Op Ed: Citizenship is a right, not a privilege

Last Monday, I had the opportunity to hear Deepan Budlakoti share his story. Deepan was born in Canada. He has an Ontario birth certificate and had a Canadian passport. After serving his sentence for committing a crime, Deepan was held in immigration detention. The Canadian government has revoked Deepan’s citizenship, relying on an exception to the law that persons born in Canada are Canadian citizens when that person’s parents are working for a foreign embassy. However, that exception does not apply to Deepan – his parents were not working for the Ambassador of India when he was born. Now, the Canadian government is trying to deport Deepan to India, a country he has never lived in and that will not recognize him as a citizen.

Deepan is stateless. So what? Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides for a right to nationality. Regardless of whether one has committed a crime, citizenship should not be something that has to be earned. Criminality is relevant for the deportation of non-citizens, but not citizens. Deepan’s story is part of a larger  trend of countries’ attitudes toward citizenship rights – Canada is not the only country to start viewing citizenship laws as a means to keep out “bad citizens.” The United Kingdom has vested power in the Secretary of State to deprive persons of their citizenship if it “is conducive to the public good.” This kind of power begs the question: Which persons will be affected by citizenship revocation? National security cannot always trump individual rights, and the wide power granted to the Secretary of State of the UK is vulnerable to racial profiling. Without sufficient checks on state power, certain or specific groups of people may pay a higher cost for the national security.

For more information about Deepan, visit: http://www.justicefordeepan.org

Op Ed: The Supreme Court in 2013 – A High and Low Point for the Role of Choice in Constitutional Jurisprudence

2013 marked an eventful year for the role of choice in Supreme Court constitutional jurisprudence. In the beginning of 2013, the Supreme Court released its decision, Quebec v A, on the constitutionality of Quebec’s legislation denying common law spouses access to spousal support and property division provisions. Quebec is the only province that does not have legislation for spousal support for common law spouses. In a split 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld Quebec’s legislation with the main justification (at both the s 15 or s 1 stage) on respecting and promoting a woman’s right to choose not to get married.

However, the Supreme Court’s characterization of choice ignores the reality of many women and assumes that everyone is equally free to make choices.  The Women’s Legal and Education and Action Fund pointed out in their factum for Quebec v A, “this assumption of equality ignores the relationships of power and powerlessness and the system inequalities that restrict women’s abilities to choose the structure and tenor of their intimate relationships” (para 27). In essence, the decision in Quebec v A used a constrained choice to justify discriminatory laws and, thereby, further entrenched the disadvantages faced by many women. Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Complaint over Dairy

A school in Hamilton, Ontario faces a human rights complaint over its handling of a student’s life-threatening allergy to eggs and dairy. According to the mother, Lynne Glover, after two years of working with staff at the elementary school she has had to pull her child out to protect her. Read the rest of this entry »

Professor and University Clash over Religious Accommodation

A sociology professor at York University is not happy with how the administration recently handled a request for accommodation. For religious reasons, a male student requested to be excused from a group project involving public interaction with female students. The professor referred the matter to his dean and the human rights office, both of whom responded that the student should be accommodated. Read the rest of this entry »

New Information Released to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission May push the Death Toll of Aboriginal Residential School Students over 4,100

Documents from the B.C. government have been recently released for review to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). This new information may cause the TRC to reassess their prior estimate that 4,100 Aboriginal children died while at residential schools in Canada.

It is estimated that 150,000 Aboriginal students attended residential school in Canada in the years from the 1870s to the 1990s.  The joint church and state agenda for residential schools was to ‘civilize Indian children.’ Many Aboriginal children who attended residential schools across the country are currently in unmarked graves and their families were never told where their children were laid to rest. The CBC reports that Justice Murray Sinclair, the Chair of the TRC, estimates the mortality rate in some residential schools to be as high as 60%. The causes of death range from tuberculosis, fires, and failed escape attempts, to suicide and allegations of murder. The TRC’s Missing Children Project has been working since 2008 to identify and quantify the Aboriginal children who died in residential schools after being removed from their families and communities. Read the rest of this entry »

Les dessous de l’itinérance

En 1998, date de la dernière étude d’importance concernant l’itinérance à Montréal menée par l’institut de la statistique du Québec, près de 30 000 personnes étaient sans-abri dans la métropole. Ce sont le déni des droits, l’exclusion, la marginalisation ainsi que la vulnérabilisation de ces personnes qui caractérisent le phénomène de l’itinérance. Les personnes ainsi visées n’ont pas d’adresse fixe, de logement stable et un très faible revenu, couplé à une accessibilité discriminatoire aux services offerts à la société en général. Souvent, ces personnes ont des problèmes de santé physique, de santé mentale, de toxicomanie, de violence familiale et ou de désorganisation sociale. L’itinérance est donc un phénomène complexe qui a de multiples racines. Read the rest of this entry »

Historic SCC decision strikes down Canada’s prostitution laws

The Supreme Court of Canada has unanimously struck down Canada’s prostitution laws — laws which previously violated life, liberty, and security of the person guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “Today’s landmark ruling comes 34 years after the Supreme Court last upheld the country’s anti-prostitution laws.”

Recent news stories can be followed through The Globe and Mail, Global News, and others.

The full Supreme Court decision of Canada (AG) v Bedford, 2013 SCC 72, can be read here.

BC Supreme Court rules that cancellation of program for new moms in prison is unconstitutional

The BC Supreme Court today released its decision in the case of Inglis v. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General of BC, finding that the cancellation of a mother and baby program formerly in place at Alouette Correctional Centre for Women (ACCW) was a violation of the rights of female prisoners and their newborns.

The program was canceled by the provincial government in 2008. Without it, children born to women in prison in BC are immediately apprehended by the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and their mothers are denied the opportunity to breastfeed and spend time with their babies during this critical bonding period. The plaintiffs argued that women cannot be denied these opportunities simply because they are incarcerated, particularly where they are non-violent offenders and who are capable of caring for their children. Evidence presented showed that the cancellation of the program was not based in any legitimate concerns over the wellbeing of the children – in fact the program was beneficial to not only mothers, but to their children and the prison environment as a whole.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hockey PEI discrimination incidents prompt warning

Hockey PEI has sent all its members reiterating the organization’s policy regarding taunts or insults that are based on discrimination.

CBC News reports that this stems from two incidents that Rob Newson, executive director of Hockey PEI, claims were based on racial comments made by older players.

Read the full article here.

Cour européenne des droits de l’homme : voile islamique en France

La Cour européenne des droits de l’homme commence aujourd’hui l’étude de la conformité de l’interdiction du voile islamique intégrale en France dans l’espace public à la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme.

En effet, une Française portant la niqab et la burqa conteste la disposition prévoyant que « nul ne peut, dans l’espace public, porter une tenue destinée à dissimuler son visage ». Il sera plaidé par ses avocats que cette mesure est discriminatoire et porte atteinte à notamment la liberté de pensée, de conscience et de religion (art. 9 CEDH), le respect de la vie privée et familiale (art. 8 CEDH) et la liberté d’expression (art. 10 CEDH).

Le jugement très attendu devrait être rendu au début de l’année 2014. D’ici là, nous vous tiendrons au courant de l’évolution de ce dossier devant la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme.

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