Justice

Punishment does not fit the crime

punish 300In late July, BC Supreme Court Judge Kenneth Affleck — once a lawyer for Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc., seller of deadly tobacco products — sentenced 70-year old Laurie Embree to jail.

Her crime? Peacefully protesting expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline that Canada’s Government hopes will allow larger shipments of tar sands bitumen to American refineries.

Let’s compare treatment of Ms. Embree and others to that involving offences by a corporation.

Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain subsidiary installed mats in streams to prevent fish from spawning in a river where the pipeline is to be built. Canada’s pipeline regulator, the National Energy Board, gave them a “stern warning” and told them to stop.

BC’s Oil and Gas Commission was even tougher. They penalized Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. $230 for the act, which is less than the penalty for plugging your phone into a car charger while you stop at a red light. BCOGC fined Kinder Morgan a further $690 on three counts related to fresh water withdrawals.

Kinder Morgan revenue in fiscal year 2017 was $684 million. So the $230 fine assessed the company was equivalent to a 1¢ fine to a citizen earning the median income of Canadians.

Of course, we all remember the Mount Polley tailings dam disaster that released more than 25 million cubic metres of poisonous tailings and water into Quesnel Lake and outflowing rivers. The event has been called one of the largest environmental disasters in Canadian history.

What was stern treatment of billionaire Murray Edwards’ company Imperial Metals? Remember, the controlling shareholder of Mount Polley  was also a BC Liberal bagman of epic proportions.

Three years after the tailings dam breach, BC Conservation service announced it would lay no charges against Imperial Metals.

Bev Sellars, acting chief of the Xat’sull First Nation, laid a private information on the last day permitted by provincial law. Months later, BC Attorney General David Eby’s officials dismissed the charge before it could go to court.

Federal charges against Imperial Metals remain possible but, given that we’re now in the fifth year since the disaster, they would be quickly thrown out under the Supreme Court of Canada rule that trials must occur within a reasonable time. The high court had expressed concern about “culture of delay and complacency” in bringing cases to trial

 In the end, one of Canada’s worst environmental disaster will be associated with zero penalties imposed by courts.

Ok, we’re not surprised that corporations can buy immunity with substantial contributions to political parties. What about white-collar crime in BC?

David Michaels, a fraud artist targeting seniors, was accused of convincing hundreds of clients (average age 72) to purchase $65 million in securities, most of them worthless. The BC Security Commission ordered Michaels to pay $23 million. He paid nothing and served not a day in jail.

Income taxation is another place where unequal treatment is rife.

In 2015, we learned that wealthy tax dodgers were using a scheme designed by KPMG to avoid paying Canadian tax. A year later, it came to light that Canada Revenue Agency negotiated a secret deal with KPMG providing their clients secret amnesties with no penalties and reduced interest.

At the same time, CRA auditors were chasing and penalizing $10-an-hour restaurant workers who failed to declare the level of tips that tax assessors estimated to be appropriate.

A few years ago, I wrote Would 7¢ fines deter improper acts by citizens? It included this:

A millionaire businessman in Finland has been fined €54,000 ($73,000 CAN) for speeding. While the businessman’s fine may seem extortionate, it is part of a tradition of “progressive punishment” that stretches back over nine decades.

In Finland, speeding fines are linked to an offender’s income.

Reima Kuisla was driving at 103 km/h (64 mph) in an 80 km/h zone. The fine was calculated based on the €6.5m earnings posted on his 2013 tax return.

This is not even the highest ever financial penalty received for speeding in the country. Back in 2002, a Nokia executive received a €116,000 ($158,000 CAN) fine for speeding on his Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Since 1921, some offences that require a non-custodial sentence in Finland have been punishable by “day-fines”. These are calculated on the basis an offender’s daily disposable income…

When Justice Kenneth Affleck jailed a senior who was honestly motivated to improve the world, the judge was following a long-established Canadian legal tradition. It dictates:

The purpose of punishment is deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, retribution, and restitution, except when the perpetrator is a white-collar criminal or a senior officer of a wealthy corporation. In those cases, there is no need for punishment to fit the crime.

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9 replies »

  1. Seven days in jail. Good god. Don’t know how the legal profession managed to secure such societal power through the 19th century to allow imprisonment for snorting at the antics and opinions of the the popinjays commonly installed as judges. A weaponized vestige of the aristocracy originally appointed mainly to protect property and to let the serfs know in no uncertain manner who’s really in charge. Do doctors, accountants and engineers as the other long-standing professionals have the power to deprive one of liberty for disagreement? Of course not.

    The legal profession is now so entrenched it cannot be challenged, and lets some complete donk gives this poor woman seven days for non-violent protest due to common law, I presume. Along with climate change, corporate privilege beyond much challenge and societal bitterness at unfairness, I’d posit a change will occur shortly for us all.

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  2. ‘Reima Kuisla was driving at 103 km/h (64 mph) in an 80 km/h zone. The fine was calculated based on the €6.5m earnings posted on his 2013 tax return.”
    For a person, not necessarily the young driving very high end sports car on eg. Lougheed …., basing their fine on their earnings, which equates to nil, nil, nil, do the courts go after the owner of the cars, no matter where they reside eg. China?

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  3. Funny how the colonial mindset of lords/serfs still persists here in our Justice Ministry.
    Portugal is advanced.
    No fines for Mount Polly, Or change in our Provinces ways.
    The politicians ought to be paid 11/2 times the average mean income in BC to reflect the people they serve, instead of the Lords of Financal Power as in days of old.
    Without volunteers running this province we’d be in pathetic shape as with BC Parks relationships with those of the public who care about our heritage without demanding money for service.
    They ought to have an authority at the political table in policy making.
    Inclusive democracy.
    The idea that money will bring out the talent to run our province has been shown to be a incredibly poor assumption. This philosophy was all agreed upon by the political parties some years ago who unanimously voted to accept their outlandish pension scheme without our consent.
    It all seemed so reasonably presented, and well reasoned.
    Delusional people.
    Time for radical change to reflect the radically changing world we live in or we will stupify ourselves. Its begining now to be seen.
    You could say this definition of human corruption means simply a willful ignorance to respond to change for the betterment of us all which I assume is the reason for having a democracy in the first place.
    The diversity of our voices bringing an enlightened view upon a subject rather than hearing one idea from a vested interest.
    Politics has become a vested interest in it’s own right, and its time to break it up.
    all the best.
    Hugh

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “We’re going to use every tool in our toolbox to defend our coast from the threat of increased oil tanker traffic.” – John Horgan neglecting to tell citizens his tool kit includes aggressive prosecutors who say senior protesters should be particularly targeted.

    “If we go to court, we’re going to go to court with clean hands and ensure we’ve done everything humanly possible before I stand with you and probably 10,000 other people and get arrested to stop this pipeline.” – Derek Corrigan promising to be with protesters as they are arrested.

    “I have lived my 70 years abiding by the law. But if we look back into our history there have been many times when our laws support injustices. The law sir, that you have created, and that I, and many others are peacefully challenging, is unjust. It supports an industry that is not just harming children, or black people, or women, or Indigenous peoples. Your law, in fact, is supporting an industry that has been scientifically proven to be harming the whole world and every living thing on it.” – Laurie Embree speaking to the judge at trial after standing up for her convictions and no doubt noticing Derek Corrigan’s absence.

    Pick your hero.

    “I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.” – Ulysses Simpson Grant.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yeah, I remember that fine of $73,000 to that Finnish business man; his biggest problem was to go home and explain it to his wife. And, I bet that he couldn’t deduct that fine from his income tax as we allow here for business people here who can prove that they were travelling to or from a business function when receiving that ticket.

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  6. Norm, as my Mom taught us when we were still in elementary school, there was one law for the rich and one for the poor. End of story.

    As to the 7 days in jail, if you go back to the Claquaot sound battle, back in the day 2 elderly women were sentenced to jail for a much longer time. Months as I recall. One was Betty Krazak, who I believe is still alive and well in Cumberland and the other was an elder from the First Nations, who developed pneomina and died.. I think if Ms. Krazak’s blog is still up, she has the details there.

    If you “fuck” with money, they will get even with you or try to send a message to prevent others from joining the fight.

    It when in the 1970s. the PLO would hijack an airliner, kill some one but no government paid attention. Then the PLO started unloading the passengers and blowing up the jets. Then the other governments started paying attention to them.

    its always about the money.

    The judges are there to do the bidding of the wealthy.

    No Crown Prosecutor is going to quit their job over it, because they’ll find some one else. the Judges, well they got their jobs because, they are connected to the structure.

    In my opinion there was no crime. The people were doing what is right and proper and that is demonstrating against something they feel is not right and proper. They are exercising their freedom of assembly and speech, but if it impedes the making of money, those freedoms end.

    Liked by 1 person

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