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is the Queen, and the law requiring the oath is a statute which has been passed by Parliament (and can thus also be repealed by Parliament).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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Huffington Post Canada

Why Harper should hug his backbenchers tight

One year ago today, few would have predicted the incredible emergence of an empowered backbench resulting from an increasingly agitated Conservative caucus and an unprecedented ruling by the Speaker.

Beginning with Stephen Woodworth’s motion to re-examine the issue of the definition of a human being, a number of Harper’s Cabinet colleagues, including Jason Kenney and Rona Ambrose, supported the motion despite Harper’s wishes to vote against.

Harper noted in January that he had no intention of reopening the abortion debate; at the same time, three Conservative MPs sent a letter on official letterhead asking the RCMP to investigate abortions as “possible murders.” I’ve argued previously that Harper should have enforced collective Cabinet solidarity on this motion to remain true to his word.

MP Brent Rathgeber recently left the Conservative caucus to sit as an Independent in the House of Commons after the Government refused to support his Private Member’s Bill on public sector disclosure.

On his blog soon after resigning he noted that:

The Committee hearings (as all are) were a charade. The decisions on amendments were made by unelected staffers weeks before the Committee hearings even commenced. Compliant MPs just do what they are told by PMO staffers. That the PMO operates so opaquely and routinely without supervision is an affront to the constitutional requirements of responsible government and is also the genesis of the current Duffy/Wright debacle.

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Huffington Post Canada

How soon before we’re dependent on Google Glass?

Google Glass, the head-mounted, voice-operated smartphone headset, will likely prove revolutionary for telecommunications and mobile computing. It may even be the most significant development in mobile technology since the smartphone. It has not officially been released yet and it has already sparked interest among consumers, pundits, and analysts.

Not only will consumers have a customizable supercomputer which can be easily navigated in the palms of their hands, Google Glass will provide the opportunity to integrate the user directly with the smartphone. Sounds indicate incoming messages, which users will be able to access via voice command or touchpad.

A parody on YouTube shows two people out on a date. While the two are speaking, the male is continually distracted by various features of the Glass. He looks up her Facebook profile in an attempt to strike up a conversation, and at other times takes pictures of her. He uses voice commands, however, so the situation becomes more than a little awkward.

Yet future iterations of Glass may not even require voice commands or touch for these features to be used. Even if Google developers are not the ones who develop this feature, computer hackers will find some way to do it. Already, there are devices that can serve these functions, like the one used by Stephen Hawking. It is not unfathomable that Glass will be modded in some way not requiring voice commands, especially given that third-party apps have already been developed for Glass.

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Huffington Post Canada

Why aren’t Canadian MPs paying their taxes?

Within these past few weeks, Canadian politics has been so tumultuously rocked with the worrying stories of Rob Ford and Mike Duffy that a number of other issues have not been explored as deeply as they should have been. For example, the ruling in the Robocall case by the Federal Court turned out to be a sort of win-win for both sides. The judge found that fraud did occur, but found no evidence that the Conservative Party or a candidate condoned the fraud. However, the Conservatives’ CIMS database was “the most likely source of information used to make the misleading calls.” Additionally, it was found that “there is no evidence that the election results in the six ridings would have turned out differently,” and the presiding judge thus did not annul the results.

The appellants, backed by the Council of Canadians, are not appealing to the Supreme Court, but are demanding a public inquiry. On a similar note, the CRTC has fined¬†federal and provincial election campaigns a combined total of $369,000, including Marc Garneau, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, the federal NDP, and Alberta’s Wildrose for violating the “Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules.”

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Huffington Post Canada

Will an LCBO strike spark a private party?

The looming LCBO strike threat has suddenly gotten all sorts of Ontarians anxious about a potentially dry next few days (or weeks). LCBO workers, who are represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), voted 95 per cent in favour of striking, and the deadline is approaching.

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario is the arm’s length agency of the provincial government which has the statutory authority under the Liquor Control Act to control the sale, transportation, and delivery of liquor, as well as fixing the prices at which they are to be sold.

Certainly the stakes are high on both sides. In all likelihood, it seems highly doubtful that the strike will go through. Yet a strike is in no one’s best interests. The LCBO management stands to lose lucrative revenue to a shuttering of stores, but workers may also suffer in the long run should a strike vote pass. Both parties should be prepared to afford each other leeway and reach an appropriate conclusion.

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Huffington Post Canada

Should we be worried about Bitcoin?

Is there an anonymous, free, and untrackable virtual currency currently making its sweep across the World Wide Web? It is not quite that simple, but Bitcoinis poised to become the next big thing in computing and finance.

How do Bitcoins come into existence? According to The Economist:

Unlike other online currencies — such as the new Amazon Coins — the supply of Bitcoin is not determined by any central issuing authority. Instead, new coins are generated according to a predetermined formula by thousands of computers solving complex mathematical problems. As more coins are generated, these problems get ever more complex, increasing the cost of computing power necessary to generate them, and so setting a floor underneath the price. Mimicking gold, the currency is designed to be deflationary.

The money is generated through Bitcoin “mining,” which is:

The process of making computer hardware do mathematical calculations for the Bitcoin network to confirm transactions and increase security. As a reward for their services, Bitcoin miners can collect transaction fees for the transactions they confirm along with newly created bitcoins.

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Huffington Post Canada

Tom Flanagan and the decline of academic freedom in Canada

After Tom Flanagan, a professor at the University of Calgary, remarked at a University of Lethbridge lecture that he had grave doubts for jailing those who view child pornography “because of their taste in pictures,” someone caught the footage on camera and posted it online. He was instantly cut from the CBC’s Power and Politics show, the Manning Centre’s Networking Conference, and the Wildrose Party of Alberta.

Additionally, the President of the University of Calgary issued a press release after Flanagan’s incendiary remarks came to light:

Tom Flanagan has been on a research and scholarship leave from the University of Calgary since January of 2013. Tom Flanagan will remain on leave and will retire from the university on June 30, 2013.

Shortly after, the University issued a clarification that Flanagan had submitted his intent to retire before the incident occurred. The press release indicates that the University wanted to distance itself from Flanagan, and the initial wording created the impression that he had been fired.

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