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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Huffington Post Canada

When transparency can hurt democracy

A Department of Justice lawyer, Edgar Schmidt, recently challenged his employer in court, alleging that the process that the Department uses to analyze whether proposed legislation is in accordance with the Charter is against the law. Schmidt alleges in his claim that since 1993, the Department of Justice has not been informing the Minister about potential Charter inconsistencies as long as “some argument can reasonably be made in favour of its consistency – even if all arguments in favour of consistency have a combined likelihood of success of 5% or less.”

This 5% chance of success rate is the cause of the controversy. Schmidt, in his claim, notes that section 4.1(1) of the Department of Justice Act legally obligates the Minister of Justice to analyze every bill to determine whether any provisions are inconsistent with the Charter, and to report these to the House of Commons. He asks for a judge to declare that this section require a “more-likely-than-not inconsistent” approach, essentially a 51% chance of inconsistency, as opposed to the alleged current 95% chance of inconsistency, to require notification to the Minister. The Department of Justice will not confirm its internal procedures, citing solicitor-client privilege and Cabinet confidence.

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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

Supreme Court ruling on wiretapping could have gone further

The Supreme Court of Canada recently released a landmark ruling in Regina-versus-Tse that strikes down the constitutionality of a section of the Criminal Code that allows police to intercept private communications in exceptional circumstances.

The court — ruling on a 2006 British Columbia drug-related kidnapping case — was unanimous in its decision, and the reasons were authored by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s two recent appointees. This case is interesting, since one of these appointees, Justice Michael Moldaver, sided with the Crown more often than his peers while sitting on the Ontario Court of Appeal.

The contested part of the Criminal Code allows police to intercept private communications without prior authorization by a judge if the officer believes on reasonable grounds that the interception is required immediately to “prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm.”

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