First Nations Blockade Opening of St Martian Channel

The National Post reports that Interlake First Nations communities have established a blockade on Lake St. Martin to prevent reopening of an emergency channel. Protesters contend that opening the emergency channel will damage the fishing industry in the region while the province argues that the channel will help reduce flooding in southern Manitoba. The blockade has led the Manitoban government to threaten legal action and officials have already contacted the RCMP for assistance.

Notably the protests have occurred in the context of a recent Supreme Court decision on Aboriginal land title rights. In Tsilhqot’in Nation v British Columbia, where ownership rights have not been signed away in treaties, “… the court recognized the existence of aboriginal title on a particular site…” and defined Aboriginal title as”… control [over...]  ancestral lands and the right to use them for modern economic purposes, without destroying those lands for future generations.” The court also recognized that in some instances governments would be able to intrude on these land rights where Aboriginal interests are reconciled with wider public purposes.

For more information, please refer to the Tsilhqot’in Nation v British Columbia decision here.

Roma Boy Attacked in Paris

The Telegraph reports that on June 13, 2014, after being accused of burglarizing nearby flats, 16 year-old Darius, a Romanian citizen, was dragged from the encampment where his family resided and beaten by 20 youths before he was dumped in a shopping cart and left to die. According to the New York Times, Darius’ family and the residents of the camp were threatened and a ransom of more than $20, 000 was demanded for his release. Shortly after, a neighbour had found the boy unconscious with multiple head injuries, carried him back to the camp and called an ambulance. While Darius has been hospitalized and remains in a chemically induced coma, the residents of the camp, including his parents, have fled the area in fear of reprisal attacks.

Although the attack on Darius has been denounced by France’s leaders, it occurred in the context of government policies which vilify the country’s Roma community. The French government has regularly razed Roma camps and deported many back to their countries of origin. There have also been shifts in the political arena favouring additional discriminatory measures to be taken against immigrant communities. In the most recent the European Union parliamentary elections, rightwing parties like France’s National Front, which ran on an anti-immigration campaign, made significant electoral gains. As support for these policies increases, Roma and other minority communities will continue to be stigmatized and incidents like the attack on Darius may become increasingly common.

 

Voices-Voix: Silencing Dissent in Canada

Voices-Voix is a national, non-partisan coalition of Canadians and organizations in Canada committed to advocating for rights to dissent and democratic space across the country. The organization was founded on April 21, 2010 when over 100 representatives from some of the country’s most reputable organizations gathered in Ottawa to discuss increasing attacks by the federal government. Decisions of the coalition are made by consensus, and today, more than 219 organizations are members of the coalition. That number continues to grow.

Recently, the organization launched a web video series — “Silencing Dissent in Canada” — which features three Canadian leaders:

Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada

John Bennett, Executive Director of the Sierra Club Canada

Katie Gibbs, Executive Director of Evidence for Democracy

As of April 2013, 81 cases of silencing dissent by the Government of Canada have been documented, including: Environment – 8.6%, Immigrants and Refugees – 7.4%, Military and Veterans – 8.6%, International Development – 8.6%, Watchdogs – 19.8%, Aboriginal Peoples – 9.9%, Women – 12.3%, and Other Targets at 24.7%.

32 years of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Today, April 17th, marks the 32nd anniversary of the establishment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as part of Canada’s Constitution Act. Liberal MP Irwin Cotler and former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, now Professor Emeritus at McGill University, has written a thoughtful and reflective opinion editorial in The Globe and Mail:

“On this Charter anniversary, let us reflect upon all that Canada has gained from the Charter in its short existence, and appreciate the contributions the document has made alongside the role of women and minorities in its crafting. All Canadians should be proud of this monumental constitutional moment, and look forward to having an inspiring reason to celebrate April 17 in years to come.”

Mr. Cotler also reflects on the Charter‘s role in fostering a sense of justice, equality, and fairness for all:

“Simply put, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is promotive and protective of what the pursuit of justice is all about. It is promotive and protective not only of the inherent dignity and worth of every human being, but the equal dignity and worth of all human beings – where one can aspire to a society which celebrates both equality and human dignity – a society which not only speaks to us in terms of who we are – that recognizes the dignity of difference – but also in terms of what we as Canadians, both collectively and individually, can aspire to be.”

Edward Snowden: “technology represents the most significant new threat to civil liberties in modern times.”

Speaking from Moscow to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, whistleblower Edward Snowden provided live testimony, declaring:

“Technology represents the most significant new threat to civil liberties in modern times” (8 April 2014).

"Edward Snowden speaks via video link with members of the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg" (The Guardian).

Prominent human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were alarmed to learn that the National Security Agency (NSA) in both the United States and the United Kingdom have intercepted telephone and information exchanges from high-level human rights staff. Snowden stated:

“The NSA has specifically targeted either leaders or staff members in a number of civil and non-governmental organisations…including domestically within the borders of the United States.”

Asked if the NSA had intercepted “highly sensitive and confidential communications,” Snowden replied: “The answer is, without question, yes. Absolutely.”

Snowden emphasized the wide-scale implications of these practices on reputable human rights organizations, and the safety of their human rights workers and staff, and how data-mining practices violate European Union privacy laws, including XKeyscore. He mentioned the NSA operated a “de facto policy of guilt by association.” The Guardian stated:

“XKeyscore allows analysts to search with no prior authorisation through vast databases containing emails, online chats, and the browsing histories of millions of individuals.”

In response to those who criticize his [Snowden's] outspoken account of the inner-workings of the NSA as a former analyst:

“I would like to clarify I have no intention to harm the US government or strain [its] bilateral ties.”

The Council of Europe defended the organization’s choice to invite Snowden’s testimony:

“Edward Snowden has triggered a massive public debate on privacy in the internet age. We hope to ask him what his revelations mean for ordinary users and how they should protect their privacy and what kind of restrictions Europe should impose on state surveillance.”

Amnesty International UK issued a press release following stark revelations. Michael Bochenek, Amnesty International Senior Director of International Law and Policy, stated:

“These allegations, if substantiated, would confirm our long-held fears that state intelligence agencies like the NSA and GCHQ have been subjecting human rights organisations to mass surveillance all along.

This raises the very real possibility that our communications with confidential sources have been intercepted. Sharing this information with other governments could put human rights defenders the world over in imminent danger.

When these concerns were raised before the US Supreme Court, they were dismissed as being ‘speculative’. Snowden’s latest revelation shows that these concerns are far from theoretical – they are a very real possibility.

We now need a full and frank disclosure of the extent of these surveillance programmes as well as water-tight legal guarantees against such indiscriminate surveillance in the future.”

NB: this opinion editorial was written in a personal capacity and does not represent the views of any of the organizations noted above.

UN Approves Inquiry into Rights Abuses in Sri Lanka

This week, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution (A/HRC/25/L.4/Rev.1), which requests the Office of the High Commissioner to investigate the alleged human rights abused by both parties in Sri Lanka during the civil war. A previous United Nations report estimated that at least 40, 000 civilians had been killed in during the civil war. The resolution also expressed concern about continuing human rights abuses, including sexual and gender-based crimes, disappearances and torture. Twenty-three countries voted in favour of the resolution, twelve voted against and twelve abstained.

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the Human Rights Council, Ravinatha Aryasinha, called the resolution “a grave threat to the sovereignty of U.N. member states.” Juliette De Rivero of Human Rights Watch called the resolution “long overdue” and said that “Sri Lanka should seize the moment and work with the UN to deliver what the victims of the war need: justice.”

Freedom of Conscience & Religion: Loyola High School v Québec (AG)

On March 24, 2014 the Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments in the case of Loyola High School et al v Attorney General of Québec.

The case deals with freedom of conscience and religion and the province’s mandatory ethics and religious culture  (“ERC”) program. In 2008, the Québec provincial government made the class mandatory. Loyal High School applied for a ministerial exemption which was denied.

Question before the court: Could the appellant (Loyola), a private Jesuit school in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Québec, refuse to teach a compulsory comparative religions and ethics class, which is taught in a secular context?

In 2010, the case was heard at the Québec Superior Court, namely: Loyola High School v Courchesne, 2010 QCCS 2631, Courchesne serving as the Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports at the time. The court ruled the mandatory nature of the class would violate the school’s religious freedom, concluding:

[333] GRANTS the reamended motion of the plaintiff Loyola High School;

[334] QUASHES the decision of the Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports dated November 13, 2008 (P-5) and signed by Line Gagné;

[335] DECLARES the plaintiff Loyola High School exempt, in accordance with the first paragraph of section 22 of the Regulation respecting the application of the Act respecting private education, from using the program established by the Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports (exhibits PGQ-31 and NK-3) and contemplated in the first paragraph of section 32 of the Act respecting private education (R.S.Q., c. E-9.1) to teach the compulsory subject ERC in the two cycles of general secondary education, namely, Secondary I, II, IV and V;

[336] AUTHORIZES the plaintiff Loyola High School to teach the compulsory ERC course using its program described in Exhibit P-2, as clarified in exhibits P-1 and P-4;

[337] THE WHOLE with costs, including expert costs.

In 2012, the same case was appealed by the Minister of Education to the Québec Court of Appeal, namely: Québec (Attorney General) v Loyola High School, 2012 QCCA 2139. The earlier decision by the Québec Superior Court was overturned.

June 13, 2013, leave to appeal from the Québec Court of Appeal was granted to the applicants (Loyola High School) by the Supreme Court of Canada and arguments were heard on March 24, 2014.

The court considered Section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“freedom of conscience and religion”) and Section 3 (“freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association”) of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms of Québec.

The decision will now take several months for release. The case will determine important constitutional and administrative matters.

What should the relationship between MLAs and government employees look like in Nunavut?

“Threats, intimidation, bullying is unacceptable in this government.”

The member of the legislative assembly for Iqaluit-Tasiluk, George Hickes, spoke adamantly against a perceived wall that exists between government employees and MLAs this past week. His comments sparked a back-and-forth with the minister responsible for the Public Service Act on the issue of when it is acceptable for government employees to speak with MLAs and what information can be disclosed in those circumstances. Read the rest of this entry »

Conservatives may consider renaming Nadon to SCC

Despite the Supreme Court of Canada’s 6-1 decision regarding the unconstitutionality of Marc Nadon’s appointment to the high court, Justice Minister Peter MacKay wouldn’t rule out advancing Mr. Nadon’s nomination to the SCC:

Peter MacKay won’t rule out renaming Marc Nadon to Supreme Court.

“As you would expect, we’ll look at all the details of the decision, which I did read already with interest, including Mr. Justice [Michael] Moldaver’s dissent. And we’ll look at the details of the decision, we’ll examine our options as we ensure that the Supreme Court has its full complement,” MacKay said.

Freedom of Information Requests Coming up Empty

A significant proportion of non-personal freedom of information requests are being returned by government to the requestor with a reply of “no-responsive records have been located.”

The access to information request regime is one of the key ways that Canadians can keep government open, transparent and accountable – qualities essential in a proper functioning democracy.

The Canadian Press recently did some research to determine the proportion of non-personal access to information requests that are coming up empty in B.C. Last year, the number was almost ¼ of the total information questions and 45% of the requests received by the Premier’s officer. This year, the rate has declined slightly to ⅕ of requests being returned unresponsive.

One year ago, Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham released a report in response to several complaints regarding the high number of “no responsive records” replies to access to information requests.  The Privacy Commissioner attributed the significant rate of record-less responses in part to a culture of ‘oral government.’ The report states:

The lack of documentation undermines the ability of citizens, journalists and the public to understand the basis for government’s actions on any particular matter.

Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to the rights and freedoms monitoring blog!

Bienvenue au blog de la veille sur les droits et libertés!

...a joint project of CCLA and Pro Bono Students Canada... un projet de l’association canadienne des libertés civiles et Pro Bono Students Canada...
Sign up - daily email newslinks or CCLA's monthly ebulletin
Inscrivez-vous - courriel quotidien ou mensuel ebulletin de ACLC

Recent Comments

  • avatar Jul 17, 12:08 AM
    Tormented
    France: Face-Veil Ruling Undermines Rights
  • avatar Jul 08, 11:25 PM
    Erika
    On Substantive Liberty: Challenging Prolonged Administrative Segregation
  • avatar May 21, 1:03 PM
    Craig Burley
    Nova Scotia Union Files Court Challenge Over New Home-care Labour Law
  • avatar May 03, 10:56 PM
    Johnb611
    Edward Snowden: "technology represents the most significant new threat to civil liberties in modern times."
  • avatar May 03, 10:55 PM
    Johna707
    Edward Snowden: "technology represents the most significant new threat to civil liberties in modern times."

Twitter