Pubdate: Sat, 16 Apr 2016
Source: Medicine Hat News (CN AB)
Copyright: 2016 Alberta Newspaper Group, Inc.
Author: Alex McCuaig
Page: B6


On the eve of the 34th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights 
and Freedoms, the Supreme Court of Canada has made two significant 
decisions regarding the constitutionality of legislation passed by 
the federal Conservatives.

On Friday, the country's top court ruled that mandatory minimum 
sentencing for repeat offenders in drug offences and the denial of 
enhanced pretrial custodial credit for accused denied bail were 

It's fair to say these and other so-called tough on crime legislative 
measures didn't meet the requirements outlined in one of this 
nation's foundational documents which establishes the rights of Canadians.

The Charter can appear ethereal to the average Canadian who does - 
and should - expect those convicted of crimes be denounced and 
deterred from continuing such actions. The Charter can appear to be a 
high-minded aspirational document with little substance to a victim 
of a home invasion who had a piece of rebar smashed over his head and 
rightfully has the expectation that the perpetrator be punished for his crime.

The application of the Charter can appear to be a contravention by 
judges over the legislative wishes of the elected members of government.

Despite these issues, the Charter is a list of fundamental principles 
to which Canadians decided in 1982 to live by and has real and 
meaningful practical applications which many take for granted.

As a foundational piece of legislation, it requires to be applied 
equally to every Canadian, whether they are exercising their rights 
by posting social media criticism or supportive of one thing or 
another or a shoplifter pinched on a theft rap.

It's hard to find a law-enforcement member who has anything good to 
say about the Charter as they see it as placing limitations on what 
they can do.

Unless you desire to live in a police state - and there are many 
options if you do - law enforcement need limits and the motivations 
of those who don't think they do should be questioned.

These recent Supreme Court decisions will likely once again stoke the 
flames of many who see this as another incursion by judges in 
overturning the wishes of Parliament.

Unless Canadians wish there to be unconstrained power placed in the 
hands of the government and that it should go unchecked, then by all 
means feel free to use the Charter as toilet paper - at least until 
the government passes a law that puts a camera in there as well.

And for those who believe Supreme Court justices are exercising a 
political agenda, since seven of them were appointed by former prime 
minister Stephen Harper, one by former PM Brian Mulroney and one by 
Paul Martin during his short tenure as PM, it's hard to see exactly 
what agenda that is, aside from a conservative one.

The Charter may not be a perfect document but it can be amended - not 
easily but it can be changed though the same mechanisms unto which it 
was formed. That's to say a large consensus of the provinces 
representing a majority of Canadians.

It's futile to criticize a document, far less so for those who are 
responsible for changing it on behalf of those they are elected to 
represent. If change is needed, that's where you start.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom