Monday, April 25, 2011

A Harper Majority and the Supreme Court

In April of 2007, Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms celebrated it's 25th anniversary, but Stephen Harper refused an invitation to be the keynote speaker at an event marking the occasion.
The Harper government is passing on a major Ottawa conference marking the 25th anniversary of the Charter of Rights, with the Prime Minister and three Cabinet ministers turning down invitations to speak. In fact, the milestone anniversary will be a muted affair within the government ranks ... Mr. Jedwab said Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, Heritage Minister Bev Oda and former justice minister Vic Toews were also invited to address the April 16-17 event, but they declined. (1)
This was not a scheduling conflict but ran contra to Harper's 25 years of attacks on the Charter.

So despite being the prime minister of Canada, a country proud of its Charter of Rights, Harper was not prepared to pretend to honour something he detested.

During the 2004 election campaign, many were sounding the alarm, including Supreme Court justices, who feared that a Harper government would undermine not only the judiciary, but the fundamentals of Canadian law.

Mr. Harper's antagonism to the charter is fundamental and well-documented. He said this week he would propose for the top bench only candidates who agree courts must defer to Parliament. "The role of the court is not to invent rights that are not in the Charter." (2)
And his documented disdain included:
"I share many of the concerns of my colleagues and allies about biased 'judicial activism' and its extremes. I agree that serious flaws exist in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and there is no meaningful review or accountability mechanisms for Supreme Court justices" " (Globe and Mail June 13, 2000)

"I consider the notwithstanding clause a valid part of the Constitution." (Canadian Press March 15, 2004)

"Right from the beginning, the charter has been controversial. There were a large number of politicians who did not support that approach to civil liberties. They prefer the traditional approach of common law and parliamentary supremacy." (Kitchener-Waterloo Record Sept. 29, 1994)
So we have a man who doesn't respect the Supremacy of Parliament, only the supremacy of himself, and believes that the Supreme Court should only answer to Parliament, which must only answer to him.

Scared yet?

And the American neoconservative movement is watching Canada with interest now. In 1997, he told them:
"And we have a Supreme Court, like yours, which, since we put a charter of rights in our constitution in 1982, is becoming increasingly arbitrary and important ... The establishment came down with a constitutional package which they put to a national referendum. The package included distinct society status for Quebec and some other changes, including some that would just horrify you, putting universal Medicare in our constitution, and feminist rights, and a whole bunch of other things."
The late Paul Weyrich, one of the key players in the American Religious Right/neoconservative group, soothed his followers when Harper only managed to get a minority in 2006:
"It is not widely known in this country that a Canadian prime minister has more power than a United States president. Harper could appoint 5,000 new officials. (No confirmation is required by the Canadian Parliament.) The prime minister also could appoint every judge from the trial courts, to the courts of appeal to the Canadian Supreme Court, as vacancies occur. (3)
Adam Radwanski, wrote in the Globe recently: The Supreme Court: How a Harper majority could really change Canada
Of the nine justices who serve on the Supreme Court of Canada, three – Ian Binnie, Morris Fish and Louis LeBel – will hit the mandatory retirement age of 75 within the next four years. Another, Marshall Rothstein, will come very close to it. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin would be 71 by the end of a majority government’s mandate, and Rosie Abella would be 68.

In other words, Mr. Harper would have an excellent opportunity to shape the country’s top court. And given that court’s enormous role in shaping public policy, particularly since the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect nearly three decades ago, that could be a very transformative power.
Now are you scared?

Ignore the polls which are pretty much *fraudulent, and vote for the candidate in your riding best able to beat the Conservatives.

Because if Stephen Harper gets his majority it will forever change who we are as a country. He already controls the Senate and refuses to cooperate with Parliament. Can you imagine if he also controls the Supreme Court?

*Drop the Globe an email and tell them that their headlines re: polls, border on fraud. The margin of error of Nanos polls range from 5.7 to 10.3, meaning they could be off by as much as 11.4 to 20.6. They are intentionally distorting the numbers to confuse strategic voters.


1. PM passes on marking Charter anniversary; Rejects invitation, By Janice Tibbetts, National Post, April 11, 2007

2. Harper Hides his Social Agenda, By Frances Russell, Winnipeg Free Press, June 11, 2004

3. Canadians 'liberal and hedonistic' but can change, U.S. right-winger says, CBC News, January 27, 2006

1 comment:

  1. It should, I think, be noted that Nanos and the rest of of our traditional Pollsters are fighting for survival. Much like the television show 'Survivor'...there is no belt line. Canadians should keep in mind the 'raison d'etre' of these companies ... to maximize the profit of their companies and that means fighting to be the number one source for polling information. More importantly, maximizing profits can best be achieved by persuading the electorate that they are the one-stop shopping option for deciding how to vote. For each of these polling entities that means cutting deals to maximize exposure of THEIR polling numbers. Giving the media giants what they want equals maximized exposure equals maximized profitability. These are not not-for-profit NGO's serving the public interest. Their job has been made easy by an electorate trained to process sound bites and headlines as 'the full story' in a nutshell. Thankfully the younger members of our electorate have chosen to tackle this thorny problem head on using social media and in many cases by applying the new writing techniques designed to make reading on line and processing information on line easier for users.
    This election has proven the need for new methodologies to help the electorate vote wisely. Whatever the outcome May 2, 2011...these new methodologies are going to be invaluable in the future. Not just election time...but in keeping our elected members accountable in the next and future parliaments. We should all be digging into our Timmies Funds and supporting those who have come forward to serve the public good. ,, , ,, and (thankfully)more...
    I know that I should at the very least jump in my car and deliver some Timmies Goodies to a certain Kingston Blogger who has kept me sane!