The city of Toronto was shaken this month after a van mowed down pedestrians on Yonge St, killing 10 people. The suspect was apprehended without incident, and Cst. Ken Lam is being praised for his cool-headed response in de-escalating the situation and effecting the arrest. The issue of use of force by police was highlighted earlier in the month by CBC, who created a database of every person in Canada who has been killed by or died following police intervention, from 2000 to 2017. The research uncovered, not surprinsingly, that the vast majority of those who died due to police interaction suffered from substance abuse or mental health problems, and that the majority died by gunshot. It also highlights disparities in race and ethnicity.
Senator Kim Pate announced that she will be tabling a bill to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences. The Liberal government has not fulfilled its promise to do so, and you can read some of my thoughts on the impact of lack of discretion for judges in sentencing here.
Ontario announced new model for justice in Toronto, where it proposes to establish justice centre. The “Urban Community Justice Centre” will combine various services, including mental health, housing, addictions, and social services in an aim to reduce the over-representation of marginalized, racialized and Indigenous communities in the criminal justice system.
While it hardly qualifies as news, this month marks 5 years of waiting by advocates for changes in record suspensions (or pardons). In her recent op-ed, Samantha McAleese of the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project outlines the impacts of the reforms to the Criminal Records Act and the frustrating lack of change.
In the sentencing decision of R v. Jackson, Justice Nakatsuru of the Superior Court of Justice, took judicial notice of the difficulties faced by African Canadians, and the systemic discrimination that has lead to their over-incarceration. His Honour stopped short of ruling that the background of African Canadiasn should automatically be taken into account, such as with Indigenous people (something that Robyn Maynard made a case for in her book Policing Black Lives), the decision is an important recognitions of the need to look at the context of racism in sentencing.
The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and sentence of Toronto Police Officer James Forcillo in R v. Forcillo. The case stems from the 2013 shooting of Sammy Yatim on the TTC. The Court of Appeal noted that the conviction for attempted murder and acquittal for murder was an unusual, if not unique verdict, but found that it was properly available to the jury. Read more about the decision here and listen to defence lawyer Daniel Brown discuss the case here.
The Supreme Court released its decision in R v. Magoon, where it upheld convictions in the deaths of a young girl, finding that the analysis of forcible confinement must take into account the vulnerabilities of a child.