Tag Archives: law and order

Defining moments in Canada’s identity

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Some may quibble with their methods, means and policy agenda. Others may laud their no-nonsense approach to national governance and economic stewardship. But, as the days begin to set on 2013, all must agree that Canada’s Conservative leadership is not the laissez-faire bunch it once proudly billed itself to be. Far from it.

In fact, no federal government since the early 1960s has spent more time deliberately branding itself and, in the process, redefining what it means to be a Canuck – good or bad.

Even those among us who do not subscribe to such late-model Tory notions as patriotism, self-reliance and personal responsibility as social policy must admit that’s it’s never been easier to answer that perennially posed and quintessentially Canadian question: “Who am I?”

Under the Conservatives, Canada is a law-abiding, right-thinking nation of 33 million souls. Forget the Great White North of old: haven for draft dodgers and Liberal elites run amok. Ours is a nation teetering at the edge of chaos, but for our timely embrace of law and order. Or so says the Department of Justice.

“There were almost two million Criminal Code violations reported to police in 2011,” the web site declares. “There were more than 424,400 violent incidents reported to police in 2011. Violent crime accounted for about one-fifth of the offences reported to police in 2011. Although most types of violent crime decreased or remained stable in 2011, there was a 7 per cent increase in the rate of homicides.

“The total costs of crime have been estimated at $99.6B per year – the majority of which ($82.5B or 83%) was borne by victims: $14.3 billion is directly attributable to tangible costs such as medical attention, hospitalizations, lost wages, missed school days, stolen/damaged property. Productivity losses represent 47 per cent of the tangible costs borne by victims followed by stolen/damaged property (42.9 per cent) and health care costs (10.1 per cent). Total intangible costs (including pain and suffering and loss of life) is $68.2 billion.”

Under the Conservatives, Canada is a natural resources behemoth, ready to flood the world with its oil, natural gas and mineral wealth. Forget the people who once went out of their way to represent themselves as anything but hewers of wood and drawers of water. Or so says the Department of Natural Resources.

“Natural resources are an important part of the fabric of Canada’s economy,” declares the web site. “Natural resources are poised to play an even bigger role in our future. . It’s estimated that hundreds of major resource projects are currently underway in Canada or planned over the next 10 years, worth approximately $650 billion in investment. That $650 billion figure represents hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs in every sector of our economy, in every region of Canada.

“That’s why our Government has a plan to unleash Canada’s natural resource potential. We call it Responsible Resource Development. This plan is streamlining reviews of major projects by ensuring more predictable and timely reviews, reducing duplication, strengthening environmental protection, and enhancing consultations with Aboriginal peoples.”

Under the Conservatives, Canada is a proud country, clearly informed by its history. Forget any notion that ours is the only country in the world that was granted its independence after asking for it politely. Or so says Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the official War of 1812 web site:

“The War of 1812 was a seminal event in the making of our great country. On the occasion of its 200th anniversary, I invite all Canadians to share in our history and commemorate our proud and brave ancestors who fought and won against enormous odds. As we near our country’s 150th anniversary in 2017, Canadians have an opportunity to pay tribute to our founders, defining moments, and heroes who fought for Canada.

“The War helped establish our path toward becoming an independent and free country, united under the Crown with a respect for linguistic and ethnic diversity. The heroic efforts of Canadians then helped define who we are today, what side of the border we live on, and which flag we salute.”

Some may quibble with all of this. Under the Conservatives, however, none remain confused for long.

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Big Brother wants a blood test

The truth has gone to ground

The truth has gone to ground

The only aspect of Canadian Justice Minister Peter MacKay’s flirtation with the notion of sampling and storing the DNA of suspects to serious crimes is its undue caution. Why stop there, with the merely apprehended? Why not cast that genetic dragnet across the entire country, capturing the guilty and innocent, alike?

Somehow, you suspect, that’s an itch he’s just dying to scratch.

“I know there’s always privacy considerations,” he tells the Globe and Mail this week, though he says they are in the background. “It has to balanced in the bigger picture. But I think that, you know, the timing of the taking of DNA is something that could very well emerge in the future as another issue of importance.”

It’s a crying shame, he seems to be saying, that “right now we’re limited to taking it (DNA) on conviction. It could be expanded to take on arrest, like a fingerprint. . .I maintain that, you know, a genetic fingerprint is no different and could be used in my view as an investigative tool.”

Oh really, Mr. Minister?

Here’s what my fingerprints, on file with the RCMP, can tell the cops: My name and address. With this information, they can find me without too much trouble in the time it takes me to plunder my bank account en route to the car dealership.

On the other hand, according to a source in the Guardian not long ago, here’s what my DNA can tell them: The colour of my hair and eyes, my gender, whether or not I am an insomniac, how long I’m likely to live, whether or not I have a propensity towards obesity, the degree to which I am at risk of developing certain types of cancer, Huntington’s Chorea and Parkinson’s disease.

If I am an unwilling guest at one of Canada’s finer penal institutions, then I should properly expect to lose any right to privacy I might have imagined for myself. But if I have not been convicted of any crime – only arrested on suspicion of having committed an offence – what gives the state the prerogative to profile me in such exquisite detail and keep a record of this information until the sun goes nova?

As William Trudell of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence told the Globe, “It’s really sort of cataloguing the innocent. Until someone is found guilty, the presumption of innocence really has to mean something.”

In fact, Mr. MacKay is coming somewhat late to Big Brother’s most recent soiree. This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of law enforcement officials in 28 states to collect DNA from suspects who have not yet been charged of serious crimes. An item in thinkprogress.org states that “the 5-4 ruling overrules a state court determination that Maryland’s DNA collection law permits unconstitutionally invasive searches. . .Justice Antonin Scalia warns in a dissent joined by three of the court’s more liberal justices that the court’s reasoning would apply equally to someone accused of any crime or violation at all: ‘Make no mistake about it. As an entirely predictable consequence of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national DNA database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.’”

The implications have alarmed more than one American jurist. In a commentary, published by the Chicago Tribune last month, former Las Vegas district court judge Jackie Glass observed, “The Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures and requires warrants to be issued based on probable cause. This Maryland v. King decision will allow for warrantless searches to occur based on failed logic. Justice Kennedy and his majority owed American citizens a better justification. Using DNA for standard identification is unnecessary and makes no sense.”

Still, on one level, it makes perfect sense.

In the absence of true leadership, in the presence of failed social policy, politicians are always on the prowl for the enemy within. Now, with a handy DNA test, indiscriminately administered, they can prove that the enemy is us – guilty by association with the code written into our genes.

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