Category: Politics

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.

Why isn’t Elizabeth May included in The Globe’s federal election debate?

 “Why isn’t Elizabeth May invited to debate?” asks @bodica23 on Twitter. “I’m beyond disappointed!” This has been a popular question and sentiment from many Globe readers. Here’s our answer:

The Globe & Mail is hosting a federal election debate in September in partnership with Google Canada.  The debate, to be hosted in Calgary, will be streamed live on The Globe’s website and distributed on YouTube, and will focus on the Canadian economy.

We have invited the major party leaders to this debate  – those who have official status in The House of Commons.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau have been asked to take part, because we believe a more streamlined, effective conversation about the Canadian economy will take place in that format.

David Walmsley, The Globe’s editor-in-chief says,  “We’ve set up the debate this way because we believe that by limiting the format to Canada’s three main party leaders, we will create a truly focused, successful discussion about the state of the Canadian economy.”

There are now at least three independently organized leaders’ debates in the works. Politics reporter Steven Chase writes:

“Mr. Harper’s Conservatives kicked off a spat with major broadcasters including the CBC, Radio-Canada, CTV and Global when they announced they would refuse an invitation to participate in debates organized by the broadcasting consortium, instead opting for a variety of independent debates.‎ Kory Teneycke, a spokesman for the Conservative Party campaign, said in a statement that he hopes major broadcasters will cover the independent debates.”

Read more of The Globe’s federal election coverage here, and check out more about The Globe’s debate here

How accurate are political polls? And who chooses the participants?

“I see a lot of articles that quote Ipsos Reid polls or a poll in regards to who will win the next election,” writes Shera Kelly in Vancouver, B.C. “How do they decide who will participate? And how accurate are polls, really?”  The Globe’s online Politics editor Chris Hannay has your answer:

Let’s back up for a second: Why do we report on polls in the first place?

Polls have been a fixture of political reporting for years, especially in elections. They give a glimpse of how some Canadians are feeling at a certain point in time, which helps us understand how popular our democratically-elected governments are and whether their agendas have public support. And in elections, those polls also suggest to us whether those leaders will survive the next vote.

On the other hand, critics of polls say they can be misleading or be self-fulfilling: for instance, some suggest that polls in Alberta in 2012 that had the Wildrose in the lead caused some voters to change their minds when confronted with the idea of that party actually getting into power. (Note that the polls showed the NDP — also an insurgent opposition party — with runaway support in 2015, and the New Democrats did indeed end up winning.)

Darrell Bricker, the global CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, says that not reporting on polls just isn’t an option. “If you don’t have these public polls, the only people who will have access to them are the rich and powerful or the parties themselves,” he said.

Poll participants are selected in a couple of different ways, depending on the methodology used.

“There’s no one way to get a hold of people these days. In the old days, it used to be really easy,” Mr. Bricker said. Pollsters could just call landlines,  which everyone had, and the response rates were high.

Now, there are traditional surveys that collect random samples of opinions, such as when pollsters call random cell or landline phones. And there are non-random samples, like asking questions of panels of Canadians online, which firms recruit through phone calls or website ads.

How accurate are the polls? Results can vary widely from firm to firm and methodology to methodology. For instance, in polls that rely on randomly calling up participants, there is a standard statistical margin of error around whether the random pool you have is truly representative of the larger population.

Another source of error is just plain people changing their minds. “One of the big challenges for the research community is what I’ll call last-minute political shoppers,” said Nik Nanos, chair of Nanos Research. A respondent might tell a pollster one thing on the phone, and then do something else when they get into the voting booth.

But mostly the track record is pretty good. In the most recent Alberta election, all eight firms that were in the field correctly called the winner and were only, at most, a few points off from the final results, according to a review by Éric Grenier, who writes on polls for

And in the 2011 federal election, all the polls in the final days had the Conservatives winning and the NDP jumping into second place.

Follow Chris Hannay on Twitter, read our ongoing 2015 Federal Election coverage and learn more about Canadian political polls here



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.


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.

Read more

What separates ISIS from other terrorist groups in the Middle East?

Reader Rob Dent in Abbotsford, B.C. asks, “What are the main differences between ISIS and other Middle East terrorist groups?”  Patrick Martin, The Globe’s Middle East correspondent says, “That’s a good question, Rob. On the surface many of the Middle East groups appear similar – most subscribe to a radical Islamist agenda and use violence against civilian non-combatants,” he writes. “But they vary in political goals, structure, religious doctrine and techniques.” Martin explains:

Islamic State, as the group calls itself, was formerly known as Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) as well as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). It began as a spinoff from al-Qaeda in Iraq, becoming known only as Islamic State in Iraq.

As the name suggests, Islamic State has defined territorial goals, seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate in Iraq, Syria and other countries in the Levant (Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine). Al Qaeda, on the other hand seeks a worldwide caliphate and controls numerous affiliates or franchises in several countries.

It should be noted, however, that Islamic State’s recent name change suggests its goals may now encompass a wider area too. Indeed, a number of radical Islamist groups – in Sinai, Libya and the Maghreb — have recently pledged allegiance to IS.

Read more

Is it time to eliminate Toronto’s city planning department?

Elizabeth from Toronto asks: “Is it time to eliminate the City of Toronto’s Planning Department? In my view, it is constantly overruled by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), and not capable of providing timely service.  What is your take?” Globe Toronto columnist Marcus Gee answers:

In fact, 92 per cent of applications for development in Toronto are settled on the basis of recommendations from the planning department, without resort to the Ontario Municipal Board. In 2012, there were 3,878 applications and 312 were appealed to the OMB.

There is no doubt that the department struggles to keep up with the flood of applications, which land at a rate of 16 every work day. In its strategic plan for the 2013-2018 period, the department acknowledges that 80 per cent of staff time goes to reviewing applications, far above the preferred level of 50 to 60 per cent.

But it’s not practical to abolish the department. In a city that is growing so quickly, with construction cranes working all over the central city and beyond, Toronto needs to control the scale and character of development. As the strategic plan puts it, “Our Division is responsible for the planning of a very dynamic city that has been experiencing tremendous growth. It exercises significant influence on the shape and form of the city and consequently on the daily life of its citizens.”

Many city councillors would like to do away with OMB instead. They argue that this unelected body should not be able to overrule the elected council. But the OMB, an administrative appeal body, is a useful check on Not-In-My-Backyard mentality (NIMBYism), making its decisions on the facts instead of politics.

Read more from Globe Toronto, and Marcus Gee.

Is it normal to appoint someone to the Supreme Court of Canada who has never had any experience as a judge?

Michael Wayne in Markham, Ont. asks: Is it normal to appoint someone to the Supreme Court of Canada who has never had any experience as a judge? Sean Fine, The Globe & Mail’s justice writer, says, “yes, it’s normal — if normal means something done regularly. Having a member drawn straight from the practice of law is a bit of a tradition on the Supreme Court.” Fine elaborates:

Justice Suzanne Côté of Montreal, named to the court late last month, is the first of Harper’s eight appointees (seven judges plus a rejected appointee, Marc Nadon) chosen straight from the practice of law. This may be because lawyers have no track record of judgments; it is difficult to know how aggressively they will stand up to government on its crime laws, for instance.

Ian Binnie is the last Supreme Court judge who came straight from a law practice; he served from 1998 to 2011. Just before Mr. Binnie, John Sopinka was on the court from 1988 to 1997. And before Mr. Sopinka, Yves Pratte, from 1977 to 1979. And before Mr. Pratte, Ronald Martland, from 1958 to 1982.

Ms. Côté has a tough act to follow in Mr. Binnie and Mr. Sopinka, each of whom developed into a leader on the court; both were prolific writers and agile thinkers who influenced many areas of law.

“They were really concerned about the burdens placed on an accused who is confronted with the evidence gathered by police forces, and the inherent imbalance, University of Montreal legal historian Michel Morin said. “They had represented accused in the past, and they were very much concerned about the rules of evidence, burden of proof and procedural guarantees. And they insisted very strongly on using the Charter to redress the imbalance they perceived.”

Lawyer Guy Pratte, son of the late Yves Pratte, said it is desirable to have a lawyer’s experience, whether from the courtroom or the world of business law, “fresh from the bar, as opposed to 20 years on the bench – to have one person with a contemporaneous perspective on legal issues. To have one out of nine is desirable. Proof of the pudding has got to be justice Binnie and justice Sopinka, to leave my father aside. Both top-notch practitioners who were top notch members of the Supreme Court, both in their writing quality and their judgment.”

Legal historian DeLloyd Guth, of the University of Manitoba law school, said naming a lawyer straight to the Supreme Court is “less normal” now than it used to be. The professionalization of the judiciary is a fairly recent development.

“During the 800 years since Magna Carta (1215), the English crown built into its three common law courts (King’s Bench, Common Pleas, Exchequer) and Court of Chancery a strict respect for a progressive ladder out of the ranks of barristers to the bench,” he explained in an email. “You had to be an experienced lawyer, not necessarily a promoted, experienced judge. The twentieth century in England and Canada has witnessed a further professionalization of the judiciary, specifically with a convention that an appellate judge should first have trial judge experience.  It is also this century that effectively ‘invented’ appellate law courts around the world, most noticeably in civil law countries, thereby widening further the internal gap between trial and appellate court criteria and demands made on respective judges.”

He said an “abnormal” approach would be to name a non-lawyer to the Supreme Court. (That would be disallowed under the Supreme Court Act.)

Read more from Sean Fine here and follow our coverage of the Supreme Court of Canada here

Why does The Globe write Kiev? The Ukrainian spelling is Kyiv

This is a common question Globe staff receive from readers. Adrianna Grod in Toronto asks: “Why does the G&M continue to write Kiev?  This is the Russian spelling of the capital of Ukraine.  The Ukrainian spelling for this Ukrainian city is Kyiv.”  Report on Business copy editor and Globe style guru Greg O’Neill explains:

The answer is in the “foreign and French words” entry (subsection “proper names”) in The Globe and Mail’s Style Book. Kiev is the accepted English translation for the Ukrainian proper name Kyiv.

In the past, this style decision has created controversy with some of our readers, but it must be stated that it is based solely on language translation, not political considerations. Also, Kiev is used by many major English-language newspapers, such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

From The Globe’s Style Book:

“The names of foreign provinces or other jurisdictions, and geographical features such as mountains and lakes, need not be translated, unless they are known in the English-speaking world by traditional English names. We also use available English names for countries (Germany, not Deutschland) and for cities (Florence, not Firenze; Rangoon, not Yangon; Kiev, not Kyiv).”

Interested in what’s going on in Kiev? Read our coverage from Ukraine, and a recent answer from Doug Saunders on Putin’s end-game and Western response

What is Putin’s ultimate goal in Ukraine? Is the West responding appropriately?

On Twitter, @pelzm asked: “What is Putin’s ultimate objective in Ukraine, and is the West responding appropriately?” Doug Saunders, The Globe’s international affairs columnist and editor of Globe Debate, says “that’s the question of the year.” He explains:

Much of our analysis during the last eight-odd months has been devoted to the question of what Vladimir Putin’s “end game” looks like in Ukraine – what his motives are in launching a de facto invasion, and what outcome he is seeking – and therefore what the best response should be from the West.

One school of thought holds that Mr. Putin, by interfering in Crimea, in eastern Ukraine and possibly in Moldova and elsewhere, has launched a full-fledged invasion of the parts of Eastern and Central Europe that formerly belonged to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (and possibly some that are part of the Warsaw Pact).  For example, David Meadows at Dalhousie University argued in Globe Debate that Mr. Putin is pursuing a neo-imperialist strategy intended to resurrect Russia’s former territorial might. Of course, Mr. Putin literally has claimed Crimea as Russian territory, in the wake of a secession referendum he appears to have orchestrated (whose results were not recognized by most of the rest of the world); the question is whether this was a prelude to a larger territorial seizure.

On the other end of the spectrum, Mr. Putin and those who endorse the Russian perspective on these events believe he has not launched an invasion at all and is simply protecting Russian minorities (and, in the case of Crimea, ethnic majorities) across the region and taking their side in civil wars and secession movements that have spontaneously erupted.

But the view among many Russia-watchers is that Mr. Putin is trying to sow chaos and ambiguity in the region, as he did before in the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in order to prevent their functioning membership in the European political and economic community, and in order to bolster his strength and popularity at home in Russia.

As I wrote in an analysis earlier this year: “Rather than seeking to divide Ukraine and annex the more Russian part of its territory, in this scenario Mr. Putin is seeking to ensure that Ukraine’s loyalties will remain neutral, out of fear or out of persuasion, and the country’s perpetual divide between east and west will not tilt too far toward Europe.”

Thus, the question as to whether the West is responding appropriately is at least partly prefigured by your answer to the first question. Those who view Mr. Putin’s ambitions as neo-imperialist and based on larger-scale territorial expansion tend to feel that the West’s response has been woefully inadequate and that only hard military action, or the immediate and viable threat of it, will cause Russia to back down. This has been more or less the view of former ambassadors Derek Burney and Fen Hampson, who have repeatedly called for a more overt NATO role in eastern Europe (and Ukrainian membership in that organization).

The tough but targeted program of economic isolation through sanctions that has been applied by Western governments – at first half-heartedly and recently more robustly and successfully – has its critics. Mr. Putin’s supporters feel that they are simply part of a larger and unprovoked Western attack on Russia and “Eurasian” regional interests. And some Western observers worry that that over-aggressive economic penalties could further popularize this view within Russia – that is, they could make Mr. Putin even more popular by seemingly confirming his claim that all Russians are under attack by the West.

As the year has progressed and Mr. Putin has failed to end his interference in Ukraine, Western observers and governments have become tougher in their application of sanctions; a certain line was crossed this autumn when German chancellor Angela Merkel gave up her attempts to win over the Russian president and backed a hardline sanctions policy.

The challenge will be to calibrate economic sanctions so they force Mr. Putin to reverse his course without emboldening him further. In a July analysis titled “Putin’s war of ideas cuts to the heart of Europe,” I wrote (if you’ll forgive me quoting myself again) that we should avoid thinking of this as another Cold War, because, unlike in Soviet times, Mr. Putin is not acting from strength but “out of internal political and economic weakness of a profound degree.” As such, the West’s response needs to be calibrated:

“What needs to be sought is not an amplification of Mr. Putin’s myth of a divided continent, but an end to it. A tough economic response is required, along with a generous democratic response that would bring Ukraine into Europe – alongside a refusal to play along with Mr.Putin’s attempt to manufacture a civilizational showdown. Ukraine and Russia are both European countries, as much as any other; it is time to put aside our old illusions and help both countries get on the path to peace, prosperity and European values.”

Read more from Doug Saunders, and follow The Globe’s coverage of the ongoing situation in Ukraine