UK Anti-Terrorism Bill Would Require Teachers to Denounce Students

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, currently before the UK House of Commons, includes a directive which could force teachers to invade their students’ privacy. The Bill would require teachers to monitor students in order to prevent them from “being drawn into terrorism” and to report them when inappropriate comments or behaviour are witnessed.

One of the most common criticisms of the Bill is that is includes pre-school teachers and nursery staff. While most of the commentary has revolved around the absurdity of reporting on terrorist toddlers, civil rights proponents are also worried about forcing teachers to spy on their pupils’ families. Teachers, meanwhile, fear that the directive would foster an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion between themselves and their students’ families.

As the Bill would create an additional duty on teachers, it is unclear exactly how it would be implemented or enforced.

For more information, see here.


Verdict Delivered in High-Profile South African Shooting Case

Shrien Dewani was found not guilty yesterday of the 2010 shooting death of his wife Anni Dewani. Ms. Dewani was shot to death during a suspected carjacking while the couple were on their honeymoon just outside of Cape Town. Judge Traverso found that the prosecution’s evidence was plagued with inconsistencies and subsequently dismissed the case.

This verdict was announced two days before the expected decision on whether an appeal will be allowed in the Oscar Pistorius case. In a case with many similarities to the Dewani case, Pistorius was convicted for the culpable homicide shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The prosecution argued yesterday that, as a point of law, Pistorius should not have been acquitted of the more serious charge of murder and that his five-year sentence for culpable homicide was too lenient.

Many critics see Dewani’s acquittal and Pistorius’ low sentence as examples of South Africa’s struggle with the institutionalization of violence against women and corruption in the justice system.

Following the Dewani verdict, Justice Minister Michael Masutha requested a full inquiry into the Dewani case, the Pistorius case, and the investigation into the shooting death of South Africa’s national soccer team captain, Senzo Meyiwa. Mr. Masutha wants to reflect on how the police and the prosecution operated in these cases and why these cases are receiving so much negative attention at the national and international levels.


Op-ed: Law professor’s words highlight how the personal is still the political

Should professional women’s personal lives have anything to do with their careers? One law professor doesn’t have the answer to that question, but her words make clear that regardless of whether they “should”, they certainly do.

Osgoode Hall Law School professor Susan Drummond says she stands in solidarity with Manitoba judge Lori Douglas. Douglas decided last week to retire early after sexually explicit photos of her, put on the internet without her consent in 2003 by her now late husband, became the subject of an inquiry by the Canadian Judicial Council.

In an article originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press titled “I can never be a judge,” Professor Drummond revealed that she appears in a presumably compromising photograph that someone close to her has threatened to send to her current employer, Osgoode Hall. Following the outcome of Justice Douglas’ plight, Professor Drummond says she has realized that “as it stands”, because she too has a photo “out there”, she can never be a judge.

Drummond likens this knowledge to that of sexual assault complainants like those who are, she says, about to have their credibility attacked by Jian Ghomeshi‘s lawyers in his upcoming criminal proceedings. Just as she can never be a judge because of the scrutiny that could befall her personal life, she says many survivors of assault feel they can never be a complainant for the same reasons.

Further, Professor Drummond ties Justice Douglas’ experience to the recent appointment of Quebec corporate law litigator Suzanne Côté as newest justice to the Supreme Court of Canada, announced on November 27. Côté was independent counsel to the disciplinary committee that heard Justice Douglas’ case, where, as Drummond recounts, Côté insisted that the committee needed to see the graphic photos of Douglas in order to make its decision. After Douglas’ lawyer obtained an injunction preventing the committee from seeing the photos, Côté applied for Douglas’ medical records, including notes from her therapist, to be included in evidence. Several days later, Douglas offered to retire early to avoid a hearing on her case. Following several days after that was Côté’s appointment to the Supreme Court.

The appointment of Côté will bring the number of women Supreme Court justices back up to four out of nine, a fact applauded by opposition party members as much as by feminists. But Professor Drummond’s story reminds us that we are far from a world where we side with women who have been threatened, attacked, or harassed. For the important thing is not that Drummond and Douglas apparently agreed to the taking of compromising photos. It’s that they and their careers are not protected when their privacy and dignity is violated by others, without their consent, in the way that Douglas’ was and Drummond says hers is threatened to be. The photos of Douglas’ private life did not mysteriously “appear” on the internet. They were put there deliberately, by someone she presumably trusted when the photos were taken.

As Drummond makes clear, these women are victims that the law does not or will not protect. Sexual assault victims, dignity and privacy violated too, are not protected either from having their reputations and careers ruined by scrutiny into what they mistakenly thought was their “private” life. As long as women like Douglas can still lose their jobs because private photos of their consensual sexual activity were put on the internet without their consent; as long as women like Drummond can still know that certain prestigious, high-paying, powerful, male-dominated jobs will remain forever out of their reach because of the possibility that they will be judged and scrutinized over private photos put into the public sphere without their consent and used as threats against them; as long as women feel they must refrain from lodging formal sexual assault complaints because of how their personal and private lives will be publicly scrutinized, the personal does not remain personal at all, but still acutely political.

As a feminist, I like seeing another woman appointed to the Supreme Court too. I just wish it was a woman who, rather than participate in the same old savage attacks on the personal life of another woman victim of sexual harassment, had chosen instead to stand in solidarity with her as Drummond does. But Côté would likely argue that she was just doing what lawyers do: representing her client’s interest, impartially, objectively; indeed, the legal system makes it possible and acceptable for her to do as she did in Douglas’ case. Just like the lawyers who filed a hopeless and now-retracted $50 million civil lawsuit against CBC on behalf of Jian Ghomeshi, a move that law professor David Tanovich says is ethically and professionally questionable. While Côté’s work on Douglas’ case may not be professionally questionable, it still begs the question that Tanovich asks: is this – damage to the lives, careers, and reputations of women who are direct targets of intentional violations of their privacy – what we are going to accept as “business as usual”?





Yukon Pizzeria Accused of Discrimination

A Yukon pizzeria stands accused of discrimination. Tonny’s Pizza posed on its social media page on Facebook that is was looking for a new pizza chef. In response, a woman said they she was aware of the position opening and had applied for the job some time ago. The restaurant then said they specifically wanted a male for the position as it would be “less distraction for the other male employees”.

The restaurant has since apologized, but a local resident by the name of Blake Lepine felt an incident like this could not stand. In light of this belief, he took the matter to the Yukon Human Rights Commission. The spokeswoman for the commission, Heather MacFadgen has not commented about the event, as such things remain confidential until they go to the board of adjudication for a decision. However, current legislation requires that such complaints come from the person who believes they were discriminated against so it unclear whether or not Tonny’s Pizza will answer for its discrimination.

Original story can be found here.

The US and Grand Juries (OP-ED)

In the US, some States use Grand Juries to decide whether to bring a criminal charge or indictment against an “accused”. The purpose of grand juries is to determine whether there is enough evidence or probable cause to indict a criminal suspect. There are no judge or lawyers involved except for the prosecutors who explain the law to the jurors. The jurors then have the investigative freedom to call in witnesses and get required documents as evidence in order to make a decision.

Ferguson, a small city in Missouri was relatively unknown until August 9, 2014 when it garnered international attention when Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year old male of colour was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a Ferguson police officer. The Grand Jury in Ferguson came back after almost a week of deliberation and decided not to indict Darren Wilson as a criminal suspect. There wasn’t enough evidence present to indicate that Wilson. This decision calls into question the processes and the cracks in the justice system by some, not to mention the inherent prejudice that exists in society.

Another Grand Jury in New York failed to indict an Officer who fatally strangled Eric Garner using a choke hold which was an illegal method of restraint for police officers. There was video evidence of the incident unlike in the case of Michael Brown, so then how come there was no indictment as was the case in Michael Brown? Is it because the victims were both black? or is it because they both involved a police officer?

There is no doubt that every day, police officers put their life on the line in order to protect the public. Equipped with pepper sprays, tazers, and guns, they go out there to wherever they are called to. It is not every day a police officer has to use their weapon, but when they do, the consequences are heavy , especially if it results in a death. There are cases sometimes where a police officer has no choice but to pull the trigger in self defense, however, there is a fine line between self defense and murder for a police officer, it is something that should be determined by the law with a trial.

In the case of Eric Garner, there is clear video evidence of the officer using an illegal method to restrain Garner which resulted in his death. That at least deserves an internal disciplinary investigation let alone an indictment. The fact the officer thought he was restraining him and thus doing his job does not matter, the officer was using an illegal method, this was all caught on camera. It is understandable why the Grand Jury for Michael Brown did not indict as there was a lack of evidence for the grand jury to make an indictment; however, in this case, there is clear footage of what the officer was doing.

It is unclear to me why the grand jury for Eric Garner decided not to indict the officer who used illegal methods. This leads me to speculate police accountability in the US and how officers are often given more leeway due to the often dangerous nature of their occupation. I completely understand that there are times when a police officer needs to engage a prospective suspect, sometimes resulting in injuries and maybe death. However, in cases where it turns  out that the ‘suspect’ wasn’t actually a suspect, but an innocent boy who had his whole life ahead of him, there needs to be a proper trial to determine whether the actions taken by the Police were proper or not, instead of a mere week long grand jury deliberation.

There is speculation that race played a big factor in these incidents and who knows what would have happened if the victims were of another race or if the officers were of another race. In my opinion, it is impossible to determine the true motive of the officers, and we’ll never know whether they acted out of racism or prejudice. All I can speculate is that the legal process that came afterwards was not free of prejudice.



Creating a Better Learning Environment: Gay-Straight Alliance Bill to be Introduced in Alberta Legislature

On Thursday November 20, Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman is set to introduce Bill 202, the Safe and Inclusive School Act, to the Alberta Legislature. The private member’s bill is aimed at making all Alberta schools safe, inclusive, and supportive learning environments for all students regardless of sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The introduction of the bill in this year’s fall session of the legislature comes after a non-binding Liberal motion to support gay-straight alliances in Alberta schools was defeated in the spring session. It remains to be seen whether the bill will receive enough support to move forward in the legislative process from the governing Conservative party and opposition Wildrose party.

Read the rest of this entry »

UK May Criminalize Drinking While Pregnant

A case was heard at the UK Court of Appeal last week that could determine whether drinking while pregnant constitutes criminal negligence.

The case is on behalf of a six year old girl with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). While an administrative decision ruled that her FAS was a direct result of her mother’s drinking during the pregnancy, the girl was denied access to compensation from the Criminal Injuries Authority. They are now arguing on her behalf that the mother’s behaviour fulfills all the elements of the offence of criminal negligence so she can be deemed eligible for victim’s compensation.

If it is ruled in her favour, the decision risks criminalizes any woman who imbibes while pregnant. There are fears that the criminalization could extend to any amount of alcohol, despite any absent of damage. It could also be extended to drug-use during pregnancy. It may even eventually extend to criminalizing all sorts of behaviours, such as eating sushi or drinking caffeine.

Read the rest of this entry »

The latest decision in the Transgender Teacher Discrimination Case

Transgender issues and the rights of transgendered people is a hot topic in human rights law. In January of 2014, Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench said it was time for a Commission to hear the long-standing discrimination complaint filed by a transgender teacher who was fired from the Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division No.29. The latest step in this long battle is the Human Rights Tribunal of Alberta recent decision on a preliminary matter for the discrimination complaint. The Tribunal decided to remain seized of the matter pending the outcome of a settlement agreement and to permit the Tribunal to address any further issues that  may arise in the execution of the settlement agreement. However, the Tribunal did note that if a settlement agreement is unable to be completed between the two parties, the hearing of the discrimination complaint is scheduled for December 3 2014.

Read the rest of this entry »

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act

Bill S-7 or the “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act” was tabled by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander. It had it’s first reading in the Senate, this November 5th. The Bill affects the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act, and the Criminal Code. The Bill mostly tackles forced marriages, underage marriages and Polygamy.

Read the rest of this entry »

B.C. Law Society Rejects Trinity Western Law School Accreditation

Last week, the B.C. Law Society released the results of its referendum regarding whether to recognize graduates of Trinity Western University’s proposed law school. The law school was scheduled to open in the summer of 2016, however the recent vote by B.C. lawyers has cast doubt and uncertainty as to whether these plans will unfold as hoped by the Langley evangelical Christian school. Members of the province’s law society voted 5,951 to 2,088 against approving the proposed law school. The referendum was binding since the requirements of one-third of members voting and approval by a two-thirds margin were both met.

The proposal to accredit the law school has been controversial due to the requirement that all students and staff who attend or are employed at TWU must sign a covenant promising not to engage in sexual intimacy that “violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” The policy has been heavily criticized by both lawyers and members of the public as inconsistent with the fundamental values of the legal profession, since it allows the university to discriminate based on students’ private sexual activities.

TWU representatives were disappointed with the vote. According to CTV, TWU spokesperson Guy Saffold stated that “Trinity Western believes in diversity and the rights of all Canadians to their person beliefs and values. A person’s ability to study and practice the law should not be restricted by their faith.”

The B.C. Law Society’s board (commonly referred to as “Benchers”) reviewed the referendum results on Friday, in the context of factors related to the issue, as well as strong urging by TWU not to rely on the voting results. The board then voted twenty-five to one with four abstentions, resulting in the ratification of the referendum results –passing a resolution against accreditation of the proposed law school.

British Columbia joins Nova Scotia and Ontario in officially rejecting the law program at TWU. The university is challenging the Ontario and Nova Scotia decisions, invoking the Charter right of the freedom of conscience and religion. TWU will decide in the following weeks whether it will be pursuing a judicial review of the B.C. decision. The law societies in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Nunavut have expressed their approval for TWU-trained students to practice in their respective jurisdictions.


For more, click here.


Welcome to the rights and freedoms monitoring blog!

Bienvenue au blog de la veille sur les droits et libertés!

…a joint project of CCLA and Pro Bono Students Canada… un projet de l’association canadienne des libertés civiles et Pro Bono Students Canada…

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent CCLA or PBSC policy. Please visit CCLA’s website,, for official CCLA publications and policies…Les opinions exprimées ici ne représentent pas nécessairement ACLC ou PBSC politique. S’il vous plaît visitez le site Web CCLA,, pour les publications officielles CCLA et politiques.

Sign up - daily email newslinks or CCLA's monthly ebulletin
Inscrivez-vous - courriel quotidien ou mensuel ebulletin de ACLC