Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Hopeless Charter Cases Hurt Canada

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Hopeless Charter Cases Hurt Canada

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Hopeless charter cases hurt Canada

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An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published Sept. 21:

It would all be so much political theatre -- tedious, maybe, but harmless and eminently forgettable -- if it weren't so expensive. But the Harper government's penchant for writing law that is predictably unconstitutional is costly, to the taxpayer first and to the national psyche in the long run.

The government's decision to defend its ban on veils at citizenship ceremonies, where new Canadians take an oath, means yet another case that impinges upon rights enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will get dragged out, another case in a growing list of court rulings against the government. The Citizenship Act itself requires the greatest possible accommodation for a person's religious or cultural practice, but the Harper government passed regulations specifically forbidding veils when the oath is recited at the public ceremony. The new rule is inherently contradictory to the spirit of the act, and it is destined to fail if tested against the charter in the Supreme Court.

So now Zunera Ishaq, who wants to recite the oath wearing her niqab, becomes a symbol -- someone imposing a minority right on the majority, changing the face of Canada. Her case is one more fight the Harper government has waged, and lost, to trade on a base of public sentiment about what is "wrong with this country."

Lax courts where judges with too much power let criminals off easy is another favoured chord the government hits in its law-and-order agenda. The government is now facing a civil suit for retroactively changing the rules on parole eligibility. Jefferson Greaves, who was serving a six-year drug-trafficking term when the law was proclaimed in 2011, and with four other inmates are suing the government.

They claim they were in jail too long because the legislation changed the rules after they were convicted.

As with forcing new Canadians to conform to the government's idea of how a real Canadian acts, keeping convicts in jail longer is seductively appealing, trading on public fear of crime and a belief courts are lenient. …

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