Huffington Post Canada

U of C abortion display verdict not a victory for free speech

The University of Calgary recently reversed the guilty verdict of seven pro-life students who were found guilty of non-academic misconduct for setting up a display with graphic photos comparing abortion to the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide. The University of Calgary initially demanded that the students set up their display facing inwards so passersby would not see the images. After the students refused, the University charged and found the students guilty of misconduct for failing to follow the demands issued by Campus Security. The students appealed to the University’s Board of Governors, which found their appeal groundless and dismissed the case. The students appealed to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, which ordered the University to rehear the appeal, after which the students were found not guilty.

The court decision has been heralded by some as being a victory for free speech on campus. The court ruling focused on the procedural aspect of the law rather than the substantive claim that the students’ right to free expression had been violated. The Court shied away from making any finding on the students’ right to erect the display: it directly stated that “it would be premature at this juncture” to rule on the right of students to erect the display on University property, or to force a change in University policy. Rather, the decision focused solely on the decision of the Board of Governors’ Committee denying the students their appeal hearing on the basis that it was groundless.

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Huffington Post Canada

Broadcasters should not censor political ads

Political speech is seemingly under attack from the last place we might expect: Canadian media broadcasters. CBC, Radio Canada, CTV, Rogers, and Shaw (which owns Global TV) announced last month that they would no longer air political advertisements that include material taken from their airwaves without express authorization.

“As news organizations, the use of our content in political advertisements without our express consent may compromise our journalistic independence and call into question our journalistic ethics, standards and objectivity,” they wrote.

According to the CRTC, “during an election campaign, broadcasters play an important role in informing Canadians about the issues, political parties and candidates involved.” Under section 335(1) of the Canada Elections Act, every broadcaster is required to provide prime-time advertising to all registered political parties. The Act also appoints a Broadcasting Arbitrator, who issues specific guidelines on the content of messages, as well as to deal with disputes between political parties and broadcasters.

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Huffington Post Canada

The Senate Reference and taking steps forward

The Supreme Court just released its long-awaited Senate Reference decision. And the response was spectacularly rebuking.

Harper posed the following questions to the Court and the following responses were provided. I have significantly condensed the decision for easy access.

Harper: Can the federal government unilaterally impose term limits on Senators?

Supreme Court: No, they may not.

Imposing term limits is a change that engages the interest of provinces. It requires the general amending formula to be used (seven provinces with at least 50 per cent of the population), also known as the 7/50 procedure. Imposing fixed terms is not specifically written in the Constitution, imposing term limits would alter the fundamental nature and role of the Senate.

Harper: Can the federal government unilaterally develop legislation that allows citizens to be consulted for potential Senate nominees? Can the federal government establish a framework for provinces and territories to enact legislation to consult their citizens for Senate nominees?

Supreme Court: No, they may not.

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Huffington Post Canada

The Conservatives’ clever ploy with the Truth in Sentencing Act

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the application of the Truth in Sentencing Actwas depicted in various media outlets as being part of a trend of recent decisions rebuffing the Conservative government’s justice agenda. While this could describe a number of recent decisions, the current ruling is more nuanced.

According to the Canadian Press:

They also represent the latest in a series of court rebukes of the Conservative government’s law-and-order agenda.

Sean Fine in the Globe and Mail likewise stated:

The Conservative government’s attempt to detain thousands of prisoners for longer periods has been blocked, in the newest in a series of crushing defeats at the Supreme Court of Canada.

As the Supreme Court decision notes, enhanced credit is often provided for accused who have been remanded in jail, and historically, there were no restrictions on the reasons for giving credit or the rate at which it was granted. A practice developed over time to grant credit at a 2:1 rate. The new Truth in Sentencing Act caps pre-sentence credit at 1.5:1, but does not discuss which circumstances justify enhanced credit.

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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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