Hey there Passengers,

Congrats, friends, it’s Friday. Last day of the week! Might take my large dog to the park tomorrow, go for a walk in the woods or something. Or stay inside — we’ll see how GD cold it is. Anyway, it’s your pal and mine, Robert (@robert_hiltz) here with you with another Passage Daily. Whadda we got today?

The Liberal government wants cops to be nicer to people with drugs. The Ontario government is going to keep Toronto and Peel under a stay-at-home order. Two travellers were fined for lying about not having COVID. Finally, one dose of vaccine might just be good enough Quebec says.

Time for some news!

Liberals Want Cops To Use Discretion When Arresting People With Drugs

A new piece of federal legislation hopes that police and prosecutors will be decent and compassionate agents of the state and will treat drug offences as a medical issue, not a criminal one.

The Liberals don’t want jails to be used as the primary form of dealing with substance abuse issues, but explicitly state decriminalization is not the answer. They just want cops to be nice about it.

“Where it’s not a first offence or where there might be some other extenuating factors, it may be that the police officer does go on to charge the person. But we want to give that discretion to the people who are closest to persons on the ground, who understand the context, and fashion the best response. I think it’s a huge change, symbolically,” Justice Minister David Lametti told The Globe and Mail.

And that’s just it, isn’t it? While Bill C-22 would eliminate about a third of the mandatory minimum sentences currently on the books, the main function of the bill is one of symbolism. Lametti and the rest of the government hopes by giving police discretion they will use their powers less — something police definitely always do. (They never do this.)

Here, from the Globe, is the thrust of the bill: Bill C-22 tells police and prosecutors that courts are better used for crimes that endanger the public than for the simple possession of illegal drugs. Echoing a directive last year within the federal prosecution service, it says substance abuse is primarily a health and social issue, and that criminalizing drug use harms individuals and communities.

Lametti says one of the bill’s goals is to reduce the overrepresentation of racialized and Indigenous people in the prison population. But the best he can muster is giving police some extra discretion in whether to charge someone with a drug crime.

Before we move on, I just want you to think back real quick to when Justin Trudeau was running as leader for the first time, on his way to winning the big job as prime minister. Think back to the days of “real change” and what that suggested. It maybe could have been something, right?

But look where we are now. Instead of change, we get symbolism. There’s no hope with this government. There never was.

“Politics is the art of the possible,” Lametti said to the Globe. “This is when it’s possible.”

Indeed it is, Mr. Justice Minister. Indeed it is.

DIG DEEPER: Legalizing All Drugs Is The Right Prescription For Canada

Ontario Keeping Restrictions In Toronto and Peel

  • The Ontario government decided to continue its stay-at-home order in Toronto, Peel and the North Bay-Parry Sound District until at least March 8. York is set to have its restrictions lifted, heading into the red zone, meaning resturants and gyms will be among the establishments that can re-open with some restrictions.
  • The medical officers for the Toronto and Peel regions — who have seen some of the worst outbreaks during this second wave — had been asking the province to delay reopenings because of worries over new COVID-19 variants beginning to circulate, and the catastrophic effects those might have in causing a third wave. The province reported 39 cases of the new COVID-19 variants today, bringing the total to at least 395. 
  • Modelling released by the federal chief public health officer shows that by lifting, or even keeping, the current public health restrictions, the new variants could cause a massive spike in COVID-19 cases in the coming months.

Two Travellers Returning From Mexico Charged For Faking COVID Tests

  • Two passengers who returned to Montreal from Mexico were given fines of $10,000 and $7,000 respectively for allegedly lying about their COVID-19 status. They had tested positive a few days before leaving their sunny destination, according to Transport Canada.
  • When they arrived in Montreal, according to the federal agency, they provided faked negative COVID-19 tests. It’s now mandatory to have a negative test taken within the 72 hours prior to boarding a flight to Canada.

ICYMI: Evidence From Quebec And Elsewhere Showing Effectiveness of One-Dose Vaccine Regime

Quebec decided when it got access to the two approved COVID-19 vaccines that it would go against the manufacturers’ recommendations and prioritize giving more people a single dose, rather than the suggested two.

The province felt there was limited, but convincing-enough, evidence that giving more people their first dose would work better to save lives than vaccinating fewer people fully.

It turns out this educated gamble has paid off. In data collected from 33,000 long-term care residents and 173,000 health-care workers, a single dose of the vaccine is proving to be 80 per cent effective, according to the province’s health data collection agency, the INSPQ.

This is good news, and has been confirmed by a study of the vaccination campaign in Israel by Pfizer-BioNTech showing the single dose is similarly effective and can be kept in normal freezers.

DIG DEEPER: New Vaccine Shipments Expected To Pick Up Vaccination Rates

That’s all for this week! Thanks for joining us here once again for your progressive roundup of daily news. 

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