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Secret review finds several ‘issues’ with aborted prosecution of defence lawyer who alleged cover up

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Prominent Toronto defence lawyer Marie Henein is calling on the government to release a report into how crown attorneys mishandled police misconduct allegations in a Brampton drug case that ended up with criminal lawyer Leora Shemesh in court facing charges.

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada late Wednesday announced a review had been completed which identified several “structural, educational and process-related issues” in the matter, and that steps had been taken to address them “on a national basis.” The PPSC did not make that review public.

Defence lawyer Leora Shemesh, seen here in a Feb. 15, 2012, file photo, alleged federal prosecutors charged her with perjury and attempt to obstruct justice in an attempt to cover up for a lying police officer.
Defence lawyer Leora Shemesh, seen here in a Feb. 15, 2012, file photo, alleged federal prosecutors charged her with perjury and attempt to obstruct justice in an attempt to cover up for a lying police officer.  (Colin McConnell / Toronto Star)

“This is not, nor should it be, the stuff of secret inquiry or immune from scrutiny. The PPSC is a publicly funded body with clear obligations to the public,” Henein wrote in an email to the Star on Thursday.

“It is impossible for the public to know the nature of the problems investigated and how meaningful or sufficient the recommendations without meaningful disclosure of the report.”

Last summer, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) launched the internal probe after Henein, who was representing Shemesh, alleged federal prosecutors covered up for a lying officer in one of Shemesh’s drug cases in Brampton, and instead charged her with perjury and attempt to obstruct justice.

The Crown alleged Shemesh claimed she had a nanny cam video of a Peel police officer stealing money from her client, and then allegedly perjured herself by denying it when compelled to testify in court. The Crown alleged that delayed or impacted other proceedings.

After grilling prosecutors Robert Johnston, Surinder Aujla and Lois McKenzie about the way they handled the officer’s ultimate confession that he had stolen money, Henein brought an abuse of process pretrial motion asking the judge to stay Shemesh’s charges because her constitutional rights had been violated.

Instead, the Crown withdrew the charges laid in 2015 against Shemesh, saying there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.

In its news release, the PPSC said it is putting in place “directives and guidelines to clarify procedures and requirements, and developing training to address identified gaps.” Prosecutors have received a “memorandum” outlining how they should “address allegations of misconduct by participants in the justice system.” The review was conducted by Robert Prior, a retired chief federal prosecutor with the PPSC’s British Columbia regional office.

Nathalie Houle, PPSC media relations adviser, told the Star in an email Thursday that “due to the specific nature of the report and the personal and internal details it contains, the PPSC is not releasing the report publicly.”

In a followup email, Houle wrote that the issues identified in the report included the “timely contact with the police regarding the allegations of police illegality, follow up on reporting of police misconduct by prosecutors, documentation of the steps taken on prosecution files, (and) deficiencies in the timeliness and extent of internal reporting, consultations, and in the development of a clear, comprehensive plan.”

Henein wrote in her email to the Star on Thursday that she is pleased there has been a review and constructive changes resulting, but “transparency and accountability minimally demands that the gaps be identified and the recommendations be made public.”

Shemesh, in a separate message, wrote “at least changes will be made and that education will ultimately always be key for those who hold positions of power. Those who hold the position of minister of justice ought to exercise that power reasonably, honourably and with true integrity.”

The Criminal Lawyers Association, representing more than 1,200 lawyers across Ontario, separately raised serious concerns about the conduct of three prosecutors in a complaint to the Law Society of Ontario, the legal profession’s regulatory body.

The complaint sent last fall alleged the prosecutors “set upon a course of action to mislead the court in order to cover up certain police officers’ malfeasance and protect their prosecutions.”

Complaints and investigations are confidential unless or until a matter results in regulatory proceedings, Law Society spokeswoman Susan Tonkin said.

The Law Society’s online directory indicates the three crown attorneys are not the subject of any disciplinary action.

Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy

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Ecology

Yukon and Northern BC First Nations tackle climate change using Indigenous knowledge and science

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YUKON, June 18, 2021 /CNW/ – The Government of Canada is working together in partnership with Indigenous and Northern communities in finding solutions to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the North.

Today, Minister of Northern Affairs, Daniel Vandal, along with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency), Larry Bagnell, highlighted progress on three unique, Indigenous-led projects that are helping communities in Yukon and Northern British Columbia adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.

The Minister and Parliamentary Secretary met virtually with Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) to learn about their community-led climate change monitoring program. C/TFN has partnered with Tsay Keh Dene Nation (TKDN) and Chu Cho Environmental of Prince George, British Columbia, to build a community-led monitoring project that examines environmental data and Indigenous knowledge to create a holistic picture of how the climate is changing across C/TFN and TKDN traditional territories. The project combines tracking of current and historical climate trends with knowledge shared by Elders while also providing opportunities for youth mentorship and climate change awareness.

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) is also leading a unique project to assess the impacts of climate change within their traditional territory. Climate change is causing many of the culturally significant ice patches to melt, exposing organic artifacts to oxygen and leading to rapid deterioration. The TRTFN ice patch mapping project will involve performing archaeological assessments to prevent the degradation of artifacts. Research will be guided by traditional knowledge, Elders and oral histories, when available, and heavily involve community, Elders, youth and Knowledge Keepers.

The Pelly Crossing Selkirk Development Corporation is leading the Selkirk Wind Resource Assessment project through the installation of a Sonic Detection and Ranging (SODAR) system. The initiative includes a feasibility study leading up to the construction of a renewable energy facility, including wind, solar and battery energy storage. Expanding clean energy within the region will have direct benefits for communities, including reduced reliance on diesel, job creation and revenue generation for Selkirk First Nation. 

These projects are delivering important environmental, social and economic benefits that lead to healthier, more sustainable and resilient communities across Yukon and Northern British Columbia. They also build community clean energy capacity and help to avoid the impacts of climate change.

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Ecology

Atlantic Provinces Ready For Aquaculture Growth

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Aquaculture is an important economic driver for rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, and Atlantic Canada is well positioned to increase aquaculture production as global demand for sustainably sourced seafood grows.

That is why the ministers responsible for aquaculture in the Atlantic provinces have agreed to the ongoing development and management of their industries based on common principles. A new memorandum of understanding has been signed by the four ministers, which extends the previous agreement signed in 2008.

“In a time when food security is especially important, it is good to see our aquaculture industry has grown steadily and is poised for continued growth in 2021 based on environmentally responsible, science-based policies and practices,” said Keith Colwell, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Nova Scotia. “Our Atlantic partnership continues to help the industry grow sustainably.”

Cooperation between the provinces and the aquaculture industry has led to improvements in pest management, environmentally sustainable aquaculture methods, aquatic animal health and policies to support the shared use of marine and freshwater resources. It also aims to align regulation and policy between the provinces to make the regulatory requirements easier to understand by industry and the public.

Each province has a comprehensive and robust legislative and regulatory framework to ensure environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and public accountability. The provinces update their legislation and regulations regularly. Nova Scotia revamped its regulatory framework in 2015; New Brunswick received Royal Assent for a new Aquaculture Act in 2019 and is working on the supporting regulations; Newfoundland and Labrador completely revised its aquaculture policy in 2019; and Prince Edward Island has recently drafted a new Aquaculture Act.

The ministers have agreed to continue to use science-based evidence for management decisions, thereby increasing public and investor confidence in the Atlantic Canadian aquaculture industry.

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Ecology

COMING SOON: A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0

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We all want the same thing: a clean and responsible energy future for our children and future generations while continuing to enjoy a high standard of living.

On December 11, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new climate plan which he claimed will help achieve Canada’s economic and environmental goals.

The proposed plan by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) entitled “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy” will have an initial investment of $15 billion of taxpayer’s money. It is built on 5 pillars of action:

  1) Making the Places Canadians Live and Gather More Affordable by Cutting Energy Waste

2) Making Clean, Affordable Transportation and Power Available in Every Community

3) Continuing to Ensure Pollution isn’t Free and Households Get More Money Back

4) Building Canada’s Clean Industrial Advantage

5) Embracing the Power of Nature to Support Healthier Families and More Resilient Communities  

In my paper, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0” I will objectively critique each pillar in the government’s new climate plan and provide alternative solutions to the same issues.

  This is an alternative plan that supports workers, protects lower income earners and creates economic growth while respecting the environment and focusing on the dignity of work.

  This plan abandons virtue-signaling projects and relies on Canadian ingenuity to build our economy and restore Canada’s role of responsible leadership in the world.

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