News overview: prorogation, Afghan detainees and dead crime bills

The prorogation of Parliament has created a big stir in the media with a continuous stream of letters to the editor and op-eds. Much of the response has been critical and the move by Prime Minister Harper has been characterized as “anti-democratic” and, together with last year’s prorogation, “unprecedented”. According to a poll last week, a majority of Canadians agree. The Conservatives have responded by saying that it’s the media and intellectual elites who are blowing the issue out of proportion.

A facebook group protesting prorogation, which has topped 200,000 members, has received criticism for alleged censorship but has also been viewed as an example of the power of online activism.

Critics and the opposition parties claim prorogation is an attempt to divert attention from, and prevent Parliamentary scrutiny of, the alleged torture of Afghan detainees, although the Prime Minister does not believe it’s a priority for Canadians. The opposition also believes the recent decision to “install full body scanners at Canadian airports should have been debated in the federal Parliament”.

Another consequence of cutting the previous session of Parliament short is that many “tough-on-crime” bills are now dead and will need to be reintroduced next session if the Conservatives choose to do so. Some believe the opposition to these bills was “nearly universal”.

From Crown counsel to police officers to corrections workers to social workers to judges to defence counsel, [all] feel that these tough-on-crime measures are sowing the seeds for the implosion of the system.

– William Trudell, chairman of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers