Final tally: 3,210 voted ‘yes’ (to overturn the approval of TWU) and 968 voted ‘no’. This vote is non-binding, but the Law Society’s benchers must now reconsider their earlier decision in light of their members’ strong rejection of it.… Continue reading
Today the Law Society of British Columbia held a special general meeting to reconsider its approval of Trinity Western University’s proposed Law School. It was a fascinating thing to witness.
Trinity Western University, as its President explained to the meeting, is the largest faith based university in Canada, and a community of evangelical Christian learners. The controversy surrounding it arises from the community covenant that it requires all staff, faculty and students to sign. Among (many) other things, the covenant requires that signatories abstain from ‘sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman’ and attaches consequences to the failing to live by the covenant’s terms. The covenant is perceived as aiming primarily at lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, intersex and queer people. Many of those voting ‘yes’ today wore rainbows.
The central question for the Law Society is whether to approve a Law School that embraces, indeed requires, this discrimination.… Continue reading
What would sensible policy regarding sex work look like? Let’s begin with what should be something of a truism in a liberal democracy. Policy in this domain should not be moralistic. By that I mean that it should not be grounded in the judgment made by some that there is something inherently wrong with selling and purchasing sexual services. The state acts in an unacceptably paternalistic manner when it claims that, whatever the conditions in which the sale of such services occurs, it is condemnable and should therefore be prohibited by law. If two consenting adults wish to contract in order to exchange sex for money, they should be allowed to do so.
If that is the case, then a decent society needs to ask itself two kinds of questions. First, how can it ensure, or make it as likely as possible, that when a sex worker and a consumer of sexual services engage in such an exchange, they do so consensually?… Continue reading
The crisis provoked by the Prime Minister’s malicious accusations about the Chief Justice has left the front pages. And while there has been some backtracking, the record has not been set straight. So I thought it would still be worth posting the link to this letter from leaders in Canada’s legal community. Take a look here.
There is almost nothing else to be said about this particular bit of craziness as an unusually high number of excellent articles about it have run in the mainstream press across the country, and in many other places besides. My point is simply not to let this become one more thing that we almost forget in the long string of reprehensible actions by this government.
The Prime Minister’s actions in this case demonstrate a basic disrespect for the rule of law, unprecedented in the long history of the relationship between the judiciary and the executive in this country.… Continue reading
Dalila Awada, l’étudiante en sociologie qui a brillamment tenu tête à Djemila Benhabib lors d’un débat à Tout le monde en parle en septembre 2013, poursuit des gestionnaires de sites internet ainsi que l’ex-candidate péquiste Louise Mailloux pour propos diffamatoires. Ne connaissant pas particulièrement bien ni la jurisprudence sur la liberté d’expression et la diffamation ni la nature de la preuve déposée, je ne me prononcerai pas sur les détails de ce cas particulier. En plus, je souligne, par souci de transparence, que Dalila est une amie que je respecte et apprécie.
Comme il fallait s’y attendre, certains voient dans sa démarche juridique une tentative de museler ses adversaires idéologiques. Il me semble particulièrement ironique que des critiques de la conception soi-disant trop généreuse de la liberté de religion soutiennent aujourd’hui que la liberté d’expression des intimés est menacée d’une façon inacceptable.
D’un côté, les défenseurs de la Charte de la laïcité ont soutenu que la liberté de religion n’est pas absolue et qu’elle ne doit pas avoir plus de poids que les autres droits fondamentaux.… Continue reading
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
One thing the current national government does very well is to occupy rhetorical terrain. I am thinking in particular of how the government deploys short form titles for its legislation. This week we are hearing a lot about the Truth in Sentencing Act. Last week it was Victims Bill of Rights Act. And for months now, the Fair Elections Act. In my little corner of the world, the latest legislation is called the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, and before that, the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act and the Balanced Refugee Reform Act.
There are days when I think what I most resent about this legislative agenda is that as a law teacher, I am required to stand up and say these things aloud.
What is more, even as Canadians engage in a public, private, Parliamentary, and scholarly debate about these laws, these short form titles get repeated over and over.… Continue reading
There is more to the Supreme Court’s rejection of Justice Nadon than a crude politics. But the politics is so compelling, well nigh prurient, that it is tempting to overlook the legal arguments themselves, or to consider that this was a case with ‘no right answer’. This is absolutely not so.
Justice Nadon was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada to one of the three places on that Court reserved for judges from Quebec. Prior to his appointment, he was a judge on the Federal Court of Appeal. Long ago, he practiced law in Quebec for many years. Knowing that questions about this appointment were brewing, the government sought to amend the key provisions of the Supreme Court Act using the omnibus budget legislation passed last fall.
After Toronto immigration lawyer Rocco Galati challenged Nadon’s appointment, the government stepped into the fray directly by asking the Supreme Court itself to use its ‘reference’ jurisdiction to answer two questions.… Continue reading