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 Ontarion

Supreme Court HIV ruling promotes responsibility

This article is in response to Laura Chown’s article, “Supreme Court HIV ruling promotes stigma.”

The Supreme Court ruled the following in R. v. Mabior: that an individual would not have to disclose HIV status, provided the following two conditions are met: (1) a low viral load of HIV, and (2) use of a condom.

Chown argues that the Supreme Court was wrong in applying the two-part test. For her, if either one of the two parts of the test are met, there should be no requirement for disclosure. Consistent with the views of the HIV/AIDS Legal Network, she states that the ruling promotes “stigma” and places an extra burden on those living with HIV.

The topic of consent is strongly promoted on campus. To be able to enter a contractual decision with another person, one needs to have all the facts to make a rational decision weighing costs and benefits. Chown further states that, “Condom use, regardless of viral load, is close to 100 per cent effective in preventing the transmission of HIV when used properly.” This is incorrect. The number is closer to 80 per cent.

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The Prince Arthur Herald

The Supreme Court was right on HIV and consent

The Supreme Court of Canada recently issued a ruling in R. v. Mabior clarifying the requirement for people with HIV to disclose their status to sexual partners. If the accused has: (1) a low viral load, and (2) uses a condom, there is no realistic possibility of transmission. As a result, the Court ruled, there is no requirement to disclose HIV status to a partner if these two conditions are met. The ruling builds upon a previous judgment in R. v. Cuerrier, where the majority held that failure to disclose that one has HIV may “vitiate” (negate) consent to sex and can make one liable to be charged with aggravated sexual assault.

The Cuerrier test was based on the following two elements: that (1) a “dishonest act” must occur, which includes lying or failing to disclose HIV status; and (2) the complainant must be deprived of knowledge which would have caused him or her to refuse sexual relations that resulted in exposure to a significant risk of bodily harm. Opponents of Cuerrier argue that the test is both uncertain and it overextends the criminal law. The Court in Mabior recognized that Cuerrier gives rise to uncertainty over what constitutes “significant risk” and what constitutes “bodily harm.”

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Guelph Mercury

Should Canada be at ease with its judicial activism?

The Canadian Constitution, the supreme law of the land, allows judges to invalidate laws that are unconstitutional.

Constitutionality rulings can be thorny, as they often involve significant value judgements that pit constitutional rights against the objectives of legislatures. For example, earlier this summer a British Columbia judge gave permission for a terminally ill woman to commit suicide with the assistance of a physician. The case is currently on appeal to the B.C. Court of Appeal.

Assisted suicide is a criminal offence and physicians are deterred from providing it by current law. Justice Lynn Smith, in her ruling on the constitutionality of the prohibition on physician-assisted suicide, noted Canadians travel to Switzerland for assisted suicide at high cost and possible risk of criminal prosecution for relatives.

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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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