Archive for the ‘justice’ Category


Random GPC Policy of the Day: Access to Justice

Today’s Random Green Party Policy of the Day from Vision Green is page 99:

“Canada seems to have a two-tiered justice system. The rising costs and complexities of litigation mean that only the wealthy have easy access to effective legal representation in our courts. Middle-class Canadians are increasingly being left in the cold by the cost and complexity of Canada’s judicial processes.

Greens understand, however, that we don’t really have real justice in Canada until we have justice for all Canadians…

Green Party MPs will:

- Increase access to justice for all Canadians notwithstanding their financial situation, by working with the provincial governments to establish a comprehensive National Legal Aid plan that will ensure stable, long-term funding.

- Simplify those matters within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Court of Canada or Tax Court (e.g. intellectual property, income tax appeals, CPP and disability claims). Reducing the amount of time spent in court on civil and criminal matters saves taxpayers money and helps ensure cases are not kicked out due to excessive delay.

- Increase the use of alternative dispute resolution processes, such as mediation and collaborative lawyering, in family and civil courts to reduce conflicts in relationship breakdown.

- Amend the Divorce Act to ensure children are no longer treated like the spoils of war. We will launch a consultations with Canadians, with the legal community, family therapists, and other experts to seek ways to reduce, and preferably eliminate, the adversarial nature of family law.”

Quick Translation: Our Courts are increasingly inaccessible and inequitable as those with the most money crush their opponents with pre-trial motions and huge legal bills. Canadians deserve better.

Won’t it feel great to vote Green!

Posted by Vanessa on April 25th, 2011

Filed under justice | Comments Off

Missing Aboriginal Women and Missing Federal Funding

I’m simply passing this information along from the Facebook group, Proud to be a Member of That “Left-Wing Fringe Group” Called Women,* with the fervent hope that you will take action and write to your MPs, Minister Guergis and Mr. Harper. Our country has a very poor record when it comes to the treatment of aboriginal populations and aboriginal women have borne the brunt of this mistreatment.

Please help this group continue its work by making the Conservatives aware that we do care – about every person’s rights and dignity.

Thank you.


From Elizabeth Pickett, February 15 at 5:56pm

Minister of State for the Status of Women Helena Guergis has made several announcements over the last ten days with respect to small funding grants to various groups across Canada, particularly those encouraging and coordinating educational projects for women entrepreneurs fitting with SWC’s theme Strong Women, Strong Canada. There has been no announcement about funding for the Sisters in Spirit initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. From the Winnipeg Free Press :

“We haven’t heard anything,” said Sisters in Spirit director Kate Rexe. “The government is silent on the issue.”

With a grant of $5 million, Sisters in Spirit spent the last five years compiling a database of more than 520 women who have disappeared or been killed over the last 40 years. The group prepared tool kits for families and police to use when a woman goes missing and developed policies and programs to help stop the cycle of violence.

Rexe said the Sisters group is prepared to begin implementing policies and community programs aimed at three specific areas — the justice system, child welfare and poverty. But that’s been on hold for months because Ottawa won’t say if it plans to keep funding the work.

“It’s unbelievably frustrating,” Rexe said. “We have all the knowledge, the momentum. We can actually start to implement change, but we don’t even know if we can keep planning.”

A year ago, Status of Women Minister Helena Guergis said she was working on extending the project. “I want you to know, I’ve already engaged in the process of what Sisters in Spirit Two would look like,” Guergis said at the Status of Women committee meeting Feb. 12, 2009.

But a spokeswoman for Guergis would not say Friday whether funding for Sisters in Spirit is forthcoming, and said in an email Ottawa has asked NWAC to share its database with police.

Please support Canadian First Nations sisters in spirit and write, phone or fax Helena Guergis, the PM, opposition critics, opposition leaders and your MP demanding full funding for this critical initiative. First Nations women must be the leaders in resolving the national shame of missing and murdered Aboriginal women – they are our experts. The RCMP and provincial and local police have miserable track records with respect to these tragedies and must work in partnership with women to create effective strategies for their resolution.

PM Harper

House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
Telephone: 613-992-4211
Fax: 613-941-6900

Helena Guergis
Minister for Status of Women

733 Confederation Building
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6
Phone: 613-992-4224
Fax: 613 992-2164

Suzanne L. Clément
Deputy Head

Michael Ignatieff

Anita Neville (Lib MP, Winnipeg South Central & party critic on SWC)

Jack Layton

Irene Mathyssen (NDP MP, London-Fanshawe & party critic on SWC)

Libby Davies (NDP MP Vancouver East)

Olivia Chow (NDP MP Trinity-Spadina)

Nicole Demers (Bloc Québécois MP Laval & party critic on SWC)

Find Your Member of Parliament


* The name of this group refers to a comment Mr. Harper made in a supposedly closed-door meeting in Thunder Bay where he commented on the cancellation of the Court Challenges program and proclaimed that they had shut down the influence of left-wing fringe groups. It’s at 3:40 of the video though you might enjoy his bragging about the cancellation of universal daycare at about 3:30. Sadly, one of, if not the major beneficiary of the Court Challenges program had been the equity and rights of women through many cases. It was a major loss to equity in this country and it slipped right by, almost un-noticed and un-challenged. We might as well change it to the Minister of State Against the Status of Women

Posted by Vanessa on February 15th, 2010

Filed under Canada, human rights, indigenous, justice, politics | Comments Off

Our Charter rights under threat?

Just in case you don’t read this blog yourselves, I thought I’d share. is run by Osgoode Hall students to keep track of what is happening with the Supreme Court of Canada – it’s funky cool (well, for a law junkie).

This post is about section 24(2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which is the one that protects us from illegal search and seizure – the procurement of evidence in court by means that violate our rights. The author, D. Silva, contends that a couple of recent rulings by the Ontario Court of Appeals totally negate 24(2) in cases where a gun was found.

I realize that there is a gun problem, and yes, it would be nice if something could be done about it. However, I’m not sure I’m ready to sacrifice my Charter rights in order to be ‘safer’. Actually, I’m pretty positive about that.

Of course, I feel pretty much the same way about a lot of the ‘security measures’ put in place to combat terrorism. For me, it boils down to the question of security – and what that means. It seems that we are trying to create a society where everyone is always safe all the time. The image I get in my head is of a society of people in bubbles – totally protected but totally isolated and looking pretty stupid with no real freedom.

Here is my own personal version of security:

There is no way that the state is ever going to be able to protect me from every nutjob out there who wants to hurt me. If someone wants to kill people, they will find a way. Harm done to a person that way is a violation of their rights, no question, and needs to be dealt with by the justice system – but we will never have a totally safe society. You can’t produce a society with no risk if people are to have any freedoms.

BUT when the risk to my personal rights and liberty is posed by the state itself and has been made a part of the system – now that’s scary.

The willingness of citizens to give up their rights and freedoms because they are scared is the biggest threat to my sense of security.

Section 24


  1. Anyone whose rights or freedoms, as guaranteed by this Charter, have been infringed or denied may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances.
  2. Where, in proceedings under subsection (1), a court concludes that evidence was obtained in a manner that infringed or denied any rights or freedoms guaranteed by this Charter, the evidence shall be excluded if it is established that, having regard to all the circumstances, the admission of it in the proceedings would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

Posted by Vanessa on February 29th, 2008

Filed under Canada, Civil Society, Higher Self, human rights, integrity, justice, law, Ontario | 1 Comment »

More on Afghanistan…

Excellent point raised yesterday that perhaps we are getting the truth and not the Europeans. However, it seems that the truth is changing.

Here is an article from two days ago describing Karzai’s recent comments to a German newspaper.

Here is another one, from a British newspaper on the 25th, detailing the souring relations between Karzai and Britain.

Finally, I am including this article, which I cannot find substantiated in western newspapers (on an admittedly cursory investigation) though ReliefWeb is administered by the UN which I generally consider to be pretty credible. It details a night-time raid by “foreign” and Afghan troops where civilians were killed in Helmand province. I am totally not saying that it is true but there are two aspects I want to draw attention to.

The first is that one of the article tags when reposted to this blog is “Imperialism” which supports the views of many commentators that this war is seen by many as an attempt by the West to enforce their worldview globally. Second, is the very existence of this article. If true, this attack represents an abominable breach of just war principles and should be investigated and punished to the full extent of both international and domestic law. Whether true or not, the existence of stories such as this cannot help but raise hatred against Western troops from the very people that we think we are helping.

Posted by Vanessa on February 1st, 2008

Filed under Afghanistan, Geneva Convention, human rights, justice, Karzai, law, politics | 2 Comments »

Stating a bit of the obvious…

In case you’ve missed it, Israel has closed the borders into Gaza meaning that no supplies (including humanitarian aid) have been entering the Palestinian territories for the past 5 days…

“Meanwhile, John Dugard, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, also released a statement on Friday saying that recent Israeli actions in Gaza violated international treaties.

“The killing of some 40 Palestinians in Gaza in the past week, the targeting of a Government office near a wedding party venue with what must have been foreseen loss of life and injury to many civilians, and the closure of all crossings into Gaza raise very serious questions about Israel’s respect for international law and its commitment to the peace process,” he said in a press release.

Mr. Dugard said the actions violated the strict prohibition in the Geneva Conventions on collective punishment and one of the basic principles of international humanitarian law – that military action must distinguish between military targets and civilian targets.

Mr. Dugard, who serves in an unpaid and personal capacity, reports to the UN Human Rights Council, which will hold a special session this Wednesday – at the request of the Group of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) – to consider and take actions on “human rights violations emanating from Israeli military incursions in the occupied Palestinian territory,” including Gaza and the West Bank town of Nablus.” (from the UN Daily Digest on 21 January 2008)

Violating international treaties? Violating the Geneva Conventions? Ya think? Dear, dear me oh my. I think it is time for this occupation to end.

Posted by Vanessa on January 22nd, 2008

Filed under Geneva Convention, IR, Israel, justice, Palestine, politics, refugees, religion, UN | Comments Off

One final, historical example of exclusion

Again from Hopgood’s article, a few quotes on the project to assimilate ‘the Indian’ in the U.S. back in the 1800s and early 1900s.

The native peoples of America were considered to be like children by the governments in the U.S. during this time period. They were deemed incapable of taking care of their own land and behaving in a civilized manner, therefore, their lands were held in trust until they showed their capacity. Those who could pass the competency test were given “fee-simple titles to the land and thus citizenship during elaborate and heavily symbolic ceremonies conducted by the Indian Office:”

“The crowd would look on while their ‘competent’ brethren were summoned individually from inside the lodge. The candidates for land titles were dressed in traditional costume and armed with a bow and arrow. After ordering a candidate to shoot his arrow into the distance, the presiding officer… would announce ‘You have shot your last arrow’. The arrowless archer would then return to the tipi and reemerge a few minutes later in ‘civilized’ dress. ‘Take the handle of this plow’, the government’s man would say, ‘this act means that you have chosen to live the life of the white man – and the white man lives by work’ ” (from Frederick E. Hoxie, A Final Promise: The Campaign to Assimilate the Indians, 1880-1920. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989: 180).

This process of “cultural suicide” was continued through institutional schooling which in the words of Captain Richard Henry Pratt aimed to “Kill the Indian in him and save the man” (David Wallace Adams, Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1995: 212, 52).

“Education serves to both clean the slate and replace it with a new lesson” (Hopgood, 18). The trick is that back in the 1800s, the elites were open and proud of this mission – to replace the savage with the civilized, to create an individual who would be worthy of citizenship and participation in civil society. Today, this intention has had to remain part of the subtle background, elite members of a society can no longer openly proclaim their project to erase the savage and preserve the man but, instead, attempt this aim through the promotion of supposedly universal human rights.


Posted by Vanessa on January 15th, 2008

Filed under children, Civil Society, education, indigenous, integrity, justice, law, politics | Comments Off

Bombing Civilian Media Targets

According to yesterday‘s UN News Service, “Sri Lankan army planes struck the Voice of Tigers radio station near Kilinochchi in the north of the country on the afternoon of 27 November, killing five of the station’s staff and reportedly more than five other people”. “Regardless of the content of the broadcasts aired by the Voice of Tigers, there can be no excuse for military strikes on civilian media,” said Koïchiro Matsuura (head of UNESCO). “Such action contravenes the Geneva Convention which requires the military to treat media workers as civilians.” Mr. Matsuura stressed that “killing media personnel is not going to help reconciliation” and urged urge the authorities “to ensure respect for the basic human right of freedom of expression”.

[deep breath]

So I was wondering – what type of content do they broadcast? Because my first thought was of the radio station in Rwanda that worked so hard to incite and direct the genocide in 1994, including providing locations of weapons and Hutu and Tutsi targets. Literally, broadcasts would provide addresses and license plates and encourage the militia to pay them a visit. I remember reading Shake Hands with the Devil and Dallaire’s agony that he could not stop the hate spewing from RTLM. (Check out the first link in this paragraph for a quick introductory article to the conflict around press freedom v. hate crimes from the Columbia Journalism Review.)

In class, we’ve been examining how all institutions and ideas that seem ‘natural’ or rock-solid are actually constructions of humanity and history. The idea that we create our own reality has got me questioning some pretty fundamental features of modern society. That idea, combined with the Sri Lankan bombing got me thinking. If a radio station was partaking directly in activities that compromised the safety of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of people would it be just to bomb it? Or is it always wrong?

Matsuura argues that the bombing contravenes the Geneva Convention because media workers are to be treated as civilians. But do media workers negate that protection when they act as conduits for government or militia information that results in other civilians being killed? To put it bluntly: If you could save 10,000 people by killing 2 would it be just? Which I guess comes down a question of the ends justifying the means.

Just wondering.

(This post is in way meant to condone the actions of the Sri Lankan government. I have no information as to why the government decided to bomb the radio station and I will assume until shown otherwise that it was an incredibly wrong thing to do. Murder is wrong. Especially state-sponsored murder. Which is what bombing civilians is – murder. Plus, it turns out that this is not the first time the Sri Lankan government has bombed a Tamil radio station, they also did it last year. Here is the press release from Reporters Without Borders on the bombing with an emphasis on the importance of protecting the freedom of the press. This post is merely a very brief inquiry into the limits of protection afforded to media personnel in the extreme case where they are promoting crimes against humanity.)

Posted by Vanessa on December 4th, 2007

Filed under Dallaire, Geneva Convention, genocide, IR, justice, law, Rwanda, Sri Lanka | Comments Off

The U.S. is no safe haven for refugees

Last week a Canadian judge ruled in favour of the Canadian Council on Refugees, the Canadian Council of Churches and Amnesty International in a case brought against the Canadian government regarding the Canadian-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) that forces refugees to apply for status in the first country they arrive in. According to the Globe and Mail, the judge has ruled that this agreement puts Canada in breach of our international obligations (because of course Canada has signed the refugee convention, we sign everything). Specifically, it violates our commitments under the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the UN Convention Against Torture.

According to the decision the judge decided against the STCA because the U.S. treats refugees so abysmally that we can not legally force refugees to stay there. There was also the whole shipping people off to countries for torture aspect of the U.S. system as well. (BTW, if there are any legal wonks out there reading, the link above will take you to the federal court decision in its entirety which is nicer than relying on the newspaper reports. If you just want to read the outcome, skip down to Section IX. Conclusions.)

Justice Michael Phelan also criticized the Canadian government for not fulfilling its commitment to review the agreement “despite both the significant passage of time since the commencement of the STCA and the evidence as to U.S. practices currently available”. Once again, our government is letting things slip through the cracks while they act like a bunch of dilettantes (see any post relating to Kyoto or Schreiber).

Who does this affect most? For Canada, it will have the greatest impact on refuge seekers from Latin America who travel overland – since 2004, we have been able to turn them away at the border but if the STCA is overturned we will have to let them in.

If this ruling destroys the agreement (and opinions seem to be leaning that way) then they will be allowed through the U.S. and into Canada. Both parties have until 14 Jan 2008 to file their appeals.

Thought you might like to know.

It will be interesting to watch the international fall-out from Canada declaring again (through the proxy of its court system, of course) that the U.S. is a human rights violator.

Posted by Vanessa on December 3rd, 2007

Filed under Canada, justice, law, politics, refugees, U.S. | Comments Off

Canada’s Integrity = My Integrity

Here’s the thing – I am passionate about Canada, I love being Canadian and I proudly identify myself as Canadian wherever I go.

Here’s the problem – if Canada is my country (and as a democracy there is no way I can get out of taking responsibility for it and ownership of it) then when Canada does something that violates its integrity, it violates my integrity.

Well, I’m pretty partial to my integrity and I don’t like having it screwed up by my government. (Shockingly, this is not a Kyoto tirade.)

And it is being screwed up, has been messed up and is increasingly being lost. Canada has the interesting distinction of being the country who has signed the most international agreements and is part of the most international organizations – that means that we are the world’s most committed country to international relations.

So when we break our commitments, we lose integrity. Today I’m a little upset about our arms trade – did you know that we are in the Top 10 and possibly in the Top 5 of the world’s largest arms suppliers. I say possibly because Canada has not kept accurate records and reporting for the last several years. Our transparency rating on arms sales is now placing us just above Iran. Seriously, how embarrassing.

The worst part is that the arms we do produce quite often end up being used by states against their own civilian populations. So now, not only do I live in a country that is a major arms supplier, I am also complicit in egregious state-committed human rights violations. Fabulous. That is a definite compromise of my integrity.

I am so not voting Liberal or Conservative.

Posted by Vanessa on December 1st, 2007

Filed under arms, Canada, Higher Self, integrity, justice, law, politics | 2 Comments »

Schreiber – the saga continues

I hate even giving him the credit of creating a saga, but it is a story that has managed to capture the fancy of the Canadian media. Silly media, tricks are for kids.

So they managed to get Schreiber before the Ethics Committee and he proceded to play our illustrious members of parliament for total patsies. Very smart Schreiber. Why isn’t there an outcry, an uproar? Why aren’t citizens screaming to ship this to Germany so he can face charges of fraud… Fraud. Let’s take a moment to think on that…

Fraud. And yet we expect him to tell the truth here. Sigh. He refused to say anything until they cut a deal which includes giving him more time “to go through his documents” and lays out how long he’ll be able to avoid extradition.

Seriously, give me a freakin’ break. I want this man gone gone gone. I don’t care if Mulroney did take the money and promise to be his ‘special’ friend. I really don’t. There are much bigger issues of integrity-breach to be dealt with.

Like our nation looking like a bunch of two-face, lame-asses who broke their word on an international treaty (yes, I am talking about Kyoto). That breach should be enough to ensure that our standing internationally has dropped to somewhere about the level of the, hmmm…, ah yes, the U.S. Oh no wait, I guess our reputation is lower than that since at least they refused to ratify so made no promises. We are oath breakers, they are just deniers.

Or perhaps our internment of Ukranian Canadians during World War I and Japanese Canadians during WWII. Or maybe our unbelievably poor treatment of the indigenous peoples from whom we stole this land.

But, let’s spend some more time listening to a criminal play our country for a fool. Why not? It’s better than looking at our own issues.

P.S. I realize he is a dual citizen but I don’t think he is at risk of torture in Germany.

Posted by Vanessa on November 29th, 2007

Filed under Canada, Germany, justice, Mulroney, politics, Schreiber | Comments Off