Tag Archives: Bill Blair

In massive disappointment, Bill Blair selected to lead government’s marijuana legalization initiative

My initial reaction to Justin Trudeau’s announcement of the composition of his cabinet last November was profound relief at the omission of former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair.

Long-time readers of The Alfalfafield will know that I’m no fan of Blair. And after watching Trudeau’s Liberal Party do some heavy lifting to get their preferred candidates selected in their supposedly “open” nomination contests prior to the election, including having Trudeau publicly appear with Blair at a joint press conference in Ottawa long before he was selected as a candidate by his local riding association, I was concerned that a Liberal government would elevate the criminal and racist ex-cop to a prominent post in a ministry like Public Safety or even Defence. (He was selected for the seemingly low-profile position of Parliamentary Secretary for Minister of Justice Judy Wilson-Raybould.)

My relief that the rookie MP and veteran abuser of rights would be largely relegated to the back-benches was, sadly, short-lived. Yesterday, the CBC reported that Blair has been tapped by Trudeau to be the point person for the Liberals’ efforts to legalize marijuana.

For folks who have tirelessly advocated for legalization over the past several years and decades, this has to be a disappointing choice.

It seems to indicate that the government’s foremost priority is placating conservative critics of their push for legalization. By deploying a former police officer, they undermine claims that they’re being “soft on crime”, to be sure – but they’re also putting arguments about law and order, and about public safety, at the forefront of their effort.

Just look at these glowing quotes the CBC got about Blair’s selection: Continue Reading

“Open nominations,” or, how to further destroy people’s faith in democracy

A seriously heavy run-down of allegations of interference in nomination contests across Canada

All current and past Liberal MPs may not like it, but they are going to have to fight in 2014 for the right to run in the next election, says Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

As the federal Liberals gear up to begin choosing candidates in the new year, Trudeau is warning that there are no safe seats or free passes for anyone who wants to wear the party banner in the 2015 campaign.

“Canadians need to see that the Liberal party has understood the lessons of the past and is willing to completely reboot,” Trudeau said in a year-end interview with the Star.

“We have to offer a full reboot, and that means that every candidate for the Liberal Party in 338 ridings in 2015, or whenever the election does come, will have been chosen in a free vote by the Liberal members of that riding.”

That’s what he said to the Toronto Star at the end of 2013, with the election a comfortably long ways in the future. And it was a well-received pledge because it was so common-sense, so reasonable. Of course party members should be able to choose their candidates locally – it’s practically tautological that in a representative democracy, the people should have the ability to choose who will represent them, that they shouldn’t have their options arbitrarily limited by outside forces. So Trudeau’s pledge was heartening, and I personally hoped it would help to set a standard for the other parties.

Fast forward two and a half months.

Continue Reading

Criminal ex-police chief Bill Blair will run for the Liberals

Civil liberties violator, racial profiler, and apologist for police brutality Bill Blair announced today in an exclusive interview with the Toronto Star that he will seek the nomination for the Liberal Party in Scarborough Southwest.

This is one of those times when I hate being right.

You may recall that last week I was sounding the alarm about a “grassroots initiative” led by “local Liberals” to “draft Bill Blair” to run in the upcoming federal election. It was transparently an astroturf group, but based on the respectful and widespread coverage it received, I concluded that it was essentially a beat-sweetener put forward by the Liberal Party to float the idea and get some same press. At the time I said:

So one could see this as the first step in what would essentially be a coronation of Blair as the candidate for Scarborough Southwest. And ultimately, that’s the way I’m reading this…I expect that we’ll hear something next weekend, when Blair is officially a civilian, if we’re ever gonna hear anything at all. In the meanwhile let’s all keep our fingers crossed that this is some kind of horrible nightmare.

And now here we are. I’m sad to say I’m not surprised that he’s made it official. There were a few surprises in the Star’s gushing piece, though: Continue Reading

Carding – how about we just stop doing it?

Just a thought.

I mean, there’s a “reasonable policy debate” at the moment about what restrictions should apply to police when they stop totally innocent people and collect information on them which sits in some TPS database for we don’t really know how long. Should cops be obliged to tell the (mostly young black male) people they harass that they’re under no obligation to stay put? Should the (not actually being detained) detainees be given a “receipt” detailing the interaction, or just an officer’s business card on request?

Or how about we just scrap the whole racist train wreck of a program?

The above-linked op-ed by Marcus Gee of the Globe and Mail tries really really hard to make this seem like a two-sided issue, but it ain’t.

The board and the police chief, Bill Blair, were at loggerheads for months on how to reform carding. The board worried that it was souring relations with minorities, given that men of colour showed up in disproportionate numbers in carding statistics compiled in a series of articles in the Toronto Star. The chief worried that ending or severely restricting it would prevent police from gathering useful information.

Both concerns are valid. Any city wants at all costs to avoid conflict between police and minority or disadvantaged groups. But it also wants cops to be able to get out in the city and do their job.

Chief Blair said on Friday that he doesn’t want his officers just hanging around the station “waiting for a radio call to say some catastrophe’s happened” then going out to put yellow tape around the scene. Instead, he wants his officers to hit the streets to make contact with the public, build trust with the community and gather information that might help solve or prevent crimes.

Shorter Blair: We need to coerce information out of communities of colour because they’re a catastrophe waiting to happen.

Like, that’s literally what he’s saying. We need to collect information on people of colour because they’re criminals, or potential criminals, or they know criminals.

And we really are talking about communities of colour here. A lot of news reports make it sound like a matter of opinion. The Globe in particular is tone-deaf on this one – in a summary of Blair’s last police board meeting, Selena Ross writes that carding “is thought to affect minorities disproportionately”. Robyn Doolittle uses identical language in a recent article on the search for a new chief. The phrasing makes it seem like there’s room for debate.

There isn’t.

In late 2013, you were seventeen times more likely to be stopped by police in certain neighbourhoods if you were black than if you were white. Seventeen times. That’s not a thought. That’s a fact.

And it’s facts like that which has led affected communities to label carding terrorism against their community, and to call for the repeal of carding, or at least requiring officers to proactively inform people of their Charter rights at the outset of any encounter.

Let’s stop pretending like this is a hard question. Cops aren’t able to point to any tangible benefits carding has brought. It was initially designed to be an outreach program in minority communities but looks like that didn’t work out too great, did it?

So how about we just scrap the whole thing? Admit it was a terrible idea and tell the cops to stop hassling people of colour whenever they feel bored?

Just a thought.

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