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April 2017 Archives

April 2017 Criminal Law Round-up

The federal government announced two pieces of legislation around the legalization of marijuana. The proposed Cannabis Bill would allow for the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, while downloading the sale and regulation of the drug to the provinces. The Liberals also introduced a bill about Impaired Driving, which deals not only with impairment but also of alcohol, and has raised questions as to whether the changes would survive a constitutional challenge.  (See also BC lawyer Sarah Leamon's thoughts on Power and Politics. The bills have raised some important discussions about the criminalization of racialized communities and the prospect of amnesty for past convictions.  

Lessons for Canada from 13th

The Netflix documentary 13th delves deep into issues of criminal justice and the mass incarceration of black people in the United States. Named after the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery with an exception of criminal punishment, the film traces a line through slavery and Jim Crow, through to the 'War on Drugs' and exploding population of black people in custody. The stories in it are at once enraging and heart-breaking. Canadian viewers may be tempted to think that things are better North of the border, and it's true that the statistics here are not quite as staggering. But the reality is that we have a history of racism that is albeit slightly different, given that ours didn't include slavery in the same way. Still, anti-Black racism is alive and well in Canada, not to mention the legacy of colonialization and residential schools. (For an interesting look at racism in Canada, you can see Desmond Cole's documentary 'The Skin We're In.'). What is particularly troubling about the examples in 13th is that many of the laws and policies that are at the root of mass incarceration of black people in the States are neither obscure, nor specific to the U.S. Indeed, many of them are here in Canada, with the same effects.

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