Figueiras v. Toronto

Une décision très intéressante vient d’être rendue quant aux pouvoirs qu’est accordé aux corps policiers dans la common law vis à vis les droits et libertés des individus.

À mon sens, il s’agît d’un jugement tout particulièrement pertinent pour le Québec qui vit présentement dans un contexte de manifestations sociales.


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.

La précaire démocratie du Venezuela encore un peu plus menacée

Cette semaine, le président Nicolas Maduro a demandé au Parlement vénézuélien des pouvoirs spéciaux pour légiférer seul en matière de sécurité nationale. Selon lui, cette mesure est nécessaire en vertu de la menace extérieure des États-Unis, qui a récemment déclaré le pays de l’Amérique du Sud un danger aux citoyens américains.
La chute du prix international du pétrole et l’instabilité politique font le Venezuela vivre un scénario chaotique. L’économie voit de sérieux problèmes, spécialement en ce qui concerne la production et l’inflation, la violence ne cesse pas d’augmenter et les institutions démocratiques sont de plus en plus faibles.
Des politiciens de l’opposition ont depuis peu été arrêtés, incluant le maire de la capitale Caracas. En outre, des analystes affirment que le Parlement et la Cour suprême sont soumis au contrôle de Maduro, dont la popularité a atteint le niveau le plus bas depuis qu’il a succédé Hugo Chavez en 2013.
Selon des informations publiées par certains députés sur Twitter, le pouvoir de légiférer par décret sera accordé à Maduro pour une période de six mois. L’opposition croit toutefois que le président pourra utiliser ses nouvelles attributions contre des manifestants civils.
La session parlementaire qui analysera le projet de loi « Anti-impérialiste » aura lieu dimanche prochain. Ce sera la deuxième fois que le chef de l’Exécutif recevra des pouvoirs législatifs spéciaux, puisque depuis 2013 il peut adopter des lois économiques et fiscales sans l’accord des députés.

Source et photo revista Veja, Brésil:

Bill C-51 to receive further scrutiny

The Conservatives have agreed to hold an additional 6 days of meetings on Bill C-51 at the public safety committee of the House, tripling the amount of time the Conservatives originally allocated for hearings on the controversial bill.

The move comes in response to an NDP filibuster and significant criticism (see here, here and here) from academics, terrorism and security experts, and former Prime Minsters and Supreme Court justices regarding the bill’s expansion of surveillance powers and creation of new, vaguely worded criminal charges.  Bill C-51 may also be contrary to previous Supreme Court rulings.

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Balancing Civil Liberties and Community Safety in the “Era of Terror”

Following the recommendations of the counter-terrorism review from August, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is scheduled to announce changes to national security later today.

The anticipated changes include: developing an anti-extremism strategy, appointing a terrorism coordinator, and simplifying the terror threat alerts system.

To justify the changes, Prime Minister Abbott is expected to reference the rising number of Australians returning home from conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Prime Minister Abbott has stated that “[t]housands of young and vulnerable people in the community are susceptible to radicalisation.”

Prime Minister Abbott has warned that the new “Era of Terror” means that Australians must reconsider “where it draws the balance” between civil liberties and community safety.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten noted that while Australians’ safety is a top priority, he is concerned that the Government may be going too far. To this end, he stated: “I don’t believe our nation can only be safe if we get rid of the liberties of people, nor do I believe that the liberties of people in every sense should trump national security.”

A well-known human rights lawyer, Julian Burnside QC, took a more cynical approach to the proposed changes. While questioning the Prime Minister’s motivation, Mr. Burnside stated that “there’s a real risk that he’s [Prime Minister Abbott] doing this in order to play on community fears and thereby gain a bit of political popularity.”

Freedom of Expression or Discriminatory Advertising on Buses: City of Edmonton in Court

On February 20 2015, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench will hear a contentious case about freedom of expression and the right to place ads about honour killings on public buses. In 2013, Edmonton Transit rolled out new ads on their public buses reading “Muslim Girls Honour Killed by their Families” and asking “Is your family threatening you? Is there a fatwa on your head?” Almost immediately, there were a number of complaints to the city over concerns of racism and discrimination, resulting in their removal. In summer of 2014, the American Freedom Defence Initiative (AFDI), a New York-based non-profit organization that funded the ads, initiated an action suing the city, claiming the removal violates their freedom of expression.

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Montreal imam will be refused permit to open community centre, city says

A controversy surrounding Montreal imam Hamza Chaoui is raising issues of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association and national security in Quebec. Chaoui, who denounces homosexuality and has said that democracy is “incompatible” with Islam, will be denied a permit to open an Islamic community centre in the Montreal borough of Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve for the time being.

In January, Chaoui announced that he intended to open an Islamic community centre in the borough. On February 2, the borough passed a bylaw freezing the issuing of any new permits for community centres while it studies a “zoning change that would distinguish between activities associated with places of worship and those associated with offering community services.”

The bylaw has raised concern among human rights experts. Lawyers Pearl Eliadis and Julius Grey argue that if the purpose of the municipal bylaw is to constrain or silence particular views, then it is an improper use of the borough’s lawmaking powers and may infringe on fundamental freedoms. Eliadis says that it is appropriate for the municipality to be concerned about preventing hate speech or about keeping community centres from being places where radicalization can take place. Using a municipal bylaw to do so, however, is reminiscent for her of the era of Maurice Duplessis, who allowed police to padlock any building used for spreading communist views.

A number of Parti quebecois politicians, such as Agnès Maltais and Kathleen Weil, have denounced Chaoui’s views as radical, specifically his views on democracy and gender equality. Premier Philippe Couillard has also responded to Chaoui’s statement that he is considering legal action against the municipality, stating that his number one priority is the security of Quebeckers. Montreal mayor Denis Coderre’s response has been similar, stating that he is against all forms of radicalism.  Chaoui, for his part, argues that he is not a radicalization agent and that his stated views do not amount to hate speech or promote violence.






Whole-Life Sentences Not Against Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights just ruled on an appeal by a UK man sentenced to a whole-life tariff for the brutal murder of three victims.  They decided in a six to one judgment that under the current interpretations of the law, there is no human rights violations in the application of a whole-life sentence.

In 2013, the same Court ruled that whole-life sentences were incompatible with Article 3 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which reads “no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” However, since then, the allegedly unclear laws regarding whole-life sentences have been clarified by domestic courts which accounts for the change in rulings.

The Court has ruled that as long as there is a “mechanism or possibility for review”, whole-life sentences are compatible with Article 3 of the Convention.

Commentators are saying “the ruling is perhaps more significant politically than it is legally” as the Conservative government had cited the 2013 ruling as impetus to replacing the European Human Rights Act with a domestic British Bill of Rights.

L’affaire Badawi : L’Arabie Saudite sous pression

Jour après jour, le nombre d’organisations internationales qui défendent la libération de Raif Badawi ne cesse de monter.

La semaine passée, le Haut-Commissaire des Nations unies aux droits de l’homme, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a demandé au roi saoudien de suspendre la peine de Badawi. Selon lui, la sanction corporelle appliquée au citoyen de cet État viole la dignité humaine et ne respecte pas la Convention contre la torture.

De son côté, l’Amnistie internationale a lancé récemment la campagne « #jesuisbadawi », à travers laquelle elle exige que les coups de fouet cessent et que Raif soit mis en libéré inconditionnellement. Il faut que l’État saoudien « respecte ses obligations en matière de droits humains et qu’il abolisse la flagellation », argumente l’ONG.

Des manifestations populaires font du bruit.

Selon La Presse Canadienne, un mouvement de protestation est de plus en plus fort à travers le monde. Les ambassades de l’Arabie saoudite font face à des manifestants qui dénoncent le dossier Badawi et la cruauté des peines corporelles.

Blogueur et fondateur du site Free Saudi Liberals, par lequel il défendait la liberté religieuse en Arabie Saoudite, Raif a été condamné en 2012 à 1 000 coups de fouet et 10 années de prison pour insulte à l’islam. Après sa condamnation, sa femme et ses jeunes enfants se sont réfugiés au Canada, vivant depuis lors à Sherbrooke, dans l’est du Québec.

Il est difficile de déterminer si les demandes seront accueillies par les Saoudiens. Au moins, il est clair que la mobilisation vient de remporter une importante victoire : la deuxième séance de flagellation de 50 coups de fouet que le blogueur devait recevoir ce vendredi a été annulée.

Australian government intimidates journalists reporting on immigration issues

Over the past 12 months, journalists reporting on the federal government’s asylum-seeker policies have been repeatedly referred to the Australian federal police (AFP) by federal government agencies in attempts to uncover confidential sources and whistleblowers.

Almost every referral made to the AFP by federal government agencies “for unauthorised disclosure of commonwealth information” since September 2013 has been directly related to immigration reporting by journalists. At least eight of these referrals to the police were made on the subject of asylum seeker stories many of which have been materialized into active police investigations.

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