Several faculty members gave interviews and wrote op-eds, despite the busy exam grading & holiday seasons. A round-up of recent contributions.

Mandatory minimum sentences don’t work. They can’t work

The Montreal Gazette, Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Marie ManikisMarie Manikis (with Julian V. Roberts)

The federal government has not decided what it plans to do about Canada’s controversial approach to mandatory minimum sentences. But Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has said this will be an important conversation.

She’s right.

Mandatory minimum sentences violate two key elements of sentencing in Canada: individualization and proportionality. Individualization is important because offenders are individuals, not groups. Every offender is entitled to have a judge consider his own particular circumstances – not just slap on one sentence for all cases of the same crime.

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Targeting Child Soldiers

International Journal of European Law blog, Tuesday, 12 January 2016

2015-september-rene-provost-150x150-3262By René Provost

Despite the numerous volume on child soldiers in legal literature over the last few decades, very little has been said on targeting child soldiers. It seems to be something international lawyers would rather not talk about. The fact that legal literature doesn’t say much about targeting child soldiers doesn’t mean that no such practice exists, or that soldiers haven’t discuss the matter.

In 2002, the US Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory organised a ‘Cultural Intelligence Seminar’ on the implication of child soldiering for US forces. One trigger for that discussion was the fact that the very first US soldier killed in Afghanistan reportedly was a Special Forces Sergeant shot by a 14-year-old boy. The year before, in Sierra Leone, a squad from the Royal Irish Regiment was taken prisoner by a group consisting mostly of armed children called the West Side Boys, as the British soldiers were hesitant to open fire. After they had been held hostage for two weeks, an assault was launched by an SAS unit supported by suppression fire from helicopters, leading to between 25 to 150 dead among the West Side Boys. Finally, during the civil war in Sri Lanka, a Government aircraft bombed what was deemed an LTTE training camp, killing a reported 61 minors, mostly girls. Although the LTTE was widely known to use child soldiers, and the specific facts were contested, the Sri Lanka Government was adamant that if a child took up arms, then he or she could be targeted and killed.

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There’s no room for delay when Charter rights are being violated

The Globe and Mail, Monday, January 11, 2016

By Robert Leckey

robert-leckey-150x150-6107Most of us have asked a teacher or boss to extend a deadline. On Monday, the federal government asked the Supreme Court of Canada for six months more to regulate assisted suicide, and the court said it would take time to decide. Unlike yours or mine, the government’s extension would authorize it to keep violating people’s fundamental rights. We should rethink judges’ practice of delaying orders in Charter cases.

Last February, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the blanket ban on help ending one’s life violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To give our elected lawmakers time to act, the court suspended its ruling for 12 months. The unconstitutional law remained in effect in the meantime.

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UN backlash against call to scale back Geneva convention on refugees

Senior officials warn against Danish prime minister’s proposal to revise 1951 UN treaty, saying it risks the destruction of ‘a milestone of humanity’

The Guardian, Wednesday, January 6, 2016

françois crépeau-3118Interviewed for this, Professor François Crépeau argues the refugee crisis need not place a particularly high burden on western countries. He cites the aftermath of the Vietnam war as a precedent, when the countries of the global north resettled millions of refugees from Indochina with no long-term negative effects.

“We shouldn’t touch the Geneva convention … The refugee convention is the embodiment of an age-old institution. In every civilisation, there has always been [the concept of] asylum – in Greek tragedy, in the Bible – [and] the refugee convention is an modern embodiment of this age-old asylum tradition. Refugee protection is at the root of many civilisations and to take that away would be to renounce millennia of a tradition of hospitality.”

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Crise migratoire: ouvrez les frontières!

Le Devoir, lundi, 4 janvier 2016

Entrevue de François Crépeau par Sarah Champagne. Le rapporteur spécial de l’ONU pour les droits de l’homme et des migrants propose une révolution.

La migration « dans les gènes », l’espèce humaine a « conquis la planète en se déplaçant ». Et le mouvement n’est pas près de se tarir, avertit François Crépeau. Alors que l’Europe aura vu plus d’un million de migrants entrer sur son territoire en 2015, le rapporteur spécial des Nations unies pour les droits de l’homme et des migrants renouvelle son appel à organiser ces flots plutôt que de tenter de les empêcher. Rigoureux et lucide, il jette un regard pragmatique, mais sensible, sur la situation.

Son constat est simple : la « sécurisation » des frontières est un échec, une illusion pour les pays de destination, et un écueil meurtrier pour ceux qui cherchent à s’y rendre. En 2015, plus de 5300 migrants sont morts en essayant d’atteindre l’Europe, dont au moins 3770 en mer Méditerranée, a indiqué l’Organisation internationale pour les migrations (OIM) quelques heures avant que ne vienne 2016.

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Identity and War: Towards a Different Future

The World Post (Huffington Post), Monday, January 4, 2016

By Payam Akhavan

Payam-Akhavan-6809In March of 1996, I came across Dražen Erdemović for the first time. It was an encounter that would profoundly shape my understanding of identity and war.

Erdemović was a soldier in the Bosnian Serb Army. A few months earlier, on July 16, 1995, his brigade had participated in the mass murder of 1,200 unarmed civilians near the town of Srebrenica. The victims’ only “crime” was that they were Muslims. Such was the unspeakable evil of “ethnic cleansing.”

The men and boys, some as young as 14, had arrived in buses, blindfolded, with their hands tied behind their backs. They were lined up and then shot, their lifeless bodies dumped in mass graves by bulldozers. To this day, the grieving mothers of Srebrenica search for the remains of their missing children.

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Inquiry into violence against indigenous women needs teeth

The inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women should go beyond apologies and shame about the past. It should see that justice is done.

The Star, Wednesday, December 23, 2015

By Ronald Niezen

nov2013-niezen-150x150-3557The recent announcement of a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women provides an opportunity to do something that goes beyond apologies and shame about the past. It’s an opportunity to restore dignity by seeing justice done.

We have seen public apologies, shame and sorrow in abundance. In the just-concluded Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on Indian residential schools we heard from survivors’ often tearful testimony how they were physically and sexually abused, their languages and cultures targeted for elimination, their suffering and self-destruction transmitted to succeeding generations…

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We can design our descendants. But should we?

The Globe and Mail, Monday, December 21, 2015

margaret-somerville-9771By Margaret Somerville

“Editing” the human germline – the genes passed on from generation to generation that have evolved naturally over millions of years to create each unique one of us – has gone from science fiction to science fact. We can now design our descendants.

Most bioethicists and many major institutions had agreed that would be wrong. Now, some are arguing that it should be allowed because of its potential to do “good.” How should we decide? We can look to the history of assisted human reproduction technologies for some lessons.

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On this day: December 10, 1948 – Canada’s Lead in Human Rights

It was on this day in 1948 that the United Nations General Assembly  adopted a declaration spelling out a series of rights and freedoms to which all people should be entitled.

Radio-Canada International,Thursday, 10 December, 2015

The new director, John  Humphrey had been a law professor at McGill University in Montreal and set about the task with zeal. His small staff in New York began collecting an exhaustive assortment of documents on human rights issues from around the world.

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