Guelph Mercury

Status quo unacceptable in Gaza dispute

A loud noise punctures the quiet Jerusalem night. At first it seems to the unknowing ear that it may be just be the wind picking up and dying down.

This idealistic musing is quickly dispelled as the strange sound continually recurs and disappears. After the third or fourth such sound, the mind begins to understand that this is an abnormality. It is the dreaded sound of the rocket siren.

When I heard my first siren, I bolted to the nearest shelter. Luckily, this happened to be right next door.

My friends had different experiences. One was at a Tel Aviv grocery store when the Iron Dome — Israel’s anti-missile defence system — intercepted a rocket near his location, resulting in a shock wave that was felt at the store.

On the roof of a Tel Aviv building, partygoers heard a loud noise, and saw the smoke trail of a rocket intercepted by the Iron Dome, not far from where they were standing. Others I spoke to were at a beach and saw rockets in the distance, which were luckily intercepted by the anti-missile system.

I have lived in Canadian tranquility my entire life. I have never before experienced violence and hatred perpetrated against a civilian population. For this reason, my first experience with Hamas’ rockets shook me to my core.

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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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Guelph Mercury

Municipalities fighting good fight on cell tower locations

The rash of new cellphone towers being built across Canada has led concerned citizens and several municipalities — including Guelph — to speak out against such developments, on the grounds that they devalue property and pose potential safety risks.

The health impacts of the towers have not been widely analyzed in Canada. However, the European Parliament passed a resolution in 2009 that notes in its preamble that wireless technology emits electromagnetic fields “that may have adverse effects on human health.”

Provinces exercise exclusive power over “property and civil rights” under s. 92 (13) of the Constitution Act, 1867, which they can delegate to the municipalities, which have no constitutional status. Since cell towers are a sort of property, it would seemingly appear that provinces have jurisdiction over them. However, telecommunications has been interpreted exclusively as a federal power despite not being enumerated in the Constitution.

In the Supreme Court’s Radio Reference of 1931, a majority of the justices ruled that telecommunications is an exclusive federal power. Justice Robert Smith, for instance, decided that legislation regarding radio technologies does not deal directly with property or civil rights in the province. Since it does not fall under any enumerated ground, most of the justices found that such regulations fall under the federal government’s power, since all powers not specifically enumerated are granted to the federal government under the “residual powers” doctrine. However, two out of the five justices found that Parliament’s jurisdiction was not exclusive, since the “receiving apparatus” is a piece of equipment, or property, that must be erected within the province.

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Guelph Mercury

Speaker’s ruling a small win for democracy

On April 23, House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer released a ruling on a point of privilege raised by Conservative MP Mark Warawa that opens the door for more free speech by members of Parliament.

Warawa argued that his own party’s chief whip had violated his freedom of speech by preventing him from speaking on an unapproved topic during the time allotted for members’ statements.

Members’ statements are governed by Standing Order 31, which states: “A member (of Parliament) may be recognized … to make a statement for not more than one minute. The Speaker may order a member to resume his or her seat if, in the opinion of the Speaker, improper use is made of this standing order.”

According to the compendium of procedure of the House of Commons, statements by members take place for one hour daily and are allotted for “members who are not (cabinet) ministers … to address the House for up to one minute on virtually any matter of local, provincial, national or international concern.”

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Guelph Mercury

Does court ruling create leniency for non-residents?

Hoang Anh Pham, a non-citizen, was convicted of producing and possessing marijuana for trafficking for being a “party” to a marijuana grow-operation in Calgary in 2010.

The Provincial Court of Alberta issued a two-year sentence for the offence, a sentence that triggered an automatic deportation order.

Section 64 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act prevents any non-citizen from appealing a deportation order “if the foreign national or permanent resident has been found to be inadmissible on grounds of security, violating human or international rights, serious criminality or organized criminality.” Serious criminality is defined as a crime that receives a prison term of two years or more.

Pham, a Vietnamese citizen, requested that the punishment be reduced by a single day. While this seems symbolic, a single day provides the opportunity for permanent residents such as Pham to challenge deportation orders issued against them.

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Guelph Mercury

Parliament should review niqab ruling

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in December that niqabs — full-face veils — could sometimes be worn by witnesses in court depending on the context.

In a case involving a Toronto woman identified only as “N.S.,” the court was asked to balance a niqab-wearing witness’s freedom of religion versus a defendant’s right to a fair trial in a sexual assault case.

In weighing these rights against each other, the court ultimately adopted a balanced approach. However, it split in a 4-2-1 decision (with Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin writing for the majority), adopting a “just and proportionate balance between freedom of religion on the one hand, and trial fairness on the other, based on the particular case before the court.”

Justices Louis LeBel and Morris Fish, meanwhile, argued that niqabs must never be worn in the courtroom, while Justice Rosalie Abella, in a dissenting opinion, stated that a witness should only have to remove a niqab if her face is directly relevant to the case.

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Guelph Mercury

There’s a need to review judicial appointment process

Troy Riddell and Samuel Mosonyi.

Justice Richard Wagner, the newest judge on the Supreme Court of Canada, caused a stir in December when he suggested that the process used by the federal government to appoint judges below the Supreme Court level — primarily to superior trial courts and courts of appeal in the provinces — be reformed.

Potential appointees, according to Wagner, should appear publicly before a parliamentary committee as he did before his recent appointment to the Supreme Court. Wagner, however, indicated that for practical reasons hearings for now could be limited to appeal courts only.

There was a mixed reaction to Wagner’s comments. One law professor, for example, argued that this would Americanize the system and lead to the appointment of judges who were too deferential to government. Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail editorial board endorsed the suggestion, arguing that since judges have more power to influence policy, they deserve greater public scrutiny. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms inarguably gives judges a more significant role in the area of policy-making relative to the legislatures.

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Guelph Mercury

A logical decision in anti-terrorism case

Convicted terrorist Momin Khawaja disagrees fundamentally with Canada’s anti-terrorism laws, believing they are an unfair infringement on his rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to express himself freely.

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous, commonsensical decision, struck down this argument Dec. 17 and increased his sentence of 10½ years to a life sentence.

Khawaja was the first Canadian charged under the new anti-terrorism laws enacted after Sept. 11, 2001 for assisting a group of London Islamists who planned to build and detonate bombs made of fertilizer in shopping malls, nightclubs and other targets.

Khawaja sent a number of emails to those involved with the plot, provided funding to them, designed a detonator for the explosives which he planned to smuggle into the United Kingdom, and offered to provide training to the group. The emails he sent documented his ideological commitment to jihad. He also travelled to Pakistan to attend a terrorist arms training camp.

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Guelph Mercury

City should rethink details of proposed nuisance bylaw

Dennis Baker and Samuel Mosonyi.

The City of Guelph is currently in the process of drafting a new public nuisance bylaw to provide bylaw and police officers “with tools to address minor, unwanted behaviour or activities on city-owned property and, in certain limited cases on private land, without laying criminal charges.”

According to the report of the city’s operations, transit and emergency services committee, Guelph has had a number of incidents and “undesirable gatherings” on both public and private land, and staff do not have sufficient tools at their disposal to protect the interests of the city.

Guelph’s proposal is part of a rash of municipal bylaws enacted across the country that seek to supplement the federal Criminal Code by establishing minor penalties (typically fines) for misconduct deemed too minimal to attract criminal prosecution.

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