Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mixed bag: criminals, cops, STV and a soldier's death

Marking papers all day--and watching the Braidwood Inquiry live feed--so just a few comments for now, from a quick scan of the news and blogs this morning:

  • The Supreme Court has reserved judgement in the case of Kelly Ellard, the miserable skank who has been tried three times--and convicted twice--of murdering teenager Reena Virk by beating and drowning her. At issue: whether a minor error in the judge's charge to the jury outweighs her several boastful confessions.

    Warren Glowatski has already served a light sentence--eight years--for participating in the same crime. He has, admittedly, expressed considerable remorse--unlike Ellard. He is the chief Crown witness against her.

    Ellard was originally given a lighter sentence than was Glowatski--five years before any chance of parole, raised to seven after her third trial. She went to prison for three years, but was released in 2003 after her first conviction was overturned. In March of 2004, she assaulted a 58-year-old woman, which was a violation of her bail conditions, and was returned to jail, where she's been held ever since.

    Many are probably thinking that enough is enough. Not I. I hope the SCC orders a new trial, and the Crown proceeds with one; and I hope that this process continues until 2030 or so--with continued remand.

  • I've blogged before about the highjinks of OC Transpo's baby cops here in Ottawa. Since they are even more unaccountable than regular police officers, it's no surprise that the bully-tactics of these ill-trained louts continue apace. As the Ottawa Citizen's Hugh Adami reports:

    The trio's problems started last Nov. 6 when [OC Transpo "special constable" Chris] Villeneuve saw the first-year journalism students taking photographs of the buses-only road that dissects the NCC land behind the Thompson-Walker home on Rembrandt Road near Woodroffe High School.

    Transpo says taking photos of its infrastructure is not allowed for security reasons.

    The confrontation only got worse when the three, who thought Villeneuve was going a little over the top by throwing his weight around as a so-called special constable, gave him some of their attitude. Timmons, who admits to being "a jerk" when he's challenged, says he told Villeneuve that Transpo's photo policy wouldn't stand up in court.

    He started taking pictures of Villeneuve, which only infuriated the bus cop even more.

    When I interviewed Villeneuve a few days ago, I, too, came away with the impression that the special constable was on a bit of [sic] power trip with three students who weren't easily intimidated by his orders. "We were giving him a hard time because he was being such a jackass," admits Thompson-Walker.

    I asked Villeneuve if handcuffing a woman and pushing her up against a car was a bit much for an alleged offence that doesn't even fall under the Criminal Code? "Not at all," said Villeneuve. "She was non-compliant under the Trespassing to Property Act and I arrested her under that act."

    Etc. Perhaps needless to say, an Ottawa police officer interviewed by Adami affirmed that Villeneuve had not exceeded his authority.

  • The Globe and Mail editorializes about the upcoming STV (single transferable vote) electoral reform referendum in BC, and, unsurprisingly, is opposed to the idea. Not that it favours the creaky, undemocratic "first-past-the-post" system: it calls instead for a kind of MMP, the mixed member proportional system that preserves single-member ridings, but tops up party seats in the legislature based on percentage of the popular vote. Rather than MMP proper, however, the paper proposes a junior version (known as the Supplementary Member system), as it did during the last Ontario attempt at reform. Under this system a pre-set section of the legislature's seats is apportioned to reflect the popular vote, while most of it continues to be filled in the current manner.

    We get the usual guff, of course, about "endless minority governments" (which appear quite common these days under the current system), and the alleged "bewildering" nature of STV.

    There may be mathematics involved, but the STV concept itself is not difficult to understand at all. Imagine a schoolroom with 100 students. Five prefects are to be elected. The procedure is that anyone wanting to run comes to the front and faces the class: supporters line up behind the candidate of their choice. So nine people go to the front. One is immensely popular, with a long line, so some of those who support him line up instead behind their second favourite. Less popular candidates end up with only one or two supporters: those supporters, seeing no win in sight, line up behind their second favourite (and so do the luckless candidates). If the second favourites achieve long lines, some of those students line up behind their third favourites--and so on. Eventually, as though by magic, five students with long lines are left, and declared elected.

    That's the principle of STV. I'm a late convert to this form of voting: it allows more voter choice, it does away entirely with the party list system, which sank MMP in Ontario (although there are more democratic ways of assembling those lists than the one proposed to Ontarians), and it makes every vote count. Show the way, BC.

  • By now several progressive bloggers have gone after Sun columnist and TV nonentity Michael Coren, who jeers at the notion of women in the armed forces, and exploits the recent death of Trooper Karine Blais to make his point. I have little to add, except to observe that the starboard side of the blogosphere is curiously silent on the matter, The Torch included.

    That doesn't mean that supporters of the war are not appalled by the crassness of the column, however. Here (courtesy of Mark Collins) is a comment left at milnet.ca:

    I spoke about this article with one of my friends who was really close to Karine. He comes from the same small village, we both went to school with her, he has the same age and he joined at the same time as her and knew her from his early childhood. What sickens him, and myself, the most about this article is the distinction the author made about her looks. If she wasn't good looking, would the idea of this article even came to his mind? Karine wasn't weak mentally and was perfectly able for combat, she did the same training as any men of her regiment and she decided to join in a combat arm because she loved this job and would have hated to do a desk job. Of course her death is tragic, but so are the deaths of every other member who died in this mission. How is her death any more tragic than one of a 40 year old man who leaves his children to grow without a father and leaves his wife to take care of the childrens alone? To me we are all equal as humans in life and death and while I am deeply saddened by her death, I think it is a great thing that in our society she had the opportunity to do what she really wanted in her life before dying. The last thing she would have wanted is her death to reopen this sexist debate.

    Well said.
And now: first-year exams. A gloomy path before me lies.

UPDATE: Damian Brooks at The Torch has just put up a fine post on Michael Coren's insolence, appropriately entitled STFU, Coren.

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