Truscotts still have ‘a dangling loose end’, says York law professor

Of all the issues confronting the Ontario Court of Appeal in Steven Truscott’s case, the most difficult may be whether to issue a declaration of his innocence, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 28, before the court issued its acquittal, without such a declaration, later in the day.

Truscott, 62, wants nothing less from today’s landmark ruling, said the Star. But even if the panel of five judges believes he is factually innocent of Lynne Harper’s 1959 murder, it would be extremely unusual for a court to make such a finding, particularly in a case so fiercely contested by the Crown, says Alan Young, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

"It’s a reasonable request," said Young. "An acquittal is close to complete vindication, but without that statement that an acquittal is being entered on the basis of innocence and not lack of proof, they (the Truscotts) still have a kind of dangling loose end and they want the court to say something more than ‘something went wrong at the trial’."

In cases of long-standing wrongful convictions, an appeal court would be more inclined to set aside the conviction and enter a stay-of-proceedings because of the difficulties in conducting a new trial so many years after a crime has taken place, he said. The court’s options include upholding the conviction, setting aside the conviction and acquitting Truscott, ordering a new trial or staying the proceedings. None of the last three are vindications, Young said. "We actually don’t have anything of that nature. Even a pardon isn’t a vindication. You can be pardoned, with the passage of time, because of good behaviour."

The dirty facts about uranium mining

Uranium mining is associated with pollution of surface and groundwater with radionuclides, toxic heavy metals and more conventional pollutants, wrote Mark Winfield, a professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, in a letter to the Toronto Star Aug. 28. In fact, Environment Canada and Health Canada have determined that the effluent from uranium mines and mills meets the definition of a toxic substance for the purposes of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Uranium mining and milling operations are also associated with the release into the atmosphere of radionuclides, volatile organic compounds, smog and acid rain precursors, and greenhouse gases. Fish, wildlife and plants in the vicinity of uranium mines have been contaminated by radioactive materials, principally contained in wind-blown dust from mine sites, to the point of posting significant health risks to consumers of certain types of "country" food, wrote Winfield.

Existing uranium mines and mills in Canada produce more than 600,000 tonnes of tailings and up to 18 million tonnes of waste rock that is radioactive and conventionally hazardous. These wastes will require care virtually forever, with the result that uranium mine waste-storage facilities have been described as "perpetual environmental hazards".

The impacts of mining increase with the use of lower-grade ores, as more rock and ore must be mined and processed to produce the same amount of concentrate. This is a significant consideration in Ontario, as former sites described in the article were abandoned due to declining ore quality.

Parliament called upon to probe Tory ads

The Liberals will ask Parliament to examine whether the Conservatives broke election laws when they gave money to candidates, then immediately took it back to buy regional advertising, wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 28. The request that the House of Commons Procedure and House Affairs Committee review the matter comes as the Commissioner of Canada Elections conducts a separate investigation to determine if the Tories’ actions allowed the party to exceed its $18.3-million campaign-spending limit.

Fred Fletcher, University Professor emeritus of mass communications and political science in York’s Faculty of Arts, said the money would have allowed the Conservatives to do regional advertising without having to use the national budget. It’s not unusual "that the parties would look for loopholes," Fletcher said. Parties are doing much more regional advertising, he said. And "in principle, the more you spend, the better bang you get, all things being equal."

Lindsay meeting on Electoral Reform

A referendum will be held on Election Day, Oct. 10, to decide whether Ontario should adopt the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system, wrote the Lindsay Post Aug. 28. A public meeting to address the issue will be held on Aug. the 29 at 7pm at Victoria Manor at 220 Angeline St. S. in Lindsay. Bob MacDermid, a professor of political science in York’s Faculty of Arts who resides in the Haliburtons, will initially provide an international overview of proportional representation in general.

On air

  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about the sale of Stelco to US Steel, on CBC Radio Aug. 27.