Category: News

What is the difference between a hate crime and a terrorist attack?

“Why are attacks against some considered terrorism, while this is only a ‘hate crime’?” asks Joel Arthurs via Twitter in respect to our story about a Mosque in Peterborough, Ont. that was deliberately set on fire.

Sean Fine, The Globe’s justice writer gave this response:

The reader raises a good question. Terrorism and some hate crimes may overlap. Hate may be linked to a political, religious or ideological purpose – part of the definition of terrorism. And why do people commit hate crimes if not to intimidate? Intimidation is also part of the definition of terrorism.

But the Peterborough mosque example is straightforward. Someone threw a bottle with flammable liquid through a window, causing a reported $100,000 in smoke damage. Under Canada’s 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act, property damage qualifies as terrorism only if it is substantial, and likely to cause death or serious bodily harm, or endanger public health or safety. Or if the act “causes serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system.” A nuclear plant, for instance.

The wording of the terrorism law communicates the largeness of scale of terrorist crimes and motivations, as Parliament views them. The intimidation clause, for instance, includes an intention to compel “a person, a government or a domestic or an international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act. . .”

“Terrorism requires attacks on individuals, not just buildings,” Winnipeg human rights lawyer David Matas says. “It trivializes the concept of terrorism to use it for property damage.”

What is a hate crime? In Canadian law, it is a crime to advocate or promote genocide, punishable by up to five years in prison. It is also a crime to incite hatred of an identifiable group, if that incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace. (Maximum sentence: two years.)

But the term “hate crime” is most commonly used to describe any crime — assault or arson, for instance — in which hate is an aggravating factor. The Criminal Code written by Parliament instructs judges to increase sentences when there is “evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor.”

“Hate crimes in Canada are simply a sentencing enhancement and not an independent crime,” University of Toronto law professor Kent Roach says. The penalty for arson would be increased if the court finds the arsonist’s motivation was hate.

But it is not always a simple matter to separate hate crimes from terrorism.
Imagine that a janitor working in the mosque was killed. Murder doesn’t require intent; it is enough that the person throwing the flammable liquid was willfully blind to the possibility. The charge could be murder, with hate as an aggravating factor. (Second degree murder, like that of first degree, carries an automatic penalty of life in prison, but the parole eligibility varies from 10 to 25 years; hate could mean more prison time.) Or the death of a janitor in the mosque could have resulted in a terrorism charge. All the elements — the intent to intimidate, the political motive, the death — are there.

The same goes for Justin Bourque’s killings of three RCMP officers in Moncton, N.B., last year, or Marc Lepine’s massacre of 14 women a École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989. Terrorism or murder? That is where a prosecutor’s discretion comes into play.

 Follow Sean Fine on Twitter and if you have a question that you would like answered, use #AskTheGlobe and we will do our best to search for the answer.

The boat people from Libya have to pay the smugglers. Where do they get the necessary cash?

Globe reader Rob Iveson in Toronto asks, “The boat people from Libya have to pay the smugglers.  Where do they get the necessary cash?”  Doug Saunders, The Globe’s international affairs columnist has interviewed people getting on human-smuggling boats in Libya in 2004 and 2011, and in Tunisia and Egypt in more recent years.  He has this to say about the funds, and where they come from:

Generally the cost charged by the boat pilots is between $1,500 and $3,000 per person. That’s to get on one of those overcrowded, unsafe fishing boats which have a high chance of capsizing and causing death.

The people who do this have generally saved for a long time—especially since they’ll generally need more money if they’re going to make a start in the underground economies of Europe, or attempt an asylum application if they’re fleeing conflict.

A number of them are middle-class, by African and Middle Eastern standards- this means they have probably saved for months.  But some are working people who have worked at jobs for a long time to save up – some come to Tripoli or Tunis or Alexandria and work on construction sites for a year or more to get enough money to take the chance.  Really poor people, such as farmers or peasants or people in real poverty, are not part of the Mediterranean boat population.

As I wrote recently, this isn’t people fleeing absolute poverty, but reasonably well-established people seeking specific work opportunities abroad.

In his weekend column, Saunders wrote:

The Mediterranean boat people have been coming for more than a decade, paying small fortunes to enter the continent aboard disturbingly overpacked vessels. They began arriving after Europe’s legal migration routes shut down in the 1990s, but never have their numbers been so large – or the death toll so high. When an estimated 850 people died in a single capsizing incident last weekend, driving this year’s toll to over 1,600 – 30 times higher than the toll for the same period last year – their fate became a continent-wide crisis, provoking an emergency European Union meeting on Thursday and an outraged response from across the political spectrum.

But “How do we stop this from happening?” is not such a simple question. To answer it, you first need to answer another question: “Why are these people taking such risks?” And it’s worth asking a third, often ignored question, as well: Why has illegal-boat migration to Europe peaked during certain years, then virtually vanished for long periods, only to reappear again? What has made it stop before, and what will make it stop again?…

An unstoppable flood of desperate poor people fleeing Africa to a new life in Europe – that is the phrase uttered, in one form or another, by headline writers and politicians to summarize the crisis.

Yet, every word of that sentence is wrong. And much of the current catastrophe, most of the drowning horrors, have been caused by the failure of policy-makers to understand how wrong those words are.

Follow Doug Saunders on Twitter, and read his full column: The real reasons why migrants risk everything for a new life elsewhere

What happens if Parliament ignores The Supreme Court ruling on doctor-assisted suicide?

Glenn Gray, a reader in Mississauga, Ont. asks: “The Supreme Court of Canada has given Parliament one year to put the assisted suicide laws in effect. What happens if parliament ignores this completely – or takes longer than a year? How would parliament be punished for that?”

Sean Fine, The Globe’s Justice reporter has covered The Supreme Court ruling extensively (and answered previous reader questions on the subject.) He has your answer:

The court did not command Parliament to do anything. It said that the prohibitions on assisted suicide in the Criminal Code no longer have any legal force, and it suspended the effect of its ruling for one year to give Parliament, and presumably other levels of government, regulatory bodies and medical associations, time to put in place the rules and processes by which seriously ill people could find a willing physician to end their lives.

Parliament has the right to take as much time as it wants, and to do what it chooses. But at the one-year mark, it will no longer be a criminal offence in Canada for a physician to aid in the suicide of a seriously ill, deeply suffering individual. People in that situation would be free to find a doctor willing to help them, and doctors would be beyond prosecution.

Even so, it would be a strange and uncomfortable situation simply to leave it open. In the court challenge, the federal government expressed deep concern for individuals who might be vulnerable to accept an early death against their wishes. Inaction by Parliament would allow for assisted suicide to happen with no recognized and enforced mechanisms for obtaining permission to end a life. The provinces could, however, if they wish, legislate in this area, within the parameters set by the court (that is, adults of sound mind whose irremediable suffering, either physical or psychological, is intolerable to themselves).

The court has no mechanism to punish Parliament. I don’t expect the Chief Justice to tell the Prime Minister he has to stay late and write lines or do pushups. But the electorate could punish the Conservative government or other parties, if it chooses. The government is accountable to the public, as always.

Follow Sean Fine on Twitter, and read the Globe’s editorial on The Supreme Court’s historic decision.

What is Bill C-51, and how will it affect the well-being of Canadians?

Rosemary Ganley in Peterborough, Ont. asks:  “Please tell us what is the content of Bill C-51, and how will it affect Canadians’ well-being?”

Globe Politics has recently explained the bill, its reasoning and its reactions. Here’s what the bill proposes:

  1. Easing the transfer of information between federal agencies, including confidential data in the hands of Passport Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency, to “better detect and act upon threats.” The measure applies to activities that “undermine the security of Canada,” while granting a specific exemption for lawful advocacy, protest and dissent.

  2. Amending the Secure Air Travel Act to make it easier for authorities to deny boarding on a plane, for example, to a would-be traveller heading to Syria to join Islamic State militants.

  3. Amending the Criminal Code, by making it easier for police to make preventative arrests and criminalizing the promotion of terrorism.

  4. Giving new powers to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to “disrupt” threats, such as providing more information to a would-be terrorist’s family and friends, interfering with a would-be terrorist’s travel plans or intercepting weapons intended for terrorist use. The new powers would be subject to a judicial warrant, along with ministerial approval, in the more extreme cases.

  5. Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act by making it easier to protect classified information in immigration proceedings, including attempts to remove non-citizens on security grounds

As for how it affects Canadians, Chris Hannay, The Globe’s online Politics editor, says:

Like any piece of legislation, it’s about trade-offs: Conservatives and Liberals say the increased power for police and spies, and the criminalization of the promotion of terrorism, is necessary to make Canadians safer. Critics, including the NDP, say the personal freedoms that are constrained (like giving border guards another reason to go through your belongings) outweigh the terrorist threat.

You can read more about Bill C-51 on the federal government website here, and cast your vote – Will Bill C-51 protect or imperil Canadians? – here.


I don’t know if I’ve been vaccinated for measles. Is there a way to tell?

“Need I worry about measles?” writes Gertrude de Souza in Quebec City. “I’m a senior and planning to travel to California soon. I don’t remember if I ever had it or had the vaccination.  Should I be vaccinated? Is there a way to tell if I am immune?” André Picard, The Globe’s public health reporter says, “If you are a senior, you almost certainly had measles when you were a child and don’t need to be vaccinated.” Picard elaborates:

With the outbreak of measles linked to Disneyland, and the recent cases in Canada (10 cases in Quebec, eight in Ontario and one in Manitoba), many people are wondering if they are immunized.

Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, an associate professor of paediatrics at McGill University and present-elect of the Association of Medical Microbioogy and Infectious Disease Canada, said that as a general rule physicians and the public should assume :

  • If you were born in Canada before 1970, you very likely had measles and are immune. (If you were born in the U.S., it’s 1957 and varies depending on when countries introduced measles vaccination for children.)
  • If you were born between 1970 and 1979 you likely received only one dose of measles vaccine, but likely have immunity because measles was still circulating widely;
  • If you were born after 1979, you likely received two doses of measles vaccine and have immunity.

If you’re not sure if you had the measles or if you were vaccinated, the easiest thing to do is get re-vaccinated.

Dr. Quach said the take-home message is simple: If in doubt, vaccinate.

You can have your level of immunity medically tested, but the test is usually only done for pregnant women and those with immune deficiencies, and others who cannot get the vaccine.

While the outbreak in California is getting a lot of attention, remember that there are a lot of countries where contracting measles is a risk.

Most measles cases imported to Canada are in travellers from the Phillipines, India and France. (While there are just over 100 measles cases linked to the Disneyland outbreak, there have been more than 22,000 cases in an on-going outbreak in France, where childhood vaccination rates are among the lowest in the world – just 67 per cent for measles.)

Follow Picard on Twitter and read his recent column:  Majority of Canadians appear to back mandatory childhood vaccination

Are the press questions for Harper vetted first by the PMO?

Mark Rogers in Peterborough, Ont. asks: “Are the questions asked by reporters vetted first by the PMO? Are the number of questions limited? And how are questions chosen?”  Political columnist and author John Ibbitson, who has reported from Ottawa, and is now The Globe’s writer-at-large, has a biography of Stephen Harper that will be released later this year. He sheds some light into the relationships between Harper and the media:

Relations between Stephen Harper and the Parliamentary Press Gallery are notoriously testy. Actually, that’s not accurate. Testy implies that some kind of relationship exists, and there really is none between the gallery and this prime minister.

Mr. Harper last convened a press conference in Ottawa in December 2012, to explain his decision to permit the acquisition of the Canadian energy company Nexen by the Chinese firm CNOOC. There may be no other developed nation in which a head of government has gone more than two years without holding a press conference.

The most common situation in which reporters are able to directly question Mr. Harper occurs after a meeting with another government leader, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was in Ottawa on Monday.

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How often do groundhogs accurately predict the forecast on Feb 2?

While winter was reminding parts of Canada that it’s not going anywhere, groundhogs across the country were busy predicting how much longer we have to endure the cold.  Nova Scotia’s groundhog Shubenacadie Sam and Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil predicted another six weeks of winter, while in Ontario, Wiarton Willie failed to see his shadow, heralding an early spring.
Reader @emilyfrancesd asked The Globe about their track record: “How often do groundhogs guess correctly on Groundhog Day?” Gabe Pulver, part of The Globe’s analytics and marketing team, had a peek at the success rates of some famous rodents:

I looked at three groundhogs across Canada: Ontario’s Wiarton Willie, Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam, and Alberta’s Balzac Billy.

I calculated each chuck’s prediction rate using Environment Canada’s average temperatures in each groundhog’s region for the months of February and March during the years surveyed. I define the “early spring” prediction success by a temperature that is above the overall regional average for February and March, and “six more weeks of winter” prediction success with below average temperatures.

Wiarton Willie’s official predictions go back sporadically to 1955 – there are plenty of missed years. The Globe has interviewed an Environment Canada climatologist who analyzed Wiarton Willie’s success rate to be exactly 50 per cent.

Shubenacadie Sam, who has a Twitter account and a live 24/7 webcam, has a track record since 2000 of 43 per cent – better than random, but not quite notably predictive.

Balzac Billy appears to be our clear winner: His historic record is difficult to verify, but since 2004 (the start of his publicly available predictions), he’s boasted a 58 per cent success rate.

So what makes Balzac Billy so good?  Billy, who calls himself the Prairie Prognosticator, is actually a grown man in a plush rodent costume complete with Letterman jacket, red sneakers, and sunglasses.

This probably has something to do with his success, in my professional opinion. Or maybe it’s because the Feb 2. weather in the Calgary region happens to be more predictive of the following two months than in the rest of the country.

I’d be remiss not to mention the ethical dilemma inherent in waking a hibernating animal in the calendar midpoint of winter to take part in a flighty human tradition, but Groundhog Day seems to be something that many Canadians enjoy – and take seriously.

Read more about today’s Groundhog predictions, and watch this clip (and then watch it again, and again, and again…)

Do provincial jails use solitary confinement the way federal penitentiaries do?

“Do provincial jails in Canada use solitary confinement the way federal penitentiaries do?” asks Don Sellar, in Port Hope, Ont. “If so, what limits do they apply?” Patrick White, The Globe’s national reporter who investigated Canada’s reliance on solitary confinement in a recent feature Confined: The Death of Eddie Snowshoe, has the answer:

Yes, all provincial and territorial jails use some variant of solitary confinement. During a recent tally of provincial systems, I found that Ontario had 427 inmates in segregation while Prince Edward Island reported just one. These figures fluctuate day to day, hour to hour.

Generally, inmates can be sent to segregation for any one of four broad reasons: they require protection, they need to be isolated to maintain security of the institution, they have committed some kind of serious infraction or they voluntarily request solitary status.

I’m not familiar with the rules in every province, but for the most part, segregated inmates spend roughly 23 hours a day in their cells and qualify for certain privileges: access to health care, daily outdoor exercise, access to legal counsel, access to chaplains, family visits, telephone services, writing materials and books.

In reality, criminal lawyers and current and former inmates tell me these benefits are routinely withdrawn, often without explanation. Every warden seems to have a different interpretation of the regulations. One segregated inmate in an Ontario prison, for instance, told me his access to books was limited to religious texts.

When do they get out? Like federal institutions, provincial prisons have no hard time-limits on segregation. Prison officials review every inmate’s segregation status at regular intervals. But really, the only deadline is the length of the sentence. In provincial prisons – which only house those awaiting trial and those serving sentences of less than two years – the average term spent in jail, isolated or not, is considerably less than in federal institutions.

Read The Globe’s ongoing coverage of Canada’s use of solitary confinement here, arguments against the common practice herehere, and here ,  and follow reporter Patrick White on Twitter

Why so little coverage on Nigeria and Boko Haram?

 “Why so little coverage on Nigeria and Boko Haram?,” asks Jon Ekelund in Chilliwack, B.C. “Is it due to lack of information readily available, or perceived lack of interest?” The Globe’s foreign editor, Susan Sachs, answers your question:

Getting credible information about events in northeastern Nigeria, where the rampages of Boko Haram have killed and displaced thousands of people, is difficult.

The challenges were underscored after the massacres reported in the towns of Baga and Doro Gowon earlier this month: Cellphone service was spotty or nonexistent in the area, the government is dysfunctional or absent, survivors were fleeing for their lives, and Nigerian officials and politicians gave no information or provided widely varying accounts.

Over a period of many days, journalists and human rights groups in the region were evaluating the widely disparate reports and locating eyewitnesses.

The Globe regularly published stories as information and details emerged after the massacres – just as we did after the atrocious kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls last year.

Africa correspondent Geoff York (follow him on Twitter here) traveled to Nigeria last June after the kidnapping, and he is now on a reporting trip in Nigeria.

Read Geoffrey York‘s recent stories from on the ground in Nigeria:

Boko Haram launches bold attack on strategic Nigerian city

Satellite images show evidence of Boko Haram massacre

Boko Haram’s expanding stranglehold risks legitimacy of Nigeria’s election

Read The Globe’s recent editorial Let us mourn for Paris, and no less for Nigeria – and follow our ongoing coverage of Nigeria and Boko Haram here

Without massive government subsidies, can the salmon farming industry survive?

“Can the salmon farming industry survive without massive government subsidies,” writes Marike Finlay-de Monch in Port Dufferin, Nova Scotia, “and does a forensic economic analysis show that taxpayers are paying through the nose to pollute their own waters?”

National correspondent Mark Hume explains:

Nailing down precisely the financial support federal and provincial governments provide to the salmon farming industry would indeed require a forensic audit. Lacking the resources to do such a study, we can turn to a variety of sources to address the question of how much Canadian taxpayers are pouring in to aquaculture in general.

It’s a lot.

Last year Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, announced Ottawa is providing $54 million over five years to “help address the sector’s challenges to growth by reducing red tape, improving regulatory management and transparency; as well as increasing scientific knowledge and supporting science-based decision making.”

But that’s just one of many government programs that are designed to either directly, or indirectly help the aquaculture industry.

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