Thousands of people took to Toronto streets on June 6, 2020 to protest anti-Black racism and police brutality. Photo via Shutterstock
Toronto will develop alternative community safety models in the wake of sustained protest against police brutality, city council agreed on Monday, but will not enforce any specific cut to the force’s 2021 budget and will in fact spend millions more on body cameras.
The move to reform police operations in Canada’s most populous city will include the creation of a non-police-led response to mental health-related calls not involving weapons or violence, as well as other initiatives proposed by Mayor John Tory to eliminate systemic racism in policing and provide greater accountability, but will likely disappoint those calling for more radical change.
The council was responding to what one councillor described as an outpouring of collective outrage and a determined push for change from city residents in recent weeks, as people across North America and elsewhere take to the streets seeking racial justice.
That groundswell comes as COVID-19 hits racialized communities particularly hard and follows a string of recent officer-involved deaths of Black people, Indigenous people and people of colour, including in and around Toronto.
“Police is not protecting us,” said Beverly Bains, a member of the No Pride in Policing coalition that marched on city hall on Sunday in support of a call from Black Lives Matter — Toronto for a 50-per-cent cut to police funding in the 2021 budget.
“The police is not protecting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) queer and trans and BIPOC people, nor homeless people, nor marginalized people,” she said. “The police protects private property, the state’s interests, which is capitalist, and corporatized interests. It does not protect the most vulnerable.”
Sandy Hudson of Black Lives Matter – Toronto discusses calls to defund police with Linda Solomon Wood, the editor-in-chief of Canada’s National Observer, earlier this month
Councillor Josh Matlow had previously proposed a smaller cut, of $122 million, or a tenth of the Toronto Police Service’s $1 billion-plus budget, be shifted to community-led alternatives to policing and criminal justice, as well as anti-racism education, affordable housing and tenant rights, food security and skills training.
But Matlow withdrew his motion after Mayor John Tory put forward his proposal, and then failed to muster the votes needed to enforce the 10 per cent reduction as an amendment to Tory’s plan.
Tory’s motion included 18 recommendations on how to “de-task” police rather than “defund” them, and includes a plan to equip all officers with body-worn cameras by January. That move is expected to cost $5 million a year, or $50 million over ten years.
Toronto city council rejects push for a 10 per cent cut to police funding, agrees to develop alternative reforms proposed by mayor
A bid from Matlow to have the body camera plan cancelled was also defeated, while efforts from Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (who had seconded Matlow’s proposals) to ban the use of deadly force and militarised weapons outside of the police’s Emergency Task Force also failed.
The mayor said that rather than starting with a target funding cut, it would be better to find the best model for addressing mental health issues and put it in place, which he said would in turn result in police cost savings.
He cited testimony given by the departing police Chief Mark Saunders that only eight mental health teams are currently able to support Toronto police and that they don’t work through the night.
“Right now, at 3 o’clock in the morning, they (police) are the only people who can respond to a person in crisis,” Tory said. “My fear is you’re going to leave those people more vulnerable than ever.”
Saunders also cautioned that there is currently no alternative system in place for handling mental health-related calls and says there must be a new plan in place before any reforms take effect.
The first issue with Toronto City Council is that you have a council of mostly white men voting on an issue that predominantly affects Black and Indigenous communities. This is systemic racism happening in real time. #TOpoli#DefundThePolice
Saunders, who will retire from the force at the end of next month, says the police service’s own pilot of body camera technology showed that the public changed its behaviour due to their use. But another councillor, Joe Cressy, countered that claim with reference to an academic study from Yale University that body cameras worn by police officers in Washington, D.C., had little to no discernible impact.
Bains from the No Pride in Policing coalition was also skeptical that body cameras would add to accountability, since officers themselves can choose when to turn them on and off.
“Body cameras do not hold police accountable,” she said. “It does not make us more safe.”
Meng Wanzhou at conference in Milan, Italy on May 11 2018. Photo by Shutterstock / Stocked House Studio.
Canada’s calamitous approach to the crisis of the two Michaels began on November 30, 2018, the day we received an explosive U.S. extradition request for an emergency arrest of Huawei’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou. To be carried out the very next morning, when her flight from Hong Kong landed in Vancouver.
The warning signs should have flashed red across the federal government that this request would likely result in the seizure of Canadians in China.
Taking Canadians hostage worked for China the last time
More than anything, Canada needed to buy time.
Because taking two Canadian civilians hostage is exactly what China the last time we detained a politically sensitive Chinese citizen on a U.S. warrant, in 2014.
Beijing’s political calculus is pretty clear. Canadian hostages for each Chinese national arrest.
They knew it. We knew it. The Americans knew it.
An emergency provisional warrant request endangering Canadians demanded, above all, immediate diplomacy with the Americans, rather than the timid and unquestioning processing it apparently received.
As outraged as all Canadians rightfully are at the conduct of President Xi Jinping’s government, our own leadership should object to being strong-armed by our supposedly closest ally in a way that jeopardized our citizens’ safety. Sermons about the rule of law unfairly distort the bigger picture that the public is entitled to know.
Canadians deserve to know that the Americans ginned up this foolhardy extradition application, possibly for political purposes.
“Our justice system, and the federal Crown have been hoodwinked into participating in a show trial and shakedown, against our own national interests and risking our citizens.”
They should know the history of America’s noble, but ultimately failed strategy behind these indictments.
Over the last decade, beginning under president Barack Obama, the DOJ, State and Defense departments became impatient with passively monitoring an alarming increase of cyber-espionage, theft, and threat to critical infrastructure, particularly when conducted by proxies of nation-states such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.
…(W)e face an onslaught of new threats and intrusions that raise national security concerns…
We have a host of tools available to us to combat online threats to the national security – criminal prosecution, sanctions, designations and diplomatic options – and we have the ability to pick the best tool or combination of tools to get the job done under the rule of law.
The United States is pursuing a comprehensive, whole-of-government strategy to confront malicious actors who seek to harm critical infrastructure, damage computer systems and steal trade secrets and sensitive information.
The criminal justice system is a central and effective component of this disruption effort. Indictments and prosecutions are a clear and powerful way, governed by the rule of law, to legitimize and prove allegations.
In May 2014, the DOJ launched a new strategy of publicly naming and charging state-sponsored individuals, even those beyond reach of U.S. arrest. Such was the infamous “Ugly Gorilla” case, in which the U.S. indicted five members of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on charges of conspiracy, hacking, and espionage directed at six American companies in the U.S. nuclear power, metals and solar products industries.
Even though the alleged PLA hackers were beyond the reach of authorities, just laying the charge was considered incendiary. Paul M. Tiao, a former senior counsellor on cybersecurity to FBI director Robert Mueller, told Bloomberg at the time, “This will have significant diplomatic implications and will affect our relationship with the Chinese government.”
As Canada was about to discover, it most certainly would.
As dramatic as his PLA indictment was, Carlin wanted to inflict even greater pain on Beijing. The DOJ’s calculation at the time was that the Chinese government is a rational actor that will respond rationally to pressure. “The next case,” he told colleagues, “we need a body.”
That “next body” would come from Canada. In June 2014, the U.S. requested Canadian authorities to arrest and extradite Su Bin, a Chinese national living in Richmond, B.C., on cyber-espionage charges.
Su had spent almost six years guiding a PLA hacking operation that broke into multiple senior defense contractor sites and stole massive files of critical U.S. military plans representing tens of billions of dollars in development cost. His oversight enabled the PLA, among other things, to replicate Lockheed Martin fighter jets and Boeing military cargo planes.
Su Bin was arrested in British Columbia on a US extradition request alleging multiple counts of conspiracy, espionage, and theft of military secrets.
But Beijing didn’t play the rational actor game as Carlin expected. They retaliated by abducting and imprisoning two Canadian missionaries, Julia and Kevin Garratt, for six months and two years, respectively.
In one move, China flipped Washington’s script, and turned the criminal trial into a hostage negotiation, and Washington blinked.
In terms of U.S. national security, criminal targets don’t come much higher value than Su Bin. Yet he consented to extradition and pled guilty to a single count, for which he was fined $10,000 and sentenced to a mere 18 additional months in custody.
By contrast, the typical plea bargain sentencing for espionage is in the range of 25 years to life imprisonment.
This was an unimaginably sweet deal for Su, but perhaps sweetest of all for Kevin Garratt, who was released shortly after the sentencing in 2016.
While informed sources suggest that Su’s deal took the Chinese government by surprise, there are likely only two explanations for such a weak plea agreement: either Su Bin became a cooperating witness, providing the U.S. government valuable Chinese military intelligence, or he was, in effect, traded for Garratt.
The only clue we have is that Kevin and Julia Garratt were both home, safe and sound, by 2016. If Su Bin was singing like a canary, they wouldn’t be.
At least during the Obama administration, it appears that Canada’s interests were observed and respected in extradition matters.
U.S. indictment strategy “a magnificent failure”
Yet on the international stage, the Su Bin plea agreement represented a humiliation for the DOJ and a vindication of China’s strategy of ruthless retribution.
The message could not have been clearer to everyone involved that the Chinese would see that hostage-taking works, and at all costs to avoid a replay of this scenario.
Yet just two years later, on November 30, the DOJ would try the extradition route again, Trump-style, this time seeking the arrest of the CFO of a major multinational telecom company, and the daughter of its founder, Ren Zhengfei.
Yet by now, Carlin’s indictment strategy was under fire for failing to deter Chinese theft of intellectual property. If anything, China’s brutal methods everywhere have only become stronger. Harvard law professor and US national security expert Jack Goldsmith declared it a “magnificent failure.”
A moment for emergency diplomatic intervention
So the request for yet another attempt at an unsuccessful strategy in Canada was a moment for emergency diplomatic intervention — for Canada to call on the U.S. State Department to suspend or postpone its request, in order for both countries to consider all options, given the dangers facing our citizens in China.
There’s no outward sign that anything of this nature happened. In any event, Canada appears to have meekly granted unquestioning deference to the United States. We walked straight into the buzzsaw.
While it’s easy to condemn China’s indefensible conduct both domestically and on the world stage, it’s vital that Canadians understand just how objectionable the U.S. conduct of this case has been, and how inadequately we met the moment.
Any extradition request that puts Canadians in harm’s way should be manifestly necessary, urgent, effective, and support a compelling national security interest.
Not one of those conditions applied here.
Unlike Su Bin, in criminal terms, Meng’s indictment is almost entirely gratuitous. While she may be technically guilty, the US has traditionally only charged corporate entities and not individuals for Iran sanctions violations. There is no defensible rationale supporting the endangerment of other civilians just to lay inconsequential charges.
The DOJ doesn’t need the Meng charges at all. They can easily proceed against their main target, Huawei, without her.
Extradition request misleading
Nor was there any urgency to her arrest, and the DOJ appears to have misled Canadian authorities in claiming that there was.
The Globe and Mail reported that the American warrant stated: “Unless Meng is provisionally arrested in Canada on Saturday, Dec. 1 … it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to secure her presence in the United States for prosecution…”
This was not true at all.
As a senior executive of a major multi-national corporation, Meng travelled routinely all over the world, and maintained two homes in Vancouver. As the Globe reported, she had recently traveled to the U.K., Ireland, France, Belgium, Poland and Japan, and was slated to next visit Mexico, Costa Rica and Argentina. All have mutual U.S. extradition treaties.
Why pick Canada for this request, since we’d just gone through years of hostage imprisonment on another U.S. case?
And why the unseemly rush?
There was no hint of time pressure, unless Americans had another, undisclosed objective in mind in urgently seeking a Dec. 1 arrest.
Which as it turns out, they very probably did.
Meng’s arrest a glorified perp walk for a G20 show
Mere hours after Meng’s arrest in Vancouver on Dec. 1, 2018, presidents Trump and Xi sat down to dinner with their trade teams at the G20 in Buenos Aires.
What could be a better pressure tactic in trade talks than to orchestrate a surprise glorified perp walk on the global stage?
Meng’s arrest wasn’t important, necessary or urgent.
It was a show.
Emerging from the meeting, Trump and Xi announced a cease-fire in the impending trade war. But days later, Trump twisted the knife into Xi by publicly offering to exchange Meng for trade concessions.
Just as he did with Ukraine, or with Turkey (for whom he fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara as a favour), or firing FBI director James Comey, or having his henchman AG Bill Barr get Mike Flynn’s charges dropped and Roger Stone’s sentencing manipulated, or unilaterally cancelling hard-won sanctions against China’s ZTE, Trump’s relationship with his DOJ and foreign relations is a study in dominance and self-dealing.
The moment Trump bartered Meng for a trade deal, he turned our justice system into his personal hostage-keeper. From that moment on, indeed from the moment the DOJ presented misleading evidence for its provisional extradition warrant, this proceeding has been stripped of legitimacy.
It was after this that China seized the two Michaels.
Our justice system, and the federal Crown have been hoodwinked into participating in a show trial and shakedown, against our own national interests and risking our citizens.
And we’ve been roped into a cartoonishly two-dimensional portrayal of the global dynamics at play. China bad, Canada good.
How did we get suckered so badly? How did we fail to protect our own citizens and courts from this reckless insult and abuse? How can we continue to dignify it by cloaking it in the robes of our judicial system, and lip-sync “rule of law” bromides?
We aren’t courageously standing on principle, we’re tip-toeing around Donald Trump, while our own citizens rot in a Chinese prison.
The time has come to put an end to this cruel charade.
End these extradition proceedings now, and bring our Michaels home.
62% of Canadians and 51% of Americans personally believe global warming is a “major crisis.”
Vancouver, BC [June 26, 2020] – Most Canadians and Americans would consent to providing larger fiscal contributions to their governments in order to combat global warming, a new two-country Research Co. poll has found.
In the online survey of representative national samples, 60% of Canadians and 54% of Americans say they are willing to pay higher taxes in order to adequately deal with climate change.
More than three-in-five Canadians (64%) and a majority of Americans (53%) believe global warming is a fact and is mostly caused by emission from vehicles and industrial facilities.
About one-in-four respondents in the two countries (23% in Canada and 25% in the United States) think climate change is a fact and is mostly caused by natural changes.
Only 7% of Canadians and 14% of Americans believe global warming is a theory that has not yet been proven—including 12% of Conservative Party voters in the 2019 Canadian federal election and 26% of Republican Party supporters in the United States.
About three-in-five Canadians (62%) and half of Americans (51%) describe global warming as a “major crisis”, including 70% of those aged 18-to-34 in Canada and 54% of those aged 55 and over in the United States.
When asked about specific actions that could be taken now to deal with climate change, most Canadians and Americans feel companies and corporations (75% and 59% respectively), governments (69% and 56%) and individuals and consumers (64% and 55%) should be doing more.
Residents of both countries are also supportive of actions to mitigate climate change in the future from companies and corporations (76% in Canada and 61% in the United States), governments (71% and 58%) and individuals and consumers (66% and 55%).
Parents of children under the age of 18 were asked about the effect of conversations about climate change with their kids. Two thirds of Canadian parents (67%) and more than half of American parents (54%) say they are recycling more after chatting with their children about climate change.
Smaller proportions of parents in Canada and the United States say they are driving less than usual (38% and 32% respectively) and taking shorter showers (34% and 31%) after chatting with their kids about global warming.
Results are based on online studies conducted from June 1 to June 3, 2020, among representative samples of 1,000 adults Canada and the United States. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian and U.S. census figures for age, gender and region in each country. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.1 percentage points for each country.
A record-breaking cold for a spell then made way for even warmer temperature anomalies from the early 2000s. For the 1989-2018 period, the mercury rose an average of 0.6 degrees per decade, or three times the global warming rate, the researchers found.
The report on the flipping of temperature trends at the most southerly point comes as abnormal warmth continues to bake the planet’s other polar extreme. The Russian town of Verkhoyansk last week reported 38 degrees, the warmest reading ever recorded within the Arctic Circle.
For Antarctica, the recent accelerated warming is estimated to be about two-thirds the result of natural variability with the role of rising greenhouse gases contributing about one-third, said Kyle Clem, a post-doctoral research fellow at New Zealand’s Victoria University.
The rapid warming “lies within the upper bounds of natural variability”, Dr Clem said. “It’s extremely rare and it appears very likely that humans played a role.”
The research shows “there’s no place on earth that’s immune to global warming”, he said. “There’s nowhere to hide – not even up on the Antarctic Plateau.”
Sitting at 2835 metres above sea level – or 600 metres higher than Mt Kosciuszko – on a rocky continent, the South Pole is exposed to different weather processes than its polar opposite. By contrast, the North Pole rests on shifting sea ice with the seabed more than four kilometres below.
Dr Clem, along with other researchers from the US and the UK, found changing circulation patterns in the Pacific and Southern Ocean determine which parts of Antarctica warm or cool.
For instance, the western tropical Pacific has periods when is warmer or cooler than usual.
The warmer period – known as the negative phase of the so-called Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation – set in about 2000. During this phase, there is more storm activity in the tropics which in turn spawns more high- and low-pressure systems that send heat far into the high latitudes.
The circumpolar westerly winds, which have been strengthening and contracting polewards under climate change – also play a role in amplifying the transfer of warmth into Antarctica.
When those two patterns align, as they have in recent decades, the South Pole warms but some parts, such as western Antarctica warm at a slow pace or even cool, as the frigid air shifts around.
Michael Mann, Director of the Earth System Science Centre at the University of Pennsylvania, said the study provided “a very detailed and useful analysis” of the forces at play in the far south.
If anything, though, the researchers’ use of model simulations to reach conclusions about regional trends probably understates the role of human-caused climate change.
As Canada takes steps towards economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and safety concerns for building occupants are, and must be, paramount. There has been a lot of discussion around the future of office and retail space in Canada, as millions of employees are now working from home and social distancing guidelines limit the number of people allowed in bricks-and-mortar businesses. The issue is better framed, however, by asking how these spaces can be reimagined in a way that not only addresses these health and safety concerns, but that simultaneously fosters much needed economic growth. Both the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) have responded with their visions and strategies for the role of the real estate industry in the recovery, with more steps to come.
A key recommendation coming out of the report concerns the retrofit of Canada’s existing building stock to become energy efficient. It notes that despite aging infrastructure and economically viable projects, renovations are not happening at the level necessary for Canada to meet its emissions targets by 2030. The barriers to these projects include the perceived high level of risk in energy efficient investments, deficiencies in market capacity to identify retrofit measures, and limited lending products. The CaGBC recommends that the federal government allocate $10 billion toward a first loss loan reserve for loans supporting deep retrofit project, require the use of a standardized approach to underwriting, developing and measuring retrofit projects and consider the use of non-investment grade “green” bonds insured by an institution like the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation.
The USGBC’s new strategy, Healthy People in Healthy Places Equals a Healthy Economy, aims to leverage LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and the community implementing the rating system to support buildings and communities in a post-pandemic world. Actions are underway and on June 9, 2020, the USGBC released four new Safety First Pilot Credits in response to COVID-19 on cleaning and disinfecting office space, re-entering the workspace, building water system recommissioning and managing indoor air quality during the pandemic. The next day, Arc, an affiliate of the USGBC, launched a set of tools and analytics designed to assist companies with re-entering their buildings and facilities. The technology platform allows teams overseeing the sustainability of buildings and places to collect data, manage and benchmark progress, measure impact and improve performance.
The USGBC will hold its inaugural Healthy Economy Forum in August 2020, to listen to global stakeholders on how sustainable practices can help transform new and existing spaces to be healthier and have a positive impact on people and the economy.
Considerations for Building Owners
The economic pressure on landlords and other building owners is unprecedented right now, as they seek to address demand for better ventilation, access to daylight and improved indoor air quality in an environment where there is a reduced appetite for capital expenditures. At the same time, there is a real opportunity to ensure that investment today is directed towards projects that will achieve measurable carbon emission reductions while providing jobs.
Energy efficiency audits offer a concrete way for building owners to evaluate the costs and benefits, financial and otherwise, of implementing various retrofit items to create healthier indoor environments for building occupants. These retrofits can result in significant emission reductions and support the green building technology sector, which in 2018 contributed approximately $48 billion towards Canada’s GDP, an increase of 50 percent in four years, according to the CaGBC.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges world leaders to do more. “Doing our best is no longer good enough. We must now do the seemingly impossible, ”Thunberg says in the Swedish Radio show“ Summer on P1 ”where she takes us along her trip to the front lines of the climate crisis.
We don’t accept these odds.
That was Greta Thunberg’s principal message while speaking before the United Nations General Assembly last year. It referred to the remaining CO2 budget of humanity.
– But the only message that seems to have resonated is “how dare you”, she says at the beginning of her Program, Summer on P1, a well-known Swedish radio show.
After her speech, Greta and her father travel through 37 states in total.
– Apart from a few wind power plants and solar panels, there are no signs whatsoever of any sustainable transition, despite being the richest country in the world.
She has been discouraged from visiting the state of Alberta in Canada, but goes there anyway. Alberta is one of the western world’s largest oil producers and has a very powerful and aggressive oil lobby.
– On several occasions I need to call for police protection when the level of threats and the sheer harassments become too serious, she witnesses in her program.
On her way to Jasper Nation Park she drives through magnificent pine forests, but many trees aren’t green, their needles are either brown or have been completely lost. She visits the Athabasca glacier and on her way up to the glacier she can see the signs of how the glacier has disappeared meter by meter, it is currently withdrawing five meters each year. The last 125 years the glacier has lost half of its volume, due to global warming.
– This year – 2020 – the emission curve must be steeply downwards if we are still to have even a small chance of achieving the goals that world leaders have agreed to, says Greta Thunberg. Either we go on as a civilization, or we don’t. Doing our best is no longer good enough. We must now do the seemingly impossible. And that’s up to you and me. Because no one else will do it for us.
About Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg sailed the Atlantic Ocean to meet with the world leaders at the 2019 UN Climate Summit.
Started a school strike for climate change outside of the Swedish Parliament in August 2018 and has inspired millions of students around the world to join her.
Greta Thunberg started the Fridays for Future global movement and has had conversations with prime ministers, presidents and the pope. She has 17 million followers through her social media channels and was appointed Person of the Year by Time Magazine 2019.
“Summer” is a very well known radio show where a person is given free hands to talk about whatever they want and play whatever music they like.
As a Black man, I feared for my life. We need to hold law enforcement accountable before any more lives are lost.
Wellness checks, theoretically, give anyone the power to unleash multiple armed officers to your door. Image captured from a video by the author of Montreal police conducting an unasked-for wellness check in his apartment. Photo submitted.
On a recent Friday morning, I was jolted awake by the sound of fists banging against the glass panels of my front door.
Startled, I leapt out of bed. I heard voices shouting from outside, identifying themselves as police and demanding that I answer my door. Without any time to get dressed, I wrapped my bed sheet around my lower body and approached the source of the noise. I could make out the silhouettes of two police officers and a hand reaching through my front mail slot, trying to peek inside.
I opened my front door and was met by two white women in Montréal police uniforms, with guns in their hip holsters. There was a squad car waiting outside with at least one more officer. The officers at my door informed me that I, or someone within my apartment, had called them. I had not called, and there was no one else in my apartment. I said this and explained that up until a moment ago I had been asleep. This was not what the officers wanted to hear, and I could see them becoming more agitated. They did not believe me.
I pressed for more information. They said someone had called 911 about a woman in distress and that they had reason to believe this person was in danger and in my apartment. The officers began to make it very clear to me that they would not leave until they had searched my apartment. I was terrified.
This disturbing scenario is what I, a Black man, woke up to on the morning of Juneteenth. Celebrated on June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States and the emancipation of millions of African Americans.
Juneteenth has been in the spotlight recently in large part thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement and the monumental protests against police brutality in the U.S. and across the world. The holiday’s shift into the mainstream has been fuelled by a tsunami of recorded incidents of racism and police brutality shared on social media.
At a time when so many are calling for the defunding of police departments, I found myself in a scenario that I have only ever read about. An ordeal I would not wish on anyone, but especially not a person of colour. I am talking about “wellness checks,” which are supposed to prevent self-harm, but in the cases of D’Andre Campbell, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Chantel Moore, Rodney Levi, Ejaz Choudry and many others, they resulted in death. All five of these victims of recent police violence in Canada were Black, Indigenous, or people of colour.
Like most Canadians I knew very little about wellness checks. I did not know that it could happen without your consent and that it, theoretically, gives anyone the power to unleash multiple armed officers to your door.
I cannot begin to describe the nerve-wracking feeling of being gaslit in my own home by two heavily armed police officers. It was a waking nightmare so illogical, so bizarre, that it felt like a sick joke.
I live alone. The only people that I have allowed into my apartment since mid-March are my landlord and the repair people that came to fix an urgent water pipe issue. This is because I live in Québec — the hardest hit province in Canada by COVID-19. The very thought of having two strangers enter my apartment — without face coverings — during a global pandemic was, and still is, unacceptable to me.
Nonetheless, they began to enter my apartment and I instinctively did the only thing I thought I could to protect myself: I stepped away from the door, reached for my phone and pressed record.
An officer told me “[they] got a call. Someone is in danger here, so we gotta check.” They had fully invaded my apartment when I asked, “who called you?”
The officer replied, “I am not going to give you his name.”
Unsatisfied, I repeatedly told the officers that I did not give them permission to be inside of my apartment and that I felt harassed. They proceeded to ignore my wishes. I asked to see a warrant and to my surprise the officer responded that “we don’t need a warrant if a life is in danger.”
I began to ask myself: how could this possibly be happening right now? How could the police be granted such sweeping authority and the power to invade and search my apartment? All of this, on the basis of an unsubstantiated and possibly anonymous phone call?
I have grown accustomed to living under suspicion from those in authority. Growing up, I, like most visible minorities in Canada, have been conditioned to fear the police. My own friends and family have been carded and harassed by the police simply on the basis of the colour of their skin. These unjust and humiliating encounters are what creates the impression that the police do not serve our communities and that they instead function to protect the status quo.
Distrust is one reason why wellness checks conducted by armed police officers, no matter the intentions, can escalate tensions and lead to preventable deaths.
According to a CBC investigation, there have been 461 fatal police encounters in Canada between 2000 and 2017, which disproportionately killed Black and Indigenous people. The report found more than 70 per cent of the victims of police violence “[suffered] from mental health and substance abuse problems.” This horrific figure exposes the uncomfortable truth that the most vulnerable Canadians among us are not receiving the support they need. That our government, instead of supporting social workers and community programs, is shovelling resources towards bloated police departments that are woefully unprepared and clearly unsuitable to support Canadians with mental illnesses or substance abuse problems.
I reached out to the Montréal police for answers in the wake of my unwanted and unsettling encounter. In a response to my complaint, Lieutenant Baiamonte Salvatore said the call was from a man reporting suicidal ideas. Salvatore cited a chapter of Québec’s mental health and safety legislation about self-harm in lieu of answering questions about a warrant. I still do not know who called 911 or why, which has left me in a state of unease. Was this a case of mistaken identity? Or was there an underlying malicious intent behind sending the police to my home? I do not know.
What I do know is we need to listen to experts. CAMH, one of the leading mental healthcare institutions in the country, recently denounced racism and the role police play as first responders during wellness checks.
Every disaster movie starts with someone ignoring the experts. Scientists point to an impending threat with increasing alarm, but to the public the threat feels abstract, distant. Until it reaches a tipping point and suddenly everything changes.
Almost overnight, COVID-19 exploded from World Health Organization discussion rooms to shatter the global economy and upend our social lives. It’s an example of “systemic” risk, where nature shifts otherwise unseen boundary conditions under which we operate. Assumptions underpinning everyday security are betrayed. COVID breached an invisible line between us and pathogens. Nature’s back in the driver’s seat. We’re humbled, no longer in control.
The good news is that humility brought massive changes in behaviour to limit the risk, and unlocked enormous public and private resources to resolve it.
Social distancing buys time. A vaccine puts the boundary back in place. Our collective response is a moral one: we took on staggering costs in the blink of an eye to protect ourselves. A united public sector is arbiter of that moral dimension. It defines the framework by which we act, and only it can provide the foundation upon which the economy recovers.
That unlocks a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: as the global corporate world leans — once again — on the public purse for recovery, we might demand in return a renewed “climate capitalism,” a sustainable economy built for the 21st century.
Climate risk looks a bit like COVID-19, if you squint. Climate risk is the mother of systemic risks. We’re changing the planetary-scale boundary conditions under which civilization evolved: the patterns of weather and water that dictate how we get our food and where we build our cities. Inaction on climate risks our security, civic infrastructure and institutions. The response to climate risk is thus also a moral one: we act to keep ourselves safe. The public sector is director of the show, the private sector its actors.
COVID’s threat feels closer than climate, though — right? That’s why we called a political truce and acted with urgency. We want to protect our aunts, dads and friends — today. And climate’s still way over the horizon.
Well … did COVID feel so immediate a few months ago? The risk of a pandemic was always there; we just ignored it. And the climate threat feels less distant with each new firestorm, flood or drought. Ask an Australian how up close and personal climate risk feels, or someone whose home burned in Fort McMurray or California. A new generation, led by Greta Thunberg, certainly feels an immediate sense of insecurity.
There’s one crucial difference no amount of squinting can reconcile. Worst case on COVID is we screw up on social distancing but still resurface in a year or so when a vaccine comes along. We can fail on COVID and recover. Failure on climate is forever. There’s no putting planetary boundaries back once they shift to more energetic and dangerous states. It’s a one-way trip. There’s no equivalent of social distancing to buy time, marshal resources and plan a counterattack. So we have to invent a vaccine in advance. That’s climate capitalism: a vaccine to anticipate climate risk.
Left and right united under COVID — Trudeau and Ford working together! — because people won’t tolerate leadership that can’t protect them, whatever their political stripes. You don’t have to be a lefty to appreciate a strong public sector today. Neither must you be a Wall Street titan to understand market forces; big corporations and private capital are powerful tools to solve wicked problems — if given focus. We see that with COVID: the private sector scales up needed tech — tests, vaccines, treatments — when co-ordinated and incented by the public sector. Climate capitalism is no different: the private sector can and will act decisively on climate but only when incented and directed by an empowered and united public sector.
But on climate the political divide grows wider. Many on the far left — led by Naomi Klein — blame capitalism itself for climate risk and would have us throw it out.
This is misguided in three ways. First, we can’t possibly rebuild energy systems without private capital, innovation and all the complex activity only markets can organize. Greenhouse gases aren’t DDT; you can’t just ban them. Second, radicalizing the politics of climate hinders the work of building the large tent needed for decisive action in a democracy. Third, it sets arbitrary limits on what capitalism can look like. If Klein’s target was limited to American-style, free-market fundamentalism, she’d have many allies, including me.
On the other side of this cultural divide sit reasonable people, civic and business leaders who understand that climate risk is real but prefer an incremental approach. They fear radical intervention in the economy. Instead, it’s proposed we nibble around the edges. That too is misguided: a bit like lifting COVID’s social distancing restrictions too soon because you fear short-term pain. The reduction in risk is illusory. It’s the long game that matters. It’s too late to nibble around the edges; only deep, radical cuts in emissions will do. Incrementalism feeds into Klein’s radical narrative: “See? Capitalists won’t do what’s necessary. Let’s bring it all down!”
Capitalism isn’t monolithic. It means different things to different people. For an ordinary person, it might mean owning your own bakery, working for options in a tech start-up or watching your RRSP grow so you can retire in comfort. It can mean Russia’s anarcho-capitalism, Indonesia’s crony capitalism or China’s state capitalism. Sweden is as much a capitalist country, in this view, as America. There’s no preordained role for the public sector. Roosevelt’s New Deal didn’t make the U.S. any less capitalist. Nor is private capital sacred — it moves under a legal framework that citizens endorse. There’s no predetermined moral dimension: it’s neither good nor bad, but reflects human complexity.
Climate capitalism is a rewiring of the economy using whatever works to put a cork in emissions — whether they come from the left, right or anywhere else. Economic radicalism is not the same thing as political radicalism. We harness as many existing institutions as possible for the sake of expediency. We don’t throw out the machinery of capitalism; we replace the fuel.
Twenty years ago, the story would start and end here: price carbon — start low, ratchet it up slowly, keep it revenue-neutral so it’s not a government cash grab. Sit back and watch the market work its magic. Optimally efficient, it’s the incrementalist’s dream! Unfortunately, it’s too late for that soft landing. If your house is on fire, you don’t care if the hose leaks; you just want lots of water. Speed matters more than efficiency.
We need shortcuts, even if they’re less efficient. Here are some ideas.
Has anyone fought an election over efficiency regulations? Car mileage standards or the carbon content of fuel? Sustainable energy professor Mark Jaccard points out that the heavy lifting on emissions reductions thus far, whether in Canada or California, was borne by regulations. Many define an outcome — say, energy use in buildings — without defining how to get there. Jaccard calls them “flex-regs.” Fast, effective, often under the political radar.
WATERLOO REGION — To comprehend what is going on today means understanding Canada’s entrenched history of erasing Indigenous peoples and anti-Black violence, a panel heard Thursday.
At the virtual panel discussion on anti-racism and changing current systems, speakers addressed Canada’s legacy of trauma and hurt inflicted on Indigenous and Black peoples.
“That start of Canada with trafficking and enslavement of Africans and clearing Indigenous people from their territories so the land could be enclosed within a fort and taken for profit tells a lot about what is going on with us today,” said panellist Ruth Cameron, executive director of The AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Area.
Panellist Ciann Wilson, assistant professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, agreed with Cameron that Canada was built on enslavement and genocide, clearing the land of its original inhabitants for exploitation and profit, and financed through proceeds from the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
“Erasure is part of the whitewashing of history,” said Wilson. “We need to acknowledge that bloodshed and that really vicious and violent history.”
The violence is still faced by the two groups, she said.
Cameron and Wilson were one of six speakers at the discussion, which was organized by the Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation and attracted more than 300 remote attendees.
There is a long history of Black people in Waterloo, particularly the settlement of Queen’s Bush in the 1850s, but it is often erased in the retelling, said panellist Fitsum Areguy, co-founder of Textile Literature.
“We talk about Mennonite settlement histories, German histories. We do not talk enough about deep Indigenous histories. We do not talk about Black histories here,” he said.
Lori Campbell, director of the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre at the University of Waterloo, said the police forces were created in Canada to “clear the plains of Indigenous peoples.
“That’s how we got locked up on reservations,” she said. “The police force was against Indigenous peoples. The service is for the settlers and the colonizers.”
Campbell said the police “have never protected us.” Police “hunted us, confined us and dragged us back to the reserves.”
Campbell said Indigenous people teach their children how not to get killed by police. The narrative is different for white settler Canadians and what they teach their children about police, she said.
The first police in the U.S. were started to “control and surveil enslaved African people and haul them back to their masters if they sought freedom,” said Wilson.
Campbell said no equity or diversity program is going to lead to outcomes that Black and Indigenous peoples are looking for because systemic racism is built within the existing systems. Hiring more Black and Indigenous officers is not a solution, she said.
Instead, Indigenous communities need the resources to claim back their own legal systems, education and kinship to make their peoples healthy again, she said.
For the panellists, defunding the police is the only way to move forward to help the Black and Indigenous communities. Money would be reallocated from police to services that are trained to deal with social and mental health issues.
Allan Adam leads a Dene nation that famously fought the Canadian government and oil lobby in its territory.
Allan Adam is the chief of 1,200 Dene nation people in northern Alberta, Canada. Police officers tackled him to the ground in March over an expired license plate.Credit…Amber Bracken for The New York Times
TORONTO — He survived Canada’s notoriously abusive schools for Indigenous children and went on to lead his own nation. He battled governments and oil giants over the pollution of his traditional territory, garnering him the praise and admiration of Desmond Tutu, Greta Thunberg and celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio.
But when police officers double-teamed Allan Adam, the outspoken leader of one of Canada’s First Nations, tackling him to the pavement and punching him over an expired license plate, he said they treated him as though he were voiceless and powerless.
“They did it to the chief. Not just any chief,” said Mr. Adam, the leader of the Dene nation of 1,200 people in northern Alberta, which famously fought for its rights in the midst of an oil boom affecting its territory. He was someone known, he said, to “not back down from a fight.”
“They shouldn’t have picked me,” Mr. Adam said in a phone interview from his home in Fort Chipewyan on remote Lake Athabasca. “They made a mistake.”
Mr. Adam was charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. On Wednesday, the charges against him were dropped.
But videos of the police beating an unarmed man have prompted not just an investigation into the officers involved, but also outrage across Canada, with growing demands for an overhaul of the country’s policing system, which imprisons Indigenous and black people at highlydisproportionate rates.
A police dash cam video captured officers tackling and punching Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, in northern Alberta, Canada.CreditCredit…Royal Canadian Mounted Police
“We have to seriously open the eyes of every nonnative Canadian to the realities that we, as Indigenous people of the land, have had to live with for decades,” Mr. Adam said at a news conference last week.
Mr. Adam was the youngest of 11 children. His father was a hunter and trapper who supported the family by fishing and harvesting furs.
Just before his 6th birthday, Mr. Adam was dropped off at a brick building on the edge of town: the Holy Angels residential school. His three years there are still too painful to discuss, he said in the interview.
The schools, though mostly established by religious orders, were used by the Canadian government for more than 160 years to assimilate Indigenous children forcibly, removing them from their families and cultures.
A national Truth and Reconciliation Commission declared them tools of “cultural genocide” five years ago in a report that documented widespread physical and sexual abuse and thousands of deaths.
“When I think of residential school, I think of death, rape and physical abuse,” said Mr. Adam, who lost fluency in his native Denesuline language while at the school, where he feared being hit for speaking it.
“Horrific stories I suffered at the hands of nuns and priests and schoolteachers,” he said.
Mr. Adam said he took up drinking and smoking at age 9, after leaving. Most of his classmates from that time, he said, are dead.
Reconnecting to the land saved his life, Mr. Adam said.
When he was a child, his parents would take him out into the boreal forest for five months a year, teaching him to fish, trap and hunt.
Mr. Adam and his wife, Freda Courtoreille, on a nature trail in Fort McMurray, Alberta.Credit…Amber Bracken for The New York Times
His father taught him to shoot a moose during mating season by standing still in darkness, waiting for the crashing sound of the animal’s approach.
“Until today, I still can’t master it,” he said, laughing.
“If it wasn’t for the land, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Mr. Adam, 53, now a father of five and grandfather of 12. He added, “It taught me to become a human being again.”
After seventh grade, Mr. Adam left school, he said, “when the trauma started coming back.” He worked as a firefighter and truck driver as well as for his nation’s housing authority, among other jobs. He went to prison four times for assault, he said, because he would not back down from a fight.
“I’ve been run over so many times in life, I won’t let that happen again,” he said. “What residential school did to me, I won’t let that happen to my kids.”
He found his calling once he was elected to the government of his nation, which has land in central Canada around Lake Athabasca and the Athabasca River.
Four years later, in 2007, he was elected chief on an economic development platform to exploit the nearby upriver oil sands, which had grown from a single mine in his childhood to a sprawling landscape of smokestacks and tailings ponds.