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.”

Fermeture de la seule clinique privée d’avortement Morgentaler du Nouveau-Brunswick: clinique inaugurée en 1998.

« C’est vraiment pour la santé des femmes du Nouveau-Brunswick. C’est très important que ça existe » disait son fondateur le Dr Morgentaler. En juillet, cette clinique sera contrainte de fermer ses portes.
Plusieurs réactions ne cessent d’être formulées suite à la décision sur la fermeture de la clinique d’avortement Morgentaler à Fredericton suite à la direction de l’établissement qui, a expliqué sa décision en invoquant des raisons financières, mais également le refus du gouvernement de couvrir les frais des interventions qu’elle pratique. Les frais des interventions qu’entreprend la clinique varient de 700 $ à 850 $, selon le stade de grossesse. La directrice de la clinique, Simone Leibovitch affirme que le Dr Morgentaler payait lui-même ces frais et avait aussi payé des réparations de plus de 100 000 $ effectuées à la suite d’une inondation en 2008. D’ailleurs, la direction aurait déboursé environ 100 000 $ pour payer l’intervention dans le cas de femmes qui ne pouvaient acquitter les frais. Il est impossible présentement pour la Clinique de fonctionner sans les subventions du gouvernement. Le Docteur Henry Morgentaler avait d’ailleurs esté une action en justice contre le gouvernement afin d’obliger ce dernier à rembourser les coûts des interventions. Sa cause est en suspens depuis sa mort.
Conscient de la complication qu’auront les femmes néobrunswickoises à faire valoir leur droit reconnu par la Cour Suprême du Canada de choisir de se faire avorter, une kyrielle d’organismes y protestent et jugent cette décision. L’option de recourir à la clinique Morgentaler était utilisée par des bon nombre de femmes qui ne pouvaient pas ou ne voulaient pas obtenir l’accord des médecins. Cette fermeture contraint des femmes qui aimeront recourir à un avortement soit subir un avortement, payé par l’assurance-maladie, dans un hôpital à condition d’avoir deux références de médecins, qui jugeront que l’avortement est médicalement nécessaire soit subir un avortement dans une autre province, à leurs frais.
Il est important de signifier que toutes les provinces canadiennes disposent des cliniques privées et/ou des hôpitaux permettant aux femmes de recourir à l’avortement. Selon la Coalition ontarienne pour les cliniques d’avortement, le Nouveau-Brunswick est la seule province canadienne qui exige le consentement de médecins. Michelle Robidoux, porte-parole pour cette coalition, croit que les situations au Nouveau-Brunswick et l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard sont les plus déplorables au pays.
Non seulement il y aurait moins d’accès, mais l’accès est tellement limité à cause des politiques du gouvernement du Nouveau-Brunswick [...] sous la loi canadienne de la Santé, les femmes doivent avoir accès à des services médicaux n’importe où au pays, y compris au Nouveau-Brunswick, et ce n’est pas le cas.

Par le biais d’un communiqué, cette Coalition a jugé que la province contrevient à la loi, et elle tient bien évidemment à rappeler que la Cour suprême a reconnu le droit se faire avorter aux femmes selon leur choix. Qui plus est, la clinique effectue en moyenne 500 interruptions de grossesse par année.
Se fiant de l’action en justice du Docteur Morgentaler, le gouvernement du Nouveau-Brunswick rétorque malgré lui que les patientes ont le droit de recourir à un avortement gratuitement en milieu hospitalier, après avoir fourni au préalable deux références de médecins. De son côté, le chef de l’opposition, Brian Gallant, a fortement répliqué lors d’une séance de l’assemblée législative qu’il soutient le droit aux femmes de choisir de se faire avorter et défend que la règle de l’autorisation des deux médecins est une entrave à l’accès à l’avortement. D’autres chefs du NPD du Nouveau-Brunswick, Dominic Cardy, et des Verts, David Coon ont eu également les mêmes réactions. Le parti vert pour sa part pense que cette décision « met en évidence la nécessité pour l’administration Alward d’agir rapidement pour mettre en place des services de soins de santé pour les femmes du Nouveau-Brunswick ».
La directrice générale de la Coalition pour le droit à l’avortement au Canada, Joyce Arthur martèle qu’il s’agit jour d’un jour triste et sombre pour les Néobrunswickoises car cela signifie pour elle un manque d’intérêt pour la santé des femmes du gouvernement provincial mais presse ce dernier d’améliorer l’accès à l’avortement. La directrice générale du Regroupement féministe du Nouveau-Brunswick, Sarah Leblanc juge que « la fermeture d’un point d’accès, c’est une nouvelle assez grave pour les femmes ».
Michèle Caron, professeure de droit à la retraite, affirme : « Ce que ça va exiger, c’est que d’abord les femmes elles-mêmes arrêtent de jouer le jeu de dire : “Ah bien, moi je ne suis pas pour l’avortement”. Ce n’est pas une question d’être pour ou contre l’avortement, c’est d’être, de reconnaître aux femmes le droit de choisir. Et c’est ça la question de fond. »
Une manifestation aura lieu le 17 avril à 12 h 30, devant l’Assemblée législative à Fredericton. Une pétition est également en cours pour demander au gouvernement du Nouveau-Brunswick de payer pour les avortements. D’ailleurs, cette pétition a déjà récolté des milliers de signatures.
Henry Morgentaler était un grand défenseur du droit à l’interruption de la grossesse. Grâce à lui, il y a 26 ans, la Cour suprême du Canada a décriminalisé l’avortement au Canada. Il est décédé en mai 2013 à l’âge de 90 ans.

Anti-gay speaker defended by the Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association

Despite protests from hundreds of members of the public, the Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association has defended the views of Peter LaBarbera, President of Americans For Truth Against Homosexuality (AFTAH), according to the CBC.

A petition was initiated by Intolerance Free Weyburn, and the group is also planning a protest during the Pro-Life Association’s convention, at which LaBarbera will be speaking. (CBC)

According to Intolerance Free Weyburn, AFTAH’s mandate is to to oppose “the radical homosexual agenda’ and ‘stand for God-ordained sexuality.” (CBC)

The Southern Poverty Law Centre lists AFTAH as hate group, but according to Pro-Life Association President, Marcy Mallette, ”his website is for truth, and that’s not hateful at all.” (CBC)

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.

Une justice transitionnelle intégrant les droits culturels : Stratégie-clé pour les sociétés post-conflits

Les sociétés sortant de conflits internes ou internationaux, les sociétés ayant vécu l’esclavage, les sociétés post-coloniales, les sociétés divisées par les ethnies, la langue ou la religion auront toutes tendance à vouloir tenter d’oublier leur passé plutôt que de se le remémorer, d’où l’importance de trouver un équilibre. Selon la Rapporteuse spéciale dans le domaine des droits culturels, Farida Shaheed, la commémoration est considérée comme une forme de justice pour les victimes d’évènements tragiques ou de violations massives des droits humains. Or, la Rapporteuse observe que cette stratégie n’est que rarement utilisée et lorsque les États mettent sur pied des procédés de commémoration, c’est souvent pour satisfaire leurs agendas politiques, c’est-à-dire que les évènements commémoratifs sont établis en fonction du poids des lobbies, des intérêts des parties, des préoccupations de la société ou du contexte politique. Ceci a souvent pour résultat d’alimenter la haine, le ressentiment et la violence plutôt que de fournir une réparation symbolique, une reconnaissance publique pour les victimes et de redéfinir l’identité nationale par le pluralisme.

C’est pourquoi Mme Shaheed propose que les stratégies et les politiques de réconciliation intègrent les droits culturels afin de promouvoir l’interaction et les ententes entre les différentes communautés :

“It is crucial that memorialization processes do not function as empty rhetoric commemorating the dead, while losing sight of the reasons and the context for past tragedies and obscuring contemporary challenges,” (…) “Memorialization should be understood as processes that provide the necessary space for those affected to articulate their diverse narratives in culturally meaningful ways,”  

Enfin, Mme Shaheed, recommande à tous les États de mettre l’accent sur la prévention de violences futures entre ces groupes opposés dans le passé en faisant la promotion de l’engagement civique et en favorisant les discussions stimulantes et la pensée critique sur la façon d’offrir une meilleure représentation des défis surmontés dans le passé quant à l’exclusion de la violence. Il est donc important que ces différentes communautés participent activement à l’élaboration de ces politiques de commémoration.

Pour de plus amples informations, cliquez ici.

UK News – UK Intelligence Oversight Compared to “Yes Prime Minister”

Appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee on March 18th, UK MPs questioned Sir Mark Waller, the UK’s Intelligence Services Commissioner on the nature of his position, and the behavior of UK spy service GCHQ.

The role of the Intelligence Services Commissioner is to provide independent judicial oversight of the conduct of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Security Service (MI5), Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and a number of other public authorities.”

Sir Waller, a former judge, told MPs that he thought he had adequate resources for his position, despite the position being part-time, with only one staff member as support. Sir Waller noted that the prospect of a judge scrutinizing applications for warrants was sufficient motivation to ensure proper behavior. He also stated that a bigger oversight bureaucracy could have a detrimental affect on the important work of the intelligence agencies.

Some MP’s were particularly critical of an exchange in which Sir Waller described being satisfied that there were no truth to allegations of illegality at GCHQ after having a conversation with GCHQ officials who assured him of such.

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.

Saskatchewan Premier considers taking a stand against Russia

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has announced that he’s considering banning Russian vodka from all Saskatchewan liquor board shelves. (Read more)

“We can send a small signal about what Saskatchewan thinks about Russian aggression in Ukraine,” said Wall in Regina.”

Over the last several weeks, Western countries have increasingly voiced disapproval of Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

The situation has been referred to as a “mini cold war,” and according to an anonymous source for Reuters,”this is probably the most dangerous situation in Europe since the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.” (Reuters)

Manitoba is also considering a Russian liquor ban, according to the CBC. (Read more)

Marc Nadon Denied Appointment to SCC

In a long-awaited decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, six justices of the top court have confirmed Justice Marc Nadon’s ineligibility to sit as the ninth justice of the SCC, concluding that Prime Minister Harper’s appointment was unconstitutional (paras 1 to 107). Three of the six justices were appointed by Harper themselves.

Justice Michael Moldaver dissented (paras 108 to 154). Justice Marshall Rothstein recused himself from the decision (speculation is that he identified a conflict of interest.)

The full judgment of Reference Re Supreme Court Act, ss. 5 and 6, 2014 SCC 21 can be read here.

An article from the CBC stated:

“The court ruled that its composition is constitutionally protected, and Parliament’s attempt to change the Supreme Court Act through a budget bill is unconstitutional,” and “Changes to the court’s makeup require a constitutional amendment with the unanimous consent of the provinces, the court says.”

Québec judges require the knowledge of the civil law code, different from the common law administered in other Canadian jurisdictions.

Rocco Galati, a Toronto-based lawyer, challenged the Prime Minister’s appointment because Justice Nadon came from the Federal Court of Appeal, rather than a court of Québec, and therefore was unqualified to fill one of three seats from the province of Québec.

[4] In our view, the answer to this question is no: a current judge of the Federal Court of Appeal is not eligible for appointment under s. 6 as a person who may be appointed “from among the advocates of that Province”. This language requires that, at the time of appointment, the appointee be a current member of the Québec bar with at least 10 years standing.

An interview with University of Ottawa Faculty of Law professor Adam Dodek featured interesting discussion, including:

Q. Can you elaborate on what part of the language struck you as especially firm?

A. In many ways this is a declaration of independence by the Supreme Court of Canada. So by going beyond the first question of the statutory language of whether a Federal Court judge qualifies for appointment and into the second question on the constitutional issues, for the court to say that it is constitutionally entrenched through a number of provisions, went beyond what was minimally necessary for the case.

Q. So this is a landmark ruling about where the court fits in the structure of our government.

A. Very much. It is an instant landmark ruling, a classic ruling. And remember, we expect the Senate reference later this year. Together with the Senate reference, these two decisions will be the most important decisions since the [court's 1998] secession reference.

Q. Is there anything in the Nadon ruling that foreshadows what we should expect the court to say about the government’s desire to press ahead with Senate reform, instituting a sort of election of senators and imposing a limit on how long future senators serve?

A. I think the judges were very, very careful not to say anything that would relate or tip their hand on what they will ultimately decide on the Senate.

Q. Some will look for a sort of hidden partisan political struggle between the Supreme Court and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. But I notice that of the six judges who ruled against the Prime Minister on Nadon, three were appointed by him to the top court.

A. I think in many ways the decision shows the independence of the Supreme Court and the independence of individual judges on the court. You know, I think Justice Moldaver’s dissent shows his independence of thought and has nothing to do with the fact that he’s a Harper appointee.

Q. Is it possible that Justice Nadon, having been rejected because he’s not a current member of the Quebec bar, could join it and be reappointed?

A. I don’t know Justice Nadon at all. I think the government has done him a great disservice through this whole process. I don’t know if he would want to continue to go through that.

The unprecedented decision will have widespread implications for the SCC’s ongoing Senate Reference deliberations.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back…

 

In the wake of the Saskatoon Board of Education’s recent decision to finally retire the offensive and inappropriate “Redmen” team name and logo from Bedford Road Collegiate in Saskatoon, the University of Regina cheerleading team has created a new controversy.

 

Over the past weekend, the University of Regina hosted the 2014 Cheer Championships. As part of a social event on Friday evening, the U of R cheer team dressed up in “cowboy and indian” costumes. And as if it wasn’t enough to actually act out such an inappropriate scenario, the U of R Cheer Team also took photographic evidence and posted photos to social media.

 

The team posted photos of the practice to their Instagram and Twitter accounts over the weekend. The photos were removed after complaints from the public as well as U of R students and faculty. On Sunday, Twitter was abuzz with comments and concerns over the team’s actions. The U of R Cheer Team posted an apology to their Twitter account on Sunday saying “We apologize for the photos they have been removed from all of our social media” as well as a follow up saying “Our last intention was to disrespect anyone.”

 

The President of the U of R, Vianne Timmons, issued an apology on Sunday as did the Dean of Kinesiology, Harold Riemer. Ms. Timmons also indicated that members of the team would be meeting with Dr. Shauneen Pete, the Executive Lead on Indigenization at the University of Regina, later this week to discuss the event.

 

 

Pro tip: Don’t read the comments on any of the news stories unless you want to get really riled up.

http://globalnews.ca/news/1211626/u-of-r-cheer-team-in-hot-water-after-cowboy-and-indian-themed-party/

http://ckom.com/story/u-r-cheer-team-under-fire-cowboys-and-indians-themed-party/284540

http://regina.ctvnews.ca/u-of-r-cheer-team-to-undergo-sensitivity-training-following-cowboys-and-indians-themed-photo-1.1731960

 

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