BC has a second look at TWU law school

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

Why a Conservative government would be bad for Ontario

Like many people, I’ve spent a lot of time fussing over the astonishingly mendacious campaign that the Progressive Conservative party has been running in Ontario. The centrepiece of it all was the fiasco of the “million jobs plan,” which turned out to be based on ridiculously faulty math. From there the PCs moved on to a campaign ad called “Truth,” the central premise of which was an obvious falsehood (“The truth is,” Hudak intoned, “that a million people in our province woke up this morning without a job” — this is true only if you count children and seniors. There are only about a half-million people looking for work in Ontario.) And the strategy has been the same at all levels. Just the other day, I got a flyer at home from my local PC candidate, with a picture of a subway train one side – along with a promise to build new subways – and a commitment to lowering my taxes on the other side.… Continue reading

Restoring Sanity to the Debate over Sex Work

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 Unholy Alliance Between Conservatives and Progressives

Daniel and I have been arguing for several years that one of the main reasons why the reaction against a liberal and pluralist political model of secularism is strong in Quebec is that an unlikely coalition between some progressives, including some feminists, and conservative or culturalist nationalists took shape in the course of our ongoing debate on religious accommodation (see here, p. 4). With regard to the controversies about the status of religion in the public sphere, Quebec appears to be closer to many Western European countries than to ROC. The French social scientist Olivier Roy just published a very powerful piece in the NYT showing how the European far right has been pushing for an “aggressive” form of secularism in order to defend against an alleged Islamic threat. It still pays lip service to the notion of a Christian Europe, but it now arguably uses the language of liberal secularism more than the language of culture and tradition.… Continue reading

Québec’s Right-to-Die Legislation: A Dilemma for the Conservatives?

Quebec’s National Assembly passed legislation today that would enable competent adults in the throes of intolerable suffering caused by a terminal illness to request aid in dying from their physicians, and that would allow physicians to accede to that wish under a fairly strenuous set of conditions. It also requires of all health-care institutions that they provide themselves with a palliative care plan. Rather than viewing physician-assisted death as an isolated question, the law places it at the end of a continuum of end-of-life medical care.

In my view, this is a very good law. It is the result of a 4 ½ year non-partisan process of consultation and deliberation that heard from specialists, ordinary citizens, and organized groups. This process gave rise to countless modifications to the original draft bill, designed not only to allay the fears of those not ready to take the step of decriminalizing physician-assisted death, but also genuinely to incorporate some of their concerns into the body of the law.… Continue reading

On political lying

Like many commentators, I’ve been complaining a lot about the so-called “post truth” political environment. In response, some people have been trying to enlist my support for a “truth in politics” act. The idea is pretty simple. Why not make lying illegal? Why not punish politicians for saying one thing while campaigning, then doing another?

This is something that Democracy Watch has been pushing for a long time. Perhaps the highest-profile supporter of the idea is Andrew Coyne (e.g. here), which I find in some ways rather surprising.

I do not support this idea, because I think the issue is far too complicated to be dealt with legislatively. Just to pick an obvious point, there is an important difference between telling a lie and breaking a promise, which the concept of “honesty” unfortunately obscures. I would support narrower, more targeted legislation, dealing for instance with the problem of misrepresentation in political advertising.… Continue reading

Spotted in the wild today in Toronto

While walking along St. Clair, what should I see but the new TTC low-floor, high capacity streetcar/LRT:


That picture doesn’t exactly give you a sense of how much more train-like these bad boys are. Here’s a different angle:


Okay, maybe not super-interesting for everyone, especially if you don’t live at the Centre of the Universe. Nevertheless, I think many people across the country are very frustrated by the collective paralysis that seems to have descending upon the nation — our seeming incapacity to do anything about any of the major collective action problems that we are confronting, from environmental protection, to pharmacare, to transportation. So it’s nice to see, every once in a while, something actually improve in the public sector.

Incidentally, they were built by Bombardier, in Thunder Bay (something that Rob Ford complained a lot about, but I can’t get too upset by).… Continue reading

Temporary Foreign Workers – Why Now?

I admit to being a bit surprised about how just how the temporary foreign worker program hit the front pages over recent weeks. For migration policy wonks, the myriad problems with temporary foreign worker programs are well known, and usually do not centre on putting citizen workers out of jobs.

I’ve been mulling it over and have come to the conclusion that the current uproar might even have been deliberately provoked to provide a politically palatable way to end to the most progressive aspect of the temporary foreign worker program.

Temporary foreign worker programs are not new. Canada has relied on temporary foreign workers off and on for much of the last century. Many other Western democracies have done the same.

The basic idea behind a temporary non-citizen worker program is to create a category of workers who have fewer rights than citizens or permanent residents. This framework ensures that the workers can be directed to particular employers or sectors, and can be compelled to leave when their work is finished.… Continue reading

Still Not Fixed

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

Impôt progressif vs tarification progressive: vers une démonstration plus étoffée?

Le gouvernement Couillard soupèse l’idée d’augmenter modérément le tarif des places en CPE pour les familles fortunées. Comme c’est toujours le cas lorsqu’il s’agit des questions touchant à la tarification des services publics, ce ballon d’essai suscite un débat passionné. Une des dimensions particulièrement intéressantes du débat sur la tarification progressive des places en garderies qui sont présentement à 7$ est qu’on peut s’y opposer pour des raisons qui sont elles-mêmes diamétralement opposées.

D’un côté, des personnes qui ne sont pas du tout à droite s’insurgent contre l’idée de devoir payer davantage que les ménages dont les revenus sont plus modestes en raison du fait qu’ils paient déjà, toutes proportions gardées, plus d’impôts que ceux qui sont moins fortunés. Comme notre système d’imposition progressive fait déjà en sorte que le taux marginal d’imposition des mieux nantis est plus élevé, il serait inéquitable de leur demander en plus de payer davantage pour des services publics.… Continue reading