Happy Canada day!
This ebulletin offers an overview of some of our most recent work: from religious indoctrination in school to ensuring proper and fair treatment of potential refugees, the CCLA continues to monitor the threats to civil liberties throughout Canada.
The past month also saw two important celebrations.
On June 16th, John McCamus who has been Chair of the Board of the CCLA for many years received an Honourary Degree from the Law Society of Upper Canada. We were really pleased that John’s commitment to public service was so recognized. He has been a source of inspiration, of wisdom and of encouragement for many of us and we extend our warmest congratulations.
On June 21st, on National Aboriginal Day, the CCLA held a Gala event that honoured 21 Canadians. Read more below. We wish you a good Canada day, a day to reflect on our democratic rights and responsibilities!
Nathalie Des Rosiers
In this issue:
- Waterloo School Board Will Stop Handing Out Bibles
- One year after the G20
- C-4 – Call To Defeat This Anti-Refugee Bill
- Celebrating Canada
The CCLA is pleased to report that the Waterloo Region District School Board has agreed to stop the distribution of Gideon Bibles to grade five students. The CCLA appeared at a meeting of the school board on June 13, 2011 and delivered a deputation urging the Board to cease this practice and rescind its policy regarding distribution of non-instructional religious materials. The policy and practice have been the subject of controversy for the last few years, and, in addition to several letters written by the CCLA, many parents and local community groups have expressed concerns about it. After obtaining a legal opinion that recommended ceasing the practice, and noting the division that the issue caused in the community, the Board voted in favour of rescinding the practice.
The CCLA’s opinion is that it is inappropriate for a public school board to act as an agent for a religious organization or be used as a conduit for the transmission of a specific religious message. The mission of the Gideons is one of proselytization and the version of the Bible distributed to students urges them to read it every day, and read it prayerfully. In addition, while the school board’s policy allowed any religious group to seek permission to have its materials distributed to students (where their parents provide consent), the Gideons were the only group that had ever taken advantage of this policy.
The CCLA’s concerns about Bible distribution stem from a freedom of religion and equality perspective. Even though parental consent is required for students to receive a Bible, there may be peer pressure on students or a perception by parents and students that the school or board is endorsing one religious group over others. For students from other faiths, this may be experienced as a treatment denying them equal respect.
Finally, our courts have repeatedly affirmed that the state should not engage in endorsement of a particular religious belief or group and that freedom of religion also includes freedom from religion. We are pleased that the Waterloo Region District School Board has done the right thing and will work to urge other school boards throughout Canada that engage in this practice to follow their lead.
|One year after the G20|
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association denounces the failure of the police oversight mechanism to bring proper accountability for the policing at the G20. “Our policing oversight system does not work , and it is particularly inefficient and inappropriate in the context of large policing malfunctions, mass civil rights violations such as occurred at the G20 last year.
Police forces co-operated to conduct the security but cannot co-operate to bring accountability, police officers are not coming forward to be identified and a number of important questions are not addressed, such as why people who committed the property damage were not pursued and why instead the police brutal interventions were focused on peaceful protesters ”, says Nathalie Des Rosiers, General Counsel for the CCLA, “ After one year, it is very sad to see how little has been accomplished.”
Since last year, two reports dealing with the unconstitutional use of the Public Works Protection Act to expand police powers during the week.
The CCLA has advocated for a public inquiry into the policing as the only solution to respond accurately to the integrated policing exercise and to reflect the scale of civil rights violations. With over 1105 were arrested, the G20 saw the largest mass arrests in Canadian peace time. There were at least four instances of mass arrests, three violent disruptions of peaceful protests and the repeated use of unlawful techniques such as kettling, arbitrary searches and detentions.
The CCLA worked with several partner organizations to organize events to mark the anniversary of the G20, in order to make sure that the issues raised by what happened are not merely swept under the rug. We thank the Canadian Labour Congress, the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Canadian Federation of Students and the Council of Canadians for their tireless advocacy, as well as the many other organizations who endorsed and participated in the call to accountability. To read more about our response to Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair’s report and our recent analysis, please visit our website.
On June 21st, CCLA hosted a gala event in the gardens of Campbell House in downtown Toronto. The event was an opportunity to raise funds for the Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust, the research and education arm of the CCLA, and to honour individuals who have enriched our democracy and inspired Canadians through their work. Famous author and defender of freedom of expression Salman Rushdie even made a surprise appearance. We were honoured by his visit.
Two posthumous awards were given because CCLA wanted to celebrate the legacies of Former Sask Premier Allan Blakeney, A Past Chair of the CCLA Board, for his wisdom in helping CCLA, and for his contribution to Canadian life and politics in Saskatchewan and throughout the nation. Senator Keith Davey, who also passed away recently, was celebrated for his contribution to freedom of the press and to media law.
The event was a success, and CCLA and CCLET would like to thank the sponsors that made it possible: McCarthy Tetrault LLP, Osler LLP, Torys LLP, Lerners, Fasken Martineau, Paliare Roland, Blakes, Stockwoods, Lenczner Slaght, CIBC, CAW, Canadian Labour Congress, Cineplex Media, Borden Ladner Gervais, Osgoode Hall, Dewart Gleason.
CCLA also thanks Hearth & Garden, Campbell House, Black Pixel Records, Canadian Bar Insurance Association, Civello, Labatt, Soho Metropolitan Hotel, Wayne Gretzky Estates, Umbra and Soapbox.
Below is the list of honourees, and a glimpse at a few photos from the event.
EXCELLENCE IN THE ARTS
Deepa Mehta (Award-Winning Filmmaker)
Niv Fichman (Award-Winning Filmmaker)
Sarah Polley (Award-winning Actress, Writer, Director)
Rohinton Mistry (Author, Winner of the Giller prize)
Nina Arsenault (Performer and Writer)
Joseph Boyden (Author, winner of the Giller prize)
EXCELLENCE IN PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT
Janice Stein (Director, Munk School of Global Affairs)
Steve Paikin (Anchor and Senior Editor, “The Agenda”)
Joannie Rochette (Olympic Medalist Figure Skater)
Marie Clarke Walker (Executive Vice-President,Canadian Labour Congress)
A. Alan Borovoy (CCLA General Counsel Emeritus)
EXCELLENCE IN ADVOCACY
Earl Cherniak (Partner, Lerners LLP – One of Canada’s 25 most influential lawyers, 2010)
Roberta Jamieson (President and CEO, National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation)
Marlys Edwardh (Partner, Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP – One of Canada’s 25 most influential lawyers, 2010)
Lorne Waldman (Lorne Waldman & Associates LLP – One of Canada’s 25 most influential lawyers, 2010)
Alex Neve (Secretary-General, Amnesty International Canada)
EXCELLENCE IN BUSINESS
Purdy Crawford (Counsel, Osler LLP – One of Canada’s 25 most influential lawyers, 2010)
Salah Bachir (President, Cineplex Media)
Tim Reid (President, Empire Club)
Former Sask. Premier Allan Blakeney (1925-2011)
Senator Keith Davey (1926-2011)
>> Download a PDF copy of CCLA’s annual publication, Act for Freedom, featuring reflections by Celebrating Canada honourees on the meaning of democracy. <<