Will rights be ignored in gun crimes?

Courts, particularly in gun cases, have begun to retreat from the idea that tainted evidence should be excluded from trials, legal experts say, pointing to a ruling this week from the Ontario Court of Appeal, wrote The Toronto Star Sept. 7.

"One could easily assert there’s a firearms exception to the exclusionary rule," said Alan Young, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. "Virtually every court is demonstrating a real timidity about excluding guns and they’re going out of their way to demonstrate that reluctance."

The case before the Court of Appeal involved a youth known as L.B., who was found outside Westview Centennial Secondary School with a loaded .22-calibre handgun. He was acquitted three years ago, after a trial judge excluded evidence of the gun, ruling it was seized in an illegal search. In ordering a new trial this week, a three-judge appeal court panel found no evidence of police misconduct.

"The real test in the future is going to be whether the courts exclude a gun after police have unjustifiably beaten a suspect," Young said. "Then we’ll know whether there truly is exclusion of real evidence."

  • A ruling by Justice Michael Moldaver ordering a new trial for a 15-year-old Toronto student accused of carrying a loaded gun and a similar earlier decision by Judge John Laskin last year are being seen as a judicial warned against cheapening the Charter of Rights by throwing out reliable evidence and shielding gun-wielding miscreants, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 7.

    The two judicial statements share a common philosophical theme: simple common sense, coupled with an urgent need to curb violent crime, render it increasingly foolhardy to handcuff the police and exclude reliable evidence.

    James Stribopoulos, a law professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said the judgments read "as if we are at a crisis point where we have to make a choice between civil liberties and protection against the threat of guns. But if you look at statistics, crime is actually down."

    Beleaguered and weary from years of defending the Charter against attacks from the political right, defence lawyers see a horrifying new front opening up. Equally troubling to them is the source of this new attack, a highly influential court that previously has a reputation for blazing a trail when it comes to excluding evidence gained through police trickery or intimidation.

    "There are fears that we are seeing the pendulum swing in the opposite direction," Stribopoulos said.

Hampton would limit subway extension to York University

Ontario NDP Leader Howard Hampton made several promises in an unofficial campaign stop, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 7. Hampton’s promises included fast-tracking investments in public transit projects by putting more money into light rails and GO Transit. Hampton said he would also extend the Spadina subway line north to York University, but not beyond.

Majority of Ontarians willing to pay more taxes for schools, survey says

The majority of Ontarians support increased funding for public schools, and many are prepared to shoulder a higher tax burden, according to a new opinion survey, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 7. The poll of 747 adults was conducted by York University’s Institute for Social Research between January and April. The results are considered accurate to within 4 to 5 percentage points, 95 per cent of the time. The survey, developed by researchers at the University of Toronto, is considered the longest running, regularly administered public opinion survey on education in Canada.

York professor finds uncanny similarities in party platforms

The Ontario Liberal and Conservative election platforms are so "uncannily similar" that they deprive voters of different visions for the province, said a York political science professor, in the National Post Sept. 7. "The promises are so starkly similar. You really wonder whether Ontarians have much of a choice here," said Robert MacDermid, professor in York’s Faculty of Arts.

"Another thing that struck me was how much the Conservative party has moved to the centre. When you compare this to the Common Sense Revolution, it is worlds apart."

Because the platforms do not differ greatly, more attention may be paid to issues where the parties are at odds, such as Progressive Conservative leader John Tory’s promise to bring religious schools into the public school system, he said. "John Tory will be cast as the person who wants to extend education funding to private schools and religious schools. That’s where he cast his die," MacDermid said. "Clearly, McGuinty wants to become the reincarnation of Bill Davis as the education premier."

Fall tennis wonderfully refreshing, serving secrets

This past week Gord Buchan, one of the tennis coaches at York University, put on another clinic for our competitive players at the North Bay Tennis Centre, wrote the North Bay Nugget Sept. 7. Buchan is a top competitive player himself and adds a lot to the player development program.

On air

  • James McKellar, professor of real property in York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about the condominium market in Toronto and the problems of commuting on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” Sept. 6.