Little Fish in a Giant pond

Friday, October 20, 2006

One Hell of a Burn

According to the Canadian Press, it has been alleged that while being questioned in the House of Commons about his party's environmental plan, Conservative Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay was asked "what about your dog?", to which the Nova Scotian MP allegedly replied "You already have her" and gestured toward his ex's vacant seat. MacKay is apparently denying that he referred to Stronach as a dog. I should also point out that there is no record in Hansard of the comment, and the audio-tape that captured the comment is not clear. Perhaps MacKay is innocent, but it does not look good for him. See article:

As funny as this comment was, it is not the kind of comment that should be tolerated from one of this country's elected officials about another. I should hope that whoever made the comment would at least have the intestinal fortitude to apologize.

Chances are we've all been hurt by someone at one point in our lives, and MacKay was betrayed and humiliated by Stronach on a very public level. It's more that understandable that he would have some pent up hostility. Just the same, he has a duty to put his personal life aside and conduct himself in a professional manner. If he is not able to do this, then he should not be able to keep his job.

What I fail to understand in the matter is how the whole thing is being made out to be a comment against women. I don't pretend to know what MacKay was thinking when he said what he said, but I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that he was comparing Ms Stronach as an individual (not women in general) to a dog. What he said was bad enough on it own merit because it was demeaning and unprofessional. I see no reason to go reaching and turn it into something it wasn't.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Three strikes legislation in Canada?

Well I suppose we had to expect this. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Justice Minister Vic Toews have just announced that they will be introducing a Canadian form of “three strikes you're out” legislation. For details please see the link below:

Apparently, the bill, which is supposed to be introduced to parliament next week, would reverse the burden of proof onto a defendant that has been convicted of three or more violent or sexual offences, for proving that he or she is not a dangerous offender. The consequence of such a label is that dangerous offenders have longer minimum sentences.

Naturally, this decision has drawn the wrath of criminal lawyers (in particular defense attorneys I would imagine!), and the praise of victim's advocates.

I can understand how this would please victim's groups. Their chief preoccupation is with retributive justice, and who's to say that they are not entitled to such justice so long as it is executed within reason? On the other hand, unless we are imprisoning someone for life (and even a life sentence doesn't usually mean life), it just makes sense to rehabilitate them so that they are less likely to re-offend when they are returned to society. By removing the possibility of early release, we are in effect removing an important incentive for them to engage in the rehabilitation process.

As the attached article suggests (along with many criminologists) three strikes legislation has been tried in other jurisdictions, in particular American ones, that are currently moving away from such tactics because they have been determined to be ineffective in deterring crime. I sense that if there can be any purpose in three strikes legislation, it is that it will provide some measure of justice to the victims of crime. At least people will be punished more severely for serious repeat offences. But at what cost to society as a whole?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Harper continues to flirt with the clergy

Well folks, they're at it again. The Neo-cons have once again begun to resurrect the same-sex marriage issue. It's common knowledge that they have been planning to reopen debate on the issue for some time now, and even to hold another free vote on the subject. Apparently they are also preparing legislation to be enacted just in case that fails.

In an interview with the Globe, justice minister Vic Toews confirmed that the government has been working on the Defense of Religion Act. Apparently this bill would provide "protection" for officials, such as justices of the peace, and ministers, who refuse to perform civil marriages for religious reasons. Evidently this legislation will also provide protection against human rights actions for religious leaders who criticize the gay lifestyle.

This legislation is as poorly thought out as it is redundant. Let's start with the protection of ministers (priests, Rabbis, etc) who refuse to perform same-sex marriages. Section 3 of the Marriage for Civil Purposes Act (the very act that recognizes same-sex marriage) specifically states: "It is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs." I don't know why Mr. Toews and Mr. Harper feel that additional legislation is required.

As for the protection of justices of the peace, these people are state officials. They have a duty to perform government services, in accordance with the Charter, which does not permit discrimination against homosexuals. I would imagine that the courts would strike down any such legislation. I would say this is an interesting move by a government that justifies the elimination of the Court Challenges Program, on the basis that it does not intend to violate the charter!

Finally, there is also the matter of protecting religious leaders, who speak out against the gay lifestyle against human rights complaints. While each province has its own code of human rights, the only section of Ontario's Human Rights Code, that I've read that could be remotely interpreted as relevant to religious leaders speech is that of Section 13 (1) which states:

"A right under Part I is infringed by a person who publishes or displays before the public or causes the publication or display before the public of any notice, sign, symbol, emblem, or other similar representation that indicates the intention of the person to infringe a right under Part I or that is intended by the person to incite the infringement of a right under Part I. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 13 (1)."

But then it must also be noted that section 13 (2) states:
"Subsection (1) shall not interfere with freedom of expression of opinion. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 13 (2)."

Simply put, the mere expression of disapproval in public over a certain choice of lifestyle, is unlikely to be interpreted as a human rights violation, unless it is encouraging hatred or discrimination against gays. Which is something that should be illegal. How can we honestly call ourselves a free and tolerant society, if we allow certain individuals to incite fear amongst minority communities?

Sorry Steve, I guess Canada’s minorities may still be in need of the Court Challenges Program after all!