PART ONE: Winnipeg, 1968
This commentary is the first of a series on Winnipeg's (in)justice system and is posted as an exclusive to the Rebel Youth blog. Part 2 will quote some testimonies from the Manitoba Human Rights Commission report and focus on the issues of police and crime in Winnipeg's inner city. It will be printed in the next issue of Rebel Youth magazine, you'll have to get yourself a copy to read it. But to begin, part 1 goes back over 40 years ago, starting with a reprint from the People's Voice predecessor newspaper, Canadian Tribune from the spring of 1968.
WHO SAYS “THE LAW IS AN ASS” ?
By Tom Morris
When Charles Dickens said, “the law is an ass”, he could have been standing on the windy corner of Winnipeg’s Portage and Main streets, or reading the morning paper’s account of police strong-arming another citizen in Toronto.
George Paulowich arrived in Winnipeg from Toronto on Jan 11, checked into a hotel and discovered his wallet had been stolen. Innocently believing that the thing to do was call the police, Mr. Paulowich did just that. What followed was a piece of impressive public relations work by the Winnipeg Police Department.
Detectives arrived at the hotel and arrested George Paulowich. He was jailed for 30 days pending completion of investigation and preliminary hearing of two men charged with the robbery. When finally released, he was told not to leave town and to report each Friday until a trial date had been fixed- which turned out to be on April 26-105 days after his arrest.
Judge C. I. Keith, in dismissing the robbery charge against the two men, condemned the treatment of Paulowich and suggested the crown pay him a witness fee for the time spent in jail as well as for attendance at the trial. Winnipeg director of prosecution, A. A. Sarchuk, has called for reports of the case. Great move, Mr. Director of Prosecutions, but where in hell have you been for 105 days?
Mr. Paulowich, having lived in Toronto, might think that his experience is simply a dose of Western hospitality. He could exchange notes with Mr. Kenneth Bruton, who is trying to get his house fixed up following a visit by Toronto’s finest.
The damage was caused when police arrived to arrest Mr. Bruton’s brother-in-law April 29. To apprehend the slightly built 17-year-old youth, police ripped off a door, tore a wooden fireplace from the wall, twisted the suspect’s arms and pushed Mrs. Bruton against a wall. Now there seems to a question about who is going to put the house back together. “They told us to get it fixed and they’d pay for it,” said Mr. Bruton. “I guess that is an admission of liability,” Police Chief James Mackey, with an eye on the taxpayer’s dollar, says. “It doesn’t mean we’ll pay for it at all. It isn’t any kind of an admission.”
By all means, nothing should be admitted. When a 15-year-old boy is shot in the leg by police is there any admission? It was “an accident.” This police officer, in the performance of his duty, don’t you understand, slipped, fell, found his holstered revolver in his hand which went off and shot the boy.
The sad chronology could go on and on. For every case reported, there are hundreds of cases where the citizen is so damn happy just to get home that he doesn’t say a word. “I don’t want any trouble,” says he.
Countless men and women file into Canadian courtrooms, only to have their case remanded over and over again, and are sent back to the cells to await their time.-Most of them young, none of them rich.
Canadian police chiefs raised a storm last year by asking for greater powers. Some of them called for a return to flogging, arrest without charges, wiretapping, the right to enter homes without a warrant and a “detention law” which would take care of ‘rabble-rousers’ and ‘trouble-makers.’ The hue and cry raised by the community prevented such laws and a return to the Middle Ages.
And so, Mr. Paulowich, there isn’t any law under which you can be arrested without charges. Maybe it was all a bad dream. In any case, you should feel good because there isn’t a flogging law either. Had there been, you might have “confessed” stealing your own wallet.
As much as we think we have progressed from 1968, we have fallen more and more behind as you'll find in part 2. When the Federal Conservatives made law and order an issue in the election in 2008, it would do good to look at the above article with that in mind. Whose Law and Whose Order? Hindsight is 20/20 but we don't have 40 years to fix an issue that affects youth today. Police continue to screw up: in February 2000 Corinne McKeowen and Doreen Leclair were stabbed to death while the 911 operator listened to their fifth call for help. William John Dunlop murdered them in their Winnipeg home. The Fort Garry Women's Center published a study report showing police response times are less for poor callers and in poor neighbourhoods.
Beyond incompetence, outright malice and cold blooded murder occur. The Saskatoon "Moonlight tours" where police drove homeless men to the city limits to freeze to death. Eventually, one made it back to uncover the crimes. Trigger happy police shootings and taser deaths (almost on par with actual non-police murders in Winnipeg briefly this past summer), in parallel with poor response times show a pattern of two class justice. There are 40 years between the Newark Riots of 1967 and the Riots in Paris in 2007. Riots occurred in Montreal during the summer of 2008. Now Greece. All followed from acts of police brutality.
There is a pattern. Social condition. And racism.
January 9, 2009
January 7, 2009
January 6, 2009
Check out this wide-ranging January 1, 2009 video interview (11:25min) with Mariela Castro Espín and Anastasia Haydulina of Russia Today Television in Havana Cuba. Mariela Castro is Director of CENESEX – National Center for Sexual Education and a leading authority and proponent of LGBT freedoms in Cuba and globally. She addresses issues of how Cuban society is dealing with changing perceptions of sexuality and concrete measures benefiting LGBTs. Castro also reflects on new legislation, transsexualism, same-sex unions, gay rights, AIDS, her father, President Raúl Castro, her mother, Vilma Espín, founder and President of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), woes caused by the US economic blockade of Cuba, and her views on Barack Obama, as well as the history of the Revolution. Sections of the interview have been translated and transcribed below.
Interview with Mariela Castro Espín on the Future of Sex and Socialism in Cuba
Anastasia Haydulina One day your uncle Fidel Castro… is going to die.. Do you think his death will change the status quo of your Cuba?
Mariela Castro Espín First of all, the death of Fidel will bring great suffering for the Cuban people, and it will be an enormous loss. But as far as I can see, the Cubans are willing to continue on the path of socialism even when our Comandante is no longer with us, even when my father and other forefathers of the revolution are not. Our people want socialism. Of course, we're very self-critical, so what we need is a better and rich social reform that will resolve most of the existing contradictions. People themselves are proposing actions necessary for the survival of our socialist society, a society that should always guarantee social justice, equality, and solidarity within the nation, as well as in relations with others. We want welfare, but not as exaggerated as that of consumer societies. I think that socialism in Cuba will survive and become what we have considered to be a utopia.
Haydulina Same-sex unions in a Communist, originally Catholic, state?
[In] socialism it will surely be possible to make fundamental changes in the lives of men and women according to their sexual orientation.
Castro Yes, I believe that, in societies like ours, same-sex unions are possible. It's true that, in the history of countries that have tried to create socialism, sexuality-related prejudices from the capitalist past have persisted. But in the Cuban version of socialism it will surely be possible to make fundamental changes in the lives of men and women according to their sexual orientation and other elements of their sexuality that haven't been contemplated by other socialist nations to date. Of course there are very strong influences of religions predominant in our cultures, but they are not going to become obstacles to achieving the aim of guaranteeing human rights socialism must guarantee. That is why we proposed a bill to legalize same-sex unions to parliament.
Haydulina What makes you feel you can overcome the stigma within the Communist Party and legislative barriers to pass it as well?
Castro As head of the National Center for Sex Education, not as daughter of the president, I presented an educational strategy strongly based on the mass media to bring the attention of the Cuban society to various expressions of sexuality within it.
Haydulina Realistically, when do you think we are going to see this bill passed here in Cuba?
Castro We've already accomplished a lot. For example, we've achieved a resolution by the public health ministry that guarantees transsexuals specialized attention, including sex change surgeries. The first of these types of operation are about to begin. They were first performed in 1988 but were interrupted due to people's incomprehension. We're proposing important changes to the family code that include the right of people of the same sex to legalize their unions. We're also working on a gender identity decree law that will make it easier for transsexuals to change their sex and identity papers, regardless of the sex change surgery. Because not all of them are automatically eligible for this operation, but nevertheless people do need society to recognize them in accordance with their gender identity, not by biological sex.
Haydulina Tell us more about the history of homophobia in this country.
Homosexuality is a reality to be taken into account, not got rid of.
Castro Just like any other patriarchal societies in the world, Cuban society is homophobic. In the 1960s and 70s, it expressed itself as a political decision that discriminated against homosexuals, especially men. That was a general criterion coming from not only religions but even from sciences. Psychiatry classified homosexuality as a mental disorder.. There were even therapists to change homosexuals into heterosexuals, since that's what was considered normal and healthy. So, the Cuban politicians, educationalists, and doctors acted in accordance with the scientific precepts of the time as well. Neither teachers nor doctors could be gay. Today, no military person can be gay either. But there are homosexuals everywhere, whether out in the open or not. So we attend to them in our center, because humanity is about diversity. The most important thing here is that there have been discussion and change ever since. And in order to avoid this [homophobia] in the future, we've got to be explicit in our laws and policies. Homosexuality is a reality to be taken into account, not got rid of.
Haydulina Two thirds of Cubans with HIV/AIDS are homosexual men. Are they provided due treatment? Are the Cubans with HIV provided the treatments they need?
Castro In 1983, when Fidel learned about the existence of AIDS, he asked the doctors of the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine to carry out research to avoid the tragedy on our island. Since then the state began designing its policies for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. Each patient infected with the virus is provided with all the medical assistance at the cost of the state. Although the medicines are very expensive, as well as prevention matters, these are fundamental to avoid the spreading of the epidemic. Even though Cuba maintains the lowest level [of infection] in the region and in the world, it keeps rising, so we need much more effective prevention and treatment. For example, the island buys condoms for the pharmacies, but many are donated and distributed free of charge as part of the center's educational activities across the country. Thanks to this efficient work, [HIV] infection hardly occurs among adolescents. Unfortunately the existing prejudices impede us from many of the educational activities planned for the homosexual male population.
Haydulina Is your father supportive of your work?
Castro Yes, he's supportive of my work, thanks to the past influence of my mother, on sexual education, and mine. Of course, from time to time we have discussions meant to convince him of the need for quicker solutions. He's also influenced by other people that disagree with my work, and it's those people who create obstacles. But I believe that dialogue is fundamental to progress, so whenever I have a chance to sit down and talk with my father to convince him, I do so.
Vilma Lucila Espín Guillois (1930-2007), mother of Mariela Castro Espín, was a feminist and revolutionary married to Raúl Castro, the current Cuban President. Espín was founder and President of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) from 1960 until her death. The FMC has a membership of over 3.5 million women. Espín was also a leader in the Council of State, as well as a member of the Central Committee and the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1980 to 1991.
Haydulina Your mother was an internationally recognized champion of women's rights. What challenges remain for women in Cuba?
Castro There are still the remains of machismo and inequality between men and women. Although there are few women in top governmental positions, we observe rising percentages of women technicians, lawmakers, vice ministers, ministers, as well as among the regional party leadership. Besides, in the last two hurricanes that hit the island, the actions of the women governing the two worst affected provinces made Cubans, and especially women, very proud. In troubled families, women keep returning to household chores and the upbringing up of children, because most of them still think that is our job, that "nobody can do it better than us." But men's participation in all these household duties is no less fundamental, especially in a time of crisis.
Haydulina What other changes would you like to see in Cuba?
Castro I would like the US government to lift the financial, economic, and commercial blockade that it has imposed on our island for fifty years against the Cuban people and that has considerably prevented us from achieving our development goals. It has affected our economy, commercial relations, and financial mechanisms. Cuba doesn't receive credit from any bank, and it's very difficult for us to survive in the field of international economy. The companies that trade with Cuba are being penalized. We have big problems with the Internet without the access to optical fiber. It would be fundamental for life in Cuba to change, for its economy to grow, the salaries to rise. Then, we'd be able to produce, obtain, more materials and use the latest technologies. For example, I'd like to see improvements in democratic participation mechanisms on the island, so that our government could function more fluently. It has a very peculiar and good structure, like no other in the world, and we like its maturity. That's why we need to cultivate mechanisms for people's participation. It's one of the things that preoccupy me most and will bring about a whole range of other changes.
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