Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society to appeal decision in TWU matter

The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society has decided to appeal the Nova Scotia Supreme Court’s decision in the Trinity Western law school matter. Justice Campbell of Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court held that the Society acted unreasonably and beyond its authority when it decided not to recognize law degrees granted by TWU’s proposed law school unless the institution changed its policy prohibiting same-sex intimacy among students.

NSBS President Tilly Pillay QC explained that “if left unchallenged, [Justice Campbell’s] ruling may significantly restrict the scope of the Society’s authority to uphold and protect the public interest in regulating the legal profession. It may also prohibit the Society from continuing to take on a wider role in the promotion of equality in all aspects of its work, including in the administration of justice.”

Before Justice Campbell, counsel for the Society argued that, as a public interest regulator with a mandate to promote equality and diversity, the Society could not sanction a law school admissions policy that, in effect, requires “students to denounce their constitutionally protected sexual orientation in exchange for a law degree.”

To read Justice Campbell’s decision, click here. To read the Society’s press release announcing its appeal, click here.

Disrespect for Communities and InSite: Bill C-2

Bill C-2, The Respect for Communities Act had it second reading in the Senate as of March 24th 2015. The Bill amends the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to: create a separate exemption regime for activities involving the use of a controlled substance; to specify the purposes for which an exemption may be granted for those activities; and to set out the information that must be submitted to the Minister of Health before the Minister may consider an application for an exemption in relation to a supervised consumption site.

Read the rest of this entry »

Data retention law entrenches “passive surveillance”

The Australian Coalition Government and Labor Opposition joined forces to pass mandatory data retention laws Thursday morning.

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 was introduced to assist authorities in combating terrorism and investigating serious crimes.

The Bill requires telecommunications companies to retain clients’ metadata for two years. For the purposes of the Bill, metadata includes phone numbers, length of phone calls, email addresses, and the time messages were sent, while specifically excluding the content of the phone calls and messages, as well as internet browsing history.

While the Senate passed the Bill with 43 votes in favour and 16 against, critics claim that the Bill fails to strike the appropriate balance between safety and privacy. Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam, derided the Bill for “entrench[ing] a form of passive surveillance over 23 million Australians.”  Similarly, Nick Xenophon, an Independent Senator, argued the law would have a “suffocating effect on press freedom.”

Telecommunications companies and internet service providers have until 2017 to implement the new laws.

Op-ed: Women-only gym hours about more than gender “segregation”

Note: This op-ed was originally published as a letter to the editor in the Montreal Gazette on March 25, 2015.

On March 19, McGill University decided it would not establish women-only hours at McGill’s fitness centre.

The request for women-only hours was initiated by two students, Soumia Allalou and Raymond Grafton. While Ms Allalou wears the hijab, she has maintained that her request also takes into account the many non-religious reasons for which she and other women at McGill would welcome the establishment of women-only hours.

As a female McGill student, I can stand by those non-religious reasons: I’d love to go to the gym and not have to worry about whether the guys will give me a chance to get at the weights; it would be great to work out without a man giving me unsolicited advice on my form. Moreover, women can be and are sexually harassed by men everywhere, and our sweaty, skimpy gyms are certainly not an exceptional little bubble.

To women whose reasons for wanting “segregated” gym hours are not related to religion, McGill is saying that encouraging women to use its facilities in full comfort and safety – for a mere few hours a week, even — is simply not as important as making sure men can use those facilities whenever they want. It’s certainly not okay, but it’s not like women aren’t used to being told, in direct and indirect ways, that our needs aren’t as important as men’s. That’s a really old story.

But what is McGill saying, exactly, to the women whose faith requires them to dress modestly when men are present, particularly women for whom that faith happens to be Islam? The land that almost saw the PQ’s “Charter of Values” come to fruition has recently seen a judge refuse to hear a defendant in her courtroom who wanted to testify wearing a hijab. In 2013, we collectively freaked out when we saw a photo of two niqab-wearing women working in a Quebec daycare. In 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada gave us a watery decision on the right of a witness to wear the niqab while testifying in court: the witness was ultimately re-ordered to remove her niqab to testify. The effective messages: take off your hijab, or don’t work in the public sector. Take off the niqab, or don’t testify. Troubling, too, is the potential effective message to Zunera Ishaq, the woman who wants to wear her niqab during the oath-taking portion of her Canadian citizenship ceremony: take off your niqab, or don’t become Canadian.

These Muslim women, then, are being told they’re not welcome in a lot of places as long as they choose to respect their faith. Is that what McGill intended to tell such women – that on top of all that, they’re also not welcome in its gym?

There are always those voices, often loud, that say that the hijab, the niqab, the burqa, and other forms of dress worn by Muslim women are nothing but manifestations of how Islam oppresses, excludes, and erases women from public life. Ironically, it looks more and more like our “secular” institutions are the ones that seek to erase these women from public spaces.


Historic gay rights case challenges homophobic laws in Trinidad and Tobago, and Belize

Last week, Maurice Tomlinson was in front of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) presenting his case against anti-gay immigration laws in Trinidad and Tobago, and Belize. Tomlinson, a prominent gay rights advocate, argued that the current immigration laws in the two countries, which bars certain ”undesirable” people from entering – a list that includes homosexuals, prostitutes and other marginalized groups, violates his freedom of movement rights, enshrined in a key Caribbean Community treaty.

Both countries have criminalized homosexuality. In Belize the “crime” hold a penalty of up to 10 years in prison upon conviction. Trinidad & Tobago has anti-sodomy laws that call for up to 25 years in prison and up to 5 years for other gay sexual offences.

Tomlison argued that he was unable to visit his his 12-year-old son, from a previous marriage to a woman, who lives in Belize. However, in defense, immigration officials from both countries insisted that the sections of their laws that bar entry to ‘undesirable’ persons, such as LGBTQ people and prostitutes, were not enforced. Maria Marin, the acting immigration director of Belize, claimed that the immigration officers had never actually denied entry to a person based on sexual orientation and insisted that they do not enforce the legislation as a matter of policy as there are practical challenges in deterring one’s sexuality. Nonetheless, Tomlison’s lawyer argued that an administrative practice was not enough. He claimed that as long as the legislation remained active, there continues to exists a ‘continued threat of denial of entry and prosecution.’

More details can be found here .




Segregated Inmates in Nunavut Don’t Get Proper Oversight

According to the Auditor General of Canada, inmates at the Baffin Correction Centre in Nunavut are not conducting proper oversight when they are isolated from the rest of the population. This can be a very dangerous compromise to these inmates’ safety and security. Inmates in segregation are in an even more vulnerable position than those in the general population. The justice department has put the proper checks in place in order to ensure the inmates’ safety, but the Auditor’s report suggests that they are not being enforced. Baffin Correctional Centre has been described in the report as overcrowded and decrepit. According to the checks in place, an inmate placed in segregation should have documentation to justify the segregation which would be approved by the appropriate authority and those individuals placed in segregation for more than one week should have their cases reviewed every week. The report indicated that these requirements were not consistently followed. This poses risks to an inmate’s mental and physical health.


Original story can be found here.

New Law in Northern Ireland Would Criminalize the Buying of Sex

A new law in Northern Ireland, coming into effect on June 1st this year, will criminalize buying sex. This is known as the “Swedish model” of prostitution and is what Canada is institutionalizing. This law will make Northern Ireland the only jurisdiction in the UK to criminalize either side of the prostitution transaction. The law was on its face created to address the ills of human trafficking.

Laura Lee, a law grad and a sex worker, will be challenging the law the same month it comes into effect. The arguments will invoke several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, including article 8 (the right to privacy), article 2 (the right to life) and article 3 (the right to be free from degrading treatment). According to Lee, “after June 1st, sex workers’ lives in Northern Ireland will actually be harder and the industry will be pushed underground.” Similar arguments were raised in the Bedford decision.

The current state of prostitution in the UK is similar to Canada pre-Bedford, as prostitution is legal, but “soliciting sex in a public place, running a collective or brothel, and pimping are illegal”. Lee hopes the challenge will have positive effects on neighbouring Ireland who is under pressure to criminalize prostitution.

Inquest into Inmate Death Reveals Staff Didn’t Perform Required Checks

A jury has recommended changes following an inquest held last week into the death of inmate at the Prince Alberta Correctional Facility.

Nineteen year-old John Bob Glen Custer hanged himself in his cell while being held on remand and was found on November 24, 2013.

At the inquest, the two corrections officers on duty at the time of Custer’s death revealed that they did not perform the hourly checks on cells in segregation as required. One officer admitted to filling out log sheets detailing the hourly checks in advance. The other described how on the night in question, the two officers watched two movies instead of performing the required checks. Both officers no longer work at the correctional facility.

The director of the PA Correctional Centre testified that since Custer’s death cameras have been installed to monitor the cells and there have been policy changes. There have not been any cameras installed to keep staff accountable.

PA Correctional Centre has not indicated whether it will implement the recommended changes which include increasing staff on the night shift, providing suicide awareness and education training and checking more frequently on at-risk inmates.

“Home Burglary Bill” Targets Indigenous Youth

The Western Australia Parliament is currently debating a bill that would disproportionately target Indigenous youth, says Amnesty International.

The Criminal Law Amendment (Home Burglary and Other Offences) Bill 2014 expands mandatory sentencing laws for youth aged 16 and 17.  It is estimated that the Bill would put an extra 60 juveniles behind bars within four years.

Amnesty International claimed that Indigenous peoples were already over-represented in the prison system, and the Bill would make “that problem worse.”

Since 1996, offenders receive a strike for every burglary conviction. However, if several burglary charges were heard concurrently, then the offender would only receive one strike. If an individual received three “strikes,” then that individual was subject to a one-year mandatory minimum sentence.

The Home Burglary Bill amends Australia’s “three strikes” law in two ways. First, offenders will receive a strike for every burglary conviction, even if those convictions are heard at the same time. Second, the one-year mandatory minimum is doubled to two years for adult offenders. Juveniles are still subject to a one-year mandatory minimum.

Julian Cleary, Indigenous Rights Campaigner at Amnesty International Australia, recognized the importance of safe communities in Western Australia but criticized the proposed Bill for failing to “address the underlying reasons that cause people to commit burglary.”

Immigration still bad for Quebec sovereignty, PQ leadership candidate says

Parti québécois (PQ) leadership candidate Pierre Karl Péladeau, supposed front-runner in the race, claimed that “with immigration”, the PQ is losing one riding per year. During his comments, which came during a leadership debate in Quebec City on March 18, he also suggested that due to increasing immigration, sovereignists “do not have 25 years” to achieve their goal but must “get to work” now.

Quebec is the only province to control its immigration through shared jurisdiction with the federal government, but Péladeau highlighted that new immigrants “swear allegiance to the Queen” and that Quebec needed to “counter the enormous federal propaganda machine.”

Quebec Liberal premier Philippe Couillard accused the PQ of drifting toward ethnic nationalism. It is certainly not the first time Quebec has been an open hotbed of controversy surrounding multiculturalism and inclusion: in 2013, the PQ, under then-premier Pauline Marois, opened a volatile debate by proposing a Quebec “Charter of Values”. The Charter would have prohibited, among other things, the wearing of “ostentatious” religious symbols, including the hijab or the kippa, by public sector employees.

For Montreal journalist Vincent Marissal, Péladeau’s comments brought back the infamous words of former PQ premier Jacques Parizeau, who said after the 1995 referendum that “money and the ethnic vote” caused the narrow win for the “No” vote.

The other PQ leadership candidates were reportedly quick to disagree with Péladeau during the debate, stating a need for Quebec to be welcoming to all newcomers.



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