Thursday, September 28, 2006

Kick 'em When They're Down

There may be a post-November 7th career for Kerry Healey in Ottawa. She already has the Tory got-bucks, tailored-rules mentality. She certainly must like the right-winger move up North this week.

You know those gay rights, oldster rights, women's right and all those other lefty rights? Fuhgeddaboudit! The Conservative government has simply axed the legal-rights program that protected minorities and helped their court battles for the past 30 years.

As covered in CNEWS, this is just the latest right-wing lie that stomps on previously protected minority rights.

In particular, it notes the campaign statements by now Prime Minister Stephen Harper on this area. "He said, 'Don't worry, if you elect me as a prime minister, the courts will hold me in check'," Liberal MP Omar Alghabra told a news conference.

"(Then) what does he do? He cancels the Court Challenges Program, which is supposed to hold him in check."

The program has helped fund successful legal actions that "broadened the rights of Canadian seniors, women, the disabled, homosexuals, religious groups, aboriginals, and minority-language groups." Specifically:
  • Defining women's pay-equity
  • Simplifying the necessary argument for a sexual-assault conviction
  • Opening schools for French-Canadians
  • Guaranteeing English-language rights in Quebec
  • Affirming religious freedoms
  • Helping homosexuals "win equality protection under the Charter of Rights in landmark 1990s cases that led to a slew of new legal benefits and eventually paved the path to same-sex marriage."
Imagine how our lieutenant governor could snuggle into the arms of this movement. She wants to reverse same-sex marriage here. Boy, could stripping the weapons minorities have for legal battle make her happy!

Up North, the Tories stopped this program 14 years ago when they were in power. The 1994 Liberal government restored it. To this day, Tories have remained Republican-irritated that they have to help fund attacks on their regressive policies. Power is supposed to come with arbitrary privileges, right?

In a Karl Rove-esque moment, Harper's chief of staff's doctoral dissertation and other published papers hint that this was coming. As that Ian Brodie wrote in Do the "Haves" Still Come Out Ahead in Canada?:
"Three interests - official language minority groups, feminists, and homosexual rights groups - have been particularly successful at pursuing their objectives through the courts," Brodie wrote when he was a professor at the University of Western Ontario.

"All three of these interests consider themselves traditionally 'disadvantaged' groups in Canadian society, and so their success is puzzling."

The paper, which he co-authored in 2003 just before joining Harper's staff, suggests "a solution to this puzzle."

The paper concludes that the so-called "haves" really do come out ahead in our legal system - and that's because the Court Challenges Program has simply helped reverse the definition.

"In other words, these self-described 'disadvantaged' groups win because under the new conditions they are now among the 'haves'," Brodie writes in the paper, co-authored with the University of Calgary's Ted Morton.

"Being among the 'haves' has given them the resources required to become repeat players and succeed in judicial politics."
A Tory official, speaking anonymously said that "If there are any future injustices, he said, offended groups can simply use the news media or the political process to pressure government. Or they can launch lawsuits with their own money."

A few other Tories have distanced themselves from this spiteful move. Also, the Canadian Bar Association called killing the program dishonest. "They're making it sound like these fringe groups were the only ones accessing it," said Guy Joubert, a vice-president at the association. "That's definitely not the case. . . . What this move has done is silence the voices of marginalized Canadians."

So, if Kerry and D.C. Republicans get tossed in November, they might consider emigrating to Canada -- only legally, please. Why settle for simple amendments and an occasional law to institutionalize your spite and disdain? Think bigger. Change the system to keep the downtrodden where they belong.

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Anonymous said...

The US Congress isn't too far afield of this strategy. They're constantly introducing bills that would prohibit the Federal Courts and/or Supreme Court from hearing certain types of cases. You can guess which sorts of cases. I'll grant you that none of the bills has passed, but the sabre rattling is right frightening to those of us who rely on courts to at least sometimes let justice be done. And of course Bush has made the Civil Rights Commission a joke.

As to Healey bestowing her gifts upon Canada, I'd wish her well and send her off with a kiss, but I just couldn't wish that fate on our neighbors to the north! If she does give it a whirl we can place a new monument a the border which states:
"Give them those we are tired of,
The poor in spirit,
Those of whom we yearn to be free."

massmarrier said...

LOL about your Emma-style po'm.

Of course, the Healey/Murphy sorts are not about to head where the rich have to pay taxes.

Anonymous said...

Little known fact about Emma: she chose the title "The New Colossus" in honor of Healey's Helmet Hair. Yes, she was foresightful, that one was.

Anonymous said...

The Court Challenges Program (CCP) was a biased program that did not support legal equality at all; it routinely only funded one side of a rights issue being challenged in the courts. It was made a non-profit crown corporation so as to be beyond the scrutiny of Parliament and the Auditor General.
Religious groups wanting to affirm their freedoms did so using their own financing whereas other groups working against religious freedom did so on the government's tab.

The whole idea that any group will not have the money is ridiculous. Gays and lesbians have jobs just like most other people. If some issue really puts a bee in their bonnet then they can all send in $10 each and have more money available than they would ever have from the government-funded CCP.

Anonymous said...

The Court Challenges Program (CCP) was a biased program that did not support legal equality at all; it routinely only funded one side of a rights issue being challenged in the courts. It was made a non-profit crown corporation so as to be beyond the scrutiny of Parliament and the Auditor General.
Groups working for religious freedom have to pay for lobbying and court challenges from their own pockets whereas gays and lesbians get a free ride from the CCP and government funding.
The idea that gays and lesbians won't have money to fight for their cause is ludicrous; they have jobs just like everyone else. If there is a cause they want to fight then they can all contribute $10 each and have more money than the CCP would provide anyway.

massmarrier said...

Interesting set of interpretations, Anon...

The MPs in favor of keeping it point out that it is just those who need protection who use CCP, and that like our private ACLU, it defends across political values. Right-wingers have used it to.

It may be telling that more lefties use it. Who's discriminating against whom? It was only against the perceived imbalance that the Tories decided to pull the program.

Yet, as for the canard that gays are wealthy enough to fund their own fights is absurd. Some are, some aren't, and that's not the issue at all.