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June 29, 2006

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Police applaud street-racing bill
Globe and Mail, June 19
Vancouver Policy Chief Jamie Graham is hailing new legislation on street racing as "great news" and wants to congratulate Prime Ministry Stephen Harper for tackling the issue. Mr. Harper introduced the idea last month while touring the Lower Mainland, where dangerous races have caused several deaths already this year. The result, Bill C-19, will give street racing its own place in the Criminal Code. Minimum driving bans, starting at one year for a first offence, would result upon conviction. The maximum penalty for an offence of dangerous driving causing death, which street racing currently falls under, would be bumped to life imprisonment, up from 14 years. SFU criminology professor Neil Boyd said he doubts the legislation will have an impact. "I think that's a sign that they are trying to take it seriously, but it's a somewhat cynical approach," he said. "Tacking on a new maximum, where courts never even get close to the exiting maximum, really that's of no consequence."

Harper unveils counterterrorism plans
Maclean's Magazine, June 16
Air travellers will have their baggage more thoroughly screened and security at marine ports will be tightened up as part of a $250-million package of transit security improvements recently unveiled. Of the $250 million, $26 million has been earmarked for beefing up air cargo screening with particular attention to packages ferried on passenger planes. About $133 million will go to improve resources for the Canadian Air Transport Security authority, the body responsible for checking passports and screening passengers. SFU political science professor Douglas Ross who specializes in national security issues scoffed at the announcement, saying the money was just a "drop in the bucket" considering how far behind Canada is on shoring up security measures. "We've got a long way to go," he said. Ross called security at the country's marine ports "nominal" at best, saying a large number of cargo containers from large vessels are going unchecked, as are items headed aboard passenger ferries and cruise ships. "It's a disaster waiting to happen."

2010 suggested as good deadline for legitimizing sex trade
The Vancouver Sun, June 14
A host of laws should be changed so Canadian sex-trade workers can collect unemployment cheques, take maternity leave and go on strike, says a report funded by the legal community. With the 2010 Olympics on the horizon, there is no better time than now for the city to lead the way. "The current laws are killing people," emphasized John Lowman, SFU criminologist and one of several co-authors of the study entitled, Beyond Criminalization: Sex Work, Human Rights and a New Framework for Law Reform. Researchers surveyed 84 sex workers in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton and compiled a more detailed picture of their lives and concerns. The report goes much further than simply calling on Parliament to decriminalize prostitution.

Young and Muslim in B.C.
The Vancouver Sun, June 10
Derryl MacLean, an Islamicist and SFU associate professor of history, says Muslims in B.C. have participated in, and contributed to, a multicultural society in a way they haven't anywhere else - even Ontario and Quebec. "What you have here are Muslims being positively engaged with their society and participating in the construction of a common good," MacLean says. "And I believe that tradition is stronger in B.C. than it is anywhere else." And contrary to what people thought 10 to 20 years ago, that doesn't mean young Muslims are jettisoning Islam and its traditions. "What this is, is a very dynamic interest in the definition of Islam," MacLean says. "They are asking, 'What are the philosophical foundations of Islam that we can use to make a modern kind of Islam that allows us to have an identity?" But because of recent history, he adds, they do feel “set upon.” "Because you're a Muslim, you need to constantly show you're a good Muslim, not a bad Muslim. I don't think Sikhs have to do that, or Hindus. And certainly not Lutherans or Catholics."

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