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.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Two steps forward in America, one step back in Uganda

Another good (and bad) week for common decency.

1) Freedom of religion.   That's the excuse a lot of business owners used well into the 1970s when they refused service to Blacks, Asians and Native Americans.     So it was good to hear Gov. Janice Brewer of Arizona veto the so-called "religious freedom" bill that would have allowed people to do business with gays and lesbians.    It followed the same flawed logic as segregation.    You just can't deny service to someone without a good reason -- for example, they're a known gang member.    9 million people in the States are openly gay, roughly the size of New Jersey.    Why would you turn away a revenue stream like that?    Really.

2) Also this week, a federal court in Dallas struck down the portion of the Texas constitution that bans gay marriages.    That's now two of the eleven Confederate States, and cases are pending in five more.    The march is relentless and that's a good thing.    If this ruling stands, nearly half the population in America will have marriage equality.     What two people do, as long as it's consenting and there's no abuse, is really none of my business.

3) Unfortunately, the regression took place in Uganda, which has now decreed a life sentence for gays and lesbians and even prohibits advocating for LGBT people.   Upon signing the bill the country's President, Yoweri Museveni, said that one of the reasons he was signing the bill was that he didn't "understand" homosexuality.

For the record, sir, I don't know what it's like to be gay (even though I have been falsely accused numerous times of being gay), but that doesn't give me the right to discriminate against LGBTs.   I don't know what it's like to be a visible minority but that doesn't give me the right to discriminate against people who don't have the same skin colour as me (white).    I'm not a woman and I will never know what it's like to be a woman -- and I will plead guilty to some male chauvinism -- but I have never discriminated against, or hated, a woman because she's a woman and I never will.     Homosexuals, people of colour, women -- they are not my enemies, they're my partners.

It wasn't that long ago in Canada that women couldn't file rape complaints against their husbands, but we changed that.    We once forbade women from getting a loan without a male co-signer, but that was changed too.   People of colour once couldn't be in the same sections of a theatre as whites (yes, in Canada) but we saw sense in that.    And gays and lesbians were granted equality in employment and housing a long time ago -- I think Québec was the first, in 1979, when most in that province would have still been opposed to the idea.

People evolve -- I know I have on this issue.   Some people, and some countries, not near fast enough.    If we boycotted with our tourist dollars those states that still discriminate, it just might change minds if sales tax revenues began to dry up -- it certainly did with South Africa and apartheid when the petrodollars of tourism dried up (today, not only is the country free of course, but so is the LGBT community).

The EU member states and other European countries have cut off foreign aid to Uganda.    The US is threatening to do the same.    Meanwhile, Canada has only said the law will "impede relations" but otherwise is doing nothing (for now).    We have to do something.    Last year, our remittance to Uganda was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $41 million.   A lot of it to "on the ground" local groups, many of which are blatantly anti-gay.    We all know how PMS personally feels about the overall issue of homosexuality, but he has scrupulously enforced our laws here as they are.    Isn't it time he "stood up for Canada" and said he will not tolerate in any way what Uganda is doing?   He's cut off all aid to Mali and a big chunk to Haiti for their human rights abuses.    Why should the home of "The Cranes" be any different?