Civil Rights

Clearer rules needed for facial recognition technology

February 28th, 2020 by Michael Hackl

A version of this article was first published on rabble.ca

In a previous column, I wrote about the dangers that some police technology poses for civil liberties. In that column, I addressed police use of a computer program that claims to identify geographic areas that are more likely to experience crimes in order to direct police resources to those areas. Now, with Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders’ recent admission that some officers in the Toronto Police Service have been using a piece of facial recognition software called Clearview AI (named for the company that developed the software) since at least October 2019, we have another example of how law enforcement can use technology in a way that seriously threatens our civil liberties.

Clearview AI has apparently mined the internet for billions of photos of people, largely from social media sites and the open web, whereas other companies providing facial recognition technology to police rely upon government sources such as mugshots and driver’s license photos. Continue reading “Clearer rules needed for facial recognition technology” »

Video: “Cannabis legalization and policy implementation: what’s next?”

October 18th, 2019 by Iler Campbell

A recording of lawyer Michael Hackl’s presentation on cannabis and housing is now online. You can download a copy of the slideshow here. Workshop description below:

It has now been about a year since recreational cannabis was legalized. Some of the questions and concerns raised by housing providers leading up to that change were hard to answer as there was not yet any guidance from courts or tribunals as to how they would deal with such situations. While there are still issues that have not yet been tested before a court or tribunal, we do know more than we did a year ago. This session discusses some of the developments that have taken place since the legalization of cannabis, how some housing providers are dealing with questions, and what the past year of legalized cannabis means for housing providers moving forward.

Some positive steps, but more work needed to improve Canada’s prisons

August 29th, 2019 by Karly Wilson

This article was first published on rabble.ca 

If the allegations against American billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein were not alarming enough on their own, his story became even darker earlier this month when, on the morning of August 10, he was found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York from an apparent suicide. His death dominated the news cycle, causing outcry across the political spectrum over the quality of the security at the prison, the frequency with which guards checked on his safety, and why he was taken off  suicide watch despite having an apparent attempt just weeks earlier. To those who have kept an eye on the American carceral system, however, this was a pretty typical day, just with more news coverage.

The varied and systemic problems with prisons in the U.S. are not new, and they are not improving. In the past year alone, the U.S. prison system has frequently been in the headlines, from investigations into the extreme violence in Alabama state prisons, to the weeks-long power outage this winter in Brooklyn, to the high-profile murder of South Boston mobster James (Whitey) Bulger during a routine transfer. Underfunded, filled-to-bursting from the effects of mandatory minimums in the war on drugs, and guarded by a handful of underpaid workers struggling to stay safe and make ends meet — the violence within U.S. prisons is as horrifying as it is unsurprising.

But what about Canada?

Continue reading “Some positive steps, but more work needed to improve Canada’s prisons” »

Legal aid is important. Ford government’s cuts will hurt us all.

June 13th, 2019 by Brynn Leger

The Ontario government announced considerable cuts to funding Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) as part of its first budget released in April 2019. The budget cuts provide for a nearly 30% reduction in the government’s funding to LAO, which will increase to a 40% cut in future years. LAO funds legal services for those who cannot afford representation in Ontario. They do this by providing certificates to lawyers to compensate them for representing individual clients, primarily in criminal and family law matters. They also fund community legal clinics, which in turn provide legal representation to community members, and also carry out law reform and community organizing initiatives. The province is separated into “catchment areas,” with each catchment area having a designated legal clinic. There are also specialty legal clinics, which focus on certain areas of law such as disability, HIV/AIDS, or injured workers.

On June 12, 2019, LAO announced how those cuts will be applied in the coming year.  LAO will base cuts to legal clinics on low‑income population in each catchment area and other supports available. Toronto clinics will see the largest cuts based on these recalculations. LAO is also urging clinics to preserve one‑on‑one client work and scale back its law reform and community organizing work. These changes are in addition to the freeze on providing new provincial funding for immigration and refugee law services which was announced back in April.

One clinic which will be considerably impacted by these LAO funding cuts is Parkdale Community Legal Services (PCLS). PCLS has been serving the Parkdale community in Toronto for over 40 years, and also functions as a student clinical education program, offering 20 student placements each year. It works in the areas of employment, housing, social assistance and immigration law. It has struggled this year to secure a lease for a new location in the neighbourhood, lacking a secure commitment from LAO to support the move. The latest announcement from LAO will mean a $1,000,000.00 cut to the PCLS budget. Continue reading “Legal aid is important. Ford government’s cuts will hurt us all.” »

Court fees increase again. Who should bear the cost of accessing justice?

April 10th, 2019 by Brynn Leger

As of April 1, 2019, the Ontario government has introduced significant changes to court fees for Small Claims Court as well as Civil and Family proceedings at Superior Court. Court fees are the costs that come up from time to time as a case moves through the court system and includes fees for filing a claim, setting a date for a trial, and a range of other court steps. These fees are not new and they have had significant increases in the past, but the most recent changes raise questions about access to justice for people and organizations with less money trying to pursue a claim in court.

Continue reading “Court fees increase again. Who should bear the cost of accessing justice?” »

Medically assisted death in Canada: Reflections on the process

January 31st, 2019 by Celia Chandler

Celia Chandler with her partner Jack Sikorski in 2018. Photo: Kate O’Connor/Sweetheart Empire

Iler Campbell’s Pro Bono column for rabble.ca (where this article was first published in three parts) is no stranger to the issue of medical assistance in death (MAID). We have contributed to the discussion a number of times in the last four years.

What is new is that I can now provide a firsthand account of a medically assisted death. At 6 p.m. on Monday, November 19, 2018, surrounded by his closest family, my husband, Jack Sikorski, consented to a medically assisted death. Jack’s cancer had progressed and his quality of life was greatly diminished; he was grateful for the choice to prevent further suffering and die on his own terms, as he had lived. And I am profoundly grateful, too.

Continue reading “Medically assisted death in Canada: Reflections on the process” »