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 .
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.
Une délégation de la Cour Européenne des droits de l’homme était en visite à l’Université d’Ottawa le mardi 9 mars dernier. Le Président de la Cour Dean Spielmann et le vice président de la Cour, Guido Raimondi, ont accepté de faire une courte conférence suivie de quelques questions. La conférence a eu lieu dans le contexte d’une coopération entre la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme et la Cour Suprême du Canada. La conférence avait pour sujet l’évolution de la jurisprudence de la CEDH en vertu de l’article 14 qui prescrit toute forme de discrimination. Le juge Spielmann ouvra d’ailleurs la conférence en affirmant : « À l’instar de la Cour Suprême du Canada, nous tâchons d’interpréter l’article 14 avec l’évolution de la société des 50 dernières années ». Les juges Spielmann et Raimondi eurent chacun la chance d’aborder des questions juridiques controversées abordées dans de récents jugements de la Cour. Mentionnons notamment les questions reliées à la violence domestique, le traitement des Rom, l’immigration et les droits sociaux économiques.
Pour une retranscription de la déclaration de la CEDH à la Cour Suprême, consultez ces liens :
Le Statut Constitutionnel de la Cour et la Grande Bretagne
Au cours de la période des questions, un auditeurs adressa les menaces de la Grande Bretagne de se « retirer de la Cour » et le rôle supra constitutionnel que joue la Cour sur les entités constitutionnelles nationales. Le juge Spielmann s’empressa de rappeler que : « les États ont voulu la Cour pour examiner les affaires de chaque juridiction nationale. Le fait de se soumettre à la juridiction de la Cour était un acte volontaire. (…) Nous ne sommes pas là pour plaire aux États, mais nous devons aussi motiver nos décisions pour que celles ci soient acceptées par les États. ».
Quant au Royaume uni Spielmann précisa que si ce dernier se retire de la Convention Européenne des droits de l’homme, il ne peut pas rester membre du conseil de l’Europe. « Une question politique très sensible, puisque la Grande Bretagne joue un important rôle dans la protection des droits de l’homme à l’échelle mondiale. Après tout elle serait seule avec la Biélorussie en dehors du Conseil. »
Le Juge Raimondi a renchéri en rappelant que la Cour fut toujours imaginée avec un certain pouvoir de supervision : « Le rôle quasi-constitutionnelle de la cour (article 37) a été reconnu par les parties lorsque la cour a été fondée. Les auteurs ont pensé un rôle de la Cour qui dépasse les situations individuelles qui lui sont soumises. En plus si on regarde l’origine historique de la Convention [Européenne des Droits de l’Homme], les États avait pensé à une Cour unique, mais aussi pensé à une Cour qui avait la possibilité d’annuler les lois nationales. Ce n’a pas été retenu, mais cela démontre de l’intention des États quant au rôle constitutionnel de la Cour. »
Saskatchewan’s Education Minister, Don Morgan announced last week that the government had no plans to make approval for proposed gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in schools mandatory. He stated that introducing legislation similar to Alberta’s was unnecessary, and explained that “I would almost be doing a disrespect to [the school divisions] to try to put it into legislation because we have really good compliance and support.”
Others have argued that legislation is an important support for students who want to start GSAs or Gender and Sexually Diverse Alliances (GSDAs) at their schools. Amanda Guthrie, youth and education co-ordinator at the Avenue Community Centre in Saskatoon, explained that “a lot of students that I work with have needed the support of friends or teachers when asking for a GSA and the addition of legislation would only help students to feel more confident in their ask. Having legislation sets precedent and puts power on the side of the student rather than the school or school division.”
While there are GSAs and GDSAs at public school division schools in Regina and Saskatoon, there are no GSAs at Catholic school division schools. Establishing GSAs in smaller urban centres and rural communities also remains challenging.
A complaint recently resolved by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission has resulted in a Saskatoon taxi company implementing notable systemic improvements. According to David Arnot, Chief Commissioner of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, these improvements “will benefit all people with disabilities.”
The agreement reached by the parties includes an educational component, updated disability awareness training for drivers, and new policies for service provision. Under Saskatchewan’s Human Rights Code transportation service providers cannot discriminate against anyone who uses a service animal.
After months of debate, public outcry, and consultations, Alberta made a huge leap forward for human rights this week. On March 10, the Alberta legislature passed a new law making the approval of gay-straight alliances (GSA) mandatory in Alberta schools.
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A recent inquiry has been launch into the lack of funding for elder care in Nunavut. Alexander Sammurtok, the MLA for Rankin Inlet South has indicated that even through Nunavut has the smallest proportion of seniors the territory is not prepared to accommodate the growing elderly population. He asserts that the territory needs to add an additional full-service 24-hour care facility in order to accommodate the elders in the Rankin Inlet community.
This request has been supported by 142 members of Mr. Sammurtok’s constituency, who petitioned the territory’s government for this change. They argue that elders are in need of greater protection of their health, safety and well-being. A needs assessment study is being conducted for the proposed facility.
Original story can be found here.
The Nunavut Justice Department is looking into instituting wellness courts in order to assist mentally ill criminal offenders. Wellness courts have been instituted to assist offenders with mental illness and addition disorders. Offenders who suffer from these conditions can be sent to these specialized courts and are subject to intensive monitoring as opposed to incarceration, including regular drug and alcohol testing, lifestyle monitoring, finding a job and place to live, possibly returning to school and therapy. If the terms set out by the wellness court the judge will be able to tale that account during sentencing, which usually becomes probation or community-based sentences.
The Yukon has a wellness court which is very successful and can provide a useful model for Nunavut if the go ahead is given to put a wellness court into play. Advocates for the institution of this court say that this would be useful for the Nunavut community as half of the cases that presently come before courts are committed by offenders with addition and mental health issues. Wellness courts seek to solve the underlying issues that prompt criminal behaviour, and results in Yukon have shown that they are affective.
For more information see the original story here.
Tensions between Veteran Affairs and unhappy veterans have been intensifying over the last year. The Canadian government introduced the New Veterans Charter (NVC) in 2006, and since then complaints about reduced funding, failures to meet obligations, and massive red tape hurdles have resulted in discontent amongst Canadian veterans. Equitas, a group of injured Afghan veterans based in BC, filed a class-action lawsuit arguing that the NVC violated their Charter rights, because it removed lifetime disability payments for injured military personnel and replaced it with a lump sum payment instead.
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Nunavut’s French school board has decided to take the territorial government of Nunavut to court. The French school board has expressed that the government of Nunavut has violated the community’s right to French education guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Specifically, the board argues that the government is required to provide a similar quality of education that students would receive at school that teach in the majority language (i.e. English).
The government of Nunavut argues that it has not failed to meet its constitutional and statutory obligation. Education Minister Paul Quassa has stated that the government is currently preparing a response to the allegations made by Nunavut’s French school board.
Original story can be found here.