Monday, December 07, 2009
Something's wrong with this rights case
Ten years ago, Ali Tahmourpour, an Iranian-born Canadian, was accepted into the RCMP's training program for cadets. He flunked out after 12 weeks and has been fighting the decision ever since. He believes he was a victim of discrimination based on his background and religion (he is Muslim) and deserves another chance. The RCMP maintains he was dismissed because of poor performance.
Last year, in a high-profile decision, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal declared victory for the would-be Mountie. It ordered the RCMP to give him another shot and to pay him at least half a million dollars – an amount that was meant to cover several years of back pay, plus promotions. The force was also ordered to develop a cultural-sensitivity program.
Rights groups hailed the decision, which drew sympathetic coverage across the country. “People come to Canada to escape oppression, and you hope not to have to deal with that oppression again,” Mr. Tahmourpour was quoted as saying. “I just hope that after this, the RCMP can again become a national icon that we can be proud of.”
Almost no one covered what happened next. The RCMP appealed to the Federal Court, and last month a judge threw the whole thing out for lack of evidence. He found that the entire case against the Mounties rested on Mr. Tahmourpour's feelings and perceptions. “A finding of discrimination must require more than just a complainant's own perception that he has been identified as different,” he wrote. He ordered the human-rights tribunal to start all over again.
The Mounties are by no means blameless on such matters, and have made their fair share of settlements. But some visible-minority Mounties want it known that they have no sympathy at all for the complainant in this case. “As a high-ranking member of the RCMP and a visible minority, I was relieved by the recent decision,” says one of them, who doesn't want his name used because members of the force aren't supposed to comment. “In my two decades with the RCMP, I have seen a number of visible minorities advance through the ranks and in some cases minorities have even set precedents for early promotions. I have never felt I was treated any differently because of the colour of my skin. Remedies through the human-rights commission should be reserved for true victims of discrimination and not those who are plagued with performance issues.”
In the meantime, our courts and tribunals have spent more than a decade chewing over one man's 12 weeks in boot camp – with no resolution in sight. Mr. Tahmourpour says he will appeal the latest decision. If he wins, he can sign up for boot camp again. If he loses, the case will go back for another tribunal hearing.
This is not the first time Mr. Tahmourpour has been a human-rights litigant. In the mid-1990s, he lodged a complaint about discrimination he had allegedly suffered in his job as a student customs inspector. The rights commission declined to hear it, so he appealed twice in Federal Court, and was twice rejected.
After he washed out of the RCMP, he complained to the human-rights commission. Again, he was rejected, for lack of evidence, and again he appealed to the Federal Court. On the second appeal, he found a sympathetic judge who agreed with him, and ordered the tribunal to hear the case. Mr. Tahmourpour is now batting 2 for 8. He is so distressed that he hasn't held a steady job since the Mounties failed him 10 years ago.
We all believe in fairness, equality and due process. But what we have in this country is due process run amok. Mr. Tahmourpour's lawyer, Paul Champ, says it's not unusual for human-rights cases to drag on for a decade. That can't be fair to anyone, least of all to taxpayers who are footing most of the bills. It's impossible to tell how much money Mr. Tahmourpour's unfortunate experience has cost the system. The cost to its credibility is even higher.
Paperwork strangles British policing
It is late one midweek evening in sleepy Ruraltown when Mikey O’Brien throws a brick through the window of Beachtastic Breaks, the travel agent in the High Street. Mikey, 17, is off his face on cheap cider. He has numerous convictions for similar offences (last week it was a bus stop window, and the week before he ran a screwdriver along the doors of 40 cars in Old Road). The whole event has been witnessed by a taxi driver, a waiter at an Indian restaurant and two people walking home. It has also been recorded on CCTV.
The CCTV operator is still watching, and radios through to a police patrol as Mikey lobs the brick and then sits down on the pavement. Mikey doesn’t run away — why bother? He knows nothing will come of it when it finally gets to court.
When the patrol arrives, the first thing he does is admit the whole thing. “Yep, I done it,” he says. “Nicci works there, innit, and she’s a bitch.” Nicci is his “partner” and they have had a row. After a scuffle, the patrol arrest him on suspicion of criminal damage and he is taken to the station. A relatively simple job, you might think. Not in the crazy world of British policing. Here’s a list of the paperwork required from the patrol:
• a full, handwritten, pocket notebook entry detailing the incident, the grounds for Mikey’s arrest and anything that he said about the incident;
• a typed arrest statement containing exactly the same information, only in more detail;
• a typed form requesting the release of CCTV tapes. We don’t need the CCTV, but must view it. If we don’t, Mikey’s lawyer will claim that it contains evidence exonerating his client of the offence that four people and the CCTV operator saw him commit and to which he has confessed;
• a handwritten custody “search and booking-in” form;
• a property sheet, listing the contents of his pockets;
• a typed persistent offender form, containing the same information as the arrest statement;
• a typed young offender form, containing the same information in another format;
• a typed or verbal “update” for the computer log held by the control room;
• a typed crime report, with the same information as in the notebook, arrest statement and young offender form, but with the details in different fields;
• at least two manual of guidance forms for the case file, summarising all the above;
• witness statements;
• a check of all his previous convictions;
• a witness statement from Beachtastic Breaks saying that Mikey did not have permission to smash its window;
• an “intelligence report” about the incident;
• a typed domestic violence form (because Nicci was mentioned) with all the same information again, and a complete risk assessment for her;
• the paperwork for Mikey’s fingerprinting and DNA record, running into four pages;
• the custody record, which is at least ten pages long;
• the brick will have been seized as evidence: there will be forms and statements to be filled out for that;
• a typed “update” on the “night-time economy incident” diary sheets;
• a handwritten two-page form for the licensing officer, discussing where Mikey might have purchased the alcohol.
There will also be a “control sample” of the broken glass, to prove it was that window that he smashed. We then take it to the sergeant, who looks at it and then fills out another huge tranche of forms and writing.
We collect all of this because we live in fear of Mikey saying in court: “I didn’t do any of this. I just said I did because the police bullied me.”
It’s about worst-case scenario policing: every job we go to, we have to assume that it is going to go really bent at trial. This isn’t a triple murder, it’s a smashed window. A smashed window that Mikey has already admitted breaking.
We need paperwork. We need to know that the police are not fitting people up, or maltreating them in custody. We need to keep a close eye on domestic violence offenders. I don’t know a single police officer who believes otherwise. But do we really need all of this?
British Conservative leader attacks the Left's 'pathological' refusal to accept that marriage is the key to happy families
Labour was accused of a 'pathological' opposition to supporting marriage by David Cameron yesterday as he promised a Tory government would reward every wedded couple. The Conservative leader drew battle lines for the general election with a scathing attack on Children's Secretary Ed Balls, who had said marriage was not the key to a happy family.
Mr Cameron told the Daily Mail that 'celebrating' and 'encouraging' marriage was the norm in most European countries and a Tory government would follow suit by changing the tax system. He dismissed speculation that the Conservatives might limit their long-standing commitment to support marriage to couples with children, or those on low incomes. All those who tie the knot or enter a civil partnership would qualify, he insisted.
Signalling that Labour also regards the family as a key election battleground, Mr Balls said yesterday that government proposals to be published next year will assert that children's welfare is not necessarily best protected through marriage, but instead through 'stable and lasting relationships between parents'. The married father of three added: 'I think marriage is really important, but you cannot say "We will have a family policy which is only about marriage". 'That ignores the well-being of relationships where there is not a marriage, either due to divorce, separation or whatever. 'The Tory policy is that marriage is first-class and any other relationship is second-class. That is fundamentally not in the interests of children. We should be about supporting strong and stable relationships.'
The traditional family unit also came under attack from the Family and Parenting Institute, a state-financed organisation set up by Labour to speak for parents and children. Its head Dr Katherine Rake suggested that the model of the nuclear family is no longer 'the norm' and said there would be no such thing as a 'typical family' in the next ten to 20 years. In her first major speech, Dr Rake predicted that mothers would play less of a role in their children's lives due to work pressures, meaning 'communal parenting' will become commonplace in many families, with siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles stepping in. She declared: 'What policy-makers must not do is fall into the trap of investing large sums of money trying to reverse the tide of trends by trying to encourage more "traditional" families'.
Mr Cameron said: 'Labour's pathological inability to recognise that marriage is a good thing puts them on completely the wrong side of their own dividing line. Ed Balls seems to see marriage as irrelevant. I don't think it is. 'I think marriage is a good institution. I don't need an opinion poll to tell me whether it is or is isn't. That's just what I think.' He stressed, however, that specific proposals by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith to allow married couples to combine their tax allowances, which the Treasury says would cost nearly £5billion, had never been adopted as party policy.
It looks increasingly likely that Shadow Chancellor George Osborne will opt for a less-expensive tax break for marriage because of the catastrophic state of the public finances. But Mr Cameron said he would not budge from his belief that all married couples should be rewarded through the tax system. 'There are all sorts of different ways of doing it,' he said. 'My point is that evidence shows marriage is a good institution which helps people stay together, and commit to each other. A society that values marriage is a good and strong society. That's why we will recognise marriage in the tax system.'
Mr Cameron said he did not believe voters who are not married would be put off by his pledge. 'People make their own choices in life. I just think as a society, saying that marriage is a good thing and celebrating it and encouraging it, including through the tax system, is something that most societies do in Europe. It's very sensible for us to do as well. 'There's a long-term benefit in trying to have a tax and a benefit system that supports commitment and couples and families.'
Of Mr Duncan Smith's proposals, drawn up by his Centre for Social Justice, Mr Cameron said: 'Sometimes I think Labour takes something a think tank has said and immediately assumes that's Conservative policy, which is not the case. 'It would be wrong to say that they are Conservative Party proposals. I have said we are going to recognise marriage in the tax system and we will. It is a pledge that will be delivered.'
David Willetts, Tory spokesman for family policy, dismissed the idea that the 'nuclear family' will disappear by pointing to evidence showing that most young people still aspire to be married. Surveys show that almost nine in ten still want to wed, as do three-quarters of cohabiting couples under 35. Mr Willetts said the Conservatives believe it should be the role of public policy to help them to do so. He told the Family and Parenting Institute: 'The long-term commitment of two adults to each other so they can raise their children together is not going the way of the bowler hat or Woolworths. 'It is wrong to misinterpret specific social changes such as most women being in paid work and the growing role of grandparents as meaning that the so-called nuclear family is disappearing when it is not.
'Sticking together and raising our children together has shifted from being seen as just part of the natural order to being thought of as more like climbing Mount Everest – a triumph of heroism and endeavour accomplished by few. 'But it is a mainstream aspiration, which we should respect, admire and help people to fulfil.'
Labour's Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne MP said: 'A transferrable tax allowance for married couples would cost £4.9billion and would benefit high earners most. With this marriage tax break and their inheritance tax cut for the richest estates, the Tories' tax and spending plans are mounting up. 'George Osborne must come clean about what he'll have to cut to pay for them.'
British politicians reject “Cornish” nationality on 2011 census
A snooper government but information about historic Britain is unwelcome, apparently
MPs have rejected a bid to allow people to list their nationality as "Cornish" on the 2011 census. Cornwall North's MP Dan Rogerson had put forward the proposal as MPs debated the Draft Census Order 2009 for England and Wales. A Facebook campaign Cornish Tickbox for the 2011 Census has been backed by Mr Rogerson and more than 3,000 people.
But as MPs rejected it by 261 votes to 49, they approved questions the Tories say amount to "bedroom snooping".
The government says the issue of Cornish language and identity was "considered" by the Office for National Statistics but was "not included in the proposals for the 2011 census". But Lib Dem MP Mr Rogerson had attempted to introduce it as an amendment to the Draft Census Order 2009 for England and Wales.
There will be no tick box for people to put their nationality as "Cornish" on the next census, set to be carried out on 27 March 2011. Instead, they will have to tick "other" and then write in their response. Critics say many people will not realise they can do this, and will select English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish or British. MPs voted by 298 to 127 to approve the new census questions, which had previously been criticised by the Conservatives as "intrusive".
Questions will include the number of bedrooms in a home and the name, age and sex of any overnight visitors. The statistics watchdog rejected the Tory attack and said they would help show overcrowding and give a more accurate picture of the population.
The census, which is conducted every 10 years, is designed to give an accurate snapshot of demographic and social changes in the UK.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.