Sunday, January 19, 2014

I can make up my own mind...thank you

The issue of assisted suicide is at the forefront yet again. 
The Supreme Court of Canada is to hear arguments for and against the issue and if we are to corroborate this argument with the recent prostitution verdict; the final act would be in the hands of the government of the day.
   Assisted suicide is not; at least it should not create such societal polarities as it is currently doing so. 
Simply put, should a person have the right to terminate his or her life? 
If we as a society believe that this is an appropriate answer; than assisted-suicide should be made a reality.
Today we are hearing examples of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association stating that terminally ill Canadians are finally given a venue to voice their concerns.
   Why should we limit assisted-suicide only to the terminally ill?
Furthermore the notion that doctor assisted-suicides are not being performed currently within the halls of hospitals across this nation is false.
Professor Arthur Schafer (Department of Philosophy, University of Manitoba) opined in a paper this very fact.
“... a 1998 survey of Canadian nurses working in HIV/AIDS care found that, of the 45 nurses sampled, 26 (57.8%) reported that they knew physicians sometimes took steps to hasten death by voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide.”
As it stands today, this would be a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada. 
“Everyone who counsels a person to commit suicide, or (b) aids or abets a person to commit suicide, whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.”
    It is time to review this law and make it accessible to those that truly become incapacitated throughout their lives.
We have other court rulings that have debated this issue, calling on further review and mandating that physician-assisted suicide by made available under certain circumstances.
“Non-voluntary euthanasia” is a term described as withholding life saving measures without direct consent.
 If we examine the Latimer case, this is clearly fits the bill.
As for is not so clear. Take for instance a personal issue. Due to a resulting self-inflicted wound my father became a quadriplegic in 1997. Still in the hospital, on life support, the doctors approached the family, discussed options, and in the end ascertained the wishes of the patient himself.
   A determination was given, and after successful dialogue (blinking once for yes, twice for no) my father indicated that his wish was to die.
Fair enough, although if I recall correctly no provisions to the Criminal Code gave either family members, the patient himself, let alone an emergency physician the lawful authority to determine if assisted-suicide was (in this case) admissible; not according to the Criminal Code of Canada.
So...the question begs to be asked....should the physician have been charged.
    Why is it that we prize the sanctity of life above all others? 
Are we guaranteed the right to live no matter what the consequences or does our own abilities to make very personal choices on our own be deemed permissible?
Or do we really need the Supreme Court of Canada to dictate the statute in which Canadians are to conduct themselves in matters of morality?
There should be no absolutism on this matter. 
    We as human beings have no say as to when and where we are to be born in this world; that right rests with a woman for the time being in Canada. 
If we are ready to pronounce as a society that the right of women to choose whether they desire to terminate a pregnancy or not-supersedes any other right to life, than should it not be so and give the right to assisted-suicide to anyone who see fit to end their own lives?
   Of course everyone understands that discriminating against those that cannot successfully commit suicide is a paradox.
Yes abuses can be made, and yes we as a society can argue that opening the door to assisted-suicide may in fact introduce other ethically difficult choices that we would rather totally avoid.
Personally avoidance does not lead to any long term resolutions. In fact I assert the notion that not making assisted-suicide lawful puts at risk those who are desperately seeking aid, or assistance for persons who are affected by illness, disease, and pain.
    The determination as to who gets to make that choice, under what guidelines, and in what manner is yet to be agreed upon.
According to the Leader of the Opposition, Thomas Mulcair the Supreme Court of Canada would invariably refer the matter back to the sitting members of Parliament.
He may be correct, and I would argue that it would further the anguish of those who clearly seek to have assisted-suicide off the books. 
    In addition, I doubt very much that any sort of legislation would reverse the Rodriguez decision; or introduce a new law in favour of such a morally sensitive issue.
Unfortunately the case must reside within the judiciary and as such must make a determination. 
Until then, decisions will be made quietly...DNR (do not resuscitate) will be more common and future last will and testaments will incorporate measures to be followed under certain life ending scenarios.
    Those who fall in between the cracks will suffer. Those who do not care one way or another have little time to think on anything other than themselves. 
The fact remains we may all face during our lives, a difficult choice to make if we become terminally ill, or we find ourselves unable to live within our own code.
    It reminds me of a scene from Lonesome Dove where Augustus tells Woodrow to let him be....and die with one leg...instead of living a life as a cripple.
It was the same for my father, and in the end, no one should make that decision other than ourselves.

I hear a song in the wind....

2014 is officially launched and in political terms; it’s game on. For those of you that are familiar with Nick Nanos (polls) the recent Nanos poll should not be surprising.
According to the numbers 55 per cent of those who took the time to participate, were of the view that government policies and direction were leading Canadians in on the wrong path.
As far as polling numbers are concerned; the Nanos poll for the past three years has registered rapid increases into the negative for the Harper government.
    Harper himself is retreating on familiar ground and pushing the development of the Alberta oil sands at an unprecedented pace.
News from the Senate scandal is ebbing, although news of its residual consequences is still yet to be presented before a federal judge.
Employment Insurance (EI) is still reaping more money than it needs, and Flaherty announcement that premiums are to be frozen for the next three years.
Whether or not you believe the Finance Minister, the probability of the EI fund being used to create budget surpluses will continue.
     In addition, do not expect this government to ease its draconian directives to government bureaucrats and “push off” Canadians off the EI ledgers.
In terms of environmental issues the Harper government record speaks for itself. The Lac Mégentic tragedy has passed but is not forgotten. Oil shipments are still not allowed to pass through, but it is just a matter of time.
   On this issue in particular, it is not the product itself which alarm most Canadians; but rather the method and safety track record of Transport Canada. Further oil derailments across the country are raising serious questions as to what exactly Transport Canada is doing.
Scientific research is the basis of any meaningful data in regards to environmental policy; or at least it should be. Under the Harper administration, science is being denigrated unless to suit the government agenda.
   Picking and choosing what fits and what does not is not exactly in anyone’s best interest. 
The scientific data provided by provincial and federal governments may not coincide with government policy, but it should be the single most important barometer in favor of us all when policies are introduced.
To that affect, we have those that are in the public eye and use their influence to speak on behalf of those who do not. In Canadian politics, having celebrities voice their displeasure is not as popular as their American counterparts.
   However the tide is rising. Singer and songwriter Neil Young is the latest to enter into the fray. It is true that indigenous issues have long coincided with environmental concern. 
These are the two most irksome portfolios that constantly press the Harper energy intensive directive across Canada. Say what you will, but at least the Harper government exemplifies “bit bull” traits worthy of any dog breeder. It simply will not give way and release that bone, and in their opinion why should they?
   Energy needs, export wealth, pitted against the environment is what I call the “chicken and egg syndrome” one begets the other. The only difference between the past and present is the frequency, and duration of such natural resource driven exploitation.
Alberta is central to Harper mounting electoral gains across Canada, and his base is beginning to show weakness. More Conservatives are willing to voice their discontent. 
Backbenchers in Ottawa are being more vocal, even suggesting that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) purview be curtailed.
    Conservative anti-abortionists are pushing for legislating laws which would favor their political views. The “push-back” is being felt in the PMO and they do not like it at all.
Neil Young’s voracity to take the government to task on behalf of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is worrisome. 
    Not only does it set a precedent for other prominent Canadians in the music and art industries to mimic Young; it weakens their ability to mount smear campaigns designed to nullify their voices and create doubt in the minds of Canadians towards their claims.
Harperists would not have concerned themselves so much with Young’s indigenous crusades had it not been concentrated in Alberta. 
     Shell’s Jackpine mine expansion project speaks to Harper’s pursued endeavours to push natural resource exploitation at the risk of environmental and health issues of indigenous people.
Even the federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq admitted to the risks posed by the Jackpine mine expansion project as being, “significant adverse environmental effects.”
What is ironic is that you have a person of Inuit ancestry doing your dirty work. Pitting indigenous against mainstream Canadians is par for the course for the Harper Conservative government.
   In the Senate, this stratagem has caused much frustration for Harper who personally handpicked Patrick Brazeau. 
The likes of Aglukkaq and Brazeau are effective propaganda tools to illustrate that a good First Nations person is one that is successfully assimilated within Canadian values.
In conjunction with that message, those First Nations bands that are willing to prosper and take advantage of the economic wealth within their territories are greatly encouraged to do so.
Damn the consequences, if Harper cannot assimilate First Nations, the environmental destruction of their treaty territories is just as effective; more so even because those First Nations people accustomed to wealth will not soon part with it.
   In the end, being labelled a Conservative these days is akin to being labelled as a....
The choice is ours; and what is occurring under the Conservative umbrella should give anyone who calls themselves Canadians; deserves a serious second look.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Judiciary not up for debate

   Have you ever attended a day in court, or seen how cases are routinely handled by the court?
I have, and I must say, the process is much more involved than reading the outcome of a court case in a newspaper.
The whole notion of seeing justice done, has a connotation as to administering justice to whom?
Remember, justice for a victim, an accused, and those that represent their clients respectively-are varied.
Of course in all of this melée we have a federal government who enacts popular laws without thinking about its consequences...
    Again, I am of the view that the judicial system, including the Supreme Court of Canada are “victims” if I may be so bold to use the term, to whatever lunacy may be introduced and legislated by a majority government.
In this instance the use of the Red Chamber would be most appropriate and should be used as a template; to negate rules of law that are not designed to assist all those who abide within Canadian society.
    Some exclaim that it is not the purview of the judiciary to “pick and choose’ which law they’ll enforce”.
They admit that a Supreme Court ruling might be in order to provide the final say; as to what judges can and cannot do while applying the laws of this country.
    I don’t know about you, but that seems a little bit hypocritical.
There has to be common sense and a good deal of reflective thought when our members of parliament invoke new laws designed to “protect us all”, and that would mean the offenders themselves.
Is justice served when a judge imposes (or not) a three year prison term for the possession of a prohibited firearm?
    I dare you to make a verdict based on this fact alone.
There are more than meets the eye when sentencing issues are concerned. My mind returns to Joe Spence who was the victim of a brutal assault last year.
I wonder if adding the mandatory “victim fine surcharge” in Spence’s case would have given him the added sentiment that the newly Conservative legislation in this case, would have offered him any additional sense of “justice being served”.
    Are we so quick to render judgement on those who have fallen?
Those who do not fit into the ‘cookie cutter’ have a way to find themselves in front of a judge. They are the most vulnerable, the dispossessed, those who are marginalized.
The truth of the matter is that the consequences of any law being broken in Canada are impacting us all.
Those that take part in the process, such as Spence and his family, have to adapt and survive knowing that forgiveness and not retribution-will heal. 
Those that have perpetrated the crime, take part in the process as having to acknowledge that the pain, suffering and possible loss of life inflicted to the victim is forever.
    I don’t know if I would have the means to dispense judgement to those that deserve of far worse and to those that deserve far less.
Is love stronger than hate? Is the ability to forgive deemed a weakness versus the ability to punish a virtue?
    You see, our judiciary are instructed to follow the law. They also must take into consideration the merits of the case, the victim impact statements and the court discovery of the perpetrator.
    In matters of indigenous cases, the Gladue decision instructs the court to further examine the issue, and therefore temper any verdict accordingly.
We can be disappointed when we are informed of certain cases in the media being misappropriated either by the Crown or by a sentencing judge.
We can argue why such a decision was made at all, but with respect to placing blame?
Does that have to be part of the equation?
    We all have responsibilities towards one another. Take for instance the poor fellows freezing and taking refuge within the doors of the RBC bank here in The Pas.
Giving them a few dollars to eat, perhaps a warm beverage might be enough for them to feel that someone cares enough to offer assistance.
This in turn might give that person pause, reflect, and maybe stop them from doing something (criminal act) that has a more lasting impact on us all.
    Some of you might find this over simplistic, or even ridiculous. Why should we help them at all?
For those of you who feel that it is not your responsibility to offer assistance to people in need, to those who you feel should be taking their lives by the ‘boot straps” and make better decisions....Make one yourselves.
Perhaps having judges refuse to apply laws newly introduced by any federal government would give me pause as an ordinary Canadian to ask questions.
Laws in themselves are not foolproof, and those that have not taken the time or the effort to evaluate what any new legislation might have on the judiciary-is irresponsible.
    I don’t make any pretense to know all point of law; but when tenured judges across Canada articulate their concerns, and act accordingly to the merits of the facts and to their conscience-we need to listen.
It is not a case of wanting to have it all. I would be very leery of any government obsessed with shoving newly minted legislation down the pike.
    Undermining the confidence of the public buy not imposing the mandatory minimum sentencing, or not invoking the victim fine surcharge, is not it.
What undermine the justice system are legislative laws that make no sense, or are created to appease those who are like minded.
    What erodes confidence in the justice system is the absence of due process, of effective time lines, and proper sentencing options which mitigates the suffering and loss on all fronts.
What angers Canadians …having to endure the rants of extremism's, politicians, and special interest groups who claim to know best and tell us not to think for ourselves.

When courts of law have to pronounce; we as a society have failed.