British Newspaper Alleges Scotland Yard Breached Rights

Three reporters at The Sun newspaper have filed a complaint with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), alleging that London’s Metropolitan Police breached their human rights.

The complaint stems from the police investigation of a leak which led to the resignation of the Chief Government Whip. Andrew Mitchell, a Conservative MP and Chief Government Whip for the Government of David Cameron, allegedly insulted and swore at a police officer on duty guarding 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister’s office. The scandal, referred to as “plebgate”, led to Mr. Mitchell’s resignation as Whip.

A report of the altercation was leaked to reporters at The Sun tabloid. The Metropolitan Police Service sought to identify the source of the leak. To carry out its investigation, the police service accessed the phone records of the three journalists at The Sun.

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Controversy continues after Bill C-51 becomes law

On June 18, 2015, Bill C-51 (Short title: Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015) received Royal Assent and became the law in Canada. The bill gives expanded powers to the police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). It also allows for enhanced information sharing across government departments, despite heavily redacted CSIS documents suggesting that improved information sharing was possible within the “existing legislative framework” and that some changes created by the bill are unnecessary.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney promoted the bill’s potential to provide better protection against terrorists. However, strong opposition to the bill among the general public, legal scholars, and advocacy groups has continued, despite the passing of the bill. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians have signed a petition to repeal the bill and according to a Forum Research poll, half of respondents disapproved of the bill before its passage.

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Proposed Code of Conduct Sparks Controversy

A proposed Code of Conduct for city councillors has passed second reading in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

The proposal raises free expression concerns, however. For example, one section requires councillors adhere to it by “Always speaking well of each other and Council in public.” Such provisions can stifle free debate.

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European Court for Human Rights issues controversial ruling on free speech

The European Court for Human Rights issued a significant ruling in the case of Delfi AS v. Estonia. The ruling held that a news portal could be held liable for defamatory content posted by anonymous commenters on its website.

Delfi, an Estonian news site, had challenged the law which allowed it to be held liable as a violation of its free expression rights under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Court rejected this argument, holding that the Article 10 rights of Delfi had not been infringed.

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Supreme Court Ruling Protects Vulnerable Teens from Exploitation

On May 22, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada released R v. Barabash, an important precedent-setting judgment in the area of child pornography and the “private use exception”. The Court ordered a new trial for two Alberta men in a ruling that clarifies the scope of the defences available under child pornography laws.

The case involves Donald Barabash and Shane Rollison, who made videotapes of themselves having sex with two 14-year-old girls in 2008. At the time, it was not illegal for a pair of older men to be having sex with the teenagers, as it was possible for a 14-year-old to consent to sex with a partner of any age. In 2012, the Alberta Superior Court used this exact reasoning to acquit the two men, finding that the videos fell under the “private use exception” by being lawful and consensual.

The Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal and convicted the men, but it was not a unanimous decision. But the Supreme Court was unanimous in its ruling. In particular,  the court found that part of establishing that the sexual activity was legal requires consideration of factors suggesting exploitation or abuse.   

The ruling requires the Crown to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was exploitation, rendering the sexual act illegal and vitiating any defence of “private use”.

Figueiras v. Toronto

Une décision très intéressante vient d’être rendue quant aux pouvoirs qu’est accordé aux corps policiers dans la common law vis à vis les droits et libertés des individus.

À mon sens, il s’agît d’un jugement tout particulièrement pertinent pour le Québec qui vit présentement dans un contexte de manifestations sociales.


Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society to appeal decision in TWU matter

The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society has decided to appeal the Nova Scotia Supreme Court’s decision in the Trinity Western law school matter. Justice Campbell of Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court held that the Society acted unreasonably and beyond its authority when it decided not to recognize law degrees granted by TWU’s proposed law school unless the institution changed its policy prohibiting same-sex intimacy among students.

NSBS President Tilly Pillay QC explained that “if left unchallenged, [Justice Campbell’s] ruling may significantly restrict the scope of the Society’s authority to uphold and protect the public interest in regulating the legal profession. It may also prohibit the Society from continuing to take on a wider role in the promotion of equality in all aspects of its work, including in the administration of justice.”

Before Justice Campbell, counsel for the Society argued that, as a public interest regulator with a mandate to promote equality and diversity, the Society could not sanction a law school admissions policy that, in effect, requires “students to denounce their constitutionally protected sexual orientation in exchange for a law degree.”

To read Justice Campbell’s decision, click here. To read the Society’s press release announcing its appeal, click here.

La précaire démocratie du Venezuela encore un peu plus menacée

Cette semaine, le président Nicolas Maduro a demandé au Parlement vénézuélien des pouvoirs spéciaux pour légiférer seul en matière de sécurité nationale. Selon lui, cette mesure est nécessaire en vertu de la menace extérieure des États-Unis, qui a récemment déclaré le pays de l’Amérique du Sud un danger aux citoyens américains.
La chute du prix international du pétrole et l’instabilité politique font le Venezuela vivre un scénario chaotique. L’économie voit de sérieux problèmes, spécialement en ce qui concerne la production et l’inflation, la violence ne cesse pas d’augmenter et les institutions démocratiques sont de plus en plus faibles.
Des politiciens de l’opposition ont depuis peu été arrêtés, incluant le maire de la capitale Caracas. En outre, des analystes affirment que le Parlement et la Cour suprême sont soumis au contrôle de Maduro, dont la popularité a atteint le niveau le plus bas depuis qu’il a succédé Hugo Chavez en 2013.
Selon des informations publiées par certains députés sur Twitter, le pouvoir de légiférer par décret sera accordé à Maduro pour une période de six mois. L’opposition croit toutefois que le président pourra utiliser ses nouvelles attributions contre des manifestants civils.
La session parlementaire qui analysera le projet de loi « Anti-impérialiste » aura lieu dimanche prochain. Ce sera la deuxième fois que le chef de l’Exécutif recevra des pouvoirs législatifs spéciaux, puisque depuis 2013 il peut adopter des lois économiques et fiscales sans l’accord des députés.

Source et photo revista Veja, Brésil:

Bill C-51 to receive further scrutiny

The Conservatives have agreed to hold an additional 6 days of meetings on Bill C-51 at the public safety committee of the House, tripling the amount of time the Conservatives originally allocated for hearings on the controversial bill.

The move comes in response to an NDP filibuster and significant criticism (see here, here and here) from academics, terrorism and security experts, and former Prime Minsters and Supreme Court justices regarding the bill’s expansion of surveillance powers and creation of new, vaguely worded criminal charges.  Bill C-51 may also be contrary to previous Supreme Court rulings.

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Balancing Civil Liberties and Community Safety in the “Era of Terror”

Following the recommendations of the counter-terrorism review from August, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is scheduled to announce changes to national security later today.

The anticipated changes include: developing an anti-extremism strategy, appointing a terrorism coordinator, and simplifying the terror threat alerts system.

To justify the changes, Prime Minister Abbott is expected to reference the rising number of Australians returning home from conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Prime Minister Abbott has stated that “[t]housands of young and vulnerable people in the community are susceptible to radicalisation.”

Prime Minister Abbott has warned that the new “Era of Terror” means that Australians must reconsider “where it draws the balance” between civil liberties and community safety.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten noted that while Australians’ safety is a top priority, he is concerned that the Government may be going too far. To this end, he stated: “I don’t believe our nation can only be safe if we get rid of the liberties of people, nor do I believe that the liberties of people in every sense should trump national security.”

A well-known human rights lawyer, Julian Burnside QC, took a more cynical approach to the proposed changes. While questioning the Prime Minister’s motivation, Mr. Burnside stated that “there’s a real risk that he’s [Prime Minister Abbott] doing this in order to play on community fears and thereby gain a bit of political popularity.”

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