Osgoode professor takes issue with Tory on crime

In politics, when reality is not on your side, one option is to manipulate public perception of reality, wrote James C. Morton, adjunct professor and lecturer in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in a guest column for the Toronto Star Aug. 16. At a recent media event on the University Avenue Courthouse steps, Ontario opposition leader John Tory said, “There aren’t enough police on the streets, people have lost faith in our justice system and there is still not a coordinated youth strategy to prevent crime.”

Others allege that dangerous criminals get bail without the Crown opposing. The day after his courthouse steps event, Tory pointed his finger at Crowns and judges. He said, “someone sentenced to three years in jail” only spends “three weeks there because of some deal that has been made,” and, referring to a specific case, said, “I don’t get these judges.”

It is easy to see how the public might conclude that a massive crime wave threatens to swamp Ontario, wrote Morton. Who could have faith in what Tory called a “catch and release” justice system? How easy it is to hit someone who can’t hit back. Whenever people read or hear attacks on Canada’s justice system, they should bear in mind that our judges cannot respond when attacked about why they applied the law as they did. Crown prosecutors face similar constraints. Even defence counsel are limited in what they can say to the media.

On the same day the opposition leader issued a press release about “revolving-door justice,” claiming that “more and more people don’t feel safe,” Statistics Canada published its annual national report on crime. Per capita crime rates were actually down, significantly, with the lowest rates in Quebec and Ontario.

Our judges are famous for their balance and common sense. Our Crowns exercise great care to see justice done, respecting the victim of a crime, society as a whole and the rights of the accused. Canadian defence lawyers act vigorously to protect the accused. This adds up to a pretty good system, wrote Morton. Yes, it can be improved, but not by attacking people who can’t defend themselves or those who are working to improve the system.

Experts wary of lowering age of criminal responsibility

Child development experts are wary about the prospect that the Canadian government may lower the age of criminal responsibility for children from 12 to 10, wrote The Globe and Mail in its online “Update” section Aug. 15. Justice Minister Vic Toews said Monday that children under the age of 12 who have brushes with the law should be dealt with under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

“The issue I’m concerned about it is labelling children offenders and not understanding that, at the age of 10, their cognitive development, their ability to think through issues and understand consequences, is not as advanced as it is after 12, when they start to enter puberty,” said Debra Pepler, professor of clinical developmental psychology in York University’s Faculty of Health. “When they reach 12 or 13, there is a very big cognitive shift, where they’re able to think in the abstract.” Pepler acknowledges that children younger than the age of 12 do get into a lot of trouble – from stealing and fighting, to setting fires – but it is usually less troublesome than when they enter adolescence and can be more effectively nipped in the bud at an earlier age.

TTC faces $1B cash crunch, not including a subway to York

The TTC is rolling toward a $1-billion cash crisis, reported The Toronto Sun Aug. 16. Changes in the provincial funding formula, requests to speed up the purchase of new streetcars, fixing up the Scarborough RT line, ensuring there are enough buses and questions about federal funding have left the TTC facing a huge hole in its five-year capital budget. The other problem is the $1-billion hole doesn’t include any city money for the extension of the Spadina subway to York University announced in the last budget by the province.

Grits’ would-be leader Stephane Dion visited York before heading off to Paris

January 1979. I was 23 years old and I had just finished my master’s in political science at Laval in my hometown of Quebec City, wrote Liberal leadership candidate Stephane Dion in the National Post Aug. 16. I was waiting to start my PhD in Paris the following September – what to do in the meantime? Why not go to this mysterious megacity that we called in Quebec La Ville Reine? So I came to Toronto, knowing nobody or where I would sleep the next night and barely speaking English. I was welcomed into a student co-op and it was an unforgettable experience, in a good way! I not only learned how to speak better English but I learned to cook. In Toronto! The intellectual life was incredible. The Robarts library was an infinite world, York University and the University of Toronto were revelations for me, and I met young people from across Canada and around the world. What a preparation for the ebullience of Paris.

Topless activist from York offends AIDS conference visitor

As men stared in wide-eyed amazement at the tiny, topless woman [identified in the photo caption as a 23-year-old York University student] standing casually in downtown Toronto yesterday, a heated debate raged between an AIDS activist and another sort of activist, reported The Toronto Sun Aug. 16. “Can I tell you something? There are a lot of women with AIDS out here who find it very, very offensive,” said delegate David Miller, 39, outside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, as camera phones clicked furiously and drivers slowed for a peek at “Stephanie,” clad only in white briefs, platform sandals and a fedora-style hat. “A lot of women have to deal with real exploitation. This is very tasteless.” But organizer Steve Handler, 38, who said he’s a financial adviser, stood his ground, arguing his cause – investment fraud – is intimately connected with AIDS.

On air

  • Comments by Trevor Hart, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, were included in a report on the 16th International AIDS Conference being held in Toronto, on Global Television Aug. 15.
  • Debra Pepler, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health and the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, spoke about government proposals to lower the age of criminal legal responsibility to 10 from 12, on Toronto’s CFRB Radio and St. Catharines’ CKTB Radio Aug. 15
  • Paul Delaney, professor in York’s Department of Physics & Astronomy, Faculty of Science & Engineering, discussed whether Pluto should be considered a planet and a report from NASA that photos from the first human moon walk in 1969 are missing, on CTV’s “Canada AM” Aug. 15.