Thursday, October 2, 2014

Publication Ban & Justice For Rehtaeh


This post is a cross-posting from Publication Ban is Pointless by Ryan Van Horne
----------------------------------------------------------
One of the beauties of being a freelancer is that I don’t have to worry about consulting lawyers or publishers, I can just follow my gut and do what a journalist is supposed to do.
Canning Parsons
Parents of Rehtaeh who are choosing to keep her name alive

To paraphrase the Mr. Dooley character of American humorist Finley Peter Dunne: It’s the job of journalists to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”

Sometimes, you get the opportunity to do both and when those opportunities arise, you must seize them. Yesterday, more than any other day, it was important to use Rehtaeh Parsons’ name.

The guilty plea of one of the accused was validation for her and her family. Any journalist with a sense of public good would recognize that you’d need to link yesterday’s development back to April 2013, when the whole world knew her name and the eyes of the world were on Nova Scotia because of the failure of our justice system to lay any charges.

There was a clear purpose to my post and I’m not content to wait for politicians to change the law. I’m going to point out its flaws, why it needs to be amended, and why it should not apply in this case. I also consulted with Rehtaeh Parsons’ parents – Leah Parsons and Glen Canning — and got a blessing from both of them to break the ban.

Also, reading the judge’s decision from May gave me confidence that it was a pretty safe path if I chose my steps carefully. I was not flouting it just for the sake of flouting it. Former colleague Stephen Kimber, a professor of journalism at King’s College, suggested in a Facebook discussion that “there’s a danger when we start violating bans because we believe it’s wrong in one particular instance.”
“What if another reporter decides to name an alleged rape victim, or a child abuse victim because they think it’s justified. Do we get to decide when the law applies and when it doesn’t? And, given that everyone already knows who the victim is in this case, is it really necessary to break the ban to make the argument it is wrong here, or to write in a way that makes the connections for the reader without specifically naming the victim?”
In this case, I take to heart the comments made by Judge Jamie Campbell when he wrote in his decision: “It’s a ban that everyone wants, just not in this case.”


Clearly, it’s a good law, but it just doesn’t work in this instance. A judge, our director of public prosecutions, and our Attorney General had an opportunity to fix that, but none took the opportunities available to them for various reasons. You say that “everyone” knows her name, but I think that only those closely connected to the case would make the crucial connection if not for the efforts of the victim’s parents — Glen Canning and Leah Parsons — who have been breaking the ban.

I’m not claiming the right for me or any other journalist to decide when the law applies and when it doesn’t. But remember, both of Rehtaeh’s parents opposed the ban and the Crown fought it, too. Also, when the Crown reviews a complaint — if there is one — they will consider the intent of Parliament in drafting the law, the wishes of the parents, and whether the public interest is served in prosecuting.

Precisely the things that I considered before writing the post.

Guilty plea in Rehtaeh Parsons case

The following post is being cross posted from: "Guily plea in Rehtaeh Parsons case by Ryan Van Horne "
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A young man who took the picture used to shame and bully Rehtaeh Parsons has pleaded guilty to production of child pornography.

He admitted to taking the picture of another boy, a co-accused in the case, who was in the picture with Rehtaeh in November 2011 when he was 17 and Rehtaeh was 15. Neither of the accused, who were both under 18 at the time, can be named. Their identities are protected by the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Crown Attorney Alex Smith read an agreed statement of facts to Halifax Provincial Court Judge Greg Lenehan.

Smith describes the image which shows one boy, naked from the waist down, behind Rehtaeh and pressing his genital region up against her while giving a thumbs-up sign. Rehtaeh Parsons is naked from the waist down.

“At the time the photograph was taken, (one of the accused) was having sex with Rehtaeh Parsons as she was vomiting out the window,” Smith told the court.

The youth in court today faced charges of production and distribution of child pornography. The Crown dropped the charge of distribution.

Another boy, the one in the picture who is charged only with distribution of child pornography, is scheduled to go on trial in November.

There is also a publication ban on the identity of the victim, Rehtaeh Parsons, despite the opposition of the Crown Attorney and her parents. Four Nova Scotia media outlets fought the ban in May, but Judge Jamie Campbell said it was a statutory ban that he had to impose – even though it didn’t make sense because her name was already so well known. In reporting this story today, media outlets continue to observe the ban.

It is the law of the country and judges must do their duty and enforce the law passed by Parliament. That is why the judge cannot be faulted in this case.

This post respectfully disregards the publication ban because a greater public good is served by doing so.

There is a higher goal than upholding the law and that is justice; something that judges, especially those that practice judicial restraint, sometimes do not consider.

There is an oft-told story of a conversation between two great American jurists, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Learned Hand, who met for lunch one day.

As Holmes began to drive away, Hand implored him to “Do justice, sir, do justice!”
Holmes stopped and admonished his fellow judge with this retort: “That is not my job. It is my job to apply the law.”

In the absence of an activist judge, or an Attorney General or Director of Public Prosecutions willing to make a public pronouncement that no charges will be laid in this case, it is left to the media to wonder about the safety of violating the ban.

Henry David Thoreau, in his essay Civil Disobedience, encouraged people to disobey what he called “unjust laws.”
Thoreau wrote: “Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?”
Let me be clear. It’s not that this law is unjust. It is that it is unjust in this case and should be ignored.

Clearly, this is an exception that Parliament did not think of when they passed the law and they need to amend it.

Lastly, there is a clause in the Youth Criminal Justice Act that allows for the parents of a victim to waive the privacy rights of their children. Glen Canning and Leah Parsons have done so in this case, but Judge Campbell chose not to accept that argument, saying that the Criminal Code provision wins the day – even though it doesn’t really make any sense in this case. See decision here.

Rehtaeh Parsons’ name brings power to any discussion about sexual consent, cyber-bullying, and suicide prevention. Her case prompted important legal reforms in Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada. The federal government, which is working on passing Bill C-13 to counter cyber-bullying, is doing so partly because of what happened to Rehtaeh Parsons.
Most importantly, this change of plea needs to be connected to the case at a time when publication of her name was permitted.

Why?

Because of the way the police and the Public Prosecution Service handled the case. Initially, the police focussed their investigation — such as it was — on sexual assault after an incident in November 2011. They spent most of their early efforts investigating Rehtaeh and took a long time – several months – before interviewing the four teenage boys alleged to have raped her when she was extremely intoxicated.

The Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service reviewed the case, but didn’t lay charges because there wasn’t a strong enough likelihood of a conviction. It was dubbed a “he said, she said” case amid claims that Rehtaeh had made advances, or at least appeared willing earlier in the evening.

By the time the picture was taken, as the agreed statement of facts read into court today would indicate, Rehtaeh was not in any state to be consenting to sex.
Amazingly, the existence of a photograph of a minor engaged in a sexual act did not spark law enforcement professionals involved in the investigation to consider laying a charge of production and distribution of child pornography. Canning said police and school officials knew of the photo’s existence within a week of it being taken.

“They allowed this image to spread even knowing that this was child pornography. They knew who had it and who was doing it and there was nothing done to stop it,” he said. “Every time it was shared, it victimized Rehtaeh.”

The photo spread like wildfire through her community in a suburb of Halifax. Fellow students called Rehtaeh Parsons a slut and some total strangers texted her and asked her if she wanted to have sex with them. The bullying became too much so she switched schools and sought counselling. She claimed she was raped, but no charges were laid and this added to the grief. She struggled for months, but in April 2013, she committed suicide by hanging herself in the bathroom with a belt.

Her case attracted worldwide attention and even prompted the intervention of Anonymous, who started #OpJustice4Rehtaeh to get the police to reopen the case. The police reopened the case and, amid the furor, some people defended the four boys saying that the sex was consensual.

Within a few months, the police laid charges of production and distribution of child pornography against two of the four boys, but some claimed it was just a way to put an end to mounting public pressure.

Today’s guilty plea should put an end to those claims.

When Judge Greg Lenehan told the young man to meet with a probation officer and cooperate with them in the preparation of a pre-sentence report, he responded in a subdued voice. “Yes, sir.”

He is scheduled to return to court for sentencing on Nov. 13.

For Leah Parsons, Rehtaeh’s mother, nothing will ever bring her daughter back. But keeping her memory alive and using it to make some important changes, means a great deal to her.
“None of it is enough, but the fact that he’s pleading guilty is some consolation,” she said. “I do feel some solace in that she just wanted to be validated and she wanted people to know that this actually happened to her.”

Monday, September 15, 2014

Closing File HRTO 2013-14459-I

Today I have slept and taken a sigh of relief a year and a half after the racist incident at a club in Peterborough which changed my life. This is the outcome of it.

I was target of racial slur, stereotype and discrimination outside of a club in downtown Peterborough on the night on May 10th in 2013. This incident which covered in extensive detail in my previous blog on May 11th, 2013.


I was told by the bouncer of the said club that I was a smelly East Indian in need of a deodorant and I should go home and get one. After being disgusted, humiliated and stunned by the incident, I decided to report it to the owners of the club who instead of trying to address my concerns called me “drunk” and at the same time stated that they had “yet to speak to the specific bouncer about the incident” on local news in Chex TV – Peterborough on May 13th 2014.



This actually made me furious as I am an abstainer who does not drink or get involved in any such activities. I decided to take the club to my 3000 strong social media followers to hold the owners of the club accountable.

Instead of trying to apologize and mend the matter, the owner of the club sent me the most arrogant unapologetic email saying that I displayed “drunk like” behavior, not that I was drunk.


That incident not only changed the way I see things but it also made me stronger in pursuit of justice and I decided to pursue the case at Human Rights Tribunal.



This has been a year long journey of resilience, resistance, building communities and staying committed to principles for me. I learnt that It will never be an easy process but it will always be worth it.



We are here today as our ancestors made resilient choices. Fighting racism whether you are in smaller or huge metropolises is no different. There will always be people to support and there are resources for your fight.


I am really proud to say that I had community advocate Karolyn Givogue of Community Race Relations Committee (CRRC) – Peterborough. My year and half journey would not have been possible without Karolyn and CRRC's support. 



I was represented by Kate Sellar of Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC) for the tribunal process. The Centre provides legal assistance to people in communities across Ontario who have experienced discrimination contrary to the Human Rights Code.

I am happy with the settlement my lawyer has achieved for me for racial discrimination against the club (The terms of the settlement are confidential).



Standing up to racism, discrimination and harassment is an important part of encouraging people to speak up. Our communities need to know that there are venues where we can challenge systemic discrimination and racism. Our voices will always be heard and there is no power in the world to ignore us.

I am humbled by friendship of
Anark Istani, Andrey Gomes and Waris Husain. These three amazing men who encouraged me to go to Human Rights Tribunal Ontario for the racist incident at the club.  Today wouldn't have been possible without them.

I am really thankful to 
Karolyn Givogue, Saiyed Bukhari, Jeff Vansteenkiste, Jennifer Ramsay and Ayendri Perera; who came to my Tribunal with me on Friday, September 12th 2014.

Thank you Guerrillera Collective, Bloggers from BlogHer, Anonymous community from #OpRacism, Safeworld Community from England & Australia, Vanessa Rivera, Isabella Summers, Katherine Grama, Kristen Hamley, Graeme Johnson, Matthew Davidson, Shireen Ahmed, Samar Esapzai, Abdullah Alhomoud and all others who messaged me. It would not had been possible without support of all who messaged me from overseas and distant places.

We are United Against Racism and Our Communities will Never be Silenced!

Solidarity,
Ayesha Asghar
Twitter: @ashsultana

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Meet Dave Brookes, sympathiser of Eliot Rodgers

Dave's account is probably a secondary, or tertiary account created solely to troll. Even some of his lady friends (ha! all his friends are female and conventionally attractive) are fake. That's Dave in a nutshell; a fake 'nice guy'.

This post comes up as a submission after this guy went to threat women and came out in support of Eliot Rodger, the guy who went on a killing spree and killed 9 women in Santa Barbara




If you find this piece of garbage on facebook, please report him. He is highly dangerous. He has gone to different forums and said how all “stupid sluts” need to be “killed”. Because you know some women chose to exercise their right to say “NO”

Website last updated 2013