Blog Interruption: Being Charitable

Philanthropy seems to be the buzz word for today. Both the Calgary Herald and the Globe and Mail are featuring the world of philanthropy with articles and editorials urging people to connect with their community through "giving." Some of the articles feature major donors who sustain large research projects or cultural institutions through their donations. Other articles feature community workers who give their time and energy to build a better future for those less advantaged then themselves. All of these people, in their own way are "givers." 

Today, my family and I volunteered at the local Catholic Church, St. Mary's, at their Feed The Hungry program. Every week, the Catholic diocese sponsors a hot meal for people who would not otherwise have such a luxury. They also provide needy families with food baskets to tide them over for the week. We volunteered as part of a "Mitzvah" or "good works" project sponsored by a friend's daughter, who was becoming a Bat Mitzvah, a coming of age ritual in the Jewish religion. We spent the morning washing, cutting, setting, and bagging. It was a meaningful way to celebrate a happy occasion and a meaningful act of kindness. 

The other day, I read an article, a wake up call to the community, that the Harper's Government will no longer be awarding as much funding to non-profit organizations as they have in the past. Instead, the Canadian Government will be introducing legislation to encourage citizens to give, to fill the gap left by reduced government spending, and thus to preserve our community safety net.

I do not know if a shift from government hand-outs to community caring will be sustainable. I do not know if such a shift , in terms of public/government responsibility is a good or even right idea. All I know is that to encourage enhanced community caring is a good thing. We should be encourage to spend an hour or two a week helping others. We should want our children to be part of that process as well. In the age of "I need," it is nice to say "I give."

For the lawyers reading this post, there are a number of "legal" ways to give, such as taking cases on a pro bono basis through Pro Bono Law Alberta or through Legal Aid Alberta (where I volunteer). Alternatively, consider sitting on a Board of a non-profit organization (I have done this many times - very rewarding). Or even consider becoming a section member of the Charities Law group through the Canadian Bar Association. What do you do to "give" back?

Bodily Substance Warrants Under s. 487.05

Some criminal law fun!

In my criminal procedure and evidence class at MRU, we discussed warrants to take bodily substances for DNA analysis under s. 487.05 of the Criminal Code. Such samples must be taken in accordance with the investigative procedures as set out in s. 487.06, which include taking samples by the plucking hairs, by the taking of buccal swabs, or by the taking of blood by "pricking the skin surface with a sterile lancet." A peace officer, who "by virtue of training or experience" may be authorized under the warrant to take these samples.

Okay. I was a little concerned with this. Potentially a non-medical person can be authorized to take a sample of blood based on "experience" only? In the words of my teenage daughter: OMG. Calm down you say - under s. 487.06 this procedure is done by "pricking the skin surface with a sterile lancet." Sounds easy doesn't it? Well, take a look at the WHO Guidelines for Drawing Blood and it doesn't look so easy or, quite frankly, so safe. This is a medical procedure and there are possible medical outcomes.

In contrast, take a look at the blood sample warrant authorization for imparied/over 80 offences involving death or bodily harm under s. 256. Such samples must be taken by a qualified medical practitioner "who is satisfied that taking the samples would not endanger the person's life or health." This is what we want! We want medical procedures to be done by qualified people. We want samples to be taken only if the benfits outweigh the harm. Why are we not providing the same protection for taking bodily samples for DNA purposes?

Yes, s. 256 authorizes the taking of blood samples, which is more invasive than a skin prick by lancet. Agreed. But there are still potential health risks whenever blood is taken. Particularly when the person taking the sample may be doing it "by virtue" of experience and not necessarily training. 

Answer? We need some safeguards albeit not the high level of safety mandated by s.256. Otherwise, such authorization may be contrary to Charter rights and values. But I will leave that discussion to you.