The Supreme Court of Canada’s conclusion that the Truth in Sentencing Act is unconstitutional is challenging to explain. In part this is because of the rhetorical flourish of the legislation. Who can oppose Truth, especially with a capital T? But mainly it is because most of us know very little about our criminal justice system and about our prisons.
The Canadian Criminal Code is written, like much criminal law around the world, with a series of ‘theoretical maximum’ penalties. Parliament sets out what the maximum possible sentence can be. The courts then apply the law.
Applying the law can be complicated. Every crime is comprised of a particular kind of knowledge, specific actions, potential consequences. Evidence needs to be carefully weighed. Criminal conviction is the most serious penalty that our society condones. It can, and should, be complicated. It’s serious.
Sentencing is even more intricate. The judge considers the individual circumstances of the crime against the theoretical maximum of the Criminal Code.… Continue reading
Joe asked the other day whether it is true that Quebec is more left wing than the rest of Canada. He thinks it’s a myth. Although he helpfully debunks some false beliefs about the alleged ideological contrast between Quebec and some of the other Canadian provinces, I want to suggest that he skips over several facts that arguably entitle us to reach a different conclusion.
If you look at public opinion and voting behaviour, it is true that it is far from clear that Quebec is straightforwardly leaning to the left. In 2007, the Action démocratique du Québec and its strong libertarian wing came close to winning the election. The Conservatives made some inroads in Quebec in the 2006 and 2008 federal elections. The Coalition avenir Québec did better than expected on April 7th. The common sense/slash-the-bureaucracy discourse is popular in many suburban and rural ridings in the province. And I’m leaving aside the identity dimension of contemporary debates on social justice.… Continue reading
One sometimes hears disaffected voters – particularly young people – complaining that they cannot be motivated to cast a ballot because there is “no difference” between the major political parties. I’ve never had much sympathy for this complaint, particularly in Canada, where there is a pretty significant ideological spread between the major parties. Of course no party is going to cater to any individual’s particular tastes – they are, after all, mass parties, trying to cater to the needs and desires of millions of people. At the same time, anyone who can’t see that the parties stand for very different things has probably not been paying much attention.
Nowhere is this more true than in Ontario right now. I was reminded of this when reading Daniel’s complaint about the fact that Quebec politics remains stubbornly polarized along constitutional lines (separatist-federalist), rather than the traditional left-right distributive justice axis. Indeed, every time that it looks as though the political system in Quebec is going to “normalize” (with the rise of the ADQ, or the CAQ, or QS), it seems to last no more than one election before getting pulled back into the old constitutional axis.… Continue reading
Comme le souligne Joseph, l’idée que les entreprises privées pourraient décider d’appliquer la Charte de laïcité est ahurissante. Bernard Drainville, le ministre responsable du dossier, dit depuis le début que les entreprises pourraient « s’en inspirer ». Pauline Marois et François Gendron viennent tout juste d’opiner que les entreprises seront libres d’appliquer la Charte si elles le désirent. Il y a tout lieu de se demander si la première ministre et le vice-premier ministre comprennent leur propre Charte, ainsi que la Charte québécoise des droits et libertés. Questionnés par les journalistes, ils auraient dû préciser que le chapitre 5 du projet de loi 60, à savoir l’interdiction pour tous les employés des secteurs public et parapublic de porter un signe religieux dit « ostentatoire », ne s’applique pas aux entreprises privées, à moins qu’elles soient sous contrat avec le gouvernement. En vertu de l’article 10 de la Charte québécoise des droits et libertés, les entreprises privées ne peuvent discriminer sur la base de l’appartenance religieuse d’un employé.… Continue reading
Almost thirty years ago, when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was brand new, the Supreme Court of Canada made two decisions that were vitally important for the rights of non-citizens in Canada. Since that time, it has been all down hill.
What has gone wrong and why? The beginning was promising. In 1985, the Supreme Court ruled than anyone physically present in Canada was protected by the Charter. This ruling was followed in 1989 with a decision that a lack of citizenship was analogous to the grounds of discrimination listed in the Charter and thus was a basis for equality protection.
My study published late in 2013 showed both that very few questions of non-citizens’ rights reach the Supreme Court of Canada, and that those that claims that do are frequently rejected by the Court. The commitment of the Court to ensure that the Charter meets international human rights standards is not being met in this area. … Continue reading
A week ago the BC Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Canadian Association for Refugee Lawyers joined together to call for independent oversight of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The press conference was well attended, and the mainstream press ran a series of pretty good stories about it. But almost no one reported on the CBSA horror stories that those of us involved the conference thought would get the most attention.
I am still wondering about this. I just can’t bring myself to conclude that the mainstream press in Canada is not interested in salacious detail.
Here are some of the things that did not get noted in the dozen or so stories that followed the press conference:
- A CBSA officer handcuffed a man who had voluntarily attended a meeting and told him that during his deportation flight if he caused trouble he would be forcibly put into a diaper.
… Continue reading