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More on Harper and his attempt to subvert the judiciary process.

If you think its just Opposition partisans who are attacking Harper’s blunt statement he wishes to pick judges who are in ideological tune with him, you’d be wrong. Constitutional experts, who are alarmed over the Conservative government’s assertions they can ignore Bill C-288 (Kyoto Implementation Act), are equally as alarmed at this blatant statement Harper has just made on manipulating the process:

Ed Ratushny, a University of Ottawa law professor, was startled by Harper’s assertions, saying they were very inappropriate and unfortunate for a prime minister to make. “It just reflects profound a misunderstanding of the Canadian judiciary… it conveys a message that judges can be selected who will have a predetermined conclusion about how they will decide and will promote the government’s agenda rather than deciding cases impartially and fairly,” he said.

Legal and constitutional experts told the Star yesterday that they found Harper’s comment regarding the selection of judges to be troubling. “This is very, very alarming,” said Lorraine Weinrib, a constitutional lawyer and professor at the University of Toronto. “Nobody is against law and order and nobody is against the proper administration of justice … but this government has raised proposals that may very well run contrary to the Charter,” Weinrib said.

Stephen Harper – willing to ignore law of the land as passed by Parliament, and willing to go up against the constitution and tradition to get his agenda passed and his right-wing values imposed upon this country. If that’s the Conservatives definition of a “strong” leader, I want no part of it or this extreme right-wing agenda he is pushing. I don’t think the majority of Canadians will want it either.

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14 comments to More on Harper and his attempt to subvert the judiciary process.

  • Speaking as a leftist, I should point out that Bud is mistaken. If Liberals “picked” judges they would be centrist, because by no stretch of imagination are the Liberals “left”. Heck, if the NDP “picked” judges they wouldn’t be as far left as the Cons are on the right!

    I’m perfectly willing to believe that the Liberals’ appointments to these committees were partisan rewards. If so, this would be a *bad* thing, OK? Although it probably wasn’t for the purpose of influencing the ideology of the judges so much as to give friends some pork. So that does not somehow make it all right for the Conservatives to stack the committees further, more blatantly, and for clearly partisan, ideological purposes, pretty much officially abandoning the principle of judicial impartiality. That’s a *worse* thing.
    It disgusts me that Conservatives can with one side of their mouths proclaim “We’re pure as the driven snow–not like *them*!” but then when challenged on utterly unethical behaviour whine with the other side “How can you be so mean to us? The Liberals do it toooo!”
    So which is it? Because if the Conservatives aren’t actually any better or worse than the Liberals ethically, that just means they’re not only corrupt (like the Liberals) *but also* dangerously nutty (unlike the Liberals) *and* utter shills for the Republicans (kind of but not exactly like the Liberals). The choice would seem clear–if the Cons can only defend their corruption on the basis that the Liberals were corrupt in the same ways, they’re obviously even worse because they do other nasty stuff as well.

    Why anyone would vote for either of these parties has been beyond me for a long time . . .

  • Marc

    Scott Tribe Says:
    “Um.. maybe because the Liberals didnt stack their committees with blatant political appointees..”

    Um Scott, I don’t think you are serious. The Liberals took every opportunity to stack committees with Liberal apointees when they were in power. I think thou does protest too much

  • I’m wondering if Lizt knows how to read, period. Nevermind being a pretentious twit who likes to call people ignorant for disagreeing. But hey, it’s easy to be insulting when you’re anonymous, huh?

    Anyways, re-read the quote in Scott’s post:

    “Legal and constitutional experts told the Star yesterday that they found Harper’s comment regarding the selection of judges to be troubling. “This is very, very alarming,” said Lorraine Weinrib, a constitutional lawyer and professor at the University of Toronto. “Nobody is against law and order and nobody is against the proper administration of justice … but this government has raised proposals that may very well run contrary to the Charter,” Weinrib said.”

    It’s not the proposal to “stack the judiciary” that runs counter to the constitution in Weinrib’s statement, it’s some of Harper’s other ideas (like, perhaps nixing SSM) that are being referred to by the professor, albeit in a very clumsy manner. The quote seems almost intentionally obscure.

  • foottothefire

    Scott,
    this is an outstanding blog. It stands as rare witness to Harper’s use of fundamentalism, fostering of ignorance and good old fashioned witchcraft in a quest for power that is reminiscent of too many democratically elected wrong leaders.
    Keep it going.

  • Joseph

    For those who may honestly not understand what the changes are and why they matter – or who would like to bury their heads in the sand “pretending” not to get it, here is the best succinct explanation I’ve read. It even explains the human element in the former process while explainging the danger of the changes the conservatives have made – especially given their vocal past on the issue of the judiciary (and the disastrous results of the approach in the US).

    This is clearly not the “same” as when the Liberals were in power, despite what many would like you to believe:

    From the Toronto Star Feb 15, 2007 04:30 AM
    jf
    Opposition MPs are accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper of trying to tilt Canadian courts to the right by stacking the committees that screen potential judges with Conservative party supporters and people with socially conservative views.

    The allegations are troubling because the committees, which vet applicants for judgeships on federally appointed courts, were created specifically to keep partisan politics out of appointments to the bench.

    True, committee spots filled by Ottawa have always been potentially vulnerable to political meddling, no matter which party is in power.

    But combined with a recent move by the Harper government that gives Ottawa more clout on these judicial screening committees, such moves heighten fears that Harper has set out to remake the bench by appointing judges based less on qualifications and more on political leanings.

    Such actions would undermine the principle of judicial independence for which the Canadian legal system is rightly praised around the world.

    Until recently, the judicial advisory committees consisted of seven members: a judge, two members of the legal profession, a provincial member and three federal “appointments at large.” There is at least one such committee in each province.

    But without consulting Parliament or the legal community, the Conservatives decided last fall to name a fourth federal appointee, this one from the police. Ottawa also decreed the judge, who acts as the committee’s chair, must abstain when the now eight-member panel votes.

    That extra member effectively puts the balance of power in the hands of the four federal appointees, who can now tip the committee toward the government’s preferences.

    Such a scenario becomes more likely if they have been hand-picked by Ottawa for their political views.

    For its part, the government says it made the changes to give the police a voice in picking judges and to reflect a broader range of perspectives.

    This argument does not stand up though. Under the old system, Ottawa could have used one of its three appointments for that purpose. Creating an extra spot was unnecessary, except to stack the deck in the government’s favour.

    The changes to the committees have provoked alarm in legal circles and have even drawn a rare public rebuke from Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.

    And rightly so. Canada’s judiciary has a well-deserved reputation for independence.

    Harper, who campaigned against partisanship in government appointments, should reverse course on this blatant attempt to politicize our courts.

  • Um.. maybe because the Liberals didnt stack their committees with blatant political appointees.. or make sure the Committees had a majority of votes in their favour… or the all-but-removal of the Judges from the process… and they didnt blatantly proclaim they were doing this to get judges who favoured their agenda.

    Next question

  • Why was no one alarmed when the Liberals did it? Hypocrisy!

  • But Judges picked them,not police or firefighters

  • Hey Bud:

    Read the column again – something you apparently failed to do the first time. Its constitutional experts saying that it may go contrary to the charter, not Liberal partisans.

  • Bud

    Now you’re arguing which is against the constitution and which is not. The end result is the same. Liberals picking left leaning judges and Conservatives picking right leaning judges.

    Here’s a quote from the National Post today.

    ?In 2005, the government named at least nine loyalists to the bodies that help choose federal and provincial superior court judges, including a president of the federal Liberal party’s B.C. and Manitoba wings, a contender for the presidency of the Nova Scotia branch, a former Newfoundland Cabinet minister and unsuccessful provincial candidate.”

    People who live in glass houses . . . . .

  • Lizt:

    Apparently not.. which disappoints me because I expect better of Andrew. Though, it did spur me to blog an entire new post on the topic.. so I thank Andrew at least for causing me to get inspired again to write more on this topic. 🙂

    Some people are accusing Dion of being a one-trick-pony with the environment. I dont believe that, but Harper has certainly given him and the Liberals a very public other issue to point to Canadians how neo-conservative this bunch really is

  • Did Andrew read what you said, Scott, because if he did, he is ignorant. The Liberals, when picking judges, did not go against the Constitiution! So there.

  • knb

    What I find really curious is that anyone is surprised at this agenda of Harper’s.

    The Liberal’s did a lousy job of telling us what to expect, (last election), but then the media exacerbated things, effectively negating the bottom line. I still see media laughing about Harper having had a hidden agenda. Well it’s not so hidden anymore is it?

    I wasn’t laughing then and I’m sure not laughing now.

  • You partisan Liberals sure are amusing. When WE do it (for decades at a time) it’s fine & dandy, but when THEY do it it’s reprehensible.

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