Monday, May 31, 2010

Death for Plants is Insanity

My comment submitted at the end of the article:

Chinese drug traffickers condemned to death

This is a tragedy - no one should ever be put to death for Cannabis! Cannabis is a plant less harmful than alcohol, tobacco and many prescription narcotics that is not worth much - it is only made valuable because of its prohibition. If Government regulated its sale people would not sell it in the black market.

Cannabis is also a medicine that has been used for thousands of years and indeed has helped many people overcome pain from cancer treatments. Cannabis Hemp is also valuable as a food, fabric, paper, textile and biofuel and should be used the world over to help our environment. Shen Neng first wrote about Cannabis in China over 2700 years ago and it is disrespectful to our ancestors to shun and criminalize and kill people over a plant that used to be such an integral part of our lives.

People have been using Cannabis for thousands of years and no laws will ever stop Mother Nature from growing it, or people from using it. The smart thing to do is regulate it so organized crime can no longer profit from its sale.

It is time the "War on Cannabis" is ended and we set all Cannabis prisoners free - it is just not right to kill people over a plant! ~MaryJane Cannabian

Addendum: Please also read a prior post I wrote about other Cannabis sellers put to death "(Selling) Weed Kills - Law, Religion & The War on Cannabis and join the Facebook Group World Against Death Penalty For Cannabis. Thanks, MaryJane

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Black's On Track

I left a comment on the National Post website after reading the brilliant article "Canada's inhumane prison plan" by Conrad Black in todays edition. I've extended it here though to add even more links and info.

I'm thankful that Mr. Black has addressed the Consevative "Tough on Crime!" agenda, it is a subject deserving of the attention of all Canadians. (And just an FYI - over the past 19 years crime in Canada has been declining after a spike in 1991.) As a non-violent offender in an American jail, I believe his POV is something we should take into consideration as the Tories are following down the road of US style Mandatory Minimum Sentences and are also disregarding the time people spend in the harsh conditions of Canadian Correctional Remand Centres. ( Under the newly passed Tory legislation *Bill C-25, remand time will become longer than sentenced time — though remand inmates are still considered to be innocent until proven guilty. There have been preliminary estimates that the total price tag will be between $7 billion and $10 billion over five years. A majority of the costs fall on the provinces.

The Conservatives are blatantly playing "The Fear Card" which would surely make Harry J. Anslinger proud. In Canadian politics the fear-appeal is becoming increasingly rampant and widespread. I ask you to remember the following: whenever you hear any person in a position of legislative power and that person (or party) agitates the public's fear of crime and proposes that supporting a bill will reduce the perceived threat, he or she may be using this tactic as a means to induce fear and to imply that other people or parties are not concerned with crime and community safety.

“Since the Canadian government justifies this criminalization, in part, as a means of protecting our youth, we are standing up and saying, ‘not in our name.’” ~ Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy

and from Stupid Is As Stupid Does:

MP Mark Holland: "The Harper government claims to be "tough on crime," but their discredited U.S.-style policies on crime and punishment are making Canadians less safe.

Their ineffective and costly plan, entitled A Roadmap to Public Safety, should more accurately be entitled A Roadmap to Public Disaster.

Modelled after failed American policies even diehard Republicans now admit are an abject failure, it will result in more prisons and longer sentences, while doing nothing to reduce recidivism. When over 90% of the prison population will be released, the Harper government's failure to seriously invest in vital programming needed for rehabilitation and reintegration, including substance abuse treatment and mental illness care, is nothing short of reckless." -

I'd also like to add that the Consevatives have not produced any evidence or research that proves these "Tough on Crime" measures are effective in keeping people safer or reducing crime. Our neighbours to the South have been down this failed road.... why would Stephen Harper want to follow down the same doomed path, and at great expense to Canadian Taxpayers? (Read "House passes billions of dollars in crime bills, doesn’t know full costs")

I'm no bleeding heart either, I'm a firm believer in harsh and long punishment for criminal perpatrators that truly deserve it - for convictions of murder, rape, vehicular manslaughter, domestic and child abuse, paedophelia, child abduction, etc. - crimes that truly harm the physical and emotional well being of our fellow human beings. But the Tories are not distinguishing the difference between violent criminal acts and non-violent offenses. They are lumping all acts together 'cause you know, that "CRIME!" word is super scary and it's a great vote getter too. They are depending and praying on your fear. Please don't be fooled.

Apologizing for Writing Bad Drug Laws:

18 January 2010 — Former Capitol Hill staffer Eric Sterling discusses the negative effects that drug laws he wrote are having on families and society. Mr. Sterling is now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (L.E.A.P), which any citizen can join for free at . Watch more LEAP videos on their YouTube Channel : CopsSayLegalizeDrugs


"When you come to these kinds of issues, I think a good deal of humility is in order. These reforms have stood the test of time. It was for later generations of politicians to take a more incautious, exclusive, dogmatic stand to treat other opinions as if they were, if not illegitimate at least somehow "beyond the pale," and they polarized opinion. To the extent that opinion was polarized by those, if I may put it this way, on the left, it provoked an equal and opposite reaction from those on the right — wedge issues. Then we come to a situation in which one group of politicians is pointing a finger and saying, "They are soft on crime" with another group saying, "These fellows are hangers and floggers."

It is lunacy. If one hears people saying those things in Parliament, in Canadian politics, about each other, you know you are listening to lunatics. There is no other way of putting it. It is nuts." ~ Senator Murray


*Bill C-25 :
Third reading of Bill C-25, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (limiting credit for time spent in pre-sentencing custody) Statement made on 21 October 2009 by Senator Serge Joyal

Hon. Serge Joyal:

Honourable senators, this issue of Bill C-25 is a serious one. Surrounding this bill there has been a lot of — I will use a word that I do not like to use on the Senate floor — "politicking," which is essentially concentrating attention on political slogans instead of looking at the merits of the bill. My intention this afternoon, in reply to Senator Wallace, is to concentrate on the merits of the bill and avoid any politicking or political slogans.

The problems I have with this bill are threefold. The first one relates to the Charter. This bill has three serious Charter implications. I am not inventing them for honourable senators this afternoon; I draw those conclusions from the testimony of five experts that we heard. I will quote from them later in my intervention this afternoon.

Second, this bill will have a serious impact on the condition prevailing in the prisons for the inmate population and the staff that is there to maintain order and serve them.

Third, this bill will affect drastically the most vulnerable in the prison system, namely, people suffering from mental disorders, Aboriginal people and women. As an aside on the bill's impact, we heard from the president of the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel that it will clog the bail courts. That is not the impact that is wanted by those who drafted the bill. I totally recognize the objectivity of their intentions, but that impact is what we heard from the expert witnesses.

Let me return to my first point: This bill will have serious impact on the Charter and will be open to challenge in the courts.

As senators, it is one of our duties, when we are called upon to support the bill, to question its implications for the Charter. In the respected intervention of our esteemed colleague, Senator Wallace, neither yesterday nor today did he answer those issues that were raised by the witnesses, which the honourable senator well knows — as do Senator Nolin, Senator Angus and Senator Carignan, who sat during the long hours that we spent studying this bill.

Honourable senators, let me report what we heard from those experts. First, we heard from Michael Spratt of the Criminal Lawyers' Association that:

Bill C-25, if passed, will result in constitutional litigation. Bill C-25 offends the Charter. It will have the real effect of doing something that we do not seek to do in sentencing. In sentencing, we seek to treat like offenders who commit like offences in similar ways.

One can imagine a number of scenarios where like offenders who commit like offences and who have like personal circumstances are punished differently. One of those punishments is spending an inordinate amount of time in remand facilities with no programming and harsh conditions, much like the individuals who did not get their bail hearing today. They are not receiving programming. . . .

Pre-sentence detention is not lenient, it is cruel.

The impact of this bill is that it will treat people who are in remand differently than people who will be sentenced, having been freed once the charge is laid. That is one side effect of the bill as it is drafted.

Mark Lapowich, from the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, stated:

I do not think there will be any doubt . . . that there will be Charter challenges. In terms of specific challenges, we can envision challenges under section 7, deprivation of, life, liberty . . .; and a challenge under section 11(b), undue delay. We can see stay applications being brought; and, as was mentioned previously, for cruel and unusual, in terms of your specific point that you raised with respect to how horribly we have done in the past 50 years in relation to upholding treaties that we may be part of.

In other words, there will be Charter challenges on the basis that the sentence applied to one accused will be different from the one applied to another accused with exactly similar circumstances but in a totally different context. That situation offends the natural justice principle that people who are guilty of the same offence under the same circumstances should be given the same sentences and should bear the same consequences.

Let me quote, honourable senators, from another of those representatives from the objective groups that we normally hear from. The secretary of the national criminal justice section of the Canadian Bar Association, Eric Gottardi, said:

I think the prospects of constitutional challenges to the legislation are quite high. I think they could be many and varied. . . . I think the likelihood is quite high that that there will be constitutional challenges of different kinds.

That view is from the Canadian Bar Association.

We then heard testimony from the president of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, Lucie Joncas, who said:

I am also concerned about whether such a practice would be considered constitutional. Given that, in 2000, the Supreme Court recognized that it was perfectly justified, and given that detention conditions at provincial level have deteriorated significantly, I do not see how the practice can be said to be no longer justified.

What are the court decisions that those experts refer to? They are essentially the unanimous court decisions of at least four appeal courts of provinces: the Court of Appeal of Quebec — from which I will quote immediately; the Court of Appeal of Alberta; the Court of Appeal of British Columbia; and the Supreme Court of Canada.

What does the Supreme Court of Canada rule on that principle of one for one — one day in pre-sentence custody versus one day once an offender is sentenced in regular prison?

I quote from the decision of R. v. Wust, a unanimous decision in 2000, at paragraph 45, which states:

In the past, many judges have given more or less two months credit for each month spent in pre-sentencing detention. . . . The often applied ratio of 2:1 reflects not only the harshness of the detention due to the absence of programs, which may be more severe in some cases than in others, but reflects also the fact that none of the remission mechanisms contained in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act apply to that period of detention. "Dead time" is "real" time.

In lay terms, what does that paragraph mean? It means that when someone is in remand custody, that person has no access to rehabilitation programs. The time that person is kept in pre-sentence custody cannot be counted as time toward conditional release — parole release. The person does not benefit from any of those programs that exist once an offender is in prison serving a sentence. The person experiences harsher conditions in pre-sentence custody than if that person is in jail once the sentence has been imposed by the judge. This is an important element and one that the Canadian Bar Association, under the signature of its chair, responded to on September 15, indicating that unjustified disparity in sentencing could result from the passage of Bill C-25.

The Canadian courts have upheld the principle that judges must take into account the different time and the quality of that time when prisoners are held under pre-sentence conditions as opposed to being held in jail. Let me quote the decision of the Court of Appeal of Quebec of 2005, a decision for which appeal was sought in the Supreme Court of Canada, which appeal was denied. In other words, that decision of the Court of Appeal is seen by the Supreme Court of Canada as being definitive. I quote from paragraph 40.

Thus, there are two primary reasons for this practice: the harsher conditions of interim detention and the impossibility of being granted parole during this time. That is why interim detention has become known as "dead time."

One of the most eloquent conclusions of that decision is found at paragraph 42.

Furthermore, the 2 to 1 ratio cannot be considered an advantage for the accused.

This is very important. Some people have the perception that the two-for-one or the one-for-one-and-a-half is a benefit, a premium. With that option comes the perception that it can be stretched, but this is not what the court has ruled. The British Columbia Court of Appeal ruled on a similar matter last year with regard to a decision in August 2008 on the case of R. v. Orr. I quote from paragraph 20 of the decision.

A lesser credit, generally in the ratio amount of one and a half-to-one seems more appropriate where the offender has been held for the pre-sentence period in an institution where post-sentence type programs are available. A refusal by a sentencing judge to allow any credits seems to me an erroneous approach having regard to the majority of existing authorities in Canadian appellate courts and the Supreme Court of Canada.

That is the most recent decision.

In other words, it has been established quite clearly that you have to maintain a balance between the time served in pre-sentence custody and the time served in prison. This bill equates the one-to-one challenges that form the fundamental principle of Canadian courts — the Supreme Court of Canada and all the provincial appellate courts — to rulings to maintain a relationship to the one-for-one principle.

It is easy for public opinion to support the one-for-one principle, but it violates one essential principle: Those in pre-sentence custody do not have the benefit of programs available for rehabilitation to reintroduce them into society. We want released prisoners on the streets to behave like good Canadian citizens.

Honourable senators, that is my first point. There are two other sections of the bill for which the constitutionality has been raised. One was raised by Senator Baker yesterday, the proposed section of the bill that allows the judge, in imposing that kind of sentence, to withhold the reasons. We all know that a sentence is appealable. It is a fundamental principle just as you can appeal the principle that you are found guilty. Those are the fundamental principles of our common-law criminal system. This bill takes away the obligation of judges to justify and explain the reasons for the sentence. That would go against that fundamental principle of our system, and there is no doubt that could be challenged in the court. I will not elaborate by quoting cases in the Supreme Court of Canada because the jurisprudence is clear.

There is another aspect of the bill that could be open to a court challenge, and that is a point Senator Nolin raised with one of the expert witnesses, namely, the arguments as to why a person should be detained in pre-sentence custody. The testimony we received from Mr. Munson on this is clear. If it was interpreted differently than what we were told it could be interpreted as, that could be open to challenge.

There are at least three aspects of this bill that raise important fundamental constitutional issues. That is my first point.

My second point, honourable senators, is that this bill will create more dangerous conditions in Canadian prisons, endangering the health and life of the inmate population as much as the personnel charged with the responsibility of operating the prisons. I am not inventing this situation. We had the benefit of hearing from the Canadian prison ombudsman, a person who is neutral and is there to look into the prison system, receive complaints, evaluate the context into which the prisons operate and make recommendations.

We heard from Mr. Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator of Canada, on September 30. Here is what Mr. Sapers testified during the study of this bill. He said:

. . . Bill C-25 will likely lead to a significant increase in the offender population managed by the Correctional Service of Canada.

I underline "a significant increase in the offender." He continues:

A significant increase in the federal inmate population will affect the safety and security of that population, as well as individual inmates' ability to receive programs and services that will assist their timely and safe reintegration into their home communities.

Listen to this aspect of his testimony.

. . . the current level of tension and violence within Canada's penitentiaries is already excessive. For example, for the first quarter of this fiscal year, the most recent data available, the correctional service reported a staggering total of 2231 security incidents and 577 reported physical injuries to inmates. During this three-month period, the security incidents included assaults on inmates, disciplinary issues, inmate fights, medical emergencies, self-inflicted injuries and three deaths.

That was in three months. Multiply that by four and you will have at least 12 deaths, at least 10,000 security incidents and at least 2,000 reported physical injuries to inmates. Why? Because this bill, when it is implemented, will bring, according to the statistics we received from Statistics Canada justice division, 10 to 12 per cent more inmates into the prison population.

Again, I refer you to the testimony of the ombudsman. "A significant increase in the federal inmate population will affect the safety and security of that population, as well as individual inmates' ability. . . ."

I questioned Mr. Don Head, the Commissioner of the Correctional Service. I have his testimony here. I tried to get from him the percentage of the so-called increase in the Correctional Service of Canada budget that will be devoted to dealing with that influx of 10 per cent more inmates and the consequences that it will have on the safety and the health of inmates and personnel. Here is what I got. Mr. Head answered:

In terms of disclosing the numbers, at this point I cannot disclose them because they are considered to be cabinet confidence.

In other words, honourable senators, we were told that this information was out of our reach in order to determine if this bill would have a severe impact on the health and life of the inmate population, with the proper balance of budgetary investment to maintain the current level of safety, which is critical according to the ombudsman who reported to us.

This is important because it deals with the kind of approach we should have regarding the inmate population. It would be easy, honourable senators, to mount public opinion against the inmate population. "Let us keep them in prison. Let us lock them somewhere and we do not want to hear about it." However, we need to try to understand who those people are. Are they all the Clifford Olsons of this world? Are they all criminals who are beyond the reach of rehabilitation or are there different kinds of citizens among them who are victims themselves, in a way, as a result of the circumstances of family, education, birth and so on?

I want to draw to honourable senators' attention that this bill will have a disproportionately severe effect on the vulnerable populations in the prisons. Who are they? It will be surprising for you, honourable senators, to understand that it will be the offenders suffering from mental disorders.

The population of our prisons is composed mainly of Aboriginal people. About 20 per cent of Canadian inmates are of Aboriginal origin. They form 3 per cent of the Canadian population and yet they form 20 per cent of the inmate population. In Saskatchewan, it is as high as 80 per cent and above 50 per in Manitoba.

In other words, we are dealing with offenders with significant social backgrounds. One cannot just say, "We will lock them up and forget the key and, when they get out, everything will be fine."

Again, I quote from Mr. Sapers, the ombudsman, who reported that:

This is of importance to the study of Bill C-25 because offenders with mental illnesses and cognitive difficulties are often held in pre-trial custody. We know that the prevalence of offenders with significant mental health issues upon admission has doubled in the past five years.

In fact, another witness stated that the ". . . Aboriginal adults admitted to remand custody increased by 23 per cent compared to a 14 per cent increase in the total remand admission rate over that same period."

In other words, we are putting more Aboriginal population in prison and remand. This is a serious problem, honourable senators, if we add that to the people suffering with mental disorders. The problem with people who are affected by mental disorders is that, as Mr. Sapers stated, "Federal prisons are now housing the largest psychiatric population in the country. . . ." It has doubled in the past five years. If one was to ask where are the majority of the Canadians who suffer from psychiatric problems, the answer would be that they are in prisons. They are not in psychiatric institutions or under the kind of care that one would like to have if someone in their family suffered from a psychiatric disorder.

Mr. Sapers also stated:

. . . despite the need, the capacity of the federal correctional system to respond to and treat mental illness is largely reserved for the most acute or seriously chronic cases — those receiving psychiatric treatment in one of the five regional treatment centres. Most other mental health problems receive limited clinical attention, at best.

This means that, when those people have served their time, they are released onto the street with no real capacity to reintegrate into a normal course of life. It is so much so that the accessibility to rehabilitation has been severely cut by the lack of funds.

Let me quote from Mr. Zinger, the Executive Director and General Counsel of the Office of the Correctional Investigator. He testified at the committee:

The Correctional Service allocates only two per cent, under $41 million of a $2.1 billion total annual budget, to offender programming.

For now, offenders have to contend with long waiting lists for programs and with cancelled programs because of insufficient funding or lack of trained facilitators.

They also have to deal with delayed conditional release because of the service's inability to provide the timely programs they require.

They must therefore serve longer time before parole consideration.

In other words, there is not enough capacity to offer the programs that would help those inmates to reintegrate into normal life.

Honourable senators, you will understand those aspects of Bill C-25, outside the hoopla of the political game of name-calling and trying to address emotion rather than the substance of this bill, is very serious.

I will conclude by referring to another witness whom we hear from very rarely at the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. I have been serving on that committee for 12 years now and we have never heard a representative of the Crown counsel. Why? Of course, the Crown counsel is the Department of Justice, either provincial or federal. It is the government. This time, we heard from the President of the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel, Mr. Jamie Chaffe. It was extraordinary to have him testify. He said that, from his association's perspective, it was certain that there would be an increase in the workload in the bail system. That could only be reasonably expected since part of the sentencing process would be imported into the bail hearing itself, which would likely be fully litigated by defence counsel and the Crown. In other words, by trying to alleviate the condition in the remand centre, we will be clogging the bail court.

Mr. Chaffe was questioned by all of us around the table because it was such an important element to consider before supporting this bill. We thought this information had to be shared with all senators in this chamber before voting on this bill.

I do not doubt that the intention of the government to try to frame the discretion of the judges is a legitimate objective.

However, when it is framed in a way that there are unintended consequences in the system, either in the courts by clogging the bail courts or in the prisons by creating more dangerous conditions, and by putting the weight on those who are the most vulnerable, the result might not be the one contemplated at the beginning. There has to be the proper commitment of budget and human resources, and the proper capacity of monitoring such that this initiative will be sound, humane and will serve the objective, which, as Senator Wallace has said, is to increase safety and security in Canada.

Honourable senators, that might be a different tone than what you have heard in the hoopla surrounding the debate on this bill. However, those are the serious considerations that I thought were useful to bring to your consideration before you vote on this bill later today or this week.

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, if Senator Watt is to enter the debate, I want to ask some questions.

Thank you, Senator Joyal for that presentation. This topic is not new to this chamber or the committee.

In 1994, the Minister of Justice Allan Rock — I see a senator on the other side nodding in agreement — who came from Toronto, raised the issue for the first time because of the overcrowding of the court system in terms of bail, remands and prisons. The rationale for that decision taken by the Minister of Justice was that the court system and jails in Toronto were overcrowded. It was going from bad to worse. There was agreement on both sides at the time that this bill needed remediation.

Having said that, it is my understanding that the court system in Ontario — the province I represent — is worse today than it was then. I look at other members from Ontario. They should take a look at this question before they opine on this bill. I think they will come to the same conclusion. The court system in Ontario is worse today in terms of clogging the courts, reasonable remands and bail. Prisons are also more crowded today than they were 14 years ago.

Did this evidence come forward to the committee as to whether there were budgets available at the provincial, municipal and federal levels to expand space availability in prisons that will be required if this bill goes into effect?

Senator Joyal: Honourable senators, I will quote Ken Crawford, corrections staff representative from the Winnipeg Free Press on the sixth of this month:

All provincial jails within this province are presently overcrowded. . . . Our institutions are at the breaking point.

The honourable senator was talking of Ontario; this article is from Manitoba. The newspaper was reporting about a mutiny in the correctional centre in Brandon. The article continued:

They'd like to see trailers to house at least 200 people in order to ease overcrowding. The trailers can house 20 to 60 people, said the union

The article goes on to quote Peter Olfert, Manitoba Government and General Employees Union president:

(The province) are looking as moving as quickly as they can to provide portable units.

In other words, this problem is not peculiar to Ontario. It is the same in Manitoba, according to what I read. I would say it is the same in Quebec.

If I remember correctly, in June, a front page article in La Presse described conditions in the provincial prisons. Although some provinces might have announced budgetary initiatives, construction will not keep up with the increase of population we will experience by adopting minimum sentences, or by the fact that remand population will increase. This increase is not because people want to stay in prisons, but because cases are more complex. That is the witness testimony we heard. Cases are more complex, hearings are longer and personnel in the courts are not always available. A clogging of the court system exists generally, and it needs a massive injection of funds.

We have to take into account that element of reality with all the bills we are requested to vote on. We continue to add to a system that is already cracking all over the place. At a point in time, we must understand that what we do may have an unintended adverse effect because we are creating additional pressure in the whole system.

Senator Grafstein: Honourable senators, I have another question relating to Toronto and my province of Ontario. It is my understanding that the urban Aboriginal population in Toronto is the largest in Canada in absolute numbers. While there is a problem in Regina, Winnipeg and other places in the West, the largest problem in quantitative terms is in Toronto.

Senators from Toronto will know the statistics well when we talk about the homeless. At least two thirds of the homeless on the streets in Toronto are Aboriginal. Of the Aboriginal community on the streets, about two thirds of them — maybe more — are on the streets because of psychiatric or emotional problems. This information is confirmed in a report.

Again, we have a more intense problem in Toronto. I assume the committee sorted this problem out as well. When we come to the question of bail, remand or incarceration, Toronto now has probably the largest proportion of Aboriginals convicted in Canada without any remediation.

Did this issue arise in the committee study? Have you any comments about that issue?

Senator Joyal: We did not hear any witnesses from the Aboriginal community. I want to put that information on the record. We did not hear representatives of the Assembly of First Nations, other national groups that represent Aboriginal people or provincial groups like the Cree or Innu of Quebec.

The issue came to us as a side issue. As I mentioned earlier, we will create additional pressure on the system. Our colleague, Senator Watt, who intends to speak this afternoon on this issue, is a member of the committee. He has raised this issue regularly with the witnesses. At a point in time, that problem must be addressed. It cannot be ignored. It is the major problem of the Canadian inmate population.

At this stage, we could not study more than the purpose of this bill and the reference we received from the Senate, which was to study the scope of the legislation.

Senator Grafstein: Finally, we have been confronted in the past — I look at new senators in regard to this problem — with a situation in the criminal justice system and other places where a bill is not in sync with the economic reality. I suspect and assume this bill is not.

Did the committee — all members of the committee — give any consideration to suggesting an amendment that will allow the bill not to come into effect if it is passed until such time as Her Majesty the Queen and cabinet can be satisfied that there are adequate facilities both at the court level and in the prison system to accommodate the increase in prisoners incarcerated?

Senator Joyal: The answer is no, honourable senators.

I mentioned earlier, Don Head, Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada appeared as a witness. He is the "big boss" of the prison system in Canada. We tried to obtain the figures and statistics on how much of the budget will go for bricks and mortar and how much will go to rehabilitation programs, training, personnel, et cetera. We could not obtain proper detail on those figures. Mr. Head told us those figures were deemed confidential documents. To answer your question, yes, the figures exist somewhere, but they were not made available to us.

Please click here to read the full text of this debate

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hey Canada! It's Important to Save Our Farms!

While this post doesn't discuss prohibition specifically, I feel it is a very important topic for Canadians to be aware of so I've decided to include it here on my blog as it speaks to the benefits of rehabilitation programs as opposed to the Conservative punish happy ideology.

"The decision to shut down this successful rehabilitation program symbolizes our government's lack of understanding of what actually makes the public safe, and their failure to recognize the value of a restorative approach to justice and a sustainable, local approach to the future of farming and food." ~ Save Our Prison Farms National Campaign

Photo from NUPGE article Major campaign launched to save prison farms - "Dating back to the 1880s, the program includes two operations in the Kingston, Ont. area, and others near Dorchester, N.B., Stony Mountain, Man., Prince Albert, Sask. and Innisfail, Alta."

~SAVE OUR FARMS! - The ‘Save Our Farms’ campaign was launched by the men and women who oversee, instruct and work with inmates in federal prison farm programs, members of the Union of Solicitor General Employees (USGE-PSAC). They welcome the support of national, regional and local organizations that have an interest in a safe, secure and sustainable food supply. Also read "THE FUTURE OF PRISON FARMS II" and III which also includes great audio interviews. Please be sure to take notice of all the awesome links in the sidebar as well.

According to one retired Corrections employee, it would seem that the farm program has a proven track record for its rehabilitative impact. Of the 50-plus inmates that were released during his employment at Frontenac Institution, not one reoffended. Perhaps there is something to be said for a program that promotes accountability through work that heals and helps one along the path to become a better human being.

The Conservatives don't blink an eye at spending at least 1.1 BILLION dollars of taxpayer money on the G8/G20 Summits - but $4.1 million for a program that helps inmates develop valuable life skills that they can use upon release into the community while at the same time providing food for correctional centers gets wiped out - "When they start buying that food (after the program ends) it will cost them at least 50 per cent more on top of what they’re spending." (Tony Abreau, relief instructor for Corcan). And a dairy farmer asked if they planned to import that produce from the US. No officials could answer that question.

"The Conservative government said that it will sell off the prize dairy herd at Frontenac Institution this June, effectively putting an end to the 50-year-old facility. The Frontenac farm supplies milk and eggs to federal prisons in Ontario and Quebec. " - Sludge issue could be costly for prison farm closure, memo indicates

Keep prison farms open, Liberals urge By Rick McGee
Tuesday, May 11, 2010


OTTAWA – Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is warning against the Harper government’s decision to cut Canada’s federal prison farms, and is calling for an immediate independent review of the program before prison farms are permanently closed.

“Prison farms benefit everyone involved in them: farmers, corrections workers, and inmates,” Mr. Ignatieff said. “Because Liberals recognize the necessity of rehabilitation programming for preventing repeat offenses, we are demanding an immediate review, in the hopes of preventing the Conservatives from closing these farms.”

Last year, the Harper government announced their plan to phase out six prison farms that currently employ 300 federal prisoners. Last month, the House of Commons Public Safety Committee asked the government to release the strategic review of prison farms from the Department of Correctional Services.

Liberals are calling on the government to wait for the independent review to be completed before moving forward with the closure of any prison farms. The Conservative decision to close prison farms would likely be irreversible, as land and equipment will be sold for other uses.

“The Harper government only cares about locking more people up and throwing away the key in their planned super prisons,” said Liberal Public Safety Critic Mark Holland. “They’ve ignored the fact that inmates working on prison farms develop critical life and employability skills that reduce their risk of re-offending after release – helping to prevent crime and protect our communities.”

There are six prison farms in Canada -- two within the city limits of Kingston, and one each in New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The prison farm program is considered an extremely effective rehabilitation and training program that contributes to public safety and that also provides food for federal and provincial inmates.

Mr. Ignatieff is calling for the Harper government to wait for an open and transparent independent review of the prison farm programs operated by the Correctional Service of Canada that will consider:

• The value of farm employment and training of inmates;

• The impact of the closure on rehabilitation programs;

• The influence that employment in the farm environment has on recidivism;

• The impact that farm closures have had on local agriculture economies; and

• The increase in the cost of operating prisons which are no longer able to purchase food products from prison farms.

“Local farmers appreciate the benefits of these productive prison farms for stimulating the local economy,” said Liberal Agriculture Critic Wayne Easter. “Unlike the Conservatives, our party recognizes the importance of these farms to helping offenders get back on the right track, and for supporting the communities where prisons are located.” - Fin

Sadly, Liberal MP Mark Holland was even denied in the House of Commons today when he requested an emergency debate to discuss the tragedy of the closure of the Prison Farms Program.

While I can report on the views of politicians regarding the closures, here's a great citizen "Letter to the Editor" from the Kingston Whig Standard worth a reprint:

Recently, I attended a public meeting in Kingston that addressed the current issue of prison farm closures.

Of particular interest was the impending closures of farms at Pittsburgh and Frontenac institutions.

This forum was an opportunity to hear MPs Wayne Easter, Liberal agriculture critic, and Mark Holland, Liberal critic for public safety, reflect on their recent tour of four of Canada's prison farm facilities.

Both were impressed with these operations; especially the two in Kingston. When they had an opportunity to speak with some inmates who worked on these farms, they noted their strong work ethic and sense of pride.

They also noted the broad skill set they were acquiring through such work.

According to one retired Corrections employee, it would seem that the farm program has a proven track record for its rehabilitative impact. Of the 50-plus inmates that were released during his employment at Frontenac Institution, not one reoffended. Perhaps there is something to be said for a program that promotes accountability through work that heals and helps one along the path to become a better human being.

Working the land, being responsible for the livelihood of animals, and broadening one's skill set, is a meaningful way to reach this end. The rehabilitation of inmates is crucial, as most will at some point be released into society. What kind of neighbour would you like?

The government has claimed that $4 million is lost annually by keeping these facilities open. What evidence is there of this? Perhaps we could speculate how much more might be lost if they were to tender food -- currently produced by the prisons -- to other providers (perhaps not even Canadian). Not only do these farms feed all of the inmates from these prisons and others, but they also donate a few hundred dozen eggs annually to the food bank. Uniquely, Pittsburgh Institution boasts an abbatoir as well; whose services are relied on by approximately 150 businesses in the Kingston area.

If a super prison -- which would house inmates from all levels of incarceration -- were to be built in place of these prison farms, the rehabilitative benefit of inmates would be significantly reduced. This style of institution has been tried in the U.S. and was unsuccessful. They now recognize the wrong-headedness of this direction. Why then would we want to follow in failed footsteps?

Finally, how can we, in clear conscience, sacrifice land, classed as prime agricultural, when fertile ground is being eaten up by development on a daily basis? Can we really afford to keep relying on other countries to feed us? This seems unconscienable, given the issue of food security and the ongoing oil crisis. Does this really make financial sense? Are we that removed from our roots? ~ By Sue Peters Inverary

From the Save Our Prison Farms National Campaign (*PLEASE* visit the site):

This new Save Our Prison Farms website has been set up by the national campaign team to respond to growing public concern over the immanent shut down of Canada's six prison farms. We believe that our government will reverse its misguided policy decision as it continues to discover that the vast majority of Canadians of all political stripes support this productive, cost effective, rehabilitative farm-based program.

Opportunities for you and/or your organization to get involved are listed on the You Can Take Action page.

This campaign is a lightening rod for addressing the Conservative Party's generally short-sighted policies on farming, food and justice. The decision to shut down this successful rehabilitation program symbolizes our government's lack of understanding of what actually makes the public safe, and their failure to recognize the value of a restorative approach to justice and a sustainable, local approach to the future of farming and food.

Upcoming Campaign Events

Save Our Prison Farms Information and Action Meeting

Thursday, May 27th, 7:30pm - Perth, Ontario

Perth Lions Hall, Perth Fair Grounds

Speaker include: Mark Holland, Liberal Public Safety Critic; Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Green Party of Ontario; Dianne Dowling, National Farmers Union, Local 316 President; John Williamson, Frontenac Federation of Agriculture, Past-president.

Recent Media Coverage

May 17, 2010 - Telegraph-Journal, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, story: New Brunswick's only prison farm still fully operational

May 12, 2010 - CKWS Television, Kingston, Ontario, video news report: Spin offs from prison farms - food bank, farm supply businesses

May 11, 2010 - CKWS Television, Kingston, Ontario, video news report: On recent campaign events in Athens and Napanee, Ontario

May 11, 2010 - Liberal Party of Canada, Press Release: Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff denounces the planned prison farm closures and calls for a public inquiry

May 6, 2010 - Kingston Whig Standard, Kingston, Ontario, story: Ex-inmate makes personal plea to keep farms

May 5, 2010 - The Globe and Mail, story: Critics claim closing prison farms would create $1-million milk bill

Please contact Members of Parliament and let them know you support the continuation of the Prison Farm Program in Canada. Thanks, MaryJane


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Side Effects May Include...Coma or Death?!

Side effects for Big Pharma drugs highlight the hypocrisy of Cannabis prohibition - if drugs with side effects like the ones in these videos can be sold legally then every health/harm arguement for keeping natural non-toxic Cannabis illegal is moot in my books.

"No one knows exactly how Depakote works" - Wait, what?

Side effect of blue or yellow skin...

And this drug is for.... thicker eyelashes?

Also read:
Big $$$, Big Pharma , Gossip Folks and

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bill S-10 ~ New Name For Bad Law

"Under the Conservatives "mandatory minimums" law, making pot brownies in your own home will get you a
~ Dana Larsen, ENDProhibition

The Conservative Government has reintroduced Bill C-15 - but wait! It has a shiny new number! Ladies and gentleman, courtesy of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, here comes Bill S-10!

Bill S-10: Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Marijuana


Even though... Study of Studies: Drug Prohibition Key Source of Violence and Crime

At first, the press warned us it was coming: Tories may revive minimum pot sentences as part of tough-on-crime agenda

"Justice Minister Rob Nicholson dropped broad hints Sunday that the new legislation would revive a controversial provision — a mandatory six-month sentence for people convicted of growing as few as five pot plants."

I repost from a commenter:

Re: Tories may revive minimum pot sentences as part of tough-on-crime agenda, May 2

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says that Bill S-10 is aimed at gangs and organized crime. Why then, does he support this bill that will give more power and profits to gangs and organized criminals, while targeting people who grow more than five cannabis plants? Small growers should be regulated, licensed and taxed — not jailed — so that people with chronic pain, HIV, AIDS, MS and cancer aren’t forced to buy cannabis from street gangs. At a time when the rest of the world is moving forward to legalize cannabis, our government is moving backward. Our politicians’ inability to distinguish between cannabis and dangerous drugs like cocaine will be a costly mistake — in dollars and human lives.

Janice Barton, Scarborough

....."Our politicians’ inability to distinguish between cannabis and dangerous drugs like cocaine will be a costly mistake — in dollars and human lives."

It already has Janice, it all ready has.

More regarding Bill S-10 (C-15)

Time to rethink Canada's Drug Strategy - Libby's letter to the Minister of Justice
March 25, 2009

Ontario says feds should pay for any extra jail costs due to sentencing law

Drug bill fills gang coffers

Google Search for all past month results for Bill S-10.

Number of women going to prison jumps 50%
- and if Bill S-10 passes, expect that number to rise higher!

Canada: Conservatives Push For Stiffer Pot Penalties For Renters

Again, I ask Canadians to become familiar with Bill S-10 and contact your MP and Canadian Senators with your concerns and objection to the Bill. The last thing the Tories want is informed voters, this "Tough On Crime!" Bill will have a direct negative impact on your lives, neighbourhoods, and your bank accounts. Become actively involved in fighting prohibition, the best thing you can do (outside of overgrowing the government) is to get involved politically by writing and voicing your opinion to those MP's who support the draconian law of prohibition. Please visit and for all the info on Bill S-10 along with convenient pre-written letters to email and send your Senators and MP's.

Please also revisit my main post regarding Bill C-15, as it also applies to Bill S-10: Calling the Tories Out on Bill C-15 - "The Politics of Fear" and Why Did Liberal MPs Support Bill C-15? - yes, they unfortunately passed it through the House of Commons before and they too need to be questioned about their support for the Bill. Read House passes billions of dollars in crime bills, doesn't know full costs about their reaction to S-10 so far.

I'd also like to add that this is what happens when the War on Drugs (People) gets nasty, American style. So be prepared Canadians, Bill S-10 will put us right smack dab where this poor Missouri family has been, all over a small amount of Cannabis.

Addendum - Duffy's the real Dope, I'll stick with Craig Jones, thank you very much. And by the way, our neighbours to the south who have literally 4 more decades of harsher drug laws and Mandatory Minimum Sentencing experience than us have figured out that the: "Drug War Continues to Fail Spectacularly - AP: IMPACT: After 40 years, $1 trillion, US War on Drugs has failed to meet any of its goals. I've said it before, Those Who Forget History Are Doomed to Repeat It.