Harper and his ideologues failed Canadians and tried to make Canada into a Republican Country. When one looks at Harper’s entire term in office, his actions resembles what Trump has done or tried. Pulling these articles together reinforces my belief that we dodged a major bullet in 2015. Canada cannot afford another Harper-clone in Andrew Scheer.
The annual constitutional symposium by Canada’s top legalists on the Charter unfolded in 2014 against a backdrop of unprecedented acrimony between the Harper government and the Supreme Court of Canada.
Simon Potter, past president of the Canadian Bar Association suggested that the Harper government is either ignoring the advice of its legal advisers in the Justice Department or is telling them to hold their tongues. “Whether it’s Mr. (Justice Minister Peter) MacKay’s fault, or someone else’s fault, the fact is the attorney general has been brought away from doing his duty. His duty is to advise the government on these things, and the government has told him, ‘Don’t advise me.'”
Stephen Harper expressed open hostility about “Liberal courts” and “Liberal bureaucracy” when first elected. His first move to force his ideology on the DOJ was the “elimination of the Court Challenges Program and the Law Commission of Canada as well as budget cuts to numerous organizations with human rights and equality mandates.”
Hostility to human rights is apparent not only in the government’s approach to laws and regulations, but also in cuts to social programs with serous human rights consequences.
In December 2012, federal lawyer Edgar Schmidt began a court action seeking a declaration that the Minister of Justice and Deputy Minister were failing to take adequate steps to verify whether bills and regulations violate the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Charter.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has “…transformed the lives of Canadians and took Canada from being a parliamentary democracy to a constitutional democracy.” Although the Conservative government has tried to “marginalize” and “mute” our Charter, it has withstood Harper’s ideological quest to bend the Courts and our Constitution to his will and the will of Parliament. However, in the process, government lawyers have been demoralized with brutal funding cuts and layoffs, and taxpayers have been thrown under the bus to fund an ideologically-driven Crime and Punishment Agenda.
REASONS why Stephen Harper LOST in Court:
“To address the apparently unacceptable outcome that research might indicate that government plans are irrational or illegal, the Conservative government has decided to rid itself of the inconvenient legal research. Elected officials are thus no longer required to encumber their minds with facts.”
1) The Department of Justice has been slowly starved of research capacity, lawyers and expertise. Successive budget and personnel cuts have hit the DOJ harder than many federal departments and amount to more than $68,000,000.
2) Because the government doesn’t believe in spending money on research, doesn’t get social justice, and believes their crime and punishment agenda should supersede human rights, their quest to force their will onto the courts constantly puts them at logger-heads with the courts and our Charter.
3) “Morale among government lawyers is reportedly at rock bottom in the wake of slashed research capacity, job threats, as well as concerns about instructions to lawyers to ignore likely violations of human rights laws.”
1) “the Minister of Justice examine government-sponsored bills and enacted regulations for compliance with the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“human rights laws”).
If a provision of a bill or regulation is, in the opinion of the Minister, inconsistent with the Charter, the Justice Minister is obligated to notify Parliament”
2) “the Deputy Minister of Justice examine draft regulations to ensure that they are authorized under their enabling Acts and that they are not inconsistent with the human rights laws already mentioned.”
3) “An explanation of these fundamental legal obligations and the distinct role of the Minister of Justice are mysteriously absent on the Department of Justice’s website, which refers to the Department by describing its structure, for example, as a medium-size government department containing about 5,000 lawyers.”
“How did the government get it so wrong … again? Better to ask why the government didn’t make a modest effort to get it right. The Conservatives knew this law was a dead man walking. They just didn’t care.”
1) “Promise ‘tough on crime’ legislation that’s easy to sell to the Conservative base.”
2) “Table the bill while ignoring the advice of experts … arguing the new law would be both ineffectual and unconstitutional.”
3) “Cling like grim death to the talking points….”
4) “when the Supreme Court strikes the law down” go to step 5.
5) “Cry ‘judicial activism’”.
6) “refer back to step one”
“For nearly 10 years, the Conservative government has been dripping blue ink into a red pot – attempting to expunge, bit by bit, the country’s 30-year romance with the Charter, and with judges who go out of their way to be the guarantor of rights.”
EXCERPTS: “The incoming Conservatives were wary of what many of them saw as Eastern elites, judicial activism, and a public service they believed had been serving a left-of-centre agenda for years. Many had railed in the past against the “Court Party” — reform-minded professionals, academics, and interest groups who were using the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the courts to achieve change.
Since the adoption of the Charter in 1982, the department had played a key role in overseeing the changes the Charter and Charter challenges were having on Canada’s justice system and Canadian society. The Conservative government felt the department it had inherited from former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler was too focused on human rights and not enough on criminal justice.
“The Department of Justice was basically the department of human rights,” explains one senior Conservative. “Human rights law was everything. That is all they were doing. It was a very left-wing agenda. They had hired a lot of people, practically a whole floor full of lawyers, that were all human rights people.”
One of the first things to be shut down when the Conservatives came to power was the Law Commission of Canada, which had a number of studies in the works on everything from policing and “what is a crime” to indigenous legal traditions, vulnerable workers, and the growing influence of international law on domestic law.
The Conservatives, however, saw it differently — particularly Harper and his chief of staff at the time, Ian Brodie. “That was just all left-wing propaganda stuff,” explains one Conservative. “A useless waste of money.” The government also took an axe to the Court Challenges Program, eventually backing off on the decision to cut funding for court challenges by linguistic minorities.
But the biggest difference between the Conservatives and the Justice Department has been a fundamental question of which should prevail: the Charter and the Constitution or the will of a democratically elected House of Commons. [emphasis added]
The Conservatives, meanwhile, saw the Justice Department as deliberately dragging its feet and felt top officials disagreed with their law-and-order agenda. “The Department of Justice is far too prone to tell me why I can’t do something instead of how I can do it,” says a senior Conservative. “My argument . . . is I don’t want to know why I can’t do this. I want you to tell me how I can do it.”
Conservative insiders say the government also sensed the court and Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin were against them, and that they had received reports McLachlin had made negative comments about the Conservative government at social functions. That tension came to the fore in the spring when Harper publicly criticized McLachlin in relation to a call she made to the PMO regarding possible concerns of the appointment of a Federal Court judge (before Marc Nadon’s name actually came up) to the Supreme Court.
Cotler says the Charter transformed the lives of Canadians and took Canada from being a parliamentary democracy to a constitutional democracy but the Conservative government has tried to “marginalize it and mute it. This whole issue of the promotion and protection, not only of the Charter but the promotion and protection of human dignity as a central role of the minister and the department, seems to have been marginalized.” That marginalization also extends to the pursuit of international justice, the responsibility to protect doctrine or prosecuting international war criminals, he adds.
“How can a government so keen to combat lawlessness make such a botch of its own laws? How can a government composed of law-and-order types be so astoundingly ignorant of how the law actually works?“
“…This government doesn’t really care about fighting crime, about victims, about respecting our most fundamental law — the Constitution. What they do care about is politics — and for Stephen Harper, wrapping himself in his crime-fighter cape is a lot more important than passing laws that work, or make sense. “
“Prime Minister Stephen Harper has drawn international condemnation for impugning the integrity of Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin after an investigation sparked by a complaint from a group of Canadian lawyers and law professors. The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists called on the Prime Minister and Justice Minister Peter MacKay to apologize for and withdraw their accusation that the Chief Justice tried to have an inappropriate conversation with Mr. Harper about a case.”
“Ignorance of the law is not a defence – unless, apparently you’re the minister of Justice.”
“A government that believes in fact-based legislation doesn’t starve itself of the funds required to find those facts. Unless it’s not really interested in facts at all. There, in a nutshell, is Peter MacKay’s approach to drafting laws: Ideology first, evidence never.”
“In a recent response to questions posed by Liberal justice critic Sean Casey, the government confirmed that, under the Harper government, the Department of Justice research budget has been slashed by almost $3 million, or 60 per cent.
Justice research contracts have decreased by over 90 per cent — from $450,000 in 2010 to a mere $41,000 in 2014 — and the number of full-time legal researchers was cut from 34 to 18 over the same period.
The purported justification for cuts was budgetary. However, according to an internal government report, the Justice Department’s research budget was actually slashed because its findings “may run contrary to government direction” and “at times left the impression that research is undermining government decisions.” [emphasis added]
“It is shocking that any government would feel free to introduce legislation in Parliament knowing that it is far more likely than not to be inconsistent with the Charter, part of Canada’s Constitution. It is equally shocking that the government would reduce the resources that the Department needs to carry out this crucial work.
Legal conflicts reveal a clash of beliefs about how Canada should work
“So, even if a piece of legislation has a 99 per cent chance of being defeated by the courts, government policy is to forge ahead. That throws some cold water on MacKay’s now-infamous refrain that even the government’s most controversial pieces of legislation are vetted to be charter-compliant.”
“Ultimately, Harper is trying to crush a vision of Canada that sits behind the bulletproof glass of the Constitution — Pierre Trudeau’s vision, which saw the people as greater than their government. Harper can’t get at it, he can’t change it — and he can’t stand it.”
“What a remarkable joke Stephen Harper continues to play on Canada: The law-and-order party is once again making it clear that it’s about as law-abiding as Bonnie and Clyde making a bank withdrawal.”
Harper v. The Judges. The biggest issues facing the country are being tackled not by Parliament, but in court
“Perhaps no current Conservative minister has been more outspoken in his criticism of the courts than Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who has met resistance to his immigration reforms, which aim in part to speed up refugee claims.
Last year he questioned the judgment of federal judges who had stood in the way of a pair of deportation orders. The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) called Kenney’s public and detailed criticism—Kenney preferred the term “dialogue with the judiciary” — a threat to judicial independence and “an affront to our democracy and freedoms.”
The Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin took the unusual step of thanking the CBA for its “powerful” response to a minister who resented “judges [who] were insufficiently solicitous to government policy.” [emphasis added]
In what follows I have often included multiple articles on the same Court case as it clearly shows that Harper & Government were repeatedly warned what they were attempting to do would be challenged in court as unconstitutional! They didn’t listen, not even to the Canadian Bar Association (CBA)
HARPER’S IDEOLOGY EXPENSIVE
“The Harper Conservatives have spent no less than $6.5 million defending high profile and contentious pieces of legislation ultimately deemed unconstitutional, recently disclosed documents show. “
“The Conservatives have spent more than $4.7 million fighting 15 losing court cases, including more than $1 million on tough-on-crime measures, according to figures released this week.
“The court ruled that its composition is constitutionally protected, and Parliament’s attempt to change the Supreme Court Act through a budget bill is unconstitutional.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s appointment of semi-retired Federal Court judge isn’t constitutional
“Today’s judgment will be of great importance, especially in constitutional matters,” said Sébastien Grammond, who represented two groups of retired Quebec judges in the case. “First and foremost because it makes important statements as to how the Constitution of Canada can be amended.”
Lessons from Canada’s refugee-health saga: Cancellation of refugee health benefits forces doctors to put down their stethoscopes and take up placards
“If one action marked the nadir of Stephen Harper’s tenure, it was the Conservative government’s decision to deny life-saving medicine to refugee claimants.
Even for a government that took pride in slashing everything from food safety inspection to public broadcasting, this set a new low. Last week, to the relief of all but the most tight-fisted taxpayers, the Liberal government re-instated basic health benefits for all refugees and asylum seekers.”
“The lingering legal battle was just one of many left over from the Conservative era, when the courts repeatedly found Conservative laws to be in breach of the charter.”
“The Federal Court of Canada issued a stinging rebuke to the federal government’s decision to reduce access to health care to refugee claimants and others seeking protection in Canada. The Federal Court of Canada found that cuts to the program which reduced access to health care and medication for vulnerable, ill people were illegal and discriminatory, and a violation of the Charter’s protection against “cruel and unusual treatment.
The following is a prime example of not separating Church and State: the religious beliefs of So-Cons like Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney interfere with evidenced-based data. They make decisions in favor of their narrow-minded religious beliefs.
Top court rules on clinic’s exemption from federal drug laws
“Insite saves lives. Its benefits have been proven. There has been no discernible negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada during its eight years of operation,” the ruling said, written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.”
“The ruling is a setback for the government’s tough-on-crime agenda. The court was deciding two appeals involving mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes brought by provincial and federal attorneys general.”
SICK LEAVE BENEFITS AND UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
An attack on the Canadian taxpayer: federal public sector workers strike back
Turning over sickness benefits to a private insurance company puts all Canadians at risk
Court OKs class action by those denied sick leave benefits while on parental leave
“A class action lawsuit is going ahead that claims thousands of Canadians who fell ill while on parental leave should not have been denied sick leave benefits from the federal government”
Bill C-59: PSAC readies $5M campaign against sick leave reforms
The current Budget bill would allow Harper government to bypass collective bargaining now underway – in other words, they want to circumvent the law yet again so that they can battle it out in court which is where it will be headed
STRIPPING CANADIANS OF THEIR CITIZENSHIP
CANADIAN CITIZEN ASKS COURT TO DECLARE HIM… CANADIAN CITIZEN
“On Tuesday, May 26, Canadian citizen Deepan Budlakoti goes to court in an effort to be recognized as a Canadian citizen. Although he was born in Canada, the federal government, in a remarkably obtuse and obstinate campaign, has rendered him stateless and tried to shove him off to his ancestral India, where he has never lived and has no family.”
“The selective approach to who becomes a Canadian citizen is eerily reminiscent of the Third Reich’s Nuremberg Laws, which stripped Jews of their citizenship.”
This Canadian Criminal’s Fight to Regain Citizenship May Set a Precedent For New Citizenship Laws
“Budlakoti’s case has significant legal implications for citizenship that link up with the new law Harper’s Conservative majority has successfully pushed through. The law empowers a single official—the Minister of Immigration, Chris Alexander-—to strip Canadians of their citizenship at his discretion, if they have committed a crime and the government can prove it has reason to believe they are also citizens elsewhere.”
In one of starkest examples in Canadian history of two branches of government openly turning against one another, the red robed members Supreme Court of Canada have spent months systematically shooting down virtually every issue the Conservatives hold dear
Citizenship changes ‘likely unconstitutional,’ lawyers warn.
Canadian Bar Association urging government to amend Bill C-24
Nationality, Statelessness and the Case of Deepan Budlakoti
“Statelessness is, in many respects, a hidden human rights abuse. It is hidden by its very definition; as its victims lack the full legal protection of a state, are more vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination, and very often need to live in secrecy and silence.
09/28/15. Bill C-24: Citizenship is a right, not a privilege, even for convicted terrorists
“Only dual citizens – in Canada, that means immigrants, for the most part – are subject to the additional, not to mention medieval, shame of banishment. Another Canadian convicted of the exact same charges would not face the same retribution.”
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association:
It’s official – second class citizenship goes into effect
PDF. Bill C-24: Canadian Bar Association
Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act
“…banishment is one of the most serious punishments that can be inflicted on a person and has NOT been in common use since the MIDDLE AGES” [emphasis added
11/29/14. The problem isn’t aboriginals as Stephen Harper suggests. It’s us: Siddiqui
“The Supreme Court and lower courts have repeatedly ruled in favour of the aboriginals. Yet “you and I are paying government lawyers to … act like rapacious divorce lawyers.”
JANUARY 2015. RCMP officers have right to collective bargaining, Supreme Court rules. Federal government given a year to amend law
MAKING PARDONS TOUGHER TO OBTAIN IS HARSH AND UNFAIR
The Harper government is making it more difficult for those who made a mistake to get a pardon and become full members of society, say a former chief justice of Ontario and a leading criminologist.
“People make mistakes. And people change. But for Harper, there is no getting past a criminal conviction. At best it might be suppressed. For him, people are defined by the worst thing they once did. Stephen Harper’s Canada represents a dramatic break with Canada’s past.”
R. Roy McMurtry is a former chief justice of Ontario.
“Unions are democratic organizations that belong to their members. As such, they are an important voice in the democratic political process. Trying to stifle that voice through unnecessary government intrusion amounts to an attack on democracy itself.”
Much more to follow on Bill C-377: Harper’s zeal to crush unions
More articles to follow on Niquab ban, Marijuana sentencing, plan to ban travel, First Nations’ fight on Transparency act, witholding documents, lawsuit settlements, minimum sentencing laws, tough on crime laws, mandatory victims’ surcharge and more.
ALSO TO FOLLOW: The demonization of Omar Khadr by Stephen Harper and Conservatives is their biggest disgrace and that includes Andrew Scheer’s current lies as well.
I will include an entire blog post on Omar Khadr as he deserves that much for the disgraceful failure of our government to protect his rights.