Dr. Dawg

"Canada is still a democracy"

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A judge is not happy with the immediate punishment of a whistleblower by the Harper government.

Senior public employee Edgar Schmidt was suspended without pay because he went to court to contest possibly unethical practices by the Department of Justice.

“The day after the filing of this statement [by Mr. Schmidt], bang: ‘You’re suspended,’ ” said Justice Noël, pointing out to federal lawyer Alain Préfontaine that the government has taken away Mr. Schmidt’s income and reputation. “It’s unbelievable… Your client has done everything it can to kill this thing. The court doesn’t like that… We see that in different countries and we don’t like it… Canada is still a democracy.”

Be nice if the judge were to hold the Harper government in contempt. Too much to hope for? Probably.

There is a duty for the government to report to Parliament if proposed legislation could violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Department of Justice reviews legislation with this in mind, but, according to formerly secret internal guidelines, they must give the legislation a pass in this respect even if there is a 95% chance that it is contrary to the Charter:

Both sides agree that the Minister of Justice has a duty to report to the House of Commons if proposed legislation or regulations are inconsistent with the Charter. Where Mr. Schmidt and his superiors disagree is over how that requirement should be interpreted.

Mr. Schmidt argues that Parliament originally expected the test for this would be whether, on balance, a measure is likely not in compliance. However Mr. Schmidt says that since as far back as 1993, government lawyers have been directed to approve all measures as long as they can imagine an argument in favour of compliance that would have a 5 per cent chance of success. The government does not confirm this, arguing any internal instructions must be kept secret as solicitor client privilege and cabinet confidences.

Note that this guideline was in force under the Liberals as well. What it means, in practical terms, is that the government of the day gets to roll loaded dice. In the absence of Parliamentary review, it is up to private litigants to challenge any such legislation, and for those of limited means it is practically impossible to do so.

Keep an eye on this case. It goes to the very heart of democratic governance.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on January 16, 2013 11:25 AM.

Roman Catholic Church: gays are insane was the previous entry in this blog.

Harper's Christianist agenda and the dots before our eyes is the next entry in this blog.

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