was due to "concerns" raised by Craig Kielburger's Me to We, the for-profit sister company to his Free the Children charity. Me to We pops up a couple of times in Volunteers Unleashed. Kielburger happened to be wrapping a stint as a CBC Canada Reads panelist on the day the doc was set to air.

Officially, CBC says the doc was temporarily pulled due to a "copyright issue" and will be "re-edited and re-scheduled". [In fact, it is rescheduled for April 2] Free the Children similarly told us that it was the CBC's use of "unauthorized footage" that led to their complaint.
Brown also alleges
that Me to We may have also raised the spectre of libel with the CBC over how they were portrayed in the documentary. Kielburger has sued journalists for libel before. We asked both parties if libel came up in this case. Neither answered the question.
The larger issue here, of course, is the very real question of how independent our journalism is.
Free the Children spokesperson Angie Gurley was nevertheless quick to dispel any suggestion that her organization tried to kill a documentary because they didn't like how they came across in it. In fact, she asked us to remove our description of the doc as being critical of their organization.

"No Critical Coverage"

Though Gurley admitted that her camp had not seen the doc, they trusted that "there is no critical coverage of Me to We or We Day in the film" because that's what the CBC told them.

Here is the "unauthorized" footage in question, which we present here under the Fair Dealing exceptions for news reporting and criticism in the Copyright Act. You can judge for yourself if it's critical coverage of We Day or not.



Also, Free the Children's Angie Gurley also told us that the CBC assured her that Volunteers Unleashed "did not include footage of Me to We Trips".

You can see here that this is not true:



Brown asks these pertinent questions:
Exactly how is the footage of We Day or the We to Me Ecuador trip "unauthorized"? CANADALAND has learned that the rights to the We Day footage were licensed from Global TV, and does not belong to Me to We/Free the Children.

Is the CBC going to remove footage of a company scrutinized in their journalism because that company asked them to?
That second question should be answered on April 2. As they say, stay tuned.

* Many thanks to my friend Dave for alerting me to this story.

An Instructional Video

The following has been floating around the Internet for some time, but it warrants renewed circulation, in that it shatters some of the stereotypes about Islam. I would suggest it could edify Prime Minister Harper, but I live in the real world, a world where Canada's leader, for crass political purposes, is intent on demonizing and sowing fears about 'the other' within our midst.

Reza Aslan killed these two "journalists"

You need to watch this! Reza Aslan killed these two "journalists". They weren't able to salvage a shred of dignity because they are simply stupid, ill-informed, racist. Party on CNN!

Posted by Issam Bayan on Wednesday, October 1, 2014