Wednesday, May 20, 2015

No notwithstanding clause on assisted suicide

In the three months since the Supreme Court of Canada handed down its decision on assisted suicide in Carter v. Attorney General of Canada, there has been a lot of thumb twisting about what to do. The Court gave Parliament a year to come up with something new before the law is officially taken off the books. Given a fall election, it's hard to imagine our legislators will come up with a new law in time by the deadline of February 5 of next year.

In the interim, there have been a number of groups opposed to "death with dignity" who have said the solution is simple - invoke the "notwithstanding clause" to "immunize" the law from court scrutiny.

Too simplistic, in my opinion. There are several reasons, but my opposition to that can be described in two.

First, our national history is full of egregious abuses of human rights. Think how we interned the Japanese and Italians during World War II. How Duplessis mercilessly (and totally unrepentant) persecuted Jehovah's Witnesses and trade union members. How Ontario tried to culturally genocide the francophone population of that province during World War I. And so forth.

Of course, there was no Charter of Rights at that time. The only thing that felled Duplessis, in his case, was the courts ruling he violated the rule of law - that he placed himself above the law. The other items were also rectified, but only at the cost of great embarrassment.

If the Charter of Rights had existed, all the actions above could have been "immunized" by the notwithstanding clause, and our country would have eventually become a pariah in terms of human rights. We don't want to set what would be a very dangerous precedent.

Second, a lot of the proponents of notwithstanding mistakenly believe that it is a permanent fix. It is not. It has a five year sunset clause. Which means we'd be kicking the can down the road. And given just how many people are suffering with no prospect at all of recovery, it's almost cruel that we're telling them that for the sake of expediency they can't exercise the one right able-bodied people have.

We really do need to proceed with caution on this one. But as I've mentioned before, when the rape shield law was struck down more than twenty years ago (as the Court determined it to be "void for vagueness") many women's groups advocated using the notwithstanding clause. Instead, the government took the opportunity to make the law stronger, not weaker. Every single clause of the reformed law passed muster.

Of course, we're dealing with a life and death issue here, but if we consider best practices from national and sub-national jurisdictions that have reformed their laws, we may be able to come up with something that on the one hand ensures the dignity of those who want to die when palliative care, while on the other hand guards against being bullied to commit suicide when it is not medically appropriate. And of course, we can't forget that the near unanimity of physicians will refuse to engage in such a practice, citing the ancient Hippocratic oath to "first do no harm" as well as the modern oath where doctors swear they "will not play God." In that case, what other professionals would be able to take part, and what immunities would they have if something goes wrong?

No easy answers to all that, to be sure. I don't know how to begin to make suggestions.

That said, we don't have much time. We need to get some answers as soon as possible, and hopefully with the widest possible consensus in Parliament. But using the hammer that the law is legal even though it is not legal truly would be "using a sledgehammer to squat a fruit fly".

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

You don't have to take income splitting. At least one guy hasn't ...

The income splitting option is not mandatory for those who qualify for it. Like any other tax credit, it's optional. Tax software will flag credits to make sure you get every loophole you're entitled to - problematic if you still do it manually. One guy in the 15%, a labour leader, was given the option by his software to opt out. And he did. Even though it cost him 1500 bucks. His reason: Health, education and welfare need the money more.

If just ten percent of those who qualify did the opt out too, the government might realize that it isn't such a smart idea - or at the very least, should be made available to working class families too.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A same sex marriage, 200 years ago

Is same sex marriage a recent phenomenon? Actually, it isn't. Let me explain.

On Tuesday, the odd legal team of David Boies and Ted Olsen (who opposed each other in the infamous Bush vs Gore debacle) will try to build on their previous victories in striking down Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. Now, they're going for the jugular at the US Supreme Court and trying to legalize same sex marriage everywhere in America.

But for those who think this is a civil rights movement of recent vintage, it may come as a shock that the battle has been going on for more than two centuries in America. And in the early 1800s, two women actually got away with it and set the precedent. Let me explain.

In the recently published book Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America by Rachel Hope Cleves, we learn a surprising fact.

Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake used a loophole in Vermont's common-law marriage statute and lived as a married couple from 1807 to 1851. In fact, Bryant had had at least two lesbian lovers before she settled down with Drake. This is an incredibly moving and sentimental story of love at its purest by two women who were both teachers and tailors by trade, poets by hobby, and deeply religious by practice.

Remarkably, their marriage was tolerated by the community they lived in and prospered. Sadly, much of their shared correspondence was burned so we will never know the true extent of how deeply they were into each other. But the writer does specify that when Vermont formally legalized civil unions and later gay and lesbian marriage, many legislators noted Charity and Sylvia's marriage as their precedent. It was truly a surprising story for me and a delight to read.

That's right, folks, gay marriage is two hundred years old. Let's hope it becomes a permanent fixture in the States just as it is here in Canada. It doesn't bother me, and I don't can't understand why it bothers anyone.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Senate and transgenders

To my knowledge, I have never met a transgendered person in my life. That does not mean I don't have respect or compassion for those who live the sex opposite of the one they are by birth, or for those who decide to take it to its logical conclusion and have sex reassignment surgery.

Our society has generally become accepting of gays, lesbians and bisexuals, which is a mark in this country's favour. But for some reason the same isn't always true of the transgendered. Maybe it's just fear of the unknown, a lack of understanding what is going on - or in some cases, it's outright prejudice. And sadly this has led to this section of the population being the victims of criminal acts.

It goes without saying, this is just plain wrong.

How surprising it was, then, when two years ago the House of Commons, over the objections of PMS, voted to add "gender identity" as a suspect class (or aggravating circumstance) in determining whether a convicted criminal should receive an enhanced sentence, especially for hate crimes. It's been slowly working its way through the Senate. It went through first and second readings without much fuss, although some Senators argued the law might be unconstitutional since it impeded on provincial human rights codes. A debatable point, but it certainly was one worth discussing.

Two months ago, however, the Senate Justice Committee proposed a series of amendments. Two make sense - ensuring transgendereds are not subject to cyberbullying, and broadening the definition of who is a transgendered person. Fair enough, But then the committee suggested that prisons, crisis centres, and restrooms and change rooms to be exempt from the legislation. (As I write this, I have checked Parliament's website and the amendments have not been acted upon.)

Say what?

I cannot for the life of me understand why this is being brought up. People in this group have a hard enough time dealing with the prejudice of having this orientation. Certainly they have a hard time getting access to "facilities" already. Why are the Conservative Senators making life more difficult than it already is?

This scandal only affirms my belief that Senators should be directly elected, preferably by proportional representation, to get rid of the deadwood and the idiots who want to move this country forwards and not back.

The fact is that even if the Senate accepts the amendments the bill will be tossed back to the House of Commons. There is no doubt that the House would reject them, and a conference committee (extremely rare in Canadian politics although still available as an option) would probably never agree on the wording, let alone the pith and substance. And, let's face it, there just isn't enough time until the October election.

There are only two ways out. The Senate can smarten up, reject the most odious part of the committee report, pass the bill with the palatable amendments, and send it back to the Commons where it would easily get final passage. Or the winning party this fall can reintroduce the bill as part of a series of criminal law amendments.

Has it truly come to this - that we say transgenders are part of our society, but certain restrictions apply? Ethnic groups, religions, races - they didn't accept half-measures in demanding equal treatment. Why should it any different for men who want to live as or become women, and vice versa?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Do we value women or don't we?

I haven't had much to say since the shootings on Parliament Hill back in October, but today's news that Jian Ghomeshi is facing three new charges, all from three new women who previously kept silent, is making me ask who we are as a society and why some people are allowed to get away with such reprehensible behaviour.

When the story broke last year, a reporter who had been following the story but hadn't gone anywhere tried to approach Ghomeshi to answer some simple yes or no questions. What he got instead was a cryptic answer that went along the lines of, "Toronto isn't that big of a city and I have a very long memory so be careful what you write." That line, you'd think, would demand immediate publication. Why the hold back? Was the Moxy Fruvous alumni really that powerful in show business that it got pushed back, until the showdown at 250 Front West?

A few weeks back, we got some insight into the two NDP MPs who claimed they were sexually harassed by two Liberal MPs and how there was an uproar when Justin Trudeau made the allegations public without naming the names of the alleged victims. Then we learn one of the women said she spent an evening with one of the accused, and something happened. All we know is, the woman says she didn't say yes but she didn't say no either. I don't think there is any ambiguity in the law on that one. The Criminal Code states only a yes is a yes, so we're talking sexual assault, not merely harassment.

They may be among the high profile cases, along with Bill Cosby, but generally this kind of thing gets ignored. And that's wrong. This isn't a progressive or a conservative issue, this is a matter of human rights. If a woman - or a man - is made to feel less human because of his or her sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, then it is discrimination, plain and simple.

The Old Boys Club (no offence to the graduates of Upper Canada College which is where we get the name) has to be smashed wide open. Men like me need to speak openly about it and say we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore. If our daughters were treated like that, we'd scream bloody murder; so why is it okay when it happens to a colleague, we know about it, and say nothing? It's not. By being silent, we're being complicit.

But it's not enough for people to speak up. The process has to change so that a complaint is dealt with seriously by management and not done as a window dressing exercise. And where there is use of force, the police must be involved.

I may be stating the obvious, but there still seems to be a lack of common sense. It's a good thing men as well as women are finally having the conversation we so desperately need. But it has to be ongoing and it can't end while the criminal process is continuing. If people knew at the CBC and did nothing, they should be fired too - and that includes the anchor pool.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Terrorism comes home

It's been thirty years or so since there was a coordinated terrorist attack in Canada - the bombing of the Litton plant in Toronto that was making guidance systems for American cruise missiles. Since then, and especially since 9/11, we've kind of hoped and prayed that it wouldn't happen again. Well, it has.

Two days after a soldier was shot and killed and another maimed at Saint Jean sur Richelieu, Corporal Nathan Cirillo of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Hamilton was shot and killed while guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa. A second shooting then happened inside Parliament, with a gunman firing in rapid succession until the Sergeant at Arms, Kevin Vickers, shot him dead. The gunman was Michael Joseph Hall, also known as Michael Zehaf - Bibeau, and it turns out that 1) his passport was revoked as he was considered a high risk traveller, and 2) the FBI also had him on their watch lists. There is a present a second shooter on the loose. Reports a shooting took place at a nearby mall are, fortunately, false.

On days like this, it's easy to jump to conclusions. I think it will be quite some time before we find out the why.

But all I want to say about this is the following. First, we cannot let fear become the new normal. We have to keep vigilant, but we can't let the fear of something make us do things we would normally do. This is the only way to stay one step ahead of the terrorists - by saying as clearly as we can we won't let them have it their way.

And second, the news that we've had two converts to Islam (or rather what they call Islam but really isn't) is undoubtedly going to cause a wave of violence against Canada's Muslims, just like after 9/11. We can't let this happen either. There is no better time than this for all peace-loving Canadians to stand united. Whatever our political views, we have to say we won't let violence overtake us either.

That's all I have to say, other than that seeing so many news crews at the Armoury here in Hamilton, just a few blocks from where I'm writing this, would be telling. Far more telling, though, are all the flowers in front of the front gate. Out of our grief can come hope for a better tomorrow. That's all we can ask for.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Kick Russia out of the Helsinki Accords

Is the Helsinki Accord of 1975 a worthless scrap of paper? Because Vladimir Putin sure seems to think it's a joke.

I was not even three years old when the declaration was signed but my father, an emigré from Croatia, understood its meaning. As a younger it was impressed on me the importance of a document that, among its provisions, was a statement of several important principles:
  • The inviolability of national borders in Europe, and that border disputes could only be resolved via peaceful negotiations.
  • There should be no threat of use of force from one nation to another.
  • Every country had a right to its own internal affairs without interference from another.
  • That there were basic human rights that all persons had that could not be violated, including free speech, a free press and due process.

There were other areas discussed, including scientific cooperation and the opening of trade between western and eastern states, but it was these main points that came to the fore. While not a binding treaty, many dissidents took Helsinki seriously and used it to fight for what they saw were inalienable rights. Eventually, they were successful.

It's notable that NATO continued to stress that they did not recognize the illegal occupation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by the Soviet Union, and that Helsinki did not change this. Nor could Helsinki keep the former Yugoslavia from collapsing. When Germany reunited, it was tacitly a merger of equals but everyone knows that in actual fact the West annexed the East with the latter's consent.

It therefore seems pathetic that the West seems to be willing to let Russia get away with its games in the Ukraine. First, by illegally annexing Crimea (only five countries, including erstwhile western ally Afghanistan, have recognized Russian sovereignty). Second, by overtly arming Russian rebels in the east of Ukraine. And Putin is on record as saying he could take over all of Ukraine in just two weeks.

Helsinki was also about reducing tensions in Europe. Which it did. Merely by threatening to cut off the natural gas that heats a quarter of homes in the EU, Putin is raising the stakes.

And let's not forget, all the networks and most of the papers in Russia are government controlled or sympathetic. And that titans of industry have been imprisoned for wanting to speak the truth. Not to mention there haven't been any free elections in Russia since Boris Yeltsin resigned.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the permanent body that was established by the Helsinki framework, should be on top of this. This is the best forum, I think, to deescalate the tensions.

But Canada as a founding member as well as long time champion of the Accord (and far as I can tell has been faithful to its rules) needs to firmly put its foot down. If Russia won't call a timeout of its own to give a chance for things to calm down then perhaps it is time for the West to say that, if Russia won't play by the rules that ended communism and has helped keep the peace in Europe all this time, then perhaps it should be expelled or suspended from Helsinki. On top of current and coming sanctions, this is not a palatable option, but at stage I think it may be the only way to make Putin wake up.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tim Horton's Farce

Am I the only one in Hamilton who's embarrassed by the Tim Horton's Field debacle? The stadium, which really never should have been built on the site of the old Ivor Wynne to begin with, was supposed to open at the end of the month. Now it won't now be ready until September, maybe not even in time for the Labour Day Classic. The only redeeming note is that it will be finished on budget, one of the few Pan American Games facilities that will meet that threshold.

For what it's worth, a lot of people in town think that Hamilton should not be in the business of selling naming rights to anything. That the Hammer should remain "pure" on this one. I'm surprised the city didn't sell the rights on the old stadium. It's not like Tim's is going to run the place or be responsible for its maintenance. That will be delightful old us taxpayers. I don't care what it's called, just as long as it has real seats and not just bleachers like the old place had. And that they start having concerts there again. Gibson and Stipley are actually very nice neighbourhoods and having people there for more than just the nine games a year would help that and other parts of the East and North Ends start to get out of their decades-long funk.

I have been way too busy to comment on the issues of the day as of late, part of it scheduling issues, so for my regular readers I apologize for the gap and appreciate your patience. I hope to pick up the commentary starting next week.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Oil spills, oil schmills

So the Cons have announced they're raising the penalty for offshore oil spills - from $161 million to $2 billion ($400 million for the actual offence, the rest for environmental damage). It's not just they're not kidding anyone. It's that they made the announcement on the East Coast where the risk is way less than a spill on the West Coast -- where tar sands oil would be headed, the higher sulphur content would mean greater damage.

If Exxon and British Petroleum were willing to pony up for damages to the Alaska and Gulf coasts, respectively, why should anyone here get off the hook for the same or worse the costs borne by the taxpayer? Corporate responsibility relies partly on governments setting tough rules, especially here when endangered and threatened species may be on the line, not to mention the livelihoods of those who make a living off the sea.

This is just another ticket to ride. The penalties have to be way stronger than this.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Arkansas sees the light; who next?

Four states in the South (via the courts) have now recognized gay marriage: Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma ... and now Arkansas. The latter three are actually quite conservative, which is one thing; but what makes the Arkansas ruling interesting is that the court didn't use "strict scrutiny" to strike down the law, instead it used the "rational relation" test which in civil rights cases is a much easier burden for states which want to uphold a law. Judge Chris Piazza said there was no rational basis for the provision in the state constitution that banned the practice.

Of course not.  There is no rational basis for banning gay marriage, period. And it's way past time to get the issue before the Supreme Court so they can rule if it's legal for all in America. SCOTUS struck down DOMA and Prop 8 last year so it I think it isn't a stretch how they'd rule now. The will of the people is rising on this one. Just get it done so there can be "equal justice for all".

Friday, April 25, 2014

Federalism wins with Senate decision

When Stephen Harper tried to go about his ideas about Senate reform, his belief was that one could have Senate elections and fixed terms without the consent of the provinces. Today, the Supreme Court of Canada reaffirmed that Canada is a federation, not a unitary state like France and not a devolved state like Spain. The Senate is such an important part of the Confederation bargain, it said, that most changes -- especially direct elections -- require seven provinces with 50% of the population. Abolishing the Senate would require unanimous consent.  (Decision is here).

Matter of fact, the only thing Harper won on was the property requirement of $4000 and getting rid of it. This item does require only Parliament, with the exception of Québec which would also require the National Assembly to agree.

All I say about this is, this is proof once again that Harper has nothing but contempt for the provinces. That he has never sat down with all thirteen Premiers at the same time is bad enough. But changes to criminal justice, immigration, employment, even farm assistance, has all been done without consulting the provinces and territories, or by keeping it to the absolute minimum.

Perhaps after losing so many cases at the SCC - especially a big one like this -- the Prime Minister may finally realize that Ottawa alone does not steer the ship.

This doesn't happen to be good for the NDP, though. They have argued they could abolish the Senate unilaterally. Now with this decision, it'll have to come up with a way to work within 7-50 and come up with a solution that Canadians could accept going forward. On this one, I don't think it should be that hard. Given the choice, I think most people in Canada would prefer an elected Chamber, to a system where it's just pure rep by pop so the smaller provinces get shafted.

The Liberals? Justin Trudeau expelling his Senators from caucus was a conniving political ploy. No one buys it. Even many Liberals, myself included. He should just come forward and say what kind of elected Senate he'd like to see. How many Senators per province, the length of terms, whether it will have power of veto over the House like it has now (except for constitutional amendments), and so forth. Claiming victory without a plan for an alternative is like invading a country with no concept of how a provisional government would operate.

Unfortunately, changing the Constitution for this would open up a can of worms as the provinces would demand other reforms, including immigration and shared cost programs (which I agree with) as well as the amending formula and yet another crack at the "distinct society" notion (with which I disagree). There could be others. In this case, Canadians should be able to vote on these line item rather than for an "all or nothing" package like Meech Lake or Charlottetown.

For now, this is a victory for Canada. Particularly, for our federation.  We truly are a "community of communities" (in the words of Joe Clark) and the Supremes recognized that today.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

With the new Québec government, the provinces should push back

Monday's landslide win by Phillipe Couillard and his Québec Liberal Party is a great sign that the idea of sovereignty may have been set aside for a long time. But I think it should lead to something more. It should lead to the federation our Founders wanted but has often wavered from this principle, especially under Stephen Harper.

At the outset, I have to say that with the win, the new governing party will definitely have to come clean about its possible role in the ongoing corruption investigation into kickbacks in the construction industry and fast. If campaign and other contributions found its way from dirty money into its coffers, it will have to be paid back and openly. Being frank and honest is the best kind of government, which will set a best practice for the rest of the country, including the federal government.

But beyond that, there is a much more important issue. That is the Harper government doing so many things unilaterally without the advice or the consent of the provinces and territories. And in some cases, even infringing on their jurisdiction and not caring.

The provinces and territories are not "glorified municipalities" as John A. Macdonald dismissively referred to them. The provinces are the primary components of our federation. Otherwise, they'd have the same status as the National Assemblies in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - the national government in the UK can shut them down permanently simply with an Act of Parliament. (The territories, which form the rest of our country, do exist at the wim of the feds, but disbanding their Assemblies would be unthinkable.)

I'm not just talking about the fact there has been no meeting where all jurisdictions sit with Harper at the same table.

Nor am I just talking about crime legislation which impedes jurisdictional authority to have sentencing options that are appropriate to each individual offense rather than a blanket "my way or the highway" mandatory minimums. We've seen how that works in the States (i.e. grossly overpopulated prisons).

It goes further.  Even though the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords failed, the federal government under four Prime Ministers took at least two of the planks seriously and made it semi-official policy.  Harper has not. And perhaps with a federalist government in Québec, the push-back that is required will have much more credibility.

One of the planks is shared cost programs and the principle if a province or territory wants to opt out it should have access to federal funds if they create a program with similar objectives. When we created Medicare in the 1970s, for instance, it was understood that it would not be the feds managing a national program - we left it to the jurisdictions.

I for one cannot understand, for example, why Harper created the Canada Jobs Grant without considering that every province and territory already have their own job retraining programs that actually work for many of the applicants that need them. This is insanity. Federal funding should be increased of course, but leave it to those who know best to implement their own policies (the principle of subsidiarity).

The other plank somewhat related, and I think much more important, is immigration. As I've noted here several times, immigration is a shared head of power. Canada may be the only federation in the world that has this feature. But at present, it is only Québec that has actually excercised their rights and insisted on selecting its own regular (i.e. skilled workers) class immigrants. By all accounts this has been a successful program. And frankly, using its best practices, the other provinces can a) insist to the federal government they have the power do the same, and b) they get the same level of per capita settlement funds as Québec does.

It is true the Québec arrangement has its origins in an agreement signed back in 1977 under René Levesque. Pierre Trudeau wisely consented to this with his former friend turned enemy (despite the then Prime Minister's "One Canada" policy) because he knew what the Constitution said, that the provinces do indeed have this privilege, and it was hoped it would be a role model for the English speaking provinces to follow. Why they haven't I don't know but it's way past time they should. We know who the best workers are that can contribute to our "community of communities" - not the feds.

Actually having a federalist party enforcing its rights on this and other heads of power, gives the other provinces leverage. And I think, the opportunity to make Harper deal with his co-equal partners as they are. This is, right now, the best way to move things forward and to give the incumbent a much needed lesson in what our Constitution says, and means.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

RIP Spousal privilege

One of the oldest principles in law is the spousal privilege. Considered even more sacred than the privilege between a lawyer and client, physician and patient, or cleric and penitent, it has at its core one basic principle: Unless there was abuse involved or a couple conspired together, any communications between spouses is privileged unless the "witness spouse" (i.e. that whom is not accused) waives this right and testifies. This has existed in the UK for centuries (although Scotland is phasing it out) and was inherited by Canada and the United States.

PMS wants to get rid of it. The proposal is part of a larger victim rights' bill.

Set aside the two are totally separate issues. I do support giving victims of crime a greater say in the judicial process (although this cannot give them veto over plea bargains).

But there may be very compelling reasons not to testify. The privilege ends if there is coercion but one may very well want to keep his or her mouth shut if there is any possibility he or she could be charged as a conspirator. As well, confidence is a two way street. If one can't be trusted, then who else can?

I can see an exeption if there was prior knowledge a crime would take place. But after the fact? I'm not sure This one really has to be thought out, and as usual Harper isn't really doing that.

What in the world is Eve Adams?

When I was a kid, I was known for throwing hissy fits on just about anything that didn't go my way. Now a lot of us adults probably were like that in our younger days, too, but we smartened up. In that vein, though, I have to wonder if Eve Adams was like that as a child, because lately she's been at the edge of losing it - and her party's respect too.

Adams started out as a bright light in an otherwise dark Conservative administration. She handled some pretty touchy assignments. One of them was a visit by Prince William and Catherine Middleton (in a country that increasing has anti-monarchical tendencies, which Harper is trying to crush).

But according to Tonda MacCharles of the Toronto Star, Eve Adams has become a real disciplinary case for the Prime Minister. And the chain of events started out with, of all things, a car wash. Seriously. And it and other events have prompted Harper to order an internal investigation.

Back in December, Adams was getting her car washed. Apparently there was still some ice left on her vehicle. She complained and demanded her six bucks back. When the station owner - a Conservative - refused, she blocked a lane in front of one of the pump lanes, which caused a major backup onto a busy Ottawa street. The owner then filed a complaint with Harper.

Note that if this was a Liberal or ND, it might have caused embarrassment for the leader but not much else would flow out of it other than a severe reprimand. But crossing a fellow Conservative? Well, regardless if she knew his affiliation or not, an MP or Senator may have some special privileges that go with the office but there is no excuse at a privately owned and publicly accessed facility. She "apologized" but we all know what that means - she wasn't sorry at all.

Then there's her disrupting a meeting of her party for a new district being created for the next election, one that isn't even contiguous to the one which she represents right now. That's her choice if she wants to run there - unlike the United States one does not have to live in the district he or she represents. (One of the most famous examples of this is John Turner who when he returned to Ottawa in 1984 was chosen as MP in a Vancouver district for two terms, even though he's lived in Toronto for as long as anyone can remember.)

But she just shows up at the constituency meeting, and keeps disrupting it even though most members of the committee would rather have a local candidate. The committee kept asking her to end the filibuster and leave but she did not.

In an election where every district in the Greater Toronto Area is up for grabs you'd think Adams would fight for the nomination the old fashioned way - hitting the ground and going door to door. Instead, she uses her "ten percent" mailers and uses her party's database of how nearly every Canadian can be expected to vote to solicit memberships in an area that doesn't even exist yet!

There must be more but I guess there was only so much space for Tonda's story.

I, for one, am disgusted by this behaviour. I guess we're all used to the hijinks of some MPs who use office expense accounts for their own purposes. Or members who use too many of their free airline or train privileges to make trips that are personal, and not related to official Parliamentary business or going home for the weekend so they can spend time with their families.

Privileges are not the same as rights. I've stated this before here. Those who have the privilege of serving in the Second Estate are expected to have at least slightly higher standards than the rest of us. Particularly, their right to speak their mind without repercussions are limited to the House and its committees. Anything that happens outside the Château by the Rideau is their responsibility, not ours.

If I had a hammer ... no, I would never do that. But Harper can't wait for the investigation to go on. We know the facts. Eve Adams should not only be expelled from caucus, she should be banned from her party - for life. Only this would send a message to the other MPs that the patience of We the People can be tested so much before we get really pissed off.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Another rebuke against PMS

0 and 4 so far for Stephen Harper.

First, he lost the InSite decision, which now allows safe injection sites.

Then he lost the prostitution decision, which all but legalizes the sex trade.

Yesterday, he lost a decision which in effect restores accelerated parole for those who have served just 1/6 of their prison sentence.

Today, he got a really big slap in the face, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 6 to 1 to annul the appointment of his choice to fill one of the vacancies for Québec on the High Court, Marc Nadon.

In laypersons terms, Judge Nadon had been sitting for nearly two decades on the Federal Court of Appeal; but while his legal residence was Québec, he had never sat on one of the courts in the province.   In fact, it wasn't even clear if he was a member of the province's bar.

Today, the court came down hard.   In a joint decision written by all members of the majority, the ruling was that a justice from Québec must have have been seated in a court within that province -- whether the Court of Appeal or an inferior court, and by logic also a member of the bar of the province.   It's not just enough to be a member of any court.   And one also has had to be a member in good standing of the province's bar for at least ten years.

And this goes back to the reason why the province is guaranteed three seats on the High Court -- while the other jurisdictions of Canada base their non-criminal law on common law (i.e. judge-made principles), Québec has a Civil Code, an exhaustive statement of over 3000 rules that guide family and property law as well B2B, B2C and C2C transactions -- and that means everything, even hotel lodging and insurance policies.   (For example, most Canadians usually get a very long auto insurance policy full of gibberish, in Québec reference is made to just eight to ten sections of the Code, in quite plain language, that says pretty much the same thing.)

I find it hard to believe that Harper didn't bother to read the law or the Constitution close enough.   Then again, he's had nothing but contempt for our supreme law from the moment he entered office.   More to the point, he just views the Charter of Rights as a detail.    Human rights are not a detail, they are part of and indeed the heart of the fabric of justice.   Same with the division of powers between the feds and the jurisdictions.    And now, he really got caught red-handed.

The odd thing is that Nadon has recused himself from every case on the docket pending this decision.   And all that time, he's been collecting an annual salary of $351,700.    Now that his appointment has been annulled it's not clear if he has to pay that money back.    I doubt it since he was certain he got his appointment in good faith, but it does send Harper back to the drawing board.

I think Nadon would have made a good justice.   He just didn't qualify.   The Prime Minister had better get the credentials of his nominees straight.   It may reduce the pool from which to select, but there's a better chance of finding a suitable candidate within that pool than spreading oneself thin.

Next shoe to drop?   The Senate Reference.    And I think we know where that's leading when the Supremes rule later this year.

Strike five (we hope).   Unfortunately, this isn't baseball.