A free nation does not fear the police, writes law prof

As a former prosecutor and defence lawyer I was dubious of police brutality claims. Not any more, wrote James Morton, a Toronto lawyer, past president of the Ontario Bar Association and adjunct professor of evidence at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in an opinion piece published Nov. 26 in the Ottawa Citizen and Nov. 25 in The Windsor Star.  

Stacy Bonds, a young black makeup artist with no criminal history was arrested by Ottawa police, apparently for asking why police had stopped her for questioning. A video of her treatment in police custody is now available on the Citizen’s website. In spite of the lack of violence or aggression, Bonds was assaulted by police. Ontario Court Judge Richard severely criticized police actions at the station, saying it was "an indignity toward a human being and should be denounced."  

As a prosecutor and as a defence lawyer I have heard numerous complaints about police misconduct. To be blunt, I did not believe them, wrote Morton. I know that police have a difficult job. However, the Stacy Bonds case shows a Canadian being mistreated by police in the nation’s capital. Compounding the wrongful behaviour was the laying of charges for the apparent purpose of covering up misconduct.  

How many "assault police" charges are merely trumped up for the purpose of concealing official wrongdoing? Put otherwise, absent a video recording, would Bonds have had a fair hearing? The likely answer is depressing.  

Is the high price of drugs for rare diseases justified?

Health experts wonder whether enough is being done to rein in pharmaceutical companies from gouging the public-health system, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 25. 

Soliris, produced by US pharmaceutical firm Alexion and approved by Health Canada, made headlines this week after Lucas Maciesza, a 26-year-old man in Guelph, Ont., was fighting for his life in hospital because his family could not afford the drug and Ontario refused to cover the costs. The hospital eventually stepped in to pay for the treatment. 

The blame was squarely focused on the provincial government, which has repeatedly come under fire for inequitable access to life-saving drugs. What was missing, however, were questions around the company’s drug pricing.

“If I was in government and had absolute control, I would tell the drug companies that they had to show me the figures to justify the cost,” said Joel Lexchin, a professor in the School of Health Policy & Management in York University’s Faculty of Health. “They’re entitled to a reasonable return, but I certainly wouldn’t start paying that kind of money without seeing some reason why it’s that expensive.” 

Urban farming is sustainable and even profitable

In addition to being sustainable, urban farming has the potential to produce a net economic gain, argued an editorial in the St. Catharines Standard Nov. 26.

Michael Hough, a landscape architect and professor emeritus at York University, documented his financial investment and returns from backyard gardening in his book Cities & Natural Processes. During the 1980s, he documented a monetary gain of $10 per square metre four years after he started, returns that can be expected to increase as food production costs increase.

When space is an issue within urban environments, simple techniques can be utilized to help increase crop yields. One such technique involves stacking tires to create tall planters, allowing crops to grow taller, producing greater droop and doubling crop yields.  

On air

  • York University, McGill University and the University of Western Ontario are collaborating on setting up a network of wind profilers to forecast the weather, reported CBC Radio’s “Morning North” in Sudbury Nov. 25.
  • For football players to look one way then throw another way requires a specific part of the brain, explained Doug Crawford, director of York’s Visuomotor Neuroscience Lab, and postdoctoral student Joost Dessing, on Discovery TV’s “Daily Planet” Nov. 25.