The Prince Arthur Herald

An interview with Justice Minister Peter MacKay

In light of the House of Commons reconvening on January 27, The Prince Arthur Herald columnist Samuel Mosonyi spoke with Justice Minister Peter MacKay to gauge the government’s position and rationale on a number of initiatives currently being pursued in the Justice portfolio. These include the Supreme Court’s Bedford decision on prostitution, a cyberbullying awareness initiative, mandatory victim surcharges, the proposed Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act, and more. Here is the full interview.

 

PROSTITUTION AND THE BEDFORD DECISION

You tweeted recently that you “disagree with Justin Trudeau’s focus on legalizing prostitution, which will harm and put vulnerable Canadians at risk.” Has Justin Trudeau come out in support of legalization?

Of marijuana, yes. Of prostitution, not yet, although his party, and particularly the youth wing, appears to be very publicly musing, if not advocating, that position. So while we’ve been focused on making our justice system more accountable, Mr. Trudeau and certainly his party seem to be focusing on legalizing marijuana and prostitution. And frankly I tweeted that because I fundamentally disagree, and I think in both instances it would be detrimental to our country’s best interest. It would certainly further endanger vulnerable segments of our population. And I don’t believe that any government of any political stripe should be facilitating the increase of access to drugs or to the sex trade. I don’t think it’s a good thing for our country, certainly not in the best interests of young people, or our citizens. I’m kind of taken aback, frankly, when I heard that yesterday.

After the Bedford decision you released a statement stating that the government is exploring all options to ensure the criminal law continues to address the significant harms to communities, prostitutes, and vulnerable persons. Would it be an option to allow communities themselves to regulate prostitution through zoning and licensing bylaws, instead of treating it as a criminal law matter?

I don’t believe so. I say that because it really is in the federal area of criminal legislation in my view to address this broadly across the country. We’re going to be receiving a lot of input and there will be extensive consultation on this issue. But it’s going to take a much more concerted effort than what any local government or jurisdiction could do. So for that reason I think you will find that there is a necessity within that twelve month period that the Supreme Court has granted that we will bring forward legislation, and amendments that will address what we think are significant harms that flow from prostitution.

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Guelph Mercury

Bus ad protesters are taking wrong path as opponents

There is an issue irking online petitioners regarding the presence of anti-abortion advertisements on Guelph Transit buses.

A petition on change.org with more than 2,000 signatures is calling on Guelph Transit to remove them.

A quick search of the issue reveals that citizens have posed complaints to their councillors on this issue before.

The response on the blogs of Ward 2 and Ward 4 notes that: “The City of Guelph does not endorse any businesses or associations who advertise on transit buses, shelters or benches … All advertisements that could be in violation of Guelph Transit’s advertising policy are reviewed … and are approved or denied based on the policy. The current Guelph and Area Right to Life advertisement does not contravene our advertising policy and although the advertisement may be considered controversial in nature, refusing to post the advertisement could be seen as limiting freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

This response is correct, but it should read “refusing to post the advertisement would be seen as limiting freedom of expression under the charter.”

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Guelph Mercury

Municipalities should generate local solutions to prostitution

The Supreme Court of Canada’s Dec. 20 decision that struck down three prostitution-related laws as unconstitutional is more nuanced than it appears on its face.

Yes, the court struck down laws preventing communicating in public for the purposes of prostitution, living off the avails of prostitution, and the keeping of bawdyhouses because they violated prostitutes’ security of the person, which is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, rather than immediately striking down the laws, the Supreme Court is giving Parliament one year to reconsider the legislation and draft it in a manner that is constitutional. It was recognized that immediately invalidating these laws would leave prostitution entirely unregulated, something that “would be a matter of great concern to many Canadians.”

The attorneys general of Ontario and Canada argued the purpose of these provisions was to deter prostitution. The Supreme Court, however, examined Parliament’s legislative record and found it clearly was meant to “prevent community harms in the nature of nuisance.”

This prohibition was struck because the means used were disproportionate. However, the court recognized the legitimacy of this objective, noting that “Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes.”

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Huffington Post Canada

Does the Canadian Federation of Students care about students?

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), a national organization composed of campus student unions, purports to organize students on a “democratic, co-operative basis.” When Guelph students wanted to hold a referendum to exit the CFS, they served the CFS with a petition asking for a referendum to be held to decertify. However, the CFS refused to schedule a referendum. Guelph’s Central Student Association (CSA) took the CFS to court, and an Ontario lower court trial judgegranted the referendum. Then 73.5 per cent of Guelph students voted to exit the CFS.The CFS alleges the results were not reliable.

Even after Guelph students overwhelmingly expressed a desire to leave, the CFS continued to challenge the democratic vote in court. They argued that signatures were not verified for the initial referendum request. The Ontario Court of Appeal judge granted the request, and remitted the matter to another trial court judge on a technicality. The appeal was granted because the original judge did not provide written reasoning for his decision.

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Huffington Post Canada

The ongoing trend of corruption in student unions

Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) are withholding student funds from the Student Association after it failed to provide audited financial statements for the 2012-2013 school year.

Universities have, on occasion, intervened and exercised their power to withhold money from student unions acting against the wishes of their membership. Student union executives typically respond with a sad attempt to take the moral high ground, repeating variations of the following: “student unions should have autonomy over their own affairs.”

The Durham and UOIT Student Association President, Peter Chinweuba, for instance, stated:

The decision is unfair as it infringes upon the autonomy of the Student Association.

The University of Guelph in 2012 stopped collecting fees for the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) after students overwhelmingly rejected the organization in a referendum. Guelph’s Central Student Association (CSA) originally stood up for the result of the referendum in court, but recently decided to settle with the CFS and pay the fees. However, students were not consulted on the matter at any point, deliberations were made in secret, and a deliberate decision was taken to ignore the democratic voice of students. A few months ago, the University, concerned with the lack of consultation, conducted another survey on whether students wanted to continue paying CFS fees (again, it was overwhelmingly rejected). The CSA responded with a press release that noted the University’s position:

[…] Means that the CSA is not empowered to make a decision in our own affairs without the approval of the University administration.

This is the same flawed argument: it is not student unions who should possess this power, but it is one that should ultimately lie with the students! What a radical concept. When a student union clearly acts against the wishes of its membership, the only recourse students have is their university administration. Individual students cannot really access the courts due to issues of cost and time.

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Waterloo Region Record

[Letter] ‘No zeros’ policy a worrisome one

The Waterloo Region District School Board recently enacted a worrisome policy that places all students from Grade 7 to 12 in the region at risk.

There will be no more zero grades or penalties for late or missed assignments. According to the Ontario Ministry of Education, there are apparently “many experts in the field of assessment and evaluation (who) discourage deducting marks or giving zeros for late and missed assignments” because “every assignment — whether submitted on time or late — provides evidence of learning, deducting marks for late assignments could misrepresent the student’s true level of achievement.”

Which fantasy world do these educational “experts” live in?

Encouraging an “I’ll hand it in when I feel like it” attitude will jeopardize our students’ chances in life.

As a current university student who attended high school in the region, I can attest to the important skills nurtured through deadlines, late penalties, and even zero grades. Even in the lower grades we did our homework, since no one wanted to get a zero during the homework check.

Late penalties for missed deadlines nurtured accountability: we realized that our grades would be impacted if we were not punctual, and so we focused on completing our work on time. What would happen to a student who continually showed up late to work or submitted assignments late in college?

The new policy will confuse students and give them wrong ideas. Who will care about deadlines? Rationally, if one can hand in an assignment late instead of on time, what is the point of finishing on time? There will be no incentive for students to hand in assignments early. In fact, submitting on time can seem counterintuitive for students.

If their classmates get to hand in assignments weeks late with no penalty, why should they have to work hard to finish up their essay for tomorrow?

Original post here

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Huffington Post Canada

Oath to Queen is a political question, not a legal one

Three permanent residents in Canada recently challenged the requirement to swear an oath to the Queen in order to obtain citizenship, claiming that it violated their Charter rights to free expression and religion, and that it discriminated against people of other national origins. A very similar case has, in fact, already been heard in federal court in 1994 in Roach v. Canada, where all of these claims were struck down.

Challenging Canadian citizenship laws should be done through Parliament, rather than the courts. The dispute is a political one: the appellants are, in effect, disagreeing with Canada’s political structure as a constitutional monarchy. The Head of State is the Queen, and the law requiring the oath is a statute which has been passed by Parliament (and can thus also be repealed by Parliament). However, the appellants clearly have much broader concerns and would feel stymied by any interaction with the Crown. They must certainly feel wronged by living in a country in which the Monarch’s representative must assent to all laws passed by Parliament. It is spelled out in the Constitution that the Governor General declares:

[…] according to his Discretion […] either that he assents thereto in the Queen’s name, or that he withholds the Queen’s Assent, or that he reserves the Bill for the signification of the Queen’s Pleasure.

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