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National

Prison psychological tests must be fair to Indigenous inmates: high court

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OTTAWA — The federal prison service has failed to ensure its psychological assessment tools are fair to Indigenous inmates, the Supreme Court of Canada says in a ruling that could open the door to a wholesale examination of the techniques.

In a 7-2 decision Wednesday, the high court accepted prisoner Jeffrey Ewert’s challenge of five assessment tools the Correctional Service of Canada uses to gauge the risk of reoffending and potential for violence.

It effectively means the Correctional Service must review the tools to make certain they are free of cultural bias, or stop using them altogether.

“For the correctional system, like the criminal justice system as a whole, to operate fairly and effectively, those administering it must abandon the assumption that all offenders can be treated fairly by being treated the same way,” a majority of the court said in its reasons.

The decision comes as the Liberal government grapples with the over-representation of Indigenous people in the federal prison system.

In 2015-16, Indigenous offenders represented almost one-quarter of the total federal offender population. A government report also noted a lower percentage of Indigenous offenders benefited from gradual release from custody than non-Indigenous ones.

Chief Bob Chamberlin, vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, welcomed the court ruling. “Today’s decision is a step forward in the fight to reduce the over-incarceration of our people.”

The Correctional Service is reviewing the decision and “will determine next steps,” said prison service spokeswoman Stephanie Stevenson.

Ewert, who identifies as Metis, alleged the prison service’s assessment techniques were not proven to be reliable for Indigenous inmates because they were developed and tested on predominantly non-Indigenous subjects.

He claimed that reliance on the tools violated the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, which requires the prison service to “take all reasonable steps to ensure that any information about an offender that it uses is as accurate, up to date and complete as possible.”

Ewert, 56, also contended that use of the tools violated constitutional guarantees of equality and liberty.

Born to a Metis mother and a British father, Ewert was adopted as a baby by a Caucasian family in Surrey, B.C.

Court documents describe his adoptive father as an alcoholic, and his adoptive mother as psychologically unstable and abusive. Ewert was subjected to racism and discrimination both at home and at school.

He has been locked up for more than 30 years in maximum- and medium-security institutions, serving two concurrent life sentences for second-degree murder, attempted murder and escape from custody.

Ewert became eligible for day parole in 1996 and full parole three years later. However, he has waived his right to each parole hearing.

A Federal Court judge found the prison service had breached the corrections act and infringed Ewert’s charter right to liberty, but the decision was later overturned — prompting his appeal to the Supreme Court.

In its decision, the Supreme Court said the Correctional Service must base its decisions about inmates on sound information if it is to ensure the safety of other prisoners, staff members and the general public.

The high court stopped short of concluding Ewert’s charter rights had been breached.

However, the court found the Correctional Service “fell short of what it is required to do” by “disregarding the possibility that these tools are systematically disadvantaging Indigenous offenders and by failing to take any action to ensure that they generate accurate information.”

The court said that if the prison service wishes to continue using the tools, it must conduct research into whether — and to what extent — they apply differently to Indigenous offenders.

Depending on the outcome, the service may need to modify the tools or stop using them on Indigenous inmates, the ruling said.

— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press


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Construction

Liberals set hiring, procurement rules for federally-funded projects

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OTTAWA — Cities, provinces and territories building new roads, bridges, water and transit systems funded with federal dollars will have to let Indigenous Peoples, veterans and recent immigrants have a hand in those projects under new rules being unveiled today.

The idea of so-called community benefits will be a mandatory requirement for many infrastructure projects the federal government will help pay for through its $33-billion spending envelope.

Provinces and territories will have some leeway to decide what projects are to be subject to the rules. Those projects that are will have to explain publicly how far they have come in meeting the government’s goals.

Under the new guidelines, provinces, territories and cities would have to hire apprentices, Indigenous Peoples, recent immigrants, veterans, young people, people with disabilities and women, or procure goods and services from small- and medium-sized businesses or social enterprises.

Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi will be in Toronto to unveil the new rules alongside the MP that first brought the idea to him two years ago — Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

Community benefit agreements have been used for years in the United States and were applied to the construction of the athletes’ village for the Vancouver Olympics. The agreements require projects to hire locally or create jobs for groups facing high unemployment rates, such as young people and Aboriginals.

The deals are usually negotiated among private companies doing work, the public body funding the project and community groups like unions, faith-based groups or social services.

The Liberals inserted broad wording about community benefit requirements into infrastructure funding deals that provinces and territories signed over the past year.

Once construction starts on projects funded through those agreements, the Liberals want to see how many hours the targeted populations work, or the value of the contracts provided to targeted businesses, to see how well proponents are doing at meeting their goals.

There will also be requirements to explain the challenges and successes provinces, territories and cities have in meeting the community benefit goals.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


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National

‘Hot Dog Water’ seller in Vancouver gets laughs, sales with savvy marketing

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VANCOUVER — A Vancouver man who sold bottles of “Hot Dog Water” for nearly $40 each says he was trying to see how marketing of health claims backed by supposed science amounts to quick sales.

Douglas Bevans said he boiled about 100 organic beef hot dogs and put each one in a bottle of the water he sold at an annual car-free event.

Each bottle of the “keto-compatible,” unfiltered water sold for $37.99, but two bottles cost only $75 because of a special deal last Sunday at his booth, where he wore a hot dog onesie and promoted himself as CEO of Hot Dog Water.

Bevans promised the water would lead to increased brain function, weight loss and a youthful appearance, even erasing crow’s feet when applied to the face in the form of a lip balm, which he also happened to sell.

“We noticed that some people were rubbing lip balm on their crow’s feet and they were swearing their crow’s feet were disappearing before their eyes,” he said.

One man who rubbed the lip balm on his “dome” sent him photos suggesting it promoted hair growth, Bevans said.

While many people laughed, he said others were impressed by the health benefits they’d experience with his unique products, including body spray and “Hot Dog Water breath freshener.”

Bevans said he sold 60 litres worth of the products.

He told people the water creates quicker sodium uptake for good health, uttering sheer quackery: “Because Hot Dog Water and perspiration resemble each other so when you drink Hot Dog Water it bypasses the lymphatic system, whereas other waters have to go through your filtering system, so really, Hot Dog Water has three times as much uptake as coconut water.”

Bevans, who is really a tour operator and a performance artist, said he came up with the idea as he questioned the ridiculous marketing and health claims behind some products and thought to himself: “I bet I could sell hot dog water.”

“We’re helping people, empowering them to use informed decisions in their purchasing choices,” he said about his marketing stunt. “That is the message behind this.”

His aim is to get consumers to bypass slick marketing and think about what they’re buying, especially in the age of social media clicks and ‘likes’ involving celebrities pitches.

Bevans said he thought of his project as an art performance to create awareness about critical thinking.

“Art, I think, has a way of doing this better than if this was a public service announcement. There’s an image attached to it, that it’s ridiculous.”

— Follow @CamilleBains 1 on Twitter.

 

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


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june, 2018

wed30may - 26sepmay 303:30 pmsep 26ATB Financial Downtown Market(may 30) 3:30 pm - (september 26) 6:30 pm

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