Speed cameras at intersections – It’s not a cash grab

It’s September of 2018 and there’s continued talk about the Province of British Columbia implementing speed cameras at intersections.  I was disappointed to hear our Premiere, John Horgan, comment to the effect that this program is not a cash grab, because the locations of these camera’s will be well signed so that it’s no secret they’re there.  I believe that this entirely misses the issue.

Speed limits are well signed in the majority of urban areas.    Part of getting a drivers licence in B.C. entails passing a test that inquires as to the default speed limits in the event that no sign is available.   Speed is a leading causative factor in crashes in British Columbia.   Of the crashes involving fatalities, ICBC has identified speed as being a leading causative factor 30% of the time.  Fatalities, that’s dead people, dead, they’re not coming home to their families.

What are we doing to stop speeding?  Vigorous traffic enforcement?  Hardly.    I drive a lot each day.   I travel by motor vehicle roughly 300 kilometres each day, most of it on the highway 97 corridor between Vernon and Penticton.   I do this 5 days a week.   In the morning, between the hours of 4:15 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.  I have seen police with someone pulled over on fewer than 5 occasions in the 3 years I’ve been doing this.  In the afternoon, between the hours of 3:00 and 5:30 p.m. I’ve seen less than 40 cars pulled over, and that includes a couple of speed traps I’ve passed that have multiple officers on an enforcement blitz.  I’m usually within 5 kilometres of the limit, not more than 10, and everyone passes me.   I mean everyone.    I don’t mean they gradually creep up on me, perhaps going 10 over.  No, I mean they blow past me, usually going at least 20 over the limit if I can rely on those speed reporting signs that are designed to encourage people to slow down.   My estimation is that the average driver is 20 to 25 over the limit on highways.  This is not one car, or a few, this is the majority of the traffic.   Frankly, why should they slow down?  It’s clear they don’t appreciate the increased risk of accident and injury, and there’s very little risk of getting caught by traffic enforcement given the tiny amount of enforcement that occurs, so… why not.

Speeding is a big issue in B.C. and  speed limits are not a secret.  Penalizing people who choose to speed is not a cash grab.  It’s the responsible thing to do. The idea that somehow it’s unfair not to notify someone of the enforcement is ridiculous.   We all know that there are laws against speeding.  What’s unfair is that so many continue to do it.

Donald Trump, the USA and a trade war with China

It’s September of 2018 and a few days ago Donald Trump imposed tariffs on numerous goods imported from China.    I believe his reasoning is that he is trying to work out a trade agreement that he sees as being more fair.  As I understand it he warned that China had “better not” retaliate.

I’m thinking that Donald is failing to understand a couple of important aspects of China.

a) One of these is the importance to the Chinese of respect and the concept of saving face.  They’re not going to be bullied into anything and they’re not going to be shamed by a “better not” kind of statement.   “Better not” is the kind of thing one says to a child, and China is not going to be anyone’s child.

b) China is not a democracy.   The power of the General Secretary in China is established by the Constitution of China, and that Constitution specifies that China is ruled by the Communist Party of China.   That gives them all the say, and they’re not looking around every 4 years for re-election.   That’s how things like the Tienamen Square Massacre took place.   The students of China had started protesting, and for a time were allowed to, and eventually the rulers of China sent in the military and killed many of them.

With this in mind, I say that in the event that the United States foreign policy becomes one of having a trade war with China, the Government of China is I think quite prepared to keep up that battle until it’s people starve in the street before they’ll be willing to come to a table they’ve been forced to.   I do not however believe that the President of the United States is prepared or able to take matters to that limit.   I certainly don’t think that the american public is willing to support a stand that drags things to that point.   Heck, they’re all shopping at Walmart because it’s a bargain.  With a trade war Walmart won’t have near the bargains.

 

What’s a Rat? Nuances in language matter, even here.

I’ve heard comments many times about this or that person being “a rat”.  It’s a term that says they are the lowest of the low, deserving of utter contempt, but it sure gets thrown around liberally.   I’ve heard it in jail and on the street used to apply to any witness in a trial, or anyone that calls the police.  Now I appreciate that many of those that throw the term around are not exactly artisans with the language.   We’re not talking a lot of University graduates here.   The thing is that the term “Rat” does have a specific meaning.  Firstly, lets talk about what a rat is:

A rat is someone who is complicit in a crime, by reason of having had actual involvement in the offence, who then provides evidence, including statements, tips, written notes, recordings, or any information whatsoever to investigatory authorities for the purpose of assisting himself in escaping legal jeopardy.   A rat is one who will do anything to save himself.    A rat is, respectfully, a despicable person not because they are “telling on” someone, but because of their motivation.  The motivation is to extricate themselves form the same legal peril, in effect to throw their partners to the wolves so as to be able to run away.

 

Sometimes it’s more effective to define a word by what it is not.  Let’s have a try at that.   What is not a rat?

  1.  A rat is not a member of the public who phones in about a witnessed crime.  They’re a witness to a crime and don’t have any involvement in it.   They’re the ones that are supposed to call it in.
  2. A rat is not a criminal who tells on other criminals whom they are not involved with to get payments from the police or to sewer their competition.   They are people who don’t follow the code (almost no one does) and they’re despicable persons, but they’re not rats.
  3. A rat is not a person who is the victim of a crime who then tells police about it.  This includes criminally involved people who are for example beaten up by other criminals.  If he talks to the police he is not following the code, but he’s not a rat.
  4. A rat certainly is not a victim of a crime who is a member of the general public.   They’re supposed to turn to the police.
  5. A rat is not a criminal who is involved in a crime and then feels badly about it on a moral level and tells the police about his involvement as well as the involvement of his co-conspirators.   This is the one that is really a fine line.    Timing is usually the key part here, where the person goes in to police (or their priest, or counselor)  to tell them of what occurred prior to any investigation when they have no reason to think they’re going to be caught, that’s a moral decision, or a lot more likely so anyway.  Contrast this though with the conversation with police in the context of the crime being investigated, where the police say something like “we know you’re not the bad guy, you need to tell us about this”.   Once the person knows that it might go better for them and then rolls over on their buddies to secure that benefit, bang, they’re a rat.   They’ve made it.   Rats are indeed despicable persons but they’re their own kind of despicable person, they’re a rat, and deserving of contempt.

I note that Canadian Law does in part make allowance for the dangers of persons who fall into the category of rat, and also of persons from a variety of other risky in terms of reliability witnesses, though those witnesses do not fall into the the category of “rat”.    In a decision entitled

Vetrovec v. The Queen, [1982] 1 SCR 811, 1982 CanLII 20 (SCC)

the Supreme Court of Canada says that in addressing evidence from such persons in the course of a jury trial:

I would hold that there is no special category for “accomplices”. An accomplice is to be treated like any other witness testifying at a criminal trial and the judge’s conduct, if he chooses to give his opinion, is governed by the general rules.

[page 831]

I would only like to add one or two observations concerning the proper practice to be followed in the trial court where as a matter of common sense something in the nature of confirmatory evidence should be found before the finder of fact relies upon the evidence of a witness whose testimony occupies a central position in the purported demonstration of guilt and yet may be suspect by reason of the witness being an accomplice or complainant or of disreputable character. There are great advantages to be gained by simplifying the instruction to juries on the question as to when a prudent juror will seek some confirmation of the story of such a witness, before concluding that the story is true and adopting it in the process of finding guilt in the accused as charged. It does not, however, always follow that the presiding justice may always simply turn the jury loose upon the evidence without any assisting analysis as to whether or not a prudent finder of fact can find confirmation somewhere in the mass of evidence of the evidence of a witness. Because of the infinite range of circumstance which will arise in the criminal trial process it is not sensible to attempt to compress into a rule, a formula, or a direction the concept of the need for prudent scrutiny of the testimony of any witness. What may be appropriate, however, in some circumstances, is a clear and sharp warning to attract the attention of the juror to the risks of adopting, without more, the evidence of the witness. There is no magic in the word corroboration, or indeed in any other comparable expression such as confirmation and support. The idea implied in those words may, however, in an appropriate case, be effectively and efficiently transmitted to the mind of the trier of fact. This may entail some illustration from the evidence of the particular case of the type of evidence, documentary or testimonial, which might be drawn upon by the juror in confirmation of the witness’ testimony or some important part thereof. I do not wish to be taken as saying that such illustration must be carried to exhaustion. However, there is, in some circumstances, particularly in lengthy trials, the need for helpful direction on the question of sifting the evidence where guilt or innocence might, and probably will turn on the acceptance or rejection, belief or disbelief, of the

[page 832]

evidence of one or more witnesses. All of this applies equally in the case of an accomplice, or a disreputable witness of demonstrated moral lack, as for example a witness with a record of perjury. All this takes one back to the beginning and that is the search for the impossible: a rule which embodies and codifies common sense in the realm of the process of determining guilt or innocence of an accused on the basis of a record which includes evidence from potentially unreliable sources such as an accomplice.

Sometimes the Supreme Court of Canada gets it wrong but I think they did a pretty nice bit of work on this one.  I note however that they don’t draw a moral distinction in terms of the particular category of the person giving evidence.  In my view there is one.

 

 

A reply to the Trolls, anonymous gives me the last word

I’ve occasionally been a news figure.  That’s not by choice.  I’m a fairly quiet guy, but I do believe in speaking up.    About 4 years ago I appeared in front of Vernon City Council on a bylaw to ban all pro MMA (Mixed martial arts) events in Vernon.   This was reported in the online news, and attracted several comments, including:

 

Did everyone miss the irony of the fact that the only person to speak in favour of MMA events is someone with ties to organized crime?

I have considered some of the comments for some time. Wow, almost 4 years in fact. That may seem a little petty, not having much else to focus on in life? I’m not suggesting that I’ve non-stop been thinking about this, but when people come out with clever and anonymous comments those comments have an effect. I think an explanation is in order.  Here it is:

I was well aware of the parallels that could be drawn as I made the comments that I did before city council. When I went to this council meeting I had hoped to be as anonymous as I could. I didn’t wear a sign or badge that said “gang lawyer”. I walked in quietly, tried to keep my head down in case anyone recognized me, and didn’t plan on saying anything. I had heard that city council was going to vote on a matter that concerned me, being a ban on professional mixed martial arts. Now say what you will about gangs and mixed martial arts, but I just don’t see them as being synonymous. Apparently the police in Vernon do. They are concerned enough that they make a secret presentation to council that got this whole thing started. We don’t get to hear what the concerns that they had are, that’s all “in camera”, meaning you’re never able to know it. I just heard they were having a vote to ban any MMA professional bouts in Vernon, and I thought “hey I like MMA, I think it’s a heck of a sport.” I’ve watched hundreds of matches on the TV, and have been able to attend one while on holiday in Mexico. I had tried to attend another in Vernon but the match didn’t go ahead. I believe the reason it didn’t go ahead was a lack of ticket sales? In all of those matches that I’ve watched I’ve never seen a gang symbol of any sort that I recognized. I haven’t heard any slogans/phrases that seemed to be associated to gangs, not a single one. There was never, at the close of hundreds of matches that I’ve watched, an announcement of the victory of this or that gang. I hear more gang associated stuff from professional wrestling, and no one in the world ties anything of meaning to that. The ghost of Al Capone did not call me up and say “hey, gang lawyer who’s been disgraced publicly, run down to city hall and try to oppose this bylaw that prevents our gang fund raising.” What kind of strategy would that be?? It in effect undermines the very thing you’re trying to accomplish?? Yes, I knew that. I’m not dull witted. So I went to the council meeting with every intention of being as anonymous as I could, but hoped to be in silent support of whoever might speak up against what I see as a really misguided and discriminatory bylaw. I sat quietly in my seat, I got there early as I thought that the mixed martial arts clubs in town (small struggling businesses to be sure, no sign of gang involvement that I’ve been able to detect) might put in a good presence and I wanted to be able to sit down as my back hurts if I stand for too long. I had thought there would be some lengthy debate. What happened….. No one showed up and no one stood up. Not one person spoke up. They asked if anyone had comment and there was complete silence. None of the members of Vernon city council said anything in opposition, none of the pubic said anything, silence. I looked around, and looked around, and the time to make any reply was about to be gone, so I stood up. I knew full well the parallels that would be drawn. I expected that I may well be recognized and ridiculed due to the “gang lawyer” association, but I really thought this bylaw was discriminatory and misguided and surely someone should say something???? So I did. I spoke for about a minute and a half, and talked about how I enjoyed the sport, and that there were clubs in the city that practised this very sport, to become skilled, and in some cases become professional, and how the money that was involved was so very small at the level that we would see here in Vernon, not ever even coming close to covering gym costs, and it fell on utterly deaf ears. The “in camera” presentation by the RCMP apparently had devastating effect. I was not asked a single question. No one else stood up and spoke, and Vernon city council voted 100% in favour of the bylaw, and there’s not been a professional mixed martial art bout in Vernon since then.

So there’s my explanation. I don’t see too much that’s “Ironic” in that, but I guess if you’re desperate to find it and very clever maybe you’ll get there. I note that there has never been, to the best of my knowledge, a professional mixed martial arts event in Vernon, so the whole thing is a bit of a tempest in a tea pot I guess. The one that tried failed due to a lack of ticket sales.

 

 

Disastrous Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario

 

2018.09.11  Sometimes democracy has some real problems in it’s outcomes.   Case in point, Doug Ford.   This is a guy who ran for the position of Premier of Ontario.   Ontario is the second largest province in Canada, and has roughly 40% of the total population of Canada.  Ontario carries some weight so to speak.  Then…. along comes Doug Ford.   Part of his platform..??  Let’s reduce the minimum price that beer can be sold for in Ontario to 1 dollar plus deposit.  Really?  That’s part of his platform?  That’s the most transparent and superficial thing I think I’ve heard of in a long time.   It’s an obvious attempt to appeal to the guy who would otherwise not be all that likely to vote.   It’s a way to expand the voting base.   During the campaign a reporter asks him if he can explain how a bill gets passed and becomes law and  he replies with

“You know something my friend, we can run through that,” Ford said. “And I know this is a gotcha question and everything because that’s your game, big smile on your face.

Then..  can you believe it?  It worked!   He got in.  So now what does Ontario have?

Ontario has a Premier who within weeks of getting into office takes steps to cut the number of City Councillors in Toronto in half.   Now have in mind that Doug’s extensive experience with city council, prior to being elected as Premier of the Province of Ontario was a grand total of one term in office.    This is a guy with a pretty limited political background.   It’s absolutely obvious that he has quite an axe to grind with the City Council for Toronto.

Doug Ford brings forward the legislation to make this reduction, and the Court tells him in no uncertain terms that the legislation is unconstitutional.  His response..   he says he’s going to use the Notwithstanding Clause in the Charter.   CBC gives a pretty nice explanation of the Notwithstanding Clause here.  I’ve gone on about the Charter from time to time here.    It’s a very important document that sets out the absolutely fundamental freedoms that we in Canada enjoy.   Those rights are synonymous with what it is to be Canadian.      The very idea of invoking the notwithstanding clause to override the fundamental rights of Canadians on an issue such as the size of the City Council of Toronto is astounding.  The idea is reflective of a shocking pettiness, an immediate willingness to use the “nuclear option”, and a complete failure to understand the real meaning behind the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Disastrous Doug Ford is indeed a disaster and he’s only in the first months of office.   His conduct perhaps puts him in commonality with President Donald Trump in that they have similar styles.   Surely no one in Canada thinks that’s a good thing?   Given his performance thus far I would hope that the next time around the polls even the beer drinkers of Ontario have the good sense to kick him beyond the curb and out to the street.

2018.09.12 Today I learn that Doug is complaining that the courts have usurped the function of the legislature.  Doug still doesn’t get it.  It’s not about the courts trying to usurp the legislature.  It’s about a premier of a province only attempting to use the notwithstanding clause in the most compelling of public circumstances.    Trying to pursue a tiff with the City of Toronto City Council is not a compelling public circumstance.   The size of the city council is the business of the people of the City of Toronto and were the people of Toronto all that concerned they could bring that forward by way of a plebiscite or something similar.