rights

Legal Phone Applications

question markHave you ever found yourself in a situation where you wish you were aware of your legal rights? Individuals who feel targeted by practices such as carding: being stopped by a police officer and asked to produce ID due to your racial background. An individual who felt he was targeted due to his racial profile created a phone application to assist laypersons with navigating the legal system – he named LegalSwipe.

Christien Levien, the creator of the application, came across this idea while working in legal rights workshops and completing his Law degree; he realized that many individuals could not completely appreciate the advice being given or how to apply it.  Being a victim of carding himself, he advocates for the importance of such an application. The app is meant to assist individuals during interactions with the police. The app also videotapes encounters with the police and uploads them to Dropbox. The app allows the user to ask a question and have it answered almost promptly.

The application was launched in Toronto in July of 2015 and had about 10,000 downloads in the first day. Toronto and Quebec have had the most downloads for the app.
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What does this phone application offer you?

It seems relatively easy to navigate compared to searching for answers online. It is aimed to be easy to understand so the average person is not confused by the use of legal terminology. There is also a broadcast messaging factor that allows the users emergency contacts to be sent constant messages about the user’s location. Finally, the product also offers a Dropbox Audio and Video Recording that will be emailed to emergency contacts and uploaded to synchronized Dropbox accounts. That last part is still a bit confusing to me, to be completely honest.

Although I have not used the application myself, I cannot imagine a police officer responding well to someone pulling out their phone while being arrested or questioned. Mr. Levien acknowledges this issue and encourages individuals to familiarize themselves with the product before they may need to use it. I think it’s a fantastic idea to educate laypersons about the law, after all, that is the objective of this blog.

What are your thoughts?
How effective do you think this app can be?
Have you used the application?

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Terrorism in Orlando

This past Sunday, Orlando U.S was faced with an act of terrorism that left 50 individuals dead and countless individuals traumatized. The attack targeted the LGBTQ community at a nightclub known as Pulse. A man armed with an assault rifle and handgun began shooting in the nightclub during the late hours of the night.

LgbtqAccording to some sources, the man worked for homeland security in the United States. Thus, this man was legally permitted to carry the firearms.  The assailants’ co-worker explained that the assailant had a short-temper when it came to topics regarding women, homosexuality and religion.  The assailants’ ex-wife stated that she had divorced him due to his “bipolar personality” and physical abuse. She also stated that the assailant had a history of using steroids which she believes altered his mental stability. Media sources had stated that the shooter, Omar Mateen had allegedly pledged himself to ISIS.

Today it was revealed that the man had ties to the LGBTQ community, in fact he was a regular at the nightclub. He was also an avid user of gay dating apps. Mateen’s ex-wife later explained on a Portuguese media station that the FBI had asked her not to share that he was gay with media.

Many Muslims are outraged and feel the FBI is orchestrating a hate crime of their own as conflicting theories have been released stating that Mateen had connections with ISIS and Al Qaida, two ideologies that run parallel to each other.

americanIn contrast to Canada, Americans have a legal right to bear arms. June is recognized as PRIDE month in Toronto. The LGBTQ community floods the streets of downtown Toronto to celebrate liberation, acceptance and freedom to be who they are. However, this event in Orlando has left many individuals scared for their safety. In light of the fear, the Canadian government has agreed to provide more security during the PRIDE parade this year.

There have been many attacks against the LGBTQ community including bombings of venues, setting homosexuals on fire and targeted mass shootings. However, some argue that the distinct factor in this case is the high death toll. Members of the LGBTQ community often face stigmatization relating to HIV and AIDS; consequently, LGBTQ members are also more likely to become victims of physical abuse than their heterosexual counterparts. Furthermore, teenagers belonging to the LGBTQ community are more likely to be suicidal than their heterosexual peers. This group of individuals is considered a vulnerable minority due to this harsh reality.

Canada has taken significant steps to embrace the LGBTQ community by proposing legislation to help protect their rights and choices. To read more about the proposed legislation, click on the links below.

What are your thoughts on this incident? How do you think the media handled this tragedy? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Transgender developments Bill C-16

The Liberal government promised equality and change, Bill C-16 may be a step in that direction. B C-16 was proposed by the Liberal party in the House of Commons this Tuesday. Simply put Bill C- 16 would help legally protect transgendered individuals.

Many individuals are not familiar with the differences between being a transsexual and being transgendered. Sexuality is related to biology, specifically genitalia. Conversely, gender is a social concept and allows an individual to choose what they identify with. Gender is rooted in social constructions of what it means to be male, female or genderless, irrelevant to one’s anatomy. Transgendered individuals usually identify with a gender that differs from how society may categorize them. Consequently, this leads to complex legal issues.

Every_Canadian_Needs_A_CopyBill C-16 proposes to protect transgendered individuals in the following ways:

  1. The Human Rights Act will expand to protect individuals based on their “gender identity” and “gender expression”. Thus, individuals would be protected from being discriminated based on how one chooses to express their gender and what gender they identify with. For example, if a female chooses to wear a tux to prom, she will not be removed from prom due to her attire (this is a real life example). Individuals will also be protected against being denied a job based on their gender expression; for instance, if a male chooses to express himself as a female, he cannot be denied employment on these grounds.
  2. The Criminal Code of Canada would also be amended to protect individuals from hate speech based on their gender identity and gender expression. Judges will be required to consider the use of such language as aggravating factors in a case. For instance, if someone is assaulted due to their appearance and are called words like “faggot”, “dyke” or “she-male” these terms will be viewed as aggravating factors and result in a more serious conviction.

This bill was proposed a half a dozen times before by the New Democrat party but it was shot down every time. This is the first time that the bill has been brought forward by the party in power. Many MP’s are hoping that the legislation will be passed this time. If this bill is passed, Paralegals will be able to defend victims at the Human Rights Tribunal.

Stay tuned to TSP for more developments!
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Security vs. Privacy

CCTV_Surveillance_Notice_svgEveryone wants to feel secure in their home and neighborhood. Many individuals and families take measures to help protect their families from harm including: locking their doors, installing security systems, and closed circuit video systems (CCTV). The presence of CCTV’s in particular, is used to deter perpetrators from committing crimes due to a fear of being caught. Although this mechanism can be effective for some, it can also create hindrance of privacy for others, especially neighbours.

Few individuals question the presence of surveillance cameras placed on their neighbour’s property, in fact, for some it is a sense of relief, especially if one does not have their own camera. These devices can help identify individuals involved in criminal or deviant behavior and serves as a reliable source of evidence in cases.

The issue arises when individuals who are not committing a crime or deviant act are under surveillance without their consent and without knowledge. Surveillance cameras often cover a larger portion of the premises than just one property or lot. Hence, many cameras will also capture the comings and goings of neighbours. Furthermore, some of these cameras can be angled to look directly into a neighbours home, through a window for example. Imagine someone being able to peer into your home without your knowledge – that’s a scary thought for many individuals.

Although cameras can violate a neighbours right to privacy, it also upholds the right to safety for the person installing the camera. With two conflicting rights – who would win? It is likely that the person who has installed their camera would be able to keep their camera so long as they agreed to not violate their neighbours rights to privacy. The complainant would likely be encouraged to shut their blinds to mitigate surveillance as well. Sometimes a discussion with your neighbor can help alleviate any tension and diffuse a potential violation of privacy law suit.

There are some parts of Ontario, such as Hamilton, that have in place by-laws to help regulate the use of cameras. Conversely, in B.C the laws are far less regulated and even ambiguous.

A CCTV system can assist police officers in solving issues far quicker than two individuals providing their verbal accounts of a situation. In fact, in dispute situations, police officers regularly check CCTV systems to gather information and draw conclusions.

What do you think – are CCTV’s an effective tool or a nuisance and violation of privacy?
What carries more weight, privacy rights or safety?

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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Requirement or discrimination? You be the judge.

schoolMany universities require students to fulfil academic requirements also referred to as prerequisites in order to obtain their degrees. Successful completion of these courses is meant to prepare the student for success in their career choices. Although many individuals find the experience unnecessary and even frustrating, few would argue that it is a discriminatory. However, James Lewicki did just that – what is your opinion?

James Lewicki suffers from dyslexia, which presents challenges for him to learn new languages. When Lewicki applied to the University of Ottawa for a masters in political science he was surprised to learn that the degree required him to take a French class. Lewicki argued that English was challenging enough for him to learn and French would be next to impossible to learn. He offered to take the course with a translator but such accommodation was not permissible.

Officials advised Lewicki to pursue a different area of study, preferably one with less of a focus on French. Canada is heavily rooted in its use of bilingualism especially in respect to political issues and personalities. Political debates among Parliamentary candidates running for Prime Minister are also carried out in French along with English. Children are taught French in elementary school through grade 9 as a requirement to graduate.

Every_Canadian_Needs_A_CopyLewicki is suggesting his human rights have been violated. Lewicki is arguing that he is a victim of discrimination due to his disability. He believes the school is being unreasonable in not accommodating him as only English speaking students are required to take French courses but French speaking students are not required to take English courses as prerequisites. Lewicki feels that the school’s refusal to accommodate him is a method to tell him to “go somewhere else”.

Conversely, the school argues that he not being restricted from pursuing his masters in political science at the University of Ottawa due to his disability but rather because he fails to meet the requirements – a working knowledge of French and being able to take a course in French. Officials argue that this tradition has been in place for decades before this case arose. Supporters of this mindset suggest that the school’s traditions should be honored and Lewicki should attend another university.

Advocates for Lewicki’s case argue that the school is being inflexible and should accommodate his case. Furthermore, they argue that his human rights are being trumped due to discrimination based on his disability. Lewicki has found support with individuals who argue that the school’s accommodation would address an ongoing issue of discrimination and help bring about a positive change for others in similar situations.

What are your thoughts? Should he be accommodated for?
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Karla Homolka: “A free person”

Homolka and Bernardo murdered two teenage girls; Leslie Mahaffy, 14 and Kristen French, 15. Homolka’s younger sister Tammy was also drugged by Homolka and sexually assaulted by Bernardo before she died.

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Kristen French

 

Bernardo spent 25 years in prison without parole. Bernardo and Homolka were charged in 1993 and convicted in 1995. Karla Homolka was convicted of manslaughter after agreeing to testify against Paul Bernardo to lessen her sentence. Following the appeal, it came to the prosecutor’s attention that Homolka had played a critical role in the abductions and murders of the victims; however, Homolka had taken the plea and could not legally be tried for the same case twice. In 2005, Homolka was released from jail and became a “free person”.

 

Since this time, Homolka has re-married, changed her name and has three children. She has been living in Châteauguay, Montreal, for approximately two years with her family; this revelation has left the community enraged.

untitledSome individuals feel that Homolka does not deserve to live in society with others due to her criminal past and heinous crimes. Many of her neighbors expressed outrage and fear, they stated their lack of knowledge about her identity and felt deceived. Parents have expressed concern for their children due to the fact that Homolka’s children attend the same school and Homolka may be around their children. Furthermore, many individuals expressed their sympathy and empathy for the victims’ families that have to live with the fact that Homolka is free, living her life while their children are not because of her crimes.

On the other hand, rehabilitants suggest that Homolka has served her time and should be free to live her life. These individuals argue that Homolka was rehabilitated during her time in prison and is now a different person. Moreover, Homolka has not committed crimes since her release and should not persecuted for her past.

What are your thoughts?

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Points of Discussion:
1. Do you believe rehabilitation is effective?
2. Should Homolka have a second chance at life?
3. Is Homolka truly a “free person”?

Landmark Decision for Metis

Who are the Metis?

Flag_map_of_Canada_(Metis_Flag)The Metis are commonly recognized as a cluster of First Nations individuals who are a mix of French, Scottish and Caucasian fur traders. The Metis came to settle in Canada centuries ago and have long been denied their status as “Indians” in accordance to the Canadian constitution.

Aboriginals have long been victims of segregation, discrimination and ethnic cleansing in Canada. Many “Indians” have lost their connection to their mother-tongue due to residential schools and forced assimilation.  For this reason, the government accommodates First Nations with some additional programs. Some groups such as the Metis, have fought for years to be recognized as members of the First Nations to gain access to the aid they believe they deserve.

After years of trying to achieve equality, the Metis have finally gained Aboriginal status. Through countless court proceedings, the case was finally taken to the Supreme Court of Canada where a unanimous 0-9 landmark decision determined that Metis will be recognized as “Indians” in accordance to the constitution. Although this is an immense achievement for the Metis tribe, the implications are complex.
The government will now have to consider the following:

1. Who qualifies as a Metis?

2.What financial benefits will be given to the 60,000 Metis who will be impacted, including those who live off-reserves?

3. Who will be eligible for housing, post-secondary education and benefit support?

4.Do mixed blood Metis still qualify for these benefits?

The answers to these questions will likely be determined via additional court proceedings in the years to come. Cases will be brought before the court regarding the complex issues and court decisions will shape the legislation.

Every_Canadian_Needs_A_CopyWhile many Metis are rejoicing, some individuals are expressing concerns regarding the future financial implications of the recent status change of classifying Metis as Indians. Individuals are questioning if this new decision will result in billions of dollars being allotted to accommodating the Metis tribe rather than other matters. However, such topics have not yet been addressed by the government. Conversely, some individuals feel that this step is long overdue and the Canadian government should have recognized this group of individual’s decades ago.

Where do you stand on the issue?

Did you learn something new? Do you believe that the Metis should be recognized as First Nations? If so, press “like” and subscribe.

Points of Discussion:
1.  Do you have a similar situation in your country? A group of individuals fighting to be recognized as members of a particular group or to gain certain rights?

2. Do you think this step is enough or the government should do more to assist the Metis?

3. How do you feel about the timeline of acknowledging Metis as First Nations?