Liberals Left to Deal with Constitutional Challenges to Conservative Laws

By Cheadle, Bruce | The Canadian Press, October 27, 2015 | Go to article overview

Liberals Left to Deal with Constitutional Challenges to Conservative Laws


Cheadle, Bruce, The Canadian Press


Liberals saddled with legal challenges

--

OTTAWA - A constitutional challenge of new sick leave rules for federal public servants that was to begin Thursday in an Ottawa court has been postponed until March.

It's just one of many legal challenges that may end up shelved now that Stephen Harper's Conservatives have lost power.

In fact, sorting out which battles to fight and which litigation to delay, reroute or drop will have federal Justice department officials working like busy air traffic controllers this fall.

"Certainly the courts are of the view that we shouldn't be wasting their resources if we don't have to," constitutional lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo said Tuesday.

Cavalluzzo is lead counsel for a charter challenge against the Conservatives' sweeping anti-terrorism law, Bill C-51. It received royal assent in June, but the newly elected Liberals campaigned on amending the deeply controversial law.

"It would seem to me that in light of the fact there is a significant chance that this government will repeal all or most of Bill C-51, I'm hoping to sit down with government lawyers and perhaps consider putting this litigation on hold, pending decisions made by the government," Cavalluzzo said.

He might have to get in line.

Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau won election last week promising to fix or flush a number of contentious Conservative laws. His pledges range from repeal of a bill that permits stripping convicted terrorists of their citizenship to looking at the government distribution of medical marijuana and re-examining some mandatory minimum sentences.

The Conservatives came to office with an approach to criminal justice, security and citizenship that "has been fairly uncompromising," says Carissima Mathen, who teaches constitutional law at the University of Ottawa.

"And that's really where it's run into trouble, because in a constitutional democracy, the government has to balance interests."

She predicts justice will be a very challenging portfolio in the new Liberal cabinet.

"I will confidently say that, while the general issue is one that every incoming government faces, the scale of pending challenges and new legislation that has been targeted as constitutionally suspect, the sheer scale is unprecedented," said Mathen.

Trudeau has said he'll swear in his first Liberal cabinet next week. The new justice minister can expect the phone to start ringing immediately.

Constitutional lawyer Rocco Galati is currently appealing a lower court ruling on his challenge to Bill C-24, the law that empowers the cabinet to strip convicted terrorists of their citizenship. It's one of two charter challenges to the law, which Trudeau has promised to repeal.

"As soon as Prime Minister Trudeau convokes his cabinet I'm going to send them a letter and ask," Galati said Tuesday. …

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