Category Archives: #TBT

Body cameras, TPS’s biggest response Sammy Yatim shooting, wouldn’t have prevented his death

Image description: A close-up shot of a Toronto police officer, from chin to mid-torso. Attached to their uniform just below the shoulder is a small black camera with a forward-facing screen. (Image credit: TPS)

Image description: A close-up shot of a side-facing Toronto police officer, from chin to mid-torso. Attached to their uniform just below the shoulder is a small black camera with a forward-facing screen. (Image credit: TPS)

As you’ve no doubt heard if you live in Toronto, James Forcillo, the cop who shot and killed Sammy Yatim on a streetcar in 2013, was found guilty this week – not of murder, but of attempted murder.

It’s a sad but true fact that no cop has ever been convicted of murder in Ontario, and many legal observers expected that, given the legal system’s built-in lenience towards killers in uniforms, Forcillo was likely to get off scot-free. It’s better than nothing, a lot of folks are saying. At least he was found guilty of something.

While I see where this argument is coming from, it feels defeatist to me. It feels like it gives up too easily, resigns itself to a certain level of police brutality and impunity.

James Forcillo murdered Sammy Yatim. He had a vast variety of options at his disposal short of shooting and killing the disturbed teenager, and he tried literally none of them. Sammy Yatim’s death was tragic, senseless, entirely unnecessary. In finding Forcillo not guilty on a charge of second-degree murder, the jury was essentially saying that his actions were justifiable. That this is possible, that we aren’t able to legally hold police to higher standards than the general population, is a travesty.

As for the precedent this trial sets, it’s hard to say. Police union president Mike McCormack is convinced that it will have a chilling effect on officers, will make them more hesitant to act in volatile situation, will make us all less safe. There’s a lot of bullshit in the way he’s spinning that, but maybe it’s true that cops will feel slightly less trigger-happy knowing that they may actually face (gasp!) consequences.

To date, the most significant consequence of the Yatim shooting is the implementation of a few key recommendations made by an inquiry into his death by Frank Iacobucci, a retired Supreme Court justice. One of these recommendations was the use of body cameras by frontline Toronto police officers, and a pilot program was launched last May.

In this article, I argued that body cameras are a solution in search of a problem (in that we don’t lack for footage of abusive cops, taken by civilians or surveillance cameras or dash cameras), that they are problematic and prone to abuse, and that body cameras do literally nothing to address the actual root causes of police brutality. Continue Reading

Throwback Thursday: NEB reforms must address colonialism, racism

Image: A group of protesters holding signs reading “Stop NEB Fraud” and “Stop Kinder Morgan”.

In recent days, the once-obscure National Energy Board (NEB) has been all over the news.

The NEB, an arms-length board of government appointees tasked with reviewing proposed energy infrastructure projects, is of course no stranger to controversy. During the Harper years, it was the frequent target of pipeline resisters, who charge that the Board is an entirely captured regulator, firmly in the pocket of the major energy companies. Another common complaint levelled against the NEB is that it lacks the mandate to consider downstream environmental and climate change impacts of the projects it reviews.

Justin Trudeau came into office pledging new rules for the NEB, but as more details emerge about his plan, it’s become clear that these “new rules” aren’t going to apply to the major ongoing reviews of Energy East, Northern Gateway, TransMountain, and others.

In response to this, activists have been taking action to draw renewed attention to the massive shortcomings with both the composition of the NEB and the process it uses to review (and rubber-stamp) pipelines.

A group of cleverly disguised protesters served National Resources Minister Jim Carr with a “People’s Search Warrant” this past week, demanding to see the details of these new rules and to know exactly how and when they will be implemented.

Climate activists in Vancouver locked themselves to the door of the NEB’s local office, calling for a suspension of upcoming hearings into TransMountain until new rules can be put into place.

And a group of activists arrested after boarding a Kinder Morgan barge said that Trudeau is breaking his election promises by allowing the NEB hearings to proceed without modification.

There’s widespread sentiment that a new process is needed, and it’s vital that it take climate change impacts into consideration as well as diminish the influence of the energy industry over the hearings. But one factor which must also be incorporated into any reforms of the NEB, and one which is much less widely discussed, is the way the NEB treats First Nations.

In this article, first published last fall, I look at the bureaucratized racism inherent in the NEB’s approach to consultation with First Nations, and examine the question of whether the Board even has the legal ability, from a Constitutional point of view, to conduct these consultations to begin with.

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