Senate appointments halted in push towards reform or abolition

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced last Friday that he would not make further appointments to the Senate, in hopes of forcing provincial consensus on Senate reform or abolition. Prime Minister Harper has not appointed any new senators for two and half years and currently 22 of 105 seats in the Senate are vacant.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Senate reform in 2014 in Reference re Senate Reform, holding that the abolition of the Senate would require the unanimous consent of the Senate, the House of Commons, and the legislative assemblies of all the provinces, in accordance with section 41 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

An application filed by lawyer Aniz Alani at the Federal Court is seeking a declaration that the prime minister has a constitutional obligation to fill vacancies within a reasonable time. Alani stated he would drop the case if the Prime Minister referred the matter to the Supreme Court. Updates to the case can be read here.

Northwest Territories Electoral Boundaries

Controversy surrounds the electoral boundaries in the Northwest Territories.

In 2013, the Northwest Territories Electoral Boundaries Commission presented its report on possible changes to electoral districts represented in the territorial legislature. The Commission proposed three possible scenarios: an 18-member assembly, a 19-member assembly, and a 21-member assembly.

After receiving the Commission’s report, the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories voted 10-7 to maintain a 19-member legislative assembly in 2013. Again in 2014, the Assembly favoured this proposal with a vote of 11-7.

This decision met with vocal opposition and is now being challenged in court.

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British Government Illegally Spied on Amnesty International

In an ironic twist, it has been revealed that the government of the United Kingdom has been spying on the human rights watchdog, Amnesty International.

The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the primary signals intelligence agency of the British government, had illegally retained communications it had intercepted from Amnesty International for longer than was permitted under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

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Magna Carta turns 800

In a meadow in Runnymede, on June 15, 1215, at the behest of his rebellious barons, King John affixed his seal to Magna Carta, the Great Charter, which guaranteed certain fundamental rights for the people of England.

The basic protection of the rule of law was enshrined in clauses 39-40 of the original document, which can be translated as:

“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”

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News: UK Government Promises to Abolish the Human Rights Act

In the wake of the recent UK election, which returned the Conservative Party to power (this time with a majority government), British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced his plans to move swiftly to abolish the Human Rights Act.

Passed in 1998 (by a Labour government), the Human Rights Act incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into British law. This allows Britons to seek a remedy for human rights violations in British courts instead of being required to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The Conservatives had pledged in their election manifesto to “scrap the Human Rights Act and introduce a British bill of rights.”

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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.

Inquest into Inmate Death Reveals Staff Didn’t Perform Required Checks

A jury has recommended changes following an inquest held last week into the death of inmate at the Prince Alberta Correctional Facility.

Nineteen year-old John Bob Glen Custer hanged himself in his cell while being held on remand and was found on November 24, 2013.

At the inquest, the two corrections officers on duty at the time of Custer’s death revealed that they did not perform the hourly checks on cells in segregation as required. One officer admitted to filling out log sheets detailing the hourly checks in advance. The other described how on the night in question, the two officers watched two movies instead of performing the required checks. Both officers no longer work at the correctional facility.

The director of the PA Correctional Centre testified that since Custer’s death cameras have been installed to monitor the cells and there have been policy changes. There have not been any cameras installed to keep staff accountable.

PA Correctional Centre has not indicated whether it will implement the recommended changes which include increasing staff on the night shift, providing suicide awareness and education training and checking more frequently on at-risk inmates.

Immigration still bad for Quebec sovereignty, PQ leadership candidate says

Parti québécois (PQ) leadership candidate Pierre Karl Péladeau, supposed front-runner in the race, claimed that “with immigration”, the PQ is losing one riding per year. During his comments, which came during a leadership debate in Quebec City on March 18, he also suggested that due to increasing immigration, sovereignists “do not have 25 years” to achieve their goal but must “get to work” now.

Quebec is the only province to control its immigration through shared jurisdiction with the federal government, but Péladeau highlighted that new immigrants “swear allegiance to the Queen” and that Quebec needed to “counter the enormous federal propaganda machine.”

Quebec Liberal premier Philippe Couillard accused the PQ of drifting toward ethnic nationalism. It is certainly not the first time Quebec has been an open hotbed of controversy surrounding multiculturalism and inclusion: in 2013, the PQ, under then-premier Pauline Marois, opened a volatile debate by proposing a Quebec “Charter of Values”. The Charter would have prohibited, among other things, the wearing of “ostentatious” religious symbols, including the hijab or the kippa, by public sector employees.

For Montreal journalist Vincent Marissal, Péladeau’s comments brought back the infamous words of former PQ premier Jacques Parizeau, who said after the 1995 referendum that “money and the ethnic vote” caused the narrow win for the “No” vote.

The other PQ leadership candidates were reportedly quick to disagree with Péladeau during the debate, stating a need for Quebec to be welcoming to all newcomers.

 

 

Auditor General’s Report Finds Inadequate Rehabilitative Programming for Yukon’s Prison Population

According to Canada’s auditor general, Michael Ferguson, Yukon’s correctional system is failing in its task of providing the programs necessary to adequately rehabilitate its inmate population.

When an offender is sentenced for a criminal conviction the sentence imposed serves different objectives depending on the nature of the offence. Violent offences typically attract sentencing objectives of denunciation, separation, and deterrence. Other, less serious, offences might require a stronger focus on rehabilitation and restoration.

A criminal sentence that includes rehabilitation of the offender as a sentencing objective might still result in incarceration. The concern for the offender, the community, and possibly the victim, is that while imprisoned, the offender will have access to meaningful rehabilitative programs that will help ensure success reintegration into society.

According to the CBC, Michael Ferguson’s report also notes that programming in the community is virtually non-existent. It is trite to say that there is relationship between crime and socio-economic indicators. Many within Canada’s prison population are young adults who come from marginalized groups or who might suffer from mental health and addictions issues. If one of the goals in Canada’s sentencing regime is to lower the rate of recidivism, communities and correctional facilities alike must ensure that adequate programming exists.

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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: http://veja.abril.com.br/noticia/mundo/maduro-governara-por-decreto-em-materia-seguranca-por-seis-meses/

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