OK, kiddo! Here are all the fantastically amazing posts tagged with Charter of Rights
The Wildrose Party, a socially-conservative provincial party hoping to wrestle power away from Alberta’s current conservative government, is defending its election platform against some pretty serious criticism this month. The policy is pretty far to the right of the political spectrum, even by Alberta’s standards.
One contentious point in particular, though, involves the concept of “conscience rights:” The ability for citizens in the service industry to refuse public services to others based on whatever private religious beliefs they may hold. If made into policy, explicit situations include civil marriage commissioners legally refusing their services for gay couples, pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control, and other equally wacky concepts.
I’m not sure if Wildrose is aware that this kind of legislation swings both ways, allowing someone like me to refuse services to, oh… say, members of the Wildrose party. You know, for being total knobs.
More to the point, though, this policy would be illegal, as the federal Charter of Rights and freedoms forbids public service discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion, or sexual orientation. Frighteningly, though, the party could weasel this kind of bill into law through obscure constitutional loopholes like the Notwithstanding Clause, and they haven’t ruled this step out. I would certainly hope Albertans wouldn’t tolerate such extremes.
Danielle Smith—the leader of the Wildrose Party—steadfastly defended the policy, however, releasing a statement accusing all concerns surrounding the policy as “fear-mongering” by “liberal politicians.” If you ask me, it sounds like someone’s got their hubcaps in a twist over some pretty serious constitutional flaws in their policy. Here’s hoping Albertans don’t stand for this kind of nonsense on April 23rd.
- Conscience rights battle heats up [Calgary Herald]
Bill C-389, which would add protections for gender identity in Canada’s human rights laws, is being given a stronger chance of passing thanks to NDP MP, Olivia Chow.
Chow has traded debating spots with the bill’s sponsor, NDP MP Bill Siksay, pushing the bill’s third reading vote to this Wednesday instead of much later. Talk of a spring election previously put the bill in jeopardy, since an election would effectively kill all unfinished bills on the table.
“[It's] important to get the trans bill voted on at third reading and have it done just in case…” Chow told Xtra this week. “Also, Bill is not running again, and I want to make sure that the trans bill becomes law, and that will be part of his legacy.”
The bill had been aggressively attacked by anti-gay lobbyists, with one even suggesting that it would lead to cross-dressing serial killers showering next to young girls in public pools. In reality, the bill simply affords equal rights protections with respect to housing, employment, and services for trans Canadians.
The bill has previously passed two readings, but still faces a third before it’s sent to the Senate. Here’s hoping for a speedy passage!
Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach has announced that he will not bring Alberta’s Human Rights code up to date with the rest Canada this legislative session.
Alberta is currently the only Canadian province that doesn’t include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation in its human rights code. While Stelmach told the Calgary SUN that adding these protections is “one of several issues under review” for future sessions, he offered no timeline or hints of priority, saying the changes would not be simple.
Unsurprisingly, The SUN appears somewhat indifferent, declaring that protections in Alberta’s human rights code is merely “symbolic” anyway, since “federal law has protected people on the basis of sexual orientation for a decade.”
Having lived in Alberta for 26 years before I moved somewhere more compatible, I wouldn’t say that’s accurate. It has been illegal to, say, fire an employee because of sexual orientation for about a decade, but Alberta had taken special measures to ensure that gay people were not treated equally under the law much later than that.
Until 2005, Alberta had over-ridden Canada’s Charter of Rights using the obscure notwithstanding clause to introduce an otherwise unconstitutional law banning same-sex marriage. In 2006, Tory backbencher Ted Morton introduced an unconstitutional bill that would have required that school teachers not discuss any gay topics without first issuing parental permission slips, and would have allowed civil marriage commissioners to refuse their public services to gay couples. (That bill was only defeated through procedural tactics by the opposition, and otherwise had majority support.) Also, until just last year, Alberta same-sex couples were not equally eligible for adoption through government agencies as opposite-sex couples and single people in the province.
So, while Alberta may have issued the very basics of legal protections for gay people, this does not make a proper human rights code moot. Alberta is dead last, as usual, in recognising the rights of its citizens equally, and they’re shuffling their feet on correcting it.
Update: Nick, an aspiring lawyer in Ottawa, wrote in to say that the Supreme Court has previously “read in” protections based on sexual orientation into Alberta’s constitution, making it true that an explicit protection would be mostly symbolic—at least as far as the courts are concerned. That said, Alberta’s lawmakers are clearly oblivious to this, and until proper recognition is afforded in the document itself, they’ll continue their push for unconstitutional laws. (Ted Morton has vowed to re-introduce his failed “parental warning” bill, for example. What a guy!)
- Gays press province for inclusion in human-rights code [Calgary SUN]
Happy Valentine’s Day, kids! Love it or loathe it, it’s an existent holiday and that can only mean one thing: It’s time for me to post a lazy update on old stories!
Alvaro Orozco Might Stay
Alvaro Orozco, the Nicaraguan man who was to be deported for not being “gay enough” has been allowed to stay in Canada for two more months. His lawyer is using that time to arrange an application for citizenship based on “humanitarian and compassionate grounds.”
If you’d like to help Alvaro, visit his website for information on what you can do.
Canadians Like Gays, But Not Too Close
While nearly one in five Canadians would dislike a gay neighbour, a sizable majority would like to see those gay neighbours explicitly protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
According to a recent Angus Reid poll, 62% of Canadians responded that they’d support explicit provisions in the Charter to ensure equality for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation. In addition, 54% of respondents said that the final word on issues involving Charter rights should be decided by the courts, and not parliament.
Hey, do you think that means we’ll be getting our Court Challenges Program back?
Well, until Friday, have a great Valentine’s Day!