Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Canada During the Suspension of Democracy

The online publication of Osgoode Hall law school (The Court) wrote last July, "Canada's tradition of mostly centrist jurisprudence at the Supreme Court level seems, by comparison [to the US], to be much more levelheaded, and this is a result largely attributable to a selection process that, whatever its flaws, has tended in the past to be primarily apolitical and most concerned with good jurisprudence rather than with ideological conformity."

Yesterday's appointment of Thomas Cromwell to the Supreme Court was not an apolitical process and the appointee is not centrist. The Globe says that "Judge Cromwell... can be expected to use the Charter of Rights and Freedoms sparingly to strike down legislation, and generally place the interests of policing ahead of the rights of the accused." In other words, he's a thoroughly Conservative appointment, chosen by Harper to further Harper's pro-jail approach to justice.

Harper's activities during prorogation are scandalously undemocratic. He suspended parliament because he doesn't have the confidence of the majority of MPs and was about to be booted out of office. Now he's thumbing his nose at democracy even more thoroughly by making senate appointments and bypassing the advisory committee on supreme court appointments.

Why are we not crying foul? Far from complaining about prorogation, most of the media has taken to calling it a "time out", as if MPs were naughty school children who need to sit in the corner for a while. Lawrence Martin is one of the few media figures to write seriously about the prorogation, and he makes an excellent case that Michaele Jean should explain her decision to Canadians. He quotes political pundits who describe Canada as "Zimbabwe run by the Queen" and "a banana republic."

People may complain about the senate, but senators serve important functions: on a daily basis they sit on parliamentary committees, but more importantly, from time to time they are required to be our chamber of "sober second thought." The Governor General, or at least this Governor General, has not undertaken the serious responsibility of being Canada's representative of our head of state. She has been unable or unwilling to put any reins on the undemocratic tendencies of our corrupt prime minister, and he is riding roughshod over our democratic traditions. Docile, obedient Canadians are just letting it happen.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thomas Cronwell is not a centrist? Have you read any of his decisions? He's about as middle of the road as they come.

This may come as a surprise to you, but not wielding the Charter as a club over which to beat random legislation down is considered centrist.