The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Kim Covert


Tough on crime, tougher on society

By Kim Covert December 17, 2013 17 December 2013

Give a man a fish, the saying goes, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

What do you suppose the long-term outcome is for a criminal whose prison experience can be read as a study of a government not wanting a fella to get ahead?

Tough-on-crime legislation is putting more people in jail and keeping them there longer, while at the same time federal budget cuts are resulting in cancellation of training and work programs that gave inmates skills and income. Prisoners at institutions across Canada went on strike in October to protest further clawbacks of their meagre incomes – an average of $3 a day, or $1,095 a year – which they use to buy things like toiletries and stamps because the government no longer provides the essentials to them.

And then there are victims’ surcharges: Justice Minister Peter MacKay said this week that offenders should be prepared to sell their belongings in order to pay them.

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Is it slander if you don't use 'that word'?

By Kim Covert December 12, 2013 12 December 2013

Former media baron Conrad Black is known for his facility with the English language and his love of multi-syllabic words, so here’s one for him: disingenuous.

Disingenuous: adj. insincere; lacking in frankness or honesty.

Far more people have likely read about Black’s interview with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford than watched it on his Vision TV program, The Zoomer – it was hard to miss the headlines, like this one from The Huffington Post: Rob Ford Outrageously Suggests Toronto Star Reporter Daniel Dale is a Pedophile.

Black has been known to castigate reporters for not doing their research and getting their facts straight; and he’s also known for doing exhaustive research in his own writing. So his dismissal of the suggestion that it was his duty to find out whether Ford’s allegation against a reporter had any basis in fact is nothing less than disingenuous.

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Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

By Kim Covert December 10, 2013 10 December 2013

“Where there is music and dancing, that makes me at peace with the world, and at peace with myself,” Nelson Mandela told concert-goers in France in 1999, when he joined artist Johnnny Clegg onstage for the hauntingly beautiful song Asimbonanga (Mandela).

Mandela came by his peace the hard way. It is a tribute to his strength that he left prison after 27 years not bitter and broken, but resolute, understanding of his captors. He was greeted with reverence which he accepted with humility.

He’d been quite ill, fragile for months, losing his “sparkle,” as his wife Graca Machel, put it, so Mandela’s death last week at the age of 95 came as no surprise. But it was a great loss nonetheless.

With his death he became, in the words of The Onion, a satirical online magazine, “the first politician to be missed.”

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The legal use of illegal drugs is problematic

By Kim Covert December 3, 2013 3 December 2013

Canadians love a man – or a woman – in red serge.

More than the green, red and yellow-striped Hudson’s Bay blankets, and maybe even as much as hockey, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are a Canadian institution, beloved symbols of a vast country, causing a patriotic flutter in the most jaded of hearts when they parade in their ceremonial red jackets.

Unlike its neighbour to the south, Canada doesn’t churn out heroes and icons like puffs of fried bread from a doughnut machine, which probably explains why we’re even more fiercely protective of the ones we do anoint. The RCMP’s decision to hire Disney to oversee the marketing and licensing of its image in 1995 was met with anger among those worried that Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse would soon be kitted out in the red jackets and riding boots of the dress uniform.

So when a member of the RCMP in New Brunswick wanted to bring attention to the lack of resources available to him and others suffering from mental health issues due to their experiences on the force, he knew the most provocative thing he could do would be to spark up while suited up.

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The best thing since mortgage-backed securities

By Kim Covert November 28, 2013 28 November 2013

Trickle-down economics, that beloved brainchild of right-leaning fiscal conservatives, has been debunked many times since former U.S. president Ronald Reagan made it a household term – most recently by no less an authority on temporal woes than Pope Francis.

The idea that an unfettered free market would bring economic growth for everyone is an opinion has “never been confirmed by facts,” the Pope wrote earlier this week, and believing that it will “expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.”

In fact, if the economic meltdown of 2007/8 showed us anything, it’s that when times are hard, the trickles dry up, leaving the poor holding an empty bucket long after the rich recover and move on to greater heights.

The record $13-billion settlement reached this month with JP Morgan may be the biggest-ever fine levied against a single company, but it amounts to chump change when you look at the bank’s overall earnings since its recovery from the recession. Goldman Sachs settled with federal regulators in 2010 for $550 million – and it’s worth noting that neither institution was required to admit guilt for its role in the sub-prime mortgage fiasco and overall economic downturn. Nor have any executives of any of the individual institutions faced charges.

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