Canada’s no-sex, no-money scandal could topple Trudeau
By ROB GILLIES
Monday, March 11
TORONTO (AP) — There’s no money, no sex and nothing illegal happened. This is what passes for a scandal in Canada.
U.S. President Donald Trump has been engulfed in allegations involving possible collusion with Russia and secret payments to buy the silence of a porn star. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing a controversy that seems trivial by comparison, but it could topple him in elections later this year.
Two high-profile women ministers in Trudeau’s Cabinet, including Canada’s first indigenous justice minister, resigned in protest, and his top aide and best friend quit too.
The former justice minister and attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, says Trudeau and senior members of his government pressured her in a case involving a major Canadian engineering company accused of corruption related to its business dealings in Libya. Trudeau reportedly leaned on the attorney general to instruct prosecutors to reach the equivalent of plea deal, which would avoid a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, because he felt that jobs were at stake.
“People south of the border would be astonished to think that this is the type of scandal that they have in Canada,” said Eddie Goldenberg, a former adviser to former Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
Many countries would be jealous of a scandal that went no further than a prime minster asking another minister to do something she is legally entitled to do, Goldenberg said.
“I just don’t really see it as a scandal,” he said. “There is a political correctness here. Nobody wants to go after an indigenous woman minister. It’s become politically incorrect to question the former minister.”
Trudeau has said he asked Wilson-Raybould to revisit her decision not to instruct prosecutors and said she agreed to consider that. He denied applying any inappropriate pressure, saying he and his officials were only pointing out that prosecution could endanger thousands of jobs.
SNC-Lavalin has pleaded not guilty to fraud and corruption charges related to allegations it paid about $35 million (CA$47 million) in bribes to public officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011.
“It’s a pseudo-scandal. It’s crap. What the hell? You are doing business in Libya and you are not bribing?” said Robert Bothwell, a professor of Canadian history and international relations at the University of Toronto. “It does suggest to me that the director of public prosecutions … is also nuts. And so is Wilson-Raybould. These people are delusional.”
Wilson-Raybould was demoted from her role as attorney general and justice minister in January as part of a Cabinet shuffle by Trudeau. She has testified that she believes she lost the justice job because she did not give in to “sustained” pressure to instruct the director of public prosecutions to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin.
That solution would have avoided a potential criminal conviction that would bar the company from receiving any federal government business for a decade. The company is a major employer in Quebec, Trudeau’s home province. It has about 9,000 employees in Canada and more than 50,000 worldwide.
The company publicly led the lobbying charge for a law that allows for deferred prosecution agreements as a way to resolve the criminal charges it faces. The new attorney general has not ruled out approving a settlement.
Wilson-Raybould has said herself that the pressure from Trudeau and others was not illegal and that she was not explicitly instructed to do a remediation agreement.
Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s former principal secretary and best friend who resigned, said nothing inappropriate was alleged until after Wilson-Raybould left the Cabinet, suggesting she felt sour grapes about losing her dream job.
Opposition Conservative Andrew Scheer leader has demanded that Trudeau resign, saying he tried to interfere in a criminal prosecution. Canadian media have covered the story as intensely as American networks have covered Trump, noted Nelson Wiseman, a professor at the University of Toronto.
“Trudeau would not be able to get away with what Trump does because the political cultures and the state of political polarization of the two countries are still quite different,” Wiseman said.
The differences among Canadian media outlets, for example, are “relatively narrow compared to the chasms between Fox and MSNBC or CNN. The American media are reporting on two different worlds. The Canadian media are reporting on the same Wilson-Raybould-Trudeau story,” Wiseman added.
Daniel Beland, a politics professor at McGill University in Montreal, said Trudeau has framed himself differently than Trump. Trump said sympathetic things about Russia during the campaign and was elected despite that and other controversies, giving him “the sense that he can do anything and his base will still follow him.”
Trudeau, meanwhile, promised transparency while describing himself as a feminist who was also determined to right the wrongs against Canada’s indigenous people. Women make up half of his cabinet.
“He depicted himself as a feminist, as someone who believes in indigenous reconciliation, and then you have two of his top female Cabinet ministers resign, and they are depicting him in a very different light,” Beland said.
Trudeau said he tried to foster an environment where his lawmakers can come to him with concerns, but one of his female Liberal party colleagues, Celina Caesar-Chavannes, took issue with that, tweeting, “I did come to you recently. Twice. Remember your reactions?”
“When you add women, please do not expect the status quo. Expect us to make correct decisions, stand for what is right and exit when values are compromised,” she also tweeted.
Caesar-Chavannes, who is not running for re-election, has issued messages of support for Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, a respected Cabinet minister who said she lost confidence in how the government has handled the affair.
“It is a fundamental doctrine of the rule of law that our Attorney General should not be subjected to political pressure or interference regarding the exercise of her prosecutorial discretion in criminal cases,” Philpott wrote in the resignation letter to Trudeau.
Other Liberal lawmakers have expressed confidence in Trudeau. The federal election is in October.
Antonia Maioni, McGill University’s dean of arts, said citizens of every democracy will look at the Trump scandals and say everything else is small potatoes.
But, she added, “I’m not sure Trump is a good reference point here. Leaders fall in parliamentary systems for many other reasons beyond personal scandal.”
#MeToo: In Canada, rape myths continue to prevent justice for sexual assault survivors
March 5, 2019
Kate Puddister, Assistant Professor in Political Science, University of Guelph
Danielle McNabb, Graduate Student, University of Guelph
Disclosure statement: Kate Puddister receives funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Danielle McNabb does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Guelph provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation CA. University of Guelph provides funding as a member of The Conversation CA-FR.
A new Canadian law intended to empower sexual assault complainants in the #MeToo era looks good on paper, but is not likely to remove major obstacles for women seeking justice.
The government says Bill C-51, which came into effect at the end of 2018, will “ensure that victims of sexual assault and gender-based violence are treated with the utmost compassion and respect.” The new law was a direct response to public concern in Canada that despite legislative reforms, under-reporting and low rates of conviction for sexual assault persist.
One of the main reasons under-reporting persists, experts say, is because sexual assault complainants believe they will not be treated humanely in the trial process.
Prior to the changes to Canadian law, a cab driver in the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia was acquitted of sexually assaulting a severely intoxicated passenger.
“Clearly, a drunk can consent,” said the judge, whose controversial ruling prompted protests. The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal called for a retrial, saying the trial judge erred when he found no evidence to support a lack of consent by the passenger who was sexually assaulted.
This is not the first time a member of the Canadian justice system has cited stereotypes about what is “true rape” and who is an “ideal victim.” Such comments — referred to as “rape myths” — serve to justify sexual violence, creating a major obstacle for women seeking justice.
Bill C-51 is now in effect in Canada, an achievement both the Liberal and Conservative parties touted as a victory for women and the #MeToo movement.
However, our preliminary research shows that despite the political gain that comes with introducing legislation that appears to help sexual assault complainants, the new law has limited ability to make real change in Canadian courtrooms.
The justice gap
Canada’s new law suffers from the same problems that limited the effectiveness of earlier efforts.
That’s because, our study finds, changing laws about the court process and evidence does nothing to change the behaviour of judges and other court officials in responding to complainants of sexual assault.
Canada has tried to address this issue through legislation in the past, also to limited effect.
Canada’s first “rape shield” laws, enacted in 1982, were designed to shield complainants from trial tactics that relied on rape myths. Those laws said that the sexual history of the complainant could only be used as evidence in narrow circumstances: when that history is central to the accused’s case.
But the law does not necessarily translate to justice in the courtroom.
Several scholars — notably Elaine Craig of Dalhousie University and Lise Gotell of the University of Alberta — have identified this distance between what the rape shield says and how it actually functions as the “justice gap.”
In other words, despite rape shield rules on paper, in practice Canadian defence counsel have been permitted to introduce evidence of sexual history for misleading purposes. The broad wording of the law has enabled lawyers to get around the rules in the courtroom.
After the rape shield was upheld on appeal by the Supreme Court of Canada in a 1999 case called R. v. Mills, criminal lawyer associations in Canada began strategizing ways to work around the broadly defined rules, according to Gotell. Some even held a “study day” to provide their members with advice on how to make successful applications for disclosure despite the rape shield.
New federal law doesn’t change much
Canada’s latest effort to empower sexual assault victims, Bill C-51, looks more comprehensive on paper. But there’s nothing in the law to protect against judicial misapplication and defence counsel conduct.
Some of the changes in the law are aimed at protecting complainants and they are likely to have some positive effect. The law prohibits the use of sexual history evidence already in the possession of the accused (such as images), and it provides sexual assault complainants a right to be represented by counsel in hearings that determine the admission of evidence regarding sexual activity.
But Canadian policymakers, it appears, did not consider how the bill would address sexist views held by judges or counsel. Parliamentarians did not consider why judges or counsel might have struggled with interpreting rape shield provisions in the past. Previous changes to the rape shield have been limited due to broad and ambiguously worded legislation and because there is a lack of meaningful consequences when the rape shield is violated.
This failure by Parliament to be truly reflective in policymaking was best illustrated by former Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, in a Senate hearing. Senator Kim Pate asked Wilson-Raybould to explain the types of questioning that would be permitted in the courtroom.
In response, Wilson-Raybould illustrated her lack of confidence in the successful implementation of the new law: “In terms of addressing that type of misogyny or those types of comments, the Criminal Code is not necessarily the best place.”
When drafting the new law, parliamentarians across party lines communicated support for taking a stand against inhumane treatment of complainants in a trial.
But successful policy change requires reflective policymakers who consider why previous attempts at policy change were unsuccessful. Without genuine evaluation, social progress may be elusive.
There are already instances of Canada’s new rape shield law being violated.
In February, in a court in the province of Saskatchewan, a defence lawyer was permitted to ask a sexual assault complainant why she “did not fight back,” and “why she did not report right away.” He was also permitted to ask questions about the woman’s “style of scream.”
To diminish the justice gap for Canadian sexual assault victims, the culture of Canada’s courtrooms needs changing, too — not just the law.
Plastic bag bans can backfire if consumers just use other plastics instead
March 14, 2019
Author: Rebecca Taylor, Lecturer in Economics, University of Sydney
Disclosure statement: Rebecca Taylor does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Sydney provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.
Governments are increasingly banning the use of plastic products, such as carryout bags, straws, utensils and microbeads. The goal is to reduce the amount of plastic going into landfills and waterways. And the logic is that banning something should make it less abundant.
However, this logic falls short if people actually reuse those items instead of buying new ones. For example, so-called “single-use” plastic carryout bags can have a multitude of unseen second lives – as trash bin liners, dog poop bags and storage receptacles.
A U.K. government study calculated that a shopper would need to reuse a cotton carryout bag 131 times to reduce its global warming potential – its expected total contribution to climate change – below that of plastic carryout bags used once to carry newly purchased goods. To have less impact on the climate than plastic carryout bags also reused as trash bags, consumers would need to use the cotton bag 327 times.
My research has evaluated carryout bag regulations from many angles. In a recent study, I examined how plastic carryout bag bans in California have changed the types of bags people use at checkout, as well as these bans’ unintended impacts on consumer purchasing habits. My results showed that bag bans may not reduce total plastic usage if people begin purchasing trash bags to replace the carryout bags they were previously reusing for their garbage. As this finding shows, well-intended product bans can have unintended consequences.
‘The Majestic Plastic Bag,’ a mockumentary produced by Heal the Bay to support plastic bag bans in California.
Plastic bag use in California
California provides a unique laboratory for studying plastic bag regulations. From 2007 through 2015, 139 California cities and counties implemented plastic carryout bag bans. This local momentum led to the first statewide plastic bag ban in the United States, voted into law on Nov. 8, 2016. Because these restrictions were adopted at different times across the state, I was able to compare bag usage at stores with bans to those without, while also accounting for potentially confounding factors, such as seasonal shopping patterns.
Using sales data from retail outlets, I found that bag bans in California reduced plastic carryout bag usage by 40 million pounds per year, but that this reduction was offset by a 12 million pound annual increase in trash bag sales. This meant that 30 percent of the plastic eliminated by the ban was coming back in the form of trash bags, which are thicker than typical plastic carryout bags.
In particular, my results showed that bag bans caused sales of small (4 gallon), medium (8 gallon) and large (13 gallon) trash bags to increase by 120 percent, 64 percent and 6 percent respectively.
Disposable does not automatically mean single-use
Although plastic carryout bags are widely referred to as “single-use,” consumers don’t necessarily treat them that way. By comparing the reduction in plastic carryout bags used at checkout to the increase in trash bags sold, my results revealed that 12 to 22 percent of plastic carryout bags were reused in California as trash bags pre-ban. Each reuse avoided the manufacture and purchase of another plastic bag.
Moreover, my study underestimated reuse because it did not examine other ways in which people use plastic carryout bags, such as wrapping fragile items for shipping or storage instead of using plastic bubble wrap. Nor did it address increased use of reusable bags made of thicker plastic in place of disposable plastic bags.
The U.K. study did examine the impact of shifting to thicker reusable plastic bags. It found that if these thicker bags were not reused between 9 and 26 times, they would have a higher global warming potential than disposable plastic carryout bags reused as trash bags.
Who bears the burden?
Who were the people who reused plastic carryout bags pre-ban, and presumably bore the burden of buying trash bags post-ban? I found that bag reuse was higher for people who purchased pet items and baby items – in other words, who needed to collect and dispose of excrement. In 2017, nearly 6 percent of U.S. households had a child under 5 years old, 44 percent owned a dog, and 35 percent owned a cat.
I also found that plastic bag reuse was higher among people who shopped for bargains. Although reusing shopping bags as trash bags could be motivated by environmental concern, it also could be motivated by frugality. Interestingly, I did not find a correlation between plastic bag reuse and income or political leaning, but I did find a positive correlation with higher levels of education.
The case for fees instead of bans
Why didn’t policymakers foresee that bag bans could drive up trash bag sales? Policies typically miss the mark because policymakers either do not understand people’s current behavior or fail to anticipate how people will respond in a completely new situation.
Banning carryout bags illustrates the first problem. Before plastic bags were banned, there was little data on who reused plastic bags or how they reused them. California’s natural experiment revealed this information for other jurisdictions to improve upon.
In my view, policymakers who want to minimize plastic use should consider ways to help people who want to reuse disposable bags. One option would be to offer incentives for producing inexpensive, thin carryout bags specifically designed and marketed to be used first as carryout bags, then for trash. Such bags would need to sell for less than 9 cents per bag to be price-competitive with current 4-gallon trash bags. Ideally, they would be thin enough to contribute no more to climate change than traditional carryout bags.
Another route that some jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C., have implemented is adopting plastic bag fees instead of bans. This approach, which allows customers to continue using plastic carryout bags as trash bags for a small fee, has been shown to be as effective as bans in encouraging consumers to switch to reusable bags.
However, current bag fees have not promoted other uses for disposable carryout bags. These policies could be improved by educating customers about the environmental benefits of reusing disposable products. As a general rule, the more an object can be reused – even a disposable item – the better for the environment.