Kelly Egan and anonymous police officer wrote a hot mess of an OpEd

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On Friday, Ottawa Citizen columnist Kelly Egan decided to weigh in on some very important local policing issues: a one-month increase in shootings, the Ottawa Police's fishy carding numbers, and a new study that suggests some  police officers would prefer not do their job.

In his column, Racial bias in street checks was an issue never fixed — and now we have new problems, Egan fully embraces all of the usual lazy logic in his analysis of policing and the justice system. And what we get is a hot mess.

So let's do this thing the lazy blogger way - a call-and-anwser style paragraph-by-paragraph look at what Egan wrote:

Deep breath. Begin.

In 2017, police forces across Ontario began using new rules for street checks — the practice of stopping, identifying and keeping records on individuals engaged in suspicious activity.

Solid evidence emerged that the old system was racially-biased and feeding secret caches of information about me, you, the dog and Uncle Mo.

So the Ministry of Community Safety, supported by human rights rulings, brought down the hammer.

So far so good - almost. 

Yes, carding is racist. Between 2011 and 2014, the Ottawa police stopped and questioned 45,802 people who were not committing any crimes. The police call these interactions “street checks,” but they are also known as “carding.”  Those words conjure up notions of a totalitarian police state — and that’s not far from the truth.    

Carding occurs when police randomly stop and question someone — for no real reason. The police officer collects information about the individual’s age, sex, address, names of their friends and details about where they are going and what they are doing. That information is then fed into a police database. This random questioning is not connected to any specific crime and the encounters are not really random at all - a disproportionate number people who are carded are visible minorities. 

The fact that visible minorities were the targets of police carding operations should not come as a surprise. It has long been known that police disproportionally target visible minorities for drug offences. And, a 2016 report, which was spurred by a human rights complainant alleging racial profiling, reviewed two years of traffic stops in Ottawa and found that visible minorities were pulled over more often by police despite the fact they were not committing more traffic offences.

But let's be clear - when Egan says police fed information about "me, you, the dog and Uncle Mo" into the data base he is wrong. Police never have carded any dogs - lets not trivialize this issue. And the police typically would not have carded a man like Egan - he's an old middle-aged white dude. I doubt Egan can comprehend what it is like to be stopped by the police dozens of times for doing nothing wrong. But let's give Egan a break and chalk this one up to editorial flare.

Outside of traffic stops or investigating a specific crime, officers are now required to offer a written receipt if they stop and ask for identifying information while: looking into suspicious activity, gathering intelligence, or checking “possible” criminal activity.

The effect? Dramatic. In Ottawa in 2015 — a year with more than 40 shootings — there were 7,000 street checks, in 2016 there were 4,000 and in 2017 there were exactly four “regulated interactions.”

The police brass will say this is a growing pain in the new system and the number four doesn’t reflect the number of useful interactions with citizens where identity is not requested.

Yes, the Ottawa police do claim there has only been four "regulated interactions" with the public over the last year. But there are good reasons to question the accuracy of this information. The Ottawa police have not released how many times they have used the carding exceptions. Without that information any meaningful analysis is frustrated. As the police and Egan say - the number four does not accurately reflect the number of interactions they have had with citizens.

But here we really start to get into some problems. Egan's ultimate thesis - to the extent he has one - is that carding regulations have contributed to a recent one-month increase in shootings. But as Egan himself pointed out, the Ottawa police were carding like crazy during 2011-2015 - a time period where shootings actually increased - a fact that Egan seems content to ignore.

Egan goes on....

Really? Isn’t it more likely Ontario’s new rules have swung the balance too far the other way? In the interest of attacking racial bias, have we severely handicapped basic investigative work?

At this point I am still a bit confused about what Egan is actually saying. Is it his position that police randomly stopping and collecting personal information from young black men would result in fewer shootings? I assume thats not his position - because that is insane.

And then Egan introduces us to his muse.

Here’s an honest opinion from a cop on the inside about today’s street-check policies:

“Try to imagine why police are not doing these checks and you will see why,” he writes in an email. (Identifying him would put his job at risk.)

“Before we can even decide to have an interaction, we must have a specific reason, and we must tell them why, and that they can walk away no problem, at any time, during the interaction and don’t have to speak to us. After the interaction, we must provide a receipt to them indicating who we are and how to complain about us if they were not happy with the interaction. Further, even if they didn’t say anything, we have to submit a regulated interaction written report indicating how we interacted according to the legislation. All this while speaking to a potential criminal type or gang member who is throwing verbal abuse at us while filming with their video cameras and then calling to complain the next day.”

So, here we get to hear from the only person quoted in Egan's piece - an anonymous police officer. It would have been good to get other perspectives - but I guess we have to take what we are given.

Yes, anonymous police officer, you should have a reason to stop and question a member of the public; yes, people should be able to walk away from you if they are not under arrest; yes, people should not be compelled to speak with you; yes, you should have to report and make notes of what you do; and yes, members of the public should be able to complain about police conduct.

But, it seems Egan's anonymous "honest cop" is not really into civil liberties and police accountability. Oh - he also seems to assume that this hypothetical person he wants to card - who I can only assume is a visible minority - is a gang member. 

Neither Egan nor the honest cop offers any explanation on how stopping people for no reason would assist in solving crimes.

Egan also gives no consideration to the harm that this arbitrary and invasive police action can do to individuals and communities - and their relationship with the police.

So far Egan has offered no analysis or critique of the quoted police officer - except to say he is honest. Which actually seems to be accurate - after all, the cop is wearing his biases proudly.

But we are not done yet....

Remember, too, this email was written within days of a new study that found up to 70 per cent of front-line officers are engaging in “de-policing,” a trend to ignore pro-active police work for fear of public scrutiny. (In other words, just answer calls for service and ignore everything else, crudely called the “F**k It, Drive On” or F.I.D.O. mentality.)

“Why, on earth,” the veteran cop continued, “would an officer subject themselves to that potential for recrimination when it may well impact negatively on the individual officer if a complaint is generated?

“After all, as you know, we are judged guilty by the media many times even before the two-year (Special Investigations Unit or Office of the Independent Police Review Director) complaints are returned saying all was good by police, or vice versa, and we get suspended or charged under the Police Act.”

There is no question that being a police officer is a hard job and it should be a hard job. As a society we grant the police tremendous power and we should also be entitled to expect tremendous oversight and accountability.

If this is too much for Egan's honest cop - he should look for new employment. And any cop who would rather Fuck Off and Drive On instead of doing their job should be fired.

The Ottawa Citizen's editorial board saw this type of attitude as a problem - but it seems to have escape Egan's notice completely.

He also pointed to the optics of an overwhelmingly white police force dealing with an ethnically diverse population.

“The minority groups say we are lying. It doesn’t matter what we do, we are racists. There is much frustration within all our ranks. We police believe there is a guns-and-gang problem, and we police joined to fight crime wanting to help our communities.

“It is true that we need help from the public but how is it helpful that our courts release these VERY dangerous gang-bangers even after we charge them, so they go back to living beside those citizens who have provided info on them, and word gets around, so the bad guys know who ratted (they aren’t dumb). I would not want my family doing this. These people are dangerous.”

No - not every police officer is a racist. No one is saying that. There are racist police officers but that is not even the biggest problem. The larger issue is that institutions like the Ottawa police are unable to acknowledge that systemic racism could even be a problem - pro tip: it is.

Egan then goes on to regurgitate more of the honest cop's email which moves on to the bail system - no analysis, no critique, no contrary opinion. But I guess it is an easy way to hit the word count requierment.

And we are almost done.

What he didn’t mention is the bureaucratic burden the new system imposes on police work, already a profession with a frightening amount of oversight.

According to a report to the Ottawa Police Services Board in January, an eight-hour training program on “regulated interactions” was given to 1,000 Ottawa police officers. With add-ons, the cost was $546,000.

There is now to be an annual report on “regulated interactions” and the force has a “regulated interactions co-ordinator” who reviewed every encounter in 2017. The reports also keep track of the racial makeup of even attempted collection of information. Last year, there were seven: Asian (one), Black (one), Middle Eastern (two), Caucasian (three).

The unintended effect of all this?

We now have virtually no official data on street checks, which makes it look like the racial problem has disappeared. Are we fixing the problem, or just exchanging it for a new one?

A public meeting on this issue is scheduled for April 16. The bullets, in any case, keep flying.

Yes - the new carding regulations do require training. That is a good thing since the Ottawa police have historically been opposed to continuing formal civil rights training. We train our officers how to kill but we are not in favour of teaching them how to respect civil rights?

In the end Egan cribs half of his piece from one anonymous police officer's email. There is no critical analysis. There is no depth. There is little substance. 

To equate the carding regulations to a one month increase in shootings is ridiculous.

Is it Egan's position that we can reduce gun violence by devoting thousands of hours of police resources to randomly asking young racialized men who are not suspected of committing any criminal offences for their papers? It is an absurd position, which is not supported by even the most basic principles of logic.

Egan seems to ignores what he himself pointed out at the beginning of his piece - that between 2011 and 2016 — when there were no carding rules and the Ottawa police carded tens-of-thousands of people — shooting incidents actually increased. 

Egan ignores that driving wedges between the police and racialized communities may actually harm investigations and disincentivize community co-operation.

But maybe this should not come as a surprise - I mean Egan did write a piece on race and policing with out actually talking to the communities most impacted by over-policing and carding.

If Egan thinks that the maybe-illusory increase in violence is somehow linked to the new carding regulations he should work a bit harder to make the case (and have the balls to make that case himself instead of using a police surrogate) 

Maybe there is a good argument that we should give up civil liberties (there really isn't)- but neither Egan nor his anonymous police co-writter came close to making that case.

Egan is playing a dangerous game that risks undermining confidence in the justice system at the expense of civil rights - after reading his piece I don't know if he fully understands that.

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Ottawa Police: Defying Logic and Misrepresenting Justice

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Between 2011 and 2014, the Ottawa police stopped and questioned 45,802 people who were not committing any crimes. The police call these interactions “street checks,” but they are also known as “carding.”  Those words conjure up notions of a totalitarian police state — and that’s not far from the truth.    

Carding occurs when police randomly stop and question people — for no real reason. The police officer collects information about the individual’s age, sex, address, names of their friends and details about where they are going and what they are doing. That information is then fed into a police database. This random questioning is not connected to any specific crime and the encounters are not really random at all - a disproportionate number people who are carded are visible minorities. 

The fact that visible minorities were the targets of police carding operations should not come as a surprise. It has long been known that police disproportionally target visible minorities for drug offences. And, a 2016 report, which was spurred by a human rights complainant alleging racial profiling, reviewed two years of traffic stops in Ottawa and found that visible minorities were pulled over more often by police despite the fact they were not committing more traffic offences.

There is no question that systemic racism continues to infect many of our public institutions. So, the Ontario government took action and introduced legislation designed to reign in the practice of carding and impose reporting requirements on the police. 

It seemed like a good idea motivated by good intentions.

But it was absurdly naive to think that a simple regulation could cure decades of systemic racism in Ontario’s police forces. Last month, the Ottawa Police Service released its first street check report and the numbers were shocking. The police claim they have only conducted seven street checks over the last year. Seven. 

The number is so low and such a departure from the tens of thousands of street checks conducted in the years prior that it defies believability.

There may be a number of reasons for the low number. The Ontario carding legislation has a number of loopholes that may be responsible for masking the continued extent of supposedly random street checks. The legislation does not require police to report any carding arising during traffic stops (and we know in Ottawa the police do love to stop racialized drivers for no reason). The legislation also gives the police free reign to card at will if they suspect a crime has been or will be committed. Perhaps the police are interpreting “suspect a crime has been or may be committed” very broadly to avoid oversight. Maybe they have just shifted carding to traffic stops. It is hard to tell because the police won’t release any data on how many times they have used the exceptions or the outcome of those interactions.

Legislation designed to fix the carding problem might have just driven it underground. 

But the potential damage runs deeper than mere questionable carding statistics. The Ottawa police have chosen to weaponize the new legislation for political gain, linking the decline in carding to a one-month increase in violent crime.

In the first month of 2018, there were 13 shootings in Ottawa. This is a high number — almost double the monthly average of shootings for 2017. There is no way to tell if the increased gun play is part of a trend or simply a statistical blip. But the police wasted no time in linking restrictions on carding, which they have long opposed, to the one-month increase in shootings.

Matt Skof, president of the Ottawa Police Association, blamed the “crippling” carding regulations for the “dramatic increase” in the number of shootings." Of course, Skof provided no evidence to back up his extraordinary claims. 

So, Skof’s logic is that we can reduce gun violence by devoting thousands of hours of police resources to randomly asking young black and Middle Eastern men who are not suspected of committing any criminal offences for their papers. It is an absurd position, which is not supported by even the most basic principles of logic.

Skof ignores that in 2014, 2015 and 2016 — when there were no carding rules and the Ottawa police carded tens of thousands of people — shooting incidents increased. 

Skof ignores that driving wedges between the police and racialized communities may actually harm investigations and disincentivize community co-operation.

 Skof ignores that the 13 shootings in January may be a statistical anomaly. 

Most importantly, Skof ignores that the police can still perform street checks — they just need to do it lawfully and report the interaction. If street checks were so important to solving gun crime, then maybe the police would have tried to do it more than seven times.

When the police misrepresent evidence and embrace a lack of transparency for political purposes, confidence in the administration of justice suffers.

But maybe Skof’s comments should not come as a surprise. The data on the frequency and impact of street checks following the new legislation may be murky and incomplete, but there is a long history of the police disregarding civil rights and turning a blind eye to systemic racism.

And that may prove Ontario’s new carding rules to be a case of the cure being worse than the disease.

The presumption of Innocence is for courtrooms, not politics

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The political reckoning was quick. In the span of less than a week, allegations of sexual harassment and sexual impropriety destroyed the political futures of four separate men in politics.

Nova Scotia PC leader Jamie Baillie was forced out as party leader and later resigned his seat in the legislature after allegations of workplace sexual harassment. Liberal MP Kent Hehr, who somehow survived prior allegations of boorish comments, resigned from cabinet following tweets alleging inappropriate behaviour. (At the time of writing, Hehr remains in caucus, though an investigation is underway.) Ontario PC Party president Rick Dykstra resigned his post on Sunday after Maclean's revealed he had been investigated for sexual assault of young staffer in 2014, when Dykstra was an MP.

And then there is Patrick Brown, the now-former leader of the Ontario PCs. Though the allegations against him don't appear to be criminal, they are shockingly serious: Brown is alleged to have taken advantage of his position of power over very young women, plied them with alcohol and then made inappropriate sexual advances.

Shortly after the story broke, Brown held a disastrous press conference where he denied the allegations and then ran from the media. Hours later, he resigned from his position as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives.

It was a powerful week for the societally important #MeToo movement. But it seems that old ways of thinking die hard for some. Certain columnists wrote that what happened to Brown was wrong and that "every man in the world is now vulnerable." Others suggested that Patrick Brown's downfall was an affront to fairness. "What of the presumption of innocence?" they cried.

Let me let you in on a little secret: the presumption of innocence is a legal construct. Yes, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms says that people are presumed innocent – if they have been charged with an offence.

You see, the presumption of innocence operates in our courts of law to protect people charged with crimes from the power of the state to deprive them of their liberty. It does not operate to immunize political leaders from scrutiny.

CONTINUE READING AT CBC

Trudeau’s Aga Khan vacation, get ready for Duffy part 2

It could be a House of Cards political thriller: A high-ranking elected official and his family are wined and dined by a rich and powerful foreign agent who does business with the government. The official and his family are whisked away in a private aircraft to a luxurious private island for lavish vacations. All of this was, of course, done in secret with only whispers about its impropriety until a crack reporter breaks the story wide open. 

But that plot is too eye-rolling and on the nose to ever make it off the writers’ room floor, except that it all really happened. We are, of course, talking about Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada and the Aga Khan. 

 On Dec. 20, 2017, the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner released The Trudeau Report, finding that the prime minister had breached multiple sections of the Conflict of Interest Act. It was lamented by some that the toothless legislation allows Trudeau to escape without any consequences. Although it is true that Trudeau’s offences may go unpunished by the ethics commissioner, there may still be consequences — and as first raised by law professor Peter Sankoff, it may be wise for Trudeau hire a criminal lawyer.

 

The bottom line is that a government official simply can’t take personal benefits from people who do business with the government. That’s a crime. Yes, get ready for Mike Duffy, Part II. Only this time, the case against Trudeau seems like it may be stronger than it was against the ’Ol Duff. 

Let’s take a step back and look at the black-letter law. Section 121(1)(c) of the Criminal Code makes it a crime for any official of the government to directly or indirectly accept an advantage or benefit of any kind from a person who has dealings with the government.

Duffy was charged under this section for accepting the now-infamous $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright to repay his dubious housing claims. But at Duffy’s trial, the court found that Wright, as Steven Harper’s chief of staff, did not have true business dealings with the government and that the real benefit (avoiding political embarrassment) flowed not to Duffy but to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Conservative Party. Duffy was found not guilty of the charge.

The Duffy affair was a convoluted mess of backroom deals and political tactics, which made the investigation and prosecution difficult. Unfortunately for Trudeau, his potential offence is much more straightforward and the ethics commissioner’s report could lay out a road map for the RCMP and prosecutors. 

So, let’s break down the potential offence using the ethics commissioner’s report.

Did Trudeau receive a benefit from the Aga Khan? It sure seems like he did. The ethics commissioner’s report found that not only did Trudeau and his family spend their 2016 Christmas break on the Aga Khan’s private island but he had also vacationed there in December, 2014 and members of Trudeau’s family had accepted another vacation there in March, 2016. Clearly, Trudeau accepted a gift, in the form of multiple lavish vacations, from the Aga Khan. These gifts were not small trinkets or mere tokens and, unlike in Duffy’s case, the benefit flowed directly to Trudeau and his family. 

Did the Aga Khan have dealings with the government? There could be some debate here. It is true that everyone has dealings of one kind or another with the government, but the Supreme Court in the case of Hinchey defined the term “dealings” narrowly to only include commercial dealings. The Aga Khan is not the typical commercial businessman, but the ethics commissioner’s report does provide grounds to suggest that Trudeau may be on the wrong side of the law. 

The ethics commissioner found that the evidence “clearly shows that there was ongoing official business between the Government of Canada and the Aga Khan.” An important factor in that finding may be the fact that the Aga Khan Foundation is registered to lobby the Office of the Prime Minister. There can be no doubt that, as the commissioner finds, there was a “long-standing mutually beneficial relationship” between the Canadian government and the Aga Khan. 

So, the question is: Would charitable work be a form of commercial dealing when the Government of Canada has funded projects of the Aga Khan Foundation to the tune of nearly $330 million? In this context, the Aga Kahn’s dealings with the government sure look more business-like than Nigel Wright’s did.

That’s it. 

There is no requirement that there was any quid pro quo. There is no requirement that Trudeau participated in any debate or votes in the House of Commons related to the Aga Khan or was actually influenced by the benefits. There is no requirement of ill motive on Trudeau’s part. The Supreme Court put it very plainly: “[I]t is appropriate that government officials are correspondingly held to codes of conduct which, for an ordinary person, would be quite severe.” Criminal damage is done when the benefit is conferred and not as the Supreme Court says, “after an ex post facto analysis which demonstrates that no harm was intended.”  

Trudeau has claimed that the Aga Khan was his friend — it does not matter. It may be said that Trudeau did not know he was committing a criminal act — ignorance of the law is not a defence. It may be argued that the law is an ass — in this case, that may be true (hint: it’s time for the government to revive the Law Reform Commission to review and modernize the Criminal Code). 

But none of these arguments is a legal defence. Make no mistake, a prosecution of Trudeau may not be appropriate and certainly would not be a slam dunk. There are many technical arguments that could be raised at trial.

For example, s. 121(1)(c) of the Criminal Code does have a safety valve — a benefit can be received if the employee gets written permission from their boss. It has been suggested that Trudeau could have written his own get-out-of-jail-free card. This would have provided a transparent and immunizing self-accounting of why Trudeau took the trip and why he thought his actions were appropriate. This was the type of transparency promised during the election campaign — but so far there is no indication that any such letter was ever written.

The purpose of s. 121(1)(c) is to deter those in positions of power from accepting benefits that could create an appearance of impropriety. That is also precisely the same rationale behind s. 11(1) of the Conflict of Interest Act. In finding Trudeau violated s. 11(1) the Ethics Commissioner said that “the vacations accepted by Mr. Trudeau or his family might reasonably be seen to have been given to influence Mr. Trudeau.”

The findings of the ethics commissioner are not the findings of a criminal court. Trudeau is presumed innocent and may well actually be innocent of any criminal wrong-doing. There could be arguments that it is not in the public interest to lay criminal charges in this case. This may be a case of a technical breach of an outdated law that is badly in need of reform. Or maybe not. Every case is different, but it is clear that Trudeau is not Mike Duffy and the Aga Khan is not Nigel Wright. 

But the question needs to be asked: If there were grounds to charge Duffy, are there not grounds to charge the prime minister?

Loblaws Skates on Price-fixing, Tried to Send Homeless Man to Jail

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Anatole France, the French poet, journalist and novelist, had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek in 1894 when he wrote: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.”

The joke and tragedy of Anatole’s musing on the criminal justice system is obvious. The reality is that we are not all equal before the law — not even in Canada — not even in 2018. Poor people are criminalized for being poor. Addicted people are criminalized because of their addiction. And yes, there are many echoes of racism in our criminal law.

But I will let you in on a secret — it is even worse than that. Not only do we arrest, prosecute and jail the poor for minor offences but we also turn a blind eye to large-scale crimes committed by the rich and powerful.

Last month, days before Christmas, George Weston Ltd. and Loblaw Companies Ltd. admitted to participating in a 15-year price-fixing conspiracy to artificially inflate the price of bread. Loblaws claims it “discovered” Canadians were overcharged for the cost of bread, but make no mistake, this was an admission of illegal behaviour.

The actions of Weston and Loblaw not only clearly violated multiple sections of the Competition Act but also potentially amounted to criminal conduct. Let’s break it down. These two companies acted in concert with other industry players to secretly and artificially inflate the price of bread. This was a conspiracy to line personal and corporate pockets by defrauding the public.

But the Weston and Loblaw corporations, along with those pulling their corporate strings, acted quickly when the house of cards was at risk of collapsing. They moved into damage control mode, handed out $25 gift cards, and spun their way to immunity. Yes, people who secretly conspired to steal from the public won’t face criminal charges or other sanctions.

The law is indeed majestic. But only if you are rich.

Last year, I represented a homeless man who stole a cheap steak from an Ottawa Loblaws store. Unlike the powerful men and women who sit in the Loblaws boardrooms, my client did not steal for his own enrichment — he did it because he was hungry.

When my client was caught stealing, Loblaws called its publicly subsidized security force — the local police — and my homeless client was arrested and prosecuted for theft. A few months later when facing the judge in court, my client explained that at the time of the theft, he had nowhere to live and was hungry. He told the court he was sorry and that things had gotten better for him. He had found a place to live and was beginning to get back on his feet.

The Crown — as the representative of Her Majesty the Queen — stood up and asked the court to send my client to jail. A jail sentence would have resulted in my client losing his housing, possessions and much of the progress he had made since his arrest.

It was a Dickens novel come to life. And it perfectly illustrates the injustice of the present situation.

You see, my client was not able to afford a crisis management team to draft a pre-Christmas press release. My client was not in a position to buy off the public with gift cards. In short, my client was too poor to purchase immunity.

So, which is worse: a poor hungry soul who steals a steak or a large corporation which hatches an illegal scheme to steal millions of dollars from the public?

To make it even worse, Loblaws did not inflate the price of caviar and lobster; it piggybacked its greed on bread — a necessity. In other words, Loblaws’ crime disproportionately impacted the poor.  

Loblaws is the dystopic Robin Hood.

The impact of Loblaws’ crimes may have even bigger impacts than simple reverse Robin Hood-ism because food prices are often considered by the government in determining the cost of living, low income cut-offs, and other economic policies. Oh and of course, right-wing politicians couldn’t resist the urge to use expensive bread as a political weapon, as Alberta’s United Conservative Party MLA Wes Taylor did in attacking Rachel Notley’s NDP government — we are still waiting for Taylor to issue his mea culpa.

The lawlessness of Loblaws and their co-conspirators should serve as a wakeup call to the inequities in our laws. Every day in our halls of justice we prosecute homelessness and poverty. And no one is better off for it — court time that could have been used to prosecute serious offences is squandered, and resources we could use to help marginalized members of our community are wasted.

And salt is rubbed in that wound every time privilege is used as a card to get out of jail free.

But I suppose if the poor can’t afford bread, they can always eat cake.