Why do criminal court cases take so long?

Delays in criminal cases have skyrocketed over the past decade, according to Statistics Canada figures just released that show the mean time from an accused person’s first court appearance until a case was resolved leaped from 136 days in 1994-1995 to 197 days in 2002-2003, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 28. “Those statistics are fascinating,” said Ian Greene, political scientist with York’s Faculty of Arts. “A lot of this may be due to administrative cuts that make it harder to ensure the courts are properly staffed.”

Greene said that many justices of the peace are not well trained and may not assign court dates properly: “If they don’t understand the legal issues involved, it can lead to delays.” He explained that tight police budgets have cut the amount of overtime pay available for off-duty officers who have to attend a court case, meaning the case has to be adjourned until they are on shift. In addition, he said, Supreme Court rulings have given judges considerable discretion in deciding what delays are acceptable.

Americans talk tougher on their radio

If you want to hear tough radio, take a drive down the QEW and set your AM radio dial at 550. Compared with the level of chat on Buffalo’s WGR, this town is 100 per cent creampuff, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 28. Greg Malszecki, professor with York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science and the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, says the contrast comes down to a fundamental difference between Americans and Canadians. “When you’re in Fort Erie and you drive across that bridge, you know you’re in a different country,” he said. “If an opinion doesn’t have a considerable amount of zest, energy and extremity then it doesn’t count. Here, a decent, reasonable opinion is more acceptable. There’s something fundamentally decent about the Anglo-Canadian tradition of being realistic about supporting your team. In the States, it’s almost a test of citizenship to be extreme.”

Why are capitalists reinventing Roosevelt?

Eli Schuster, a Toronto-based freelance writer with a master’s degree in political science (’98) from York University, asks why “normally sensible conservatives” including Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, and now Conrad Black have expressed admiration for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in an editorial printed in The Calgary Herald Nov. 28.

Schuster writes: “Having come of age when a quarter of Americans were out of work, Reagan can be forgiven for respecting a fellow optimist, but Lord Black ought to know better. In his just-released biography, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Champion of Freedom, Black praises FDR for ‘overcoming the Depression,’ and calls his subject ‘the saviour of American capitalism.’ Overcoming the Depression? Oh, come on. Over the course of his unprecedented four terms in office, Roosevelt tripled federal taxes, blasted businessmen as ‘economic royalists,’ killed jobs and production by forcing wages and prices above market levels, promoted compulsory unionism through the National Labor Relations Act, and made clear early on that his New Deal was incompatible with a negotiated global system of free trade.”

Union report backs tolls to pay for subway to York

Slapping a toll on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway is the best  route for Toronto to take to pay for its share of any future subway expansion. This opinion is highlighted in a new trade union-sponsored report on public transit improvement, reported the North York Mirror and Scarborough Mirror Nov. 28. The report, Building a Stronger City: Subway Expansion in Toronto, was prepared on behalf of the Universal Workers Union Local 183. It adds its voice to those advocating the expansion of Toronto’s subway system, along both the Sheppard line into Scarborough and the Spadina line north to York University.

On air

  • Chris Sherrin, acting head of Osgoode’s Innocence Project and a PhD student at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, discussed the possible wrongful conviction of James Driskell, who has been released from jail after imprisonment for a murder he denies committing, on “Daybreak” (CFPR-FM), Prince George, Nov. 27.
  • Jodie Warner, reference librarian in York’s Scott Library, was interviewed about changing role and social significance of libraries, and their multimedia and internet resources, in the wake of the Regina Public Library Board’s decision to close three library branches, on the “Murray Wood Show” (CKOM-AM), Saskatoon, Nov. 27.
  • Thabit Abdullah, history professor with York University’s Faculty of Arts, discussed his new book about the history of and recent events in Iraq, on “CH Morning Live” (CHCH-TV), Hamilton, Nov. 27.