Taking shots at the Supreme Court of Canada - Our Charter under attack (Photo of the Supreme Court of Canada Building by Philippe Landreville, courtesy of the SCC)

 

 

 

 

They are trying to turn Canada into a gulag. It is all being done, they claim, to "protect" marriage, just as others in the past, curtailed rights of Jews and blacks to protect "honour" and racial "purity". The Nuremberg Laws were introduced with the rationale that they were necessary in order to preserve the German people. Similar reasons have been given to justify the exclusion of gays and lesbians from marriage.

 

 

 

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Advocacy News

May 19, 2003

Our Charter Under Attack
Taking shots at the Supreme Court of Canada

" Under the assumed authority of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms the courts have moved beyond their traditional role as arbiters of legal disputes and into the realm of policy making. Indeed, they have become politicians."
Vic Toews, Member of Parliament, Canadian Alliance Party, May 8, 2003

"The impression created by the speech we have just heard is misleading and could risk damaging the credibility of the institution of the Canadian courts and the public's confidence in our system of justice as a whole."
Don Boudria, Member of Parliament, Liberal Party, May 8, 2003


With victories for same-sex marriage accumulating in the provincial courts, and as we come closer to our goal of equality, the rhetoric from right-wing extremists is becoming more desperate. The irrational and hate-filled arguments from our opponents are increasingly being seen as raw bigotry by most thoughtful Canadians. It is no longer acceptable to demonize or denigrate the gay community and attempts to do so make the offenders look mean and ignorant, as M.P. Elsie Wayne discovered last week.

So the gay bashing goons have taken aim at another target: The Supreme Court of Canada. And like most bullies, the object of their misinformation is unable to truly defend itself. Supreme Court justices rarely take public positions on issues outside of the courtroom. Contrary to the accusations of
"Gay Unions Under Attack", illustration by Laird Ogden, 1998.  Used with permission of the artist.
"Gay Unions Under Attack" by Laird Ogden, 1998
Used with permission of the artist.
the politicians like Mr. Towes (Alliance party), the justices do not appear on talk shows and issue irresponsible statements to the press in order to stoke the fears of the public. They do not take a stand on political issues. But they do make rulings based on law and based on the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Canadian Charter. And therein is the problem for those who oppose equality.

A surrogate war on the Canadian Charter

Link to "The Charter - Its Impact"In attacking the Supreme Court of Canada, these people are attempting to undermine the authority of the one place that will uphold the rights of Canadians when our own politicians refuse to do so. That is why we have a court with such authority. Otherwise the laws that govern our lives would be at the whim of politicians who pander for votes, and our Charter would be a meaningless piece of paper, empty words without any authority.

When the Supreme Court of Canada is attacked for upholding citizens rights, those who are conducting the attack are really running a campaign against our Charter and against Canadian citizens living under its protection. They are trying to turn Canada into a gulag. It is all being done, they claim, to "protect" marriage, just as others in the past, curtailed rights of Jews and blacks to protect "honour" and racial "purity". The Nuremberg Laws were introduced with the rationale that they were necessary in order to preserve the German people. Similar reasons have been given to justify the exclusion of gays and lesbians from marriage. Heterosexuality is something that societies need to actively "promote", or so claim the disturbing academics Katherine Young and Paul Nathanson(National Post, May 2, 2003). Their ludicrous implication is that the survival of our species depends on the protection of heterosexuals at the expense of homosexuals .

The Damage Done

As politicians continue to dodge their responsibilities in upholding the Charter, and then criticize the courts for adhering and complying with our rights, they are undermining the very foundation of our Canadian civilization.

"It troubles me that elected politicians would be perhaps unreasonably critical of the role of the courts in interpreting the Charter when the invitation and the responsibility -- and I should emphasize the word responsibility -- was deliberately given to the justice system," said Roy McMurtry (January 11, 2000, National Post), chief justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal, and one of the fathers of the Charter.

Charting the Public

  • 75% say their rights are better protected because of the charter (Ipsos-Reid poll for CTV + Globe & Mail, reported April 6, 2002)
  • 70% trust judges more than politicians to protect them (Ipsos-Reid poll for CTV + Globe & Mail, reported April 6, 2002)
  • 66% think party politics plays a role in court decisions (Ipsos-Reid poll, reported May 12, 2003)
  • 65% approved of the court's performance in the last year (Ipsos-Reid poll, reported May 12, 2003)
  • 55% disagree that judges have too much power (Ipsos-Reid poll, reported May 12, 2003)

The tactics of those opposed to equality have a dangerous and insidious impact. One year ago (Apr. 6, 2002), an Ipsos-Reid poll for CTV and the Globe and Mail found that 75% of Canadians believed their rights were better protected because of the charter and 70% trusted judges more than politicians to protect them. But a recent Ipsos-Reid survey, reported by CanWest News Service (May 12, 2003) revealed that two out of three Canadians think the Supreme Court of Canada is influenced by partisan politics.

"If I read between the lines, what is happening is that politicians are throwing hot potatoes to the courts because they don't want to deal with the issues themselves," said Errol Mendes, a University of Ottawa law professor in the CanWest news report. "The courts are either throwing it back or making the tough decision. And when the tough decision comes out, the side that is not happy with it then claims the court is influenced by party politics.""In my opinion, groups that have historically been the target of discrimination cannot be expected to wait patiently for the protection of their human dignity and equal rights while governments move toward reform one step at a time. If the infringement of the rights and freedoms of these groups is permitted to persist while governments fail to pursue equality diligently, then the guarantees of the Charter will be reduced to little more than empty words."
Iacobucci J., Vriend v. Alberta, Supreme Court of Canada (1998)

It is politicians that have politicized human rights, not the courts. The irresponsible campaigns now underway are having an impact on the Canadian public because politicians across the political spectrum, but in particular, the Liberal party leaders (the Prime Minister, and the Justice Minister), have created a political climate, through their inaction and abdication of responsibilities, that enables opponents of justice to instill an impression in the Canadian public that undermines the decisions of our country's courts, and ultimately, weakens the foundation of our justice system: the Canadian Charter.

It is time for the Liberal party to step up to the responsibilities of governance, to step out from behind the robes of the judiciary, and speak up in defense of the Canadian Charter and the rights of all Canadian citizens. In their silence, the Justice Minister and the Prime Minister are undermining the authority of our highest court, and ultimately, our highest ideals.


Read a selection of comments from our mail.Link to our media coverage of related issues.