Monday, April 18, 2016

In Praise Of The Supreme Court

Last week, The Supreme Court issued three more landmark decisions. The first two decisions struck down more of Stephen Harper's tough on crime agenda. Tom Walkom writes:

On Friday, the court unanimously swept aside provisions of the former Conservative government’s Truth in Sentencing Act that limited a judge’s ability to give credit for time served in pretrial detention.
In a second decision that same day, the majority struck down another Conservative law that required a minimum sentence of at least one year for previously convicted drug traffickers.
In both cases, the top court said, restrictions on judicial discretion were so broad as to be unconstitutional.

Mr. Harper ordered his Ministry of Justice to stop asking whether his legislation could pass constitutional muster. The result has been an array of decisions that should have reminded Harper -- and all Canadians -- that a prime minister is not above the law. Since Mr. Harper has all but disappeared, it's hard to know if the lesson has sunk in.

The far more important court decision came Thursday. That’s when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Métis and non-status Indians are Ottawa’s responsibility and must be treated as “Indians” under the constitution.

Among other things, that makes members of the two groups eligible for certain kinds of health care and tax exemptions available now only to the Inuit and residents of First Nations communities.

But the court also confirmed, in an almost casual manner, that Ottawa has a constitutional duty to consult meaningfully with representatives of the Métis and non-status Indians before doing anything that might impinge on their rights.

The justices said they didn’t have to formally restate that obligation in their decision because it was already settled law.
But it will act at the very least as a reminder to Ottawa, which has not always been anxious to include Métis and non-status Indians in its talks.

Canada's Metis peoples have lived in limbo since 1867. The Court reminded us that all God's children have a place in the choir -- and that it is a source of wisdom.



Steve said...

the current PM understands the fundementals of quantum phycics, the former did not understand the fundementals of the justice system.

Owen Gray said...

I suspect that the current prime minister knows what he doesn't understand, Steve. The former prime minister didn't understand what he didn't understand -- and didn't care.

The Mound of Sound said...

One look at the degraded state of America's top court and we should indeed be grateful to have our SCC. Harper would have saddled us with a politicized Supreme Court had he discovered a way to pull that off but Canada has powerful law societies and bar associations that rise up against such things.

I remember one blatant political appointee on the B.C. Court of Appeal, a longtime tennis partner of the Attorney General. In this case I was pretty sure the veteran justices had my argument but the third guy was a blank. At the conclusion of arguments it was standard for the judges to consult, see if they concurred and whether the matter could be disposed of from the bench or required written reasons. This time the two 'real' judges huddled briefly, announced the judgment and only then acknowledged the presence of the appointee, asking if he had anything to add. It was an astonishing demonstration of their utter contempt for this guy. He resigned a couple of months later.

Owen Gray said...

Your story is a reminder that good people always make the difference, Mound. Harper corrupted just about every political institution he touched. Luckily for us, he could not corrupt the Supreme Court.

Steve said...

It is a sad indidment of the USA. Justice is totally political.

Owen Gray said...

It's the model Harper also chose to follow, Steve. And, therefore, it should be interesting to hear what the judge at the Duffy trial has to say on Thursday.