Ed & Deb Shapiro
Through many years of being involved with meditation we have seen how easily people miss the point, mainly because they take the practice and themselves too seriously. Many ‘try’ to meditate but their minds are so busy they get frustrated and quickly believe they are no good at it. Others turn into die-hard advocates of a particular method or technique and become like a salesperson trying to sell their produce.
Just like Yoga, people want to own meditation and to believe that their technique is the best one. They give it a name: TM or Vipassana or Mindfulness and sometimes make outrageous claims of what can be achieved, but that is not the point. Meditation is not a technique – being quiet happens by itself, not because of following the breath in and out, reciting a specific mantra or creating a visualization.
Teachers, through their compassion, created the many methods and techniques in order to help their students to concentrate and focus their minds, to be one-pointed. No one technique is better than another; they equally give our monkey minds something to do other than drive us bananas. Many of the practices known as meditation are actually concentration; they bring the mental energy together so the mind is less fragmented. But this is not meditation.
Meditation invites us to stop, just stop, breathe and be. Just as with a musician playing or an artist painting, when we stop trying to make it happen something occurs, like the radiant sun that suddenly emerges in a cloudy sky. But because we try so hard, we identify more with the technique instead of allowing the meditation to reveal itself.
The practice of meditation easily gets put in a box: “I will practice now, at this time, at this place and in this posture, and I will do this particular method.” But a method is simply an aide; it is not the experience itself. A hammer can help build a house but it is not the house. There is no doubt that through practice we can release stress and feel wonderfully peaceful, but genuine meditation is about waking up, where the mind is clear and free of obscuration.
This is not a mental process but an experiential one as meditation is an opening, a release of ego identity when all attempts to meditate, all striving, all doing stops, when there is no past or future, just radiant emptiness. It is being present – fully aware and present in every moment — and we can do that whatever we are doing and wherever we are. It is the freedom to be fully oneself without limitations or ideologies – there is just this.
Deb’s father, Richard, was on a Zen retreat where he was taught to temper his sensuality, not to give in to his senses or think of sensual things but to stay focused and single minded. While walking in the garden he then came across a pond laden with happily fornicating frogs. We think meditation has to be something special but true meditation is opening and expanding our perception, as if seeing with new eyes.
The technique becomes redundant when meditation becomes our natural state. It doesn’t matter what the technique is — when we drive to Rome the car is necessary but when we get there it is immaterial – what matters is the attitude and awareness that we bring to practice. The teacher is also more important than the technique. They must be skillful, peaceful and clear, regardless of the method or tradition they are teaching.
The moon trusts that the world will continue to go round on its axis, birds trust there will be berries and seeds to eat, trees trust the seasons will follow in the right order. Until we trust that things will unfold naturally then we are slaves to our doubts, fears and neurosis, to the constant chatter in our heads that says we are useless and don’t know anything. But we don’t make the sun to rise or set. The planet is in orbit and neither we nor Jesus or Buddha or any of the wise ones run the show. Our job is simply to surrender to the moment.
See Ed & Deb’s award-winning book: BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Jack Kornfield, Jane Fonda, Father Thomas Keating, Marianne Williamson, Ram Dass, and many others.
The cure for an upset stomach ? A hot maiden.
31st October 2011
If the Duke of Cambridge is looking for a little guidance on how to behave once he inherits the throne, he should head straight to the British Library.
Offering advice on the art of kingship, a set of manuscripts dating back to the 9th century is set to go on display there as part of a new exhibition.
The manuscripts cover all aspects of a monarch’s life, including what to eat, when to sleep and the cure for an upset stomach – a hot maiden.
How to be king: Collected by the kings and queens of England over 800 years manuscripts are examples of the decorative and figurative painting of the era.
Treasured: The manuscripts are considered among the finest examples of royal decorative and figurative painting from the era, as many of the colours are still as vibrant as when they were first painted
The new exhibition will include manuals on royal etiquette, known as ‘mirrors for princes’ which were developed during the medieval period to advise monarchs how to rule themselves and their kingdoms.
One such manual is Secretum Secretorum, the Secret of Secrets, an adaptation of a text supposedly written by Aristotle for the ancient Greek king Alexander the Great, presented to a teenage Edward III.
The 152-page manuscript, dating from 1326-1327, was written in Latin and illustrated with exquisite miniatures flecked with gold, each of which would have taken professional scribes up to a week to paint.
THE MEDIEVAL GUIDE TO BEING KING OF ENGLAND
Selecting an advisor: ‘Choose men also of old experience. Their wit and intellect is glorious. Beware of young counsel; it is perilous.’
The Remedy for a stomach ache: ‘Clasp a hot and beautiful maiden or to place upon your belly a wide warm shirt.’
When asking for advice: ‘Beware flattery and beware also the greedy – they are both so desirous of gold they do not care what difficulty their lord is in, as long as they might amass gold and silver.’
How to choose a wife: ‘Beautiful in appearance, descended from noble family, well-appointed in limbs, having an agreeable expression and an entire body well-adorned. You may have a majestic wife with whom you may have sex as often as, and when, you wish.’
Given to Edward at the beginning of his reign by the court cleric Walter of Milimete, it was intended as a ‘guide to better kingship’ following the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, a monarch so unpopular he was deposed in 1327.
According to the Sunday Telegraph, the manuscript warns him ‘never to trust in the works and services of women, and may you not commit yourself to them.’
However, the text later includes a description of the kind of woman the king should marry: ‘beautiful in appearance, descended from noble family, well-appointed in limbs, having an agreeable expression and an entire body well-adorned … you may have a majestic wife … with whom you may have sex as often as, and when, you wish.’
In another passage, the king is advised of the best remedy for a stomach ache: ‘If you feel a pain or heaviness in your stomach and in your belly then the remedy is to clasp a hot and beautiful maiden or to place upon your belly a wide warm shirt.’
The Royal Collection’s 2,000 priceless manuscripts were donated to the nation by George II in 1757, having been built up since the 9th century. They are usually stored in the highest security room at the British Library.
Unlocking the secret lives of royals throughout the Middle Ages, around 150 illustrated manuscripts – many on display for the first time – will be shown as part of the Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination exhibition.
The manuscripts are considered among the finest examples of royal decorative and figurative painting surviving from the era, as many of the colours are still as vibrant as when they were first painted.
Dr Scot McKendrick, curator of the exhibition, said: ‘The surviving manuscripts associated with successive kings and queens of England form a remarkable inheritance. Together they offer by far the largest body of evidence for the relationship between two critical parts of British cultural heritage: its monarchy and its medieval art.
Priceless: The Royal Collection’s 2,000 manuscripts were donated to the nation by George II in 1757, having been built up since the 9th century
Unlocking the secret lives of royals: About 150 pieces – many on display for the first time – will be shown as part of the Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination exhibition
‘Parts of the built legacy of the British monarchy, such as Windsor Castle and Westminster Abbey, occupy a very special place in the public consciousness but the royal manuscripts have largely remained hidden from view.
‘The very fact that they have been less accessible has in turn meant that they are fantastically well preserved; their gold still making their pages glow and flicker in the light for us, as they did for those who first viewed them centuries ago.
‘The exhibition is the culmination of a major research project started three years ago. It is with great pleasure that we are able to share the collection’s beauty with a wider audience.’
(NaturalNews) Since ancient times, ginger has a long tradition of being very effective in alleviating symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. Modern scientific research has revealed that ginger possesses numerous therapeutic properties including antioxidant effects, an ability to inhibit the formation of inflammatory compounds, and direct anti-inflammatory effects. The result of a new body of research published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, demonstrates the specific anti-inflammatory action of the spice on the colon. Health-minded individuals will want to include ginger as part of their regular diet or include an organically harvested supplement to dramatically lower inflammatory risk markers for colon cancer.
Dr. Suzanna Zick, a research assistant professor at the University of Michigan Medical School, and her team assembled 30 patient participants to conduct the study. Each was provided with two grams of ginger root supplements per day or a placebo for a period of 28 days. After the test timeframe, researchers measured standard levels of colon inflammation and found statistically significant reductions in most of these markers. They also found trends toward significant reductions in a number of other colon cancer biomarkers.
A critical inflammation marker in the colon is known to be PGE2, a naturally occurring prostaglandin also called dinoprostone. PGE2 is the prostaglandin that ultimately induces fever, and is therefore an important marker researcher’s monitor to determine inflammatory levels in the body. Inflammation has been implicated in prior studies as a precursor to colon cancer, and ginger root supplementation effectively lowers blood levels of the prostaglandin to reduce colon cancer risk.
Dr. Zick is a Naturopathic Doctor developing plant and naturally occurring compounds that specifically promote health without the need for deadly pharmaceutical interventions. She noted on the research findings, “We need to apply the same rigor to the sorts of questions about the effect of ginger root that we apply to other clinical trial research.” Dr. Zick concluded, “Interest in this is only going to increase as people look for ways to prevent cancer that are nontoxic, and improve their quality of life in a cost-effective way.”
Ginger is a spice that has been used for centuries both for its distinctive flavor and medicinal properties as well. Researchers from this study used supplements (2 grams per day) to achieve the inflammatory-reduction results. Most health-conscious people will want to use a lower recommended supplemental dose of 250 mg per day to lower inflammatory risk factors that promote colon cancer.
About the author:
John Phillip is a Health Researcher and Author who writes regularly on the cutting edge use of diet, lifestyle modifications and targeted supplementation to enhance and improve the quality and length of life. John is the author of ‘Your Healthy Weight Loss Plan’, a comprehensive EBook explaining how to use Diet, Exercise, Mind and Targeted Supplementation to achieve your weight loss goal. Visit My Optimal Health Resource to continue reading the latest health news updates, and to download your Free 48 page copy of ‘Your Healthy Weight Loss Plan’.
- Ginger root supplements may prevent colon cancer (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
- Separate Cancer Studies, but a Single Suspicion of Bacteria (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
An internet video has threatened to expose allies of Mexico‘s Zetas drug cartel in the local police and news media unless the gang frees a kidnapped member of the international hacker movement known as Anonymous.
The YouTube message, which claims to be from Anonymous “Veracruz, Mexico, and the world”, says it is “tired of the criminal group the Zetas, which is dedicated to kidnapping, stealing and extortion”, and threatens to fight back with information instead of weapons. It said it knows of police officers, journalists, taxi drivers and others working with the Zetas.
The video refers to an unidentified person kidnapped in the coastal city of Veracruz, and says: “You have made a great mistake by taking one of us. Free him.”
The hacker group, which has claimed responsibility for attacks on corporate and government websites worldwide, plans to act on Friday if the kidnapped activist is not freed or is harmed, according to the message.
“We cannot defend ourselves with weapons, but we can with their cars, houses, bars,” the message adds, apparently alluding to properties owned by cartel supporters. “It’s not difficult. We know who they are and where they are. Information is free,” it says. “We do not forgive. We do not forget.”
An official with the Veracruz state attorney general’s office, who could not be named, said the office could not confirm the video’s authenticity or the case of the kidnapping.
Veracruz, an oil state on the Gulf of Mexico with a major port of the same name, has seen a surge in drug violence in recent months in what authorities say is a battle between the Zetas drug cartel, which has controlled the territory for at least a year, and its rivals. Dozens of bodies have been discovered in recent weeks, including a 35-year-old dumped on a highway in rush-hour traffic in Boca del Rio city last month.
Two other internet postings since July have announced the arrival of the Mata Zetas group, or Zeta Killers, who authorities say are probably linked to the powerful Sinaloa cartel. Others have raised questions about whether the group’s members are vigilantes or other rogue organisations taking justice into their own hands against the Zetas.
The message, presented by someone wearing a theatre mask that is a trademark of Anonymous, was reportedly uploaded to websites early this month, but was first reported on Friday on the website of the Stratfor global intelligence thinktank.
Stratfor, in its analysis of the video, said anyone exposed by Anonymous as a Zetas collaborator – accurately or not – would be targeted by rival gangs, and the Zetas could respond by attacking internet activists, even if they were not affiliated with Anonymous.
Three people have been killed recently in the northern states of Nuevo León and Tamaulipas by suspected Zetas who apparently believed the victims used the internet to spread information about the gang.
- 30 October 2011 23.25 GMT
Chávez announced the latest takeover after saying that Venezuela refuses to pay compensation in foreign currency to Agropecuaria Flora, a local subsidiary of Britain’s Vestey Group.
Chávez said the company had demanded the government pay it in dollars for the previous expropriation of tens of thousands of acres. But the government insists in paying in bolivars, Venezuela’s currency.
It is difficult for foreign companies operating in Venezuela to repatriate profits and other income in bolivars because of foreign currency controls in the South American country. Representatives of Agropecuaria Flora did not answer calls seeking comment.
Venezuela’s expropriation of farm and ranch lands began in earnest in 2005, with the government employing a 2001 law allowing it to seize lands deemed idle or not adequately used.
Some landowners have negotiated compensation, while others have mounted legal challenges with mixed results.
The government has also seized some ranches for which it alleges the owners did not hold legal title in the first place.
Owners of large farms and cattle ranches have criticized the takeovers, arguing that Chávez’s socialist-inspired policies have failed to boost agricultural production and made Venezuela increasingly dependent on imports of food from countries such as Brazil and Argentina.
A decade after Canada legalized the medical use of marijuana, most doctors are still refusing to sign the declarations patients need to get legal access to pot — meaning patients in pain risk being jailed if they use a drug that helps them function.
It’s a predicament that threatens to become worse because of proposed changes to how Health Canada regulates access to the drug.
At first glance, it appears the government is easing up on strict rules for obtaining medicinal marijuana. Health Canada has proposed removing itself as the ultimate arbiter in approving or rejecting applications to possess.
Instead, doctors alone would sign off on requests.
But the nation’s largest doctors’ group said the proposals would have the perverse effect of putting even greater pressure on MDs to control access to a largely untested and unregulated substance they know little to nothing about; a drug that hasn’t gone through the normal regulatory review process. Their licensing bodies have told doctors that they are under no obligation to complete a medical declaration under the current regulations and that any one who chooses to do so should “proceed with caution.”
Dr. John Haggie, president of the 75,000-member Canadian Medical Association, said the changes being proposed would essentially off load all responsibility for using and monitoring marijuana to the doctors who sign an authorization — “and they’d be kind out of out there, without any infrastructure around them to assess it, to monitor it and to know if they were doing the right thing.
“I don’t think that’s appropriate or fair,” he said.
Observers said doctors fear doing harm, exposing themselves to legal action and becoming the “go-to” source for people seeking pot not to alter their pain but to alter their consciousness.
Haggie said physicians want fundamental research into some basic questions — is it safe? Who does it work for? Who should not use it? Yet the Conservative government abruptly terminated a medicinal marijuana research program in 2006. According to Health Canada, the government believes clinical research is “best undertaken by the private sector, such as pharmaceutical companies.”
A world leader in cannabis research said the logic defies him.
“I cannot imagine how a government agency can supervise (a marijuana access) program knowing that there is very little data out there — on safety issues in particular — and not try to stimulate research,” said Dr. Mark Ware, head of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids, a non-profit network of more than 150 clinicians and researchers investigating the potential role of cannabinoids in diseases from arthritis to glaucoma.
No drug company wants to evaluate smoked marijuana as a medicine, Ware said, because there’s no money in it for them. Funding agencies have been less than approachable, he added, because there’s little appetite to support studies involving a product that’s often smoked. In clinical parlance, “They don’t see it as a safe, viable drug delivery system,” said Ware, director of clinical research at the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit at the McGill University Health Centre.
Ware said he wonders how much the government’s disinterest in research might be tied to its tough-on-crime political agenda — “that somehow facilitating research on medicinal cannabis is a way of accepting that it may have some value as a medicine.”
The Montreal doctor, who is helping reform medical school curricula to better educate physicians around pain, received about $2 million under the now-dead medicinal marijuana research program. In a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal last year that involved 21 patients with neuropathic pain — a common and dreaded condition that causes electric, stabbing pain — Ware’s group found that smoked cannabis at low doses reduces pain, improves mood and helps sleep, without making people high. All had “refractory” pain, meaning pain that had defied all traditional treatments. No serious or unexpected side effects were reported.
Ware avoids prescribing cannabis to patients with a history of psychosis or schizophrenia, because it’s psychoactive at high doses — and sometimes even therapeutic doses. It can also be dangerous to people with unstable heart disease.
Still, there has never been a proven overdose death caused by marijuana in humans, according to Ontario’s highest court. Ware said that for patients for whom it works, cannabis can achieve about 30 per cent reduction in pain intensity.
But doctors remain wary — their chief concern being: How do I know when a patient is seeking a licence for a legitimate medical purpose and not simply to get legal access to an otherwise illicit drug?
Ware’s consortium has been working hard to educate and support doctors around the use of cannabis. He said data from Health Canada suggest that the average medical user is consuming two grams per day — about four joints when smoked. “It’s just taking that information and getting it into the hands of practising physicians. Then at least they know what the ballpark is.”
Some patients were getting authorizations for far higher amounts, because doctors didn’t know that 30 or 40 grams a day could be outside the “normal” range, he said.
Health Canada said the proposed changes to the program — which would include removing the rights of patients to grow their own supply of marijuana or to appoint designated growers, forcing users to get their pot from a licensed commercial producer instead — would make the program less complicated for seriously ill Canadians.
Paul Lewin begs to differ.
Doctors already are boycotting the program en masse, the Toronto lawyer said. Lewin said medical regulators and insurers sent letters to the government, “saying, ‘Don’t put us in charge, don’t make us a gatekeeper, we don’t know anything about pot, this is a plant product, it’s an unapproved drug.’ ”
Lewin said the court heard stories of how some doctors encouraged their patients to use pot for their pain. The patients would return, reporting that the marijuana was helping, that they were feeling less pain. But when they asked the doctors to sign their forms, “that’s when the mood changes,” Lewin said.
“That’s when they say, ‘Get out. I’m not risking my practice over you.’ ”
Lewin’s client, Matt Mernagh, started growing marijuana when he found it provided some relief from chronic pain and other symptoms of scoliosis, fibromyalgia and epilepsy. But he couldn’t get a licence to grow, because he couldn’t find a doctor to sign his declaration.
Police found Mernagh’s plants in 2008 when they were in his apartment building on an unrelated call. He was charged with production.
Lewin took the case to the Superior Court in Ontario. The court declared the federal medical marijuana program unconstitutional. The case is scheduled to go to the Court of Appeal for Ontario in March.
Lewin said the proposed changes to the marijuana access program are likely to scare off some of the few doctors willing to sign declarations, meaning “more seriously ill, law-abiding Canadians will be wrongfully treated as criminals” and subjected to humiliating arrests, medicine seizures and possibly even jailed, he said.
Ware said doctors need education and guidance. They would need to know whether patients who come seeking a licence for medical pot have been arrested for trafficking or diversion in the past. Abuses of the designated production licenses have occurred and Ware believes they should be phased out. But the consortium of cannabinoid researchers said that it’s not only easier and cheaper for patients to grow their own supply but the act of growing their own “medicine” may be therapeutic in itself. “It gives them a sense of control and ownership of their health and treatments.”
The following information was provided by Health Canada to Postmedia News:
In 2001, 727 doctors supported an application for an authorization to possess marijuana. In 2010, 3,187 doctors signed a declaration. Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 25, 3,803 doctors supported an application for an authorization to possess.
As of Sept. 30, 12,216 people in Canada held authorization to possess marijuana for medical purposes.
Who has authority to approve or reject submissions in the new system?
Under the proposed changes, patients would continue to consult with their physician in order to obtain access to marijuana for medical purposes. Once it has been determined that the use of marijuana for medical purposes is appropriate, the physician would provide the individual with a document. Health Canada is consulting the medical community on the form that this document would take.
Individuals would then send the physician’s document directly to a licensed commercial producer of their choice. The licensed producer would validate the document from the physician by confirming that the physician is licensed to practice medicine in Canada. The licensed producer would register the individual as a customer and would process the order for a specific amount of dried marijuana. Health Canada would maintain an up-to-date list of licensed producers on its website, and work with the medical community to disseminate this information as widely as possible.
Scientists including those from Queen’s University have discovered that taking regular aspirin halves the risk of developing hereditary cancers.
Hereditary cancers are those which develop as a result of a gene fault inherited from a parent. Bowel and womb cancers are the most common forms of hereditary cancers. Fifty thousand people in the UK are diagnosed with bowel and womb cancers every year; 10 per cent of these cancers are thought to be hereditary.
The decade-long study, which involved scientists and clinicians from 43 centres in 16 countries and was funded by Cancer Research UK, followed nearly 1,000 patients, in some cases for over 10 years. The study found that those who had been taking a regular dose of aspirin had 50 per cent fewer incidences of hereditary cancer compared with those who were not taking aspirin.
The research focused on people with Lynch syndrome which is an inherited genetic disorder that causes cancer by affecting genes responsible for detecting and repairing damage in the DNA. Around 50 per cent of those with Lynch syndrome develop cancer, mainly in the bowel and womb. The study looked at all cancers related to the syndrome, and found that almost 30 per cent of the patients not taking aspirin had developed a cancer compared to around 15 per cent of those taking the aspirin.
Those who had taken aspirin still developed the same number of polyps, which are thought to be precursors of cancer, as those who did not take aspirin but they did not go on to develop cancer. It suggests that aspirin could possibly be causing these cells to destruct before they turn cancerous.
Over 1,000 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer in Northern Ireland last year; 400 of these died from the disease. Ten per cent of bowel cancer cases are hereditary and by taking aspirin regularly the number of those dying from the hereditary form of the disease could be halved.
Professor Patrick Morrison from Queen’s University in Belfast, who led the Northern Ireland part of the study, said: “The results of this study, which has been ongoing for over a decade, proves that the regular intake of aspirin over a prolonged period halves the risk of developing hereditary cancers. The effects of aspirin in the first five years of the study were not clear but in those who took aspirin for between five and ten years the results were very clear.”
“This is a huge breakthrough in terms of cancer prevention. For those who have a history of hereditary cancers in their family, like bowel and womb cancers, this will be welcome news. Not only does it show we can reduce cancer rates and ultimately deaths, it opens up other avenues for further cancer prevention research. We aim now to go forward with another trial to assess the most effective dosage of aspirin for hereditary cancer prevention and to look at the use of aspirin in the general population as a way of reducing the risk of bowel cancer.
“For anyone considering taking aspirin I would recommend discussing this with your GP first as aspirin is known to bring with it a risk of stomach complaints, including ulcers.” The research is due to be published in the Lancet Online on Oct. 28 2011.
Contacts and sources:
Queen’s University Belfast
- Daily aspirin ‘blocks bowel cancer’ (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
by Phillip Smith, October 26, 2011,
The Conservative government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been trying for years to pass a harsh drug crime bill that includes mandatory minimum sentences for growing as few as six marijuana plants. This year, with the Conservatives now holding an absolute majority in parliament, it looks like the Conservatives will get their wish..
“The bill will pass,” said Eugene Oscapella, head of the Canadian Drug Policy Foundation, who testified against the bill in parliament last week and who was attacked by Conservatives for doing so. “The government has a clear majority, and under the parliamentary system, MPs will vote like trained seals. Even though I know Conservative MPs who disagree with this, if you spit in the face of the prime minister, you will be out of the caucus.”
The Tories rolled out this year’s version of their perennial drug bill last month as part of an omnibus anti-crime bill known as Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act. Ironically, the government’s “tough on crime” initiative came just weeks before Statistics Canada reported that the country’s homicide rate had declined to levels not seen since 1966. Overall violent crime is down, too.
The omnibus bill runs to 110 pages and brings together nine separate previous proposals to strengthen police and prosecutorial powers aimed at child sex predators, violent offenders, drug traffickers, and “out of control” youthful offenders. In addition to Canada’s first mandatory minimum sentences, the package also includes tougher pre-trial custody conditions, restrictions on the use of probation, and lengthier sentences for violent and youthful repeat offenders.
“Since coming into office, our government has accomplished a great deal when it comes to cracking down on crime and better protecting Canadians,” said Justice Minister Rob Nicholson as he introduced the omnibus bill last month. “By moving quickly to reintroduce and pass the Safe Streets and Communities Act, we are fulfilling our promise to Canadians by taking action to protect families, stand up for victims and hold criminals accountable.”
“Our government remains committed to fighting crime, protecting Canadians and holding offenders accountable,” said Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews. “Canadians gave us a strong mandate to improve safety for Canadians where they live, work and raise their families.”
Voters may have given the Tories a mandate at the polls, but it’s not clear that it was Tory crime policies driving the vote. A Nanos poll earlier this summer had only 2% of respondents selecting “fighting crime” as their highest priority for the Harper government. Instead, respondents were much more concerned about the provision of health care (40%) and reducing the deficit (26%).
Canada’s other major political parties, the Liberals and the New Democrats, both oppose the bill, as does a broad swath of civil society. The Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network are among the groups opposing the bill, as are criminal defense attorneys, prisoners’ advocates, and critics who point toward falling crime numbers and question whether the country can afford a massive expansion of its prison system.
The government has so far declined to specify projected costs of the bill or reveal its own projections about how much the prison population would increase under the bill.
“We believe the substance of this legislation both to be self-defeating and counterproductive, if the goal is to enhance public safety,” vice-chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s National Criminal Justice Section Eric Gottardi said last week. “It represents a profound shift in orientation from a system that emphasizes public safety, rehabilitation and reintegration to one that puts vengeance first.”
“The Conservatives are completely divorced from the reality of what’s going on,” said NDP Deputy Leader Libby Davies (Vancouver East) during a 10-minute House of Commons speech attacking the bill. “They have branded themselves and wrapped themselves in a cloak of crime and punishment, and as a result they are blind to evidence, they are blind to the costs, they are blind to the fact that we have the lowest crime rate since 1973, they are blind to building safe and healthy communities, they are blind to the horrendous experience of the United States and its war on drugs regime that is now being slowly repealed — including the repeal of mandatory minimum sentencing… because of its catastrophic failure on people and society overall. They are blind to the evidence here in Canada and they are blind to the real impacts of what these bills will have on the lives of people and on communities overall.”
The Tories are “only interested in manipulating people, creating fear, division, and creating a ‘them and us’ scenario,” Davies continued. “I believe from the bottom of my heart that this omnibus bill is offensive because it is politically motivated and will have enormous negative impacts.”
It’s not just progressives, or even Canadians, who are upset by the bill. Crime-fighting conservative Texans have come out against it, citing their own unhappy experience with “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” policies. “You will spend billions and billions and billions on locking people up,” said Judge John Creuzot of the Dallas County Court. “And there will come a point in time where the public says, ‘Enough!’ And you’ll wind up letting them out.”
Still, with the Conservatives holding a solid parliamentary majority, the bill’s passage now appears to be all but a done deal. That doesn’t mean the fight against it will go away, though — not before it passes and not after it passes. The lawyers are already gearing up for that second phase of the struggle.
“They are trying to ram this through as quickly as possible, and I don’t know what can be done to stop it,” said Oscapella. “It will have to be done at the back end, by means of constitutional challenges under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But that will take years.”
- Martha Hall Findlay: Tough on Crime, Facts Be Damned (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)