Challenging Canada’s Human Rights Record At the UN
BlogTO - May 1, 2013
A delegation of Canadian civil society groups was in Geneva last month, March 2013, to attend a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council – to tell the Council the truth about the reality of Canada’s human rights record vis-a-vis its obligations with respect to all of the international human rights legal instruments to which it is signatory. This is the second UPR for Canada.
On Monday April 29, 2013 a few of the Canadian NGOs that were there in March – among them the Metro Toronto Chinese & South East Asian Legal Clinic (MTCSEALC), Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change, the African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC) and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will be explaining the UPR process and discussing their experiences.
Canada doesn’t need to erode civil rights to fight terror: Editorial
The Star – May 1, 2013
We’ve been here before. After the Sept. 11, 2001, Al Qaeda attacks on New York, then prime minister Jean Chrétien’s majority Liberal government set the precedent by passing its similarly named Anti-Terrorism Act. In that case, too, smoke from a highly politicized and emotional debate about terrorism blotted out the sun, legitimizing the imposition of draconian laws with scant regard for civil rights. But what’s clear from both the Toronto 18 and VIA Rail cases is that the police and security services already possess the tools they need.
These thwarted plots lend credence to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association view that “the current powers of law enforcement already allow security agencies to pursue, investigate, disrupt and successfully prosecute terrorism-related crimes.” The proposed, largely recycled law “adds no value to our law or to law investigation and enforcement,” the association rightly notes.
Canadian government accused of using scare tactics to pass controversial bill
PressTV – April 27, 2013
The Combating Terrorism Act sat in the House of Commons for months, but this week the Conservative party managed to push it through, reinstating expired laws and making major provisions. It gives authorities unprecedented power to probe those they feel are potential terrorist. It comes right after the Boston Marathon bombings in the U.S. and the alleged foiled plot on Canada’s railing system that resulted in arrests. The government has denied the arrests were timed to garner support for this legislation.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations have pointed out that every major criminal terrorism incident in Canada since 2001 has been prevented without the need for such laws. Civil Rights advocates say the bill is unnecessary and unconstitutional and point out the laws over national security concerns has resulted in numerous court challenges and several Muslims being detained without charge under the provision.
‘We’ve just stripped away essential safeguards’: Civil libertarians decry new ‘anti-terror’ law
Rabble.ca – April 25, 2013
With last night’s passing of the Combating Terrorism Act (Bill S-7), Canada quietly marked the return of controversial post-9/11 anti-terrorism legislation — granting authorities “exceptional” abilities to detain Canadians, preemptively, for three days without charge, and imprisoning anyone for up to a year who refuses to testify before new “investigative hearings.”
For more on the concerns about the bill’s impact, David P. Ball and Anushka Nagji — co-hosts of Media Mornings on Vancouver Co-op Radio — interviewed Sukanya Pillay, Director of National Security for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).
Government says new terror laws necessary, but critics question value
The Canadian Press – April 24, 2013
When the Conservatives suddenly decided to bring anti-terrorism legislation to a vote, they pinned the urgency on current events.
Civil-rights advocates say many provisions in the bill are unnecessary and of questionable constitutionality.
“The preventive arrest and investigative hearing laws, in effect from 2001 to 2007, were never once used for their intended purpose, and every major criminal terrorism-related incident in Canada since 2001 has been disrupted and prevented without the need for preventive detention or investigative hearings,” the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said in a statement this week.
Supreme Court decision allows NOTL man to sue NRP
St. Catherine’s Standard – April 18
A case that began with a complaint about police brutality in 2003 has ended with a decision from the Supreme Court of Canada that will allow Wayne Penner to move forward with a civil suit against the police.
Toronto lawyer Tim Gleason, representing the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, also appeared before the Supreme Court. He took the position that to allow a police chief to make a determination which would affect a law suit against himself would be offensive.
Ashley Smith inquest: Ex-investigator slams ‘culture of intimidation’ at Saskatoon prison
Toronto Star – April 17
A former prison warden brought in to independently review complaints that Ashley Smith was seriously assaulted by staff while at a secure psychiatric hospital in Saskatoon slammed the “culture of intimidation’’ among correctional officers and supervisors at the facility.
Chairing a three-person investigative team, Janet-Sue Hamilton viewed videotapes and conducted interviews in April 2007 at the Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC) after Ashley complained she was assaulted that March by correctional supervisor John Tarala, who was not a guard.
At one point she noted that guards at the facility grew moustaches and beards in support of Tarala when he was being investigated, Hamilton testified.
“The depth and breadth of how far officers were prepared to go was beyond what you expected?’’ asked Allison Thornton, a Toronto lawyer representing the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Hamilton replied yes.
Danielle S. McLaughlin: Why Stop at Red Lights, Anyway?
Huffpost Living Canada – April 16
Why stop at red lights?
In my part of Toronto, I have noticed a new understanding of traffic regulation. Stop if it is convenient to do so, but if you are in a hurry, forget about it.
In fact, I have recommended that children be taught to watch the traffic and the signals in this way: Once the little walking man appears in the signal box, wait for the second car to race through the red light before you venture into the intersection. This may sound like odd advice, but if we only teach children that red means stop and green means go, we could be courting disaster.
Spies that Share
The Dominion – April 16
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is disclosing intelligence to private companies despite a law that does not permit this sharing.
“So much of this activity is undertaken in secret, many of the problems that happen may never become public, so SIRC, I think, has an additional responsibility to ask proactive questions, to be seeking out potential problems before they happen.” [Says Abby Deshman, a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association].
“The legislative prohibition on sharing much of this information is being skirted around,” says Deshman. “If the oversight agency is approving actions that contravene the law, I think that is a major problem.”
Supreme Court ruling gives NOTL man right to sue Niagara Regional Police
St. Catherine Standard - April 16
A case that began with a complaint about police brutality in 2003 has ended with a decision from the Supreme Court of Canada that will allow Wayne Penner to move forward with a civil suit against the police.
Penner says he is “ecstatic” after a decade of legal wrangling to have the Supreme Court rule on his side. It’s an important decision not only for him, but for all Canadians, he says, who might otherwise be put off from lodging a complaint to the police services board or prevented from proceeding with a civil suit.
Toronto lawyer Tim Gleason, representing the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, also appeared before the Supreme Court. He took the position that to allow a police chief to make a determination which would affect a law suit against himself would be offensive.
“It would undermine not just the principle of fairness but the police complaints process,” he said.
Labour Rights conference highlights unions’ role in fight for rights, democracy
rabble.ca – April 14
Almost 200 people gathered in Toronto at the end of March to discuss the establishment and protection of labour laws in Canada and internationally as well as why unions matter in today’s global economy.
Over the course of the conference, hosted by The Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights (CFLR), a panel of experts spoke about the links between labour rights, democracy, equality and social justice.
“[t]he real instruments of accountability,” said Nathalie Des Rosiers, General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, “are what unions have given to Canadian democracy.”
In addition to organizing workers, unions have played a key role in advocating on behalf of women’s, environmental, justice, poverty and aboriginal issues.
Solitary confinement harmful to inmates, lawyers argue
The Toronto Star – April 12
Whether it’s called seclusion, isolation, segregation, “therapeutic quiet” or solitary confinement, lawyers at the Ashley Smith inquest representing Elizabeth Fry, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Smith family say the terms amount to the same thing: a prisoner locked in a bare room with no stimulation and basically no interaction with others.
Aside from getting to the bottom of how Smith, 19, died of self-asphyxiation in a segregation cell on Oct. 19, 2007, at the Grand Valley prison for women in Kitchener, a number of the groups with standing at the teen’s Toronto inquest, including Pate’s Elizabeth Fry, have another goal in mind.
They want to ensure the inquest leads to significant reductions in the use of segregation in Canadian prisons, and a ban on it for mentally ill offenders.
Hundred Arrested at Montreal protest as bylaw come under attack
Toronto Sun - April 6
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has written the mayor on Montreal and the city’s police chief denouncing a controversial bylaw about protests it says “could not withstand constitutional scrutiny.”
The CCLA’s letters state that P-6 has “no place in a free and democratic society” because it takes away citizens’ right to spontaneously protest.
Julius Grey, a Montreal-based constitutional lawyer, agrees.
Clayton Ruby to ask court to hold chief of police accountable
Canada NewsWire - April 8
On April 9, 2013, lawyer Clayton Ruby will ask the Ontario Divisional Court to order the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) to conduct an investigation into Toronto Chief of Police William Blair’s role in the unlawful arrest of Jason Wall. Mr. Wall had been walking home on June 27, 2010 when he was arrested by officers looking for those responsible for vandalism during the 2010 G20 protests. Mr. Wall was detained for 28 hours. He was released without being charged with any crime. He was told that he was arrested for “disguise with intent to commit an indictable offence.” There was no disguise. He had worn a bandana around his neck.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), which referred Mr. Wall to Clayton Ruby’s office and supports the case, has noted that this is one of numerous G20 cases where individuals walking on the street with bandannas were profiled, harassed, searched or arrested. Prior to the G20, the CCLA had specifically alerted the Integrated Security Unit that mere possession of items such as bandannas did not, on its own, provide reasonable grounds for arrest. The police ignored this information.
Appeal court rejects Obeah-sham defence
Toronto Star - April 2
The court of appeal has rejected arguments from three convicted murderers that a Peel Region police officer breached their religious rights by posing as an Obeah spiritual adviser to extract information.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association intervened in the appeal, arguing that allowing police to impersonate religious advisers “shocks the conscience of Canadians.”
What powers do police have for online surveillance?
CBC.ca - March 28
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Wednesday that police need to obtain a special wiretap warrant to access Canadians’ text messages.
The case worked its way up to Canada’s top court as wireless provider Telus Corp., which opts to keep a database of text messages within its network for 30 days, argued it should not have to hand over clients’ text messaging logs daily when police ask for them using a general search warrant.
The decision affirms that there is no practical difference between texting and a traditional phone conversation, which would also require a wiretap warrant to be intercepted.
Canadian law allows the police to legally intercept Canadians’ private communications without their knowledge or consent only through an intercept authorization warrant, said Abby Deshman, the director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association public safety program.
Nuisance bylaw debate continues in Guelph
CTV News - March 30
The nuisance bylaw would allow protesters to gather but not erect tents, structures and congregating on the sidewalk is questionable.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association based in Toronto says the bylaw is too broad and too vague, and it doesn’t fully protect the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Activist Communique: Police in Ontario can search unlocked cell phones
rabble.ca - March 22
The appeals court in Ontario ruled that police may search contents of a cell phone without a warrant during an arrest on February 20, 2013 by Justice Robert Armstrong. Armstrong was backed by two other judges who dismissed an appeal of an armed robbery conviction to Kevin Fearon, who was arrested under suspicion that he was involved in a crime.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association intervened, arguing cell phones should not be searched at all after an arrest, absent urgent circumstances which were not defined at the time; estimating a case by case basis.
No reason to arrest Brazau for bad taste and lack of class
Sun News - March 22
Brazzau charged with breaching previous court conditions and, uttering threats and assault with a weapon. Prior to this charge, he had been in custody for dressing himself like an Imam and mock beating his pretend Muslim wife, and protesting a cop funeral with a sign saying “No Police State.”
Despite Brazzau’s silliness and lack of class, Cara Faith Zwibel, director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, stated that, “In Canada, our Constitution protects the right to express ourselves and to peacefully assemble.”
Another free speech precedent in Alberta
Lexology – March 14, 2013
The Court of Appeal of Alberta ruled in favour of Pastor Stephen Boissoin which upheld his freedom to write a letter to the Editor for his local newspaper which addressed Alberta’s government education policy on the subject of sexual orientation on October 17, 2012. He was famously found guilty in 2007 for writing “hate speech” while expressing his views on homosexuality.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association intervened in support of the principles of free speech and against section 3 of the Alberta Act.
Hung up on when police can search a cellphone
The Lawyers Weekly – March 8, 2013 issue
Lawyers say there are grey zones of uncertainty in the wake of the Ontario Court of Appeal’s judgment that police may conduct “cursory” warrantless searches of a suspect’s cellphone incidental to arrest.
R. v. Fearon  O.J. No. 704 is the first Canadian appellate decision to directly address when the broad general police power of “search incident to arrest” empowers searches of cellphones without a warrant — an issue that has produced conflicting trial decisions across the country.
Abby Deshman, director of the public safety program with the intervener Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), identified other grey areas: The judgment leaves open the question of what happens when a person is arrested while using cellphone and the password is not engaged. “Is that going to be something the police will go into? Do [police] have to ask if the person had a password before they start searching the cellphone? So, I am concerned that even if people do have passwords on their cellphones, if police happen to catch them at a moment when that password isn’t engaged, a search will happen anyway,” she said.
Supreme Court ruling upholds limits on free speech in case involving anti-gay proselytizer
Globe and Mail – February 27, 2013
Canada’s highest court has upheld the nation’s hate-speech laws as a reasonable limit on freedom of expression.
Civil liberties groups and Mr. Whatcott’s lawyer had also asked the court to strike down a key ruling from 1990 that legally defined hatred and affirmed the right of provincial human-rights tribunals to penalize people for hate speech, a move that would likely have forced tribunals in Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. and for the federal government to stop policing hate speech. The Supreme Court declined to do so.
Free-speech advocates criticized the decision. Andrew Lokan, a lawyer for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, another intervenor, said the ruling does offer guidance on what kind of expression can be considered hate, but fails to resolve the fundamental vagueness of Canada’s hate laws.
Anti-gay flyers violated hate law, Supreme Court rules
CTV News – February 27, 2013
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled a Saskatchewan anti-gay crusader violated the province’s human rights rules when he distributed pamphlets denouncing homosexuals.
But the high court also refined the definition of hate speech by striking down some language in Saskatchewan’s Human Rights Code as unconstitutional.
In a unanimous 6-0 decision, it found two of four flyers William Whatcott distributed to mailboxes in Regina and Saskatoon in 2000 and 2001 violated the provincial code, while two others did not.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, while condemning the content of Whatcott’s pamphlets, said such provisions in human rights codes do little to prohibit hate speech.
Hate-speech rules face serious challenge
Globe and Mail – February 26, 2013
The case concerns pamphlets distributed by Bill Whatcott of Weyburn, Sask., an anti-abortion and anti-gay-rights activist and self-styled preacher who says he turned to Christianity after an early life of drugs, crime and homosexuality.
His case, but not his opinions, received support before the court from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which called for the Supreme Court to strike down its key ruling from 1990 on hate speech. In that case, the court upheld a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling against John Ross Taylor, a Toronto man who operated a “White Power” telephone hotline, and legally defined hate as “strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation, calumny and vilification.”
Big Brother Is Watching Your Bookshelf
The Huffington Post – February 26, 2013
This is Freedom to Read Week in Canada, a celebration of our Charter-guaranteed right to intellectual freedom. Across the nation in libraries, schools and theatres we come together to read from books that have been banned around the world, and examine our own reactions to controversial material.
Which brings us to Canada. Here, Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak by Deborah Ellis (2004) was restricted in five school boards in Ontario after protests by the Canadian Jewish Congress that the children in the book portrayed Israeli soldiers as brutal and expressed ethnic hatred. The Wars by Timothy Findley (1977) was challenged due to a depiction of homosexual rape of a soldier by soldiers, but was successfully defended. Cara Zweibel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association tells us that recently Communism With The Mask Off, by Dr. Joseph Goebbels, has been prohibited at the border, along with a number of DVD’s with titles like “Best of the Bullwhip and Singletail” and “Captive Princes” — judged obscene.
Canadian Government faces allegations of discrimination towards First Nations Children at Canadian Human Rights Tribunal
Canada NewsWire – February 22, 2013
On February 25, 2013, the Government of Canada will appear before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to face 14 weeks of hearings to determine if its flawed and inequitable First Nations child and family services program is discriminatory.
The complaint was filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2007 by the Assembly of First Nations and First Nations Child and Family Caring Society after the Government of Canada failed to implement two evidence informed solutions to address the problem. Since then the Government of Canada has spent over 3 million dollars in its numerous unsuccessful efforts to get the case dismissed.
Nathalie Des Rosiers, General Counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) says “It is very important that this case move forward, and that issues of discrimination be promptly addressed. What is at stake in this case is the integrity of our human rights regime and its ability to respond meaningfully to allegations of discrimination.”
Thunder Bay police body cameras raise questions
CBC News – February 21, 2013
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is concerned about Thunder Bay police wearing cameras on their uniforms.
Police say audio and video recordings will hold them accountable for their actions and increase public confidence, but a spokesperson with the CCLA says that only works if the cameras are on all the time.
Privacy rights: Police can search unprotected cellphone without warrant, appeal court rules
Toronto Star – February 20, 2013
If you want to make sure police don’t search your phone without a warrant, ensure it’s password protected, the ruling suggests.
Justice Robert Armstrong, supported by two other judges, dismissed an appeal of an armed robbery conviction by Kevin Fearon, who agued his rights against unreasonable search had been breached.
The case generated much interest in the legal community. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association intervened, arguing phones should not be searched at all after an arrest, absent urgent circumstances.
Court decision that allows police to look through cellphones ‘puzzling,’ lawyers argue
Globe and Mail – February 20, 2013
The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled against a Toronto man convicted of robbery who argued that his constitutional rights were breached when police examined his cellphone and discovered incriminating material, in the form of photos and a text message.
In this week’s appeal-court case, both the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Criminal Lawyers Association of Ontario argued unsuccessfully that this search, too, was out of line.
Feds to defend mandatory minimum sentences as constitutional
CBC News – February 19, 2013
A small group of people might be harmed by mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes, but Parliament is entitled to deference in how it tries to enhance public safety, the federal government argues.
Ontario’s attorney general has carriage of the prosecution of these cases, but the federal government is adding its voice to the fight as an intervener.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the African Canadian Legal Clinic and the John Howard Society are also intervening.
Mandatory minimum sentence for gun possession challenged in court
Toronto Star – February 18, 2013
In 2011, Hussein Nur received a mandatory minimum three-year sentence after pleading guilty to carrying a loaded gun outside a northwest Toronto community centre.
Then there’s Leroy Smickle, also convicted of possessing an illegal firearm after his ill-timed posing for a webcam holding his cousin’s gun just as Toronto police officers crashed through an apartment door.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, John Howard Society, the Attorney General of Canada, The Advocates’ Society and African Canadian Legal Clinic are all intervenors in this week’s proceedings.
Mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes up for debate at appeal hearing
Sun News – February 9, 2013
The crime is the same — possession of an illegal gun. But one Toronto man gets hit with the mandatory minimum three year sentence while another gets lucky and has a rogue judge who strikes down the new higher penalty as unconstitutional.
The constitutionality of the Harper government’s tough mandatory minimums for gun crimes will go under the legal microscope this month when a special panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal convenes to issue a uniform ruling on six recent cases.
[...] arguing against the constitutionality of mandatory minimums will be the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the John Howard Society, the African Canadian Legal Clinic and the Advocates Society.
Civil rights group reps decry new protocol: Operating procedures ambiguous, give University too much discretionary power
McGill Daily – February 7, 2013
The University’s latest demonstration guidelines do not adequately protect rights of association and assembly, and reflect no substantial changes from the protest protocol that was withdrawn two weeks ago, representatives from prominent national and provincial civil rights groups said this week.
According to Cara Zwibel, a director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), who authored the CCLA’s statement last month denouncing the University’s demonstration protocol, “the same concerns remain.”
McInnes Cooper to act for civil liberties group
The Chronicle Herald – February 6, 2013
The law firm McInnes Cooper will represent the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in Atlantic Canada.
Police drones sparks debate over personal privacy
Toronto Star – February 5, 2013
As police services in Canada and the United States begin to use drones as a tool to investigate crime, privacy concerns become part of the debate.
“It’s definitely an issue we’ll be watching,” agreed Abby Deshman, the director of public safety for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “It raises some serious privacy questions. There are still some fundamental gaps in the framework. Where are these being used? Are they going to be used for general surveillance?”
Freedom of expression in the Internet age: A panel at McGill discusses policy challenges
Canadian Lawyer Magazine – February 4, 2013
A panel of members from the legal profession, academia, and the media, organized by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Pro Bono Students Canada, approached these very issues from their respective vantage points at McGill University Faculty of Law on Jan. 30.
Police ‘carding’: Promise to issue receipts on hold after lawyers say practice violates Charter
Toronto Star – January 23, 2013
Toronto police have stopped millions of people and entered their personal information into a massive database, but a plan to issue receipts for those interactions was put on hold once again Wednesday after the Toronto Police Services Board voted instead to get advice from the city’s lawyer on whether the entire practice is legal.
Carding has been an issue for the board since Known to Police, a Toronto Star investigation that found Toronto police stop and document black people at disproportionately high rates. While blacks make up 8.3 per cent of Toronto’s population, they accounted for 25 per cent of the cards filled out between 2008 and mid-2011.
[...] members of the Canadian African Legal Clinic as well as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association have appeared before the board numerous times, imploring members to call a halt to practice or at least get officers to issue a record of the interaction to make them more accountable.
Police board puts off issuing street check receipts, again
NewsTalk 1010 – January 23, 2013
The Toronto Police Services Board is putting off a decision on having cops hand out receipts when they question people on the street.
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association says the board & police need to remember that “fishing expeditions” aren’t acceptable or lawful in Canada.
Mendelsohn Aviv was 1 of 6 people who made presentations to the police services board, many of them focusing on street checks they say boil down to racial profiling.
No privacy if bags checked, court told
The Chronicle Herald – January 22, 2013
Canadians forfeit their right to privacy when they check their baggage for a flight, a lawyer argued Tuesday as a Halifax man’s drug charges were debated before the Supreme Court of Canada.
Issues of racial profiling, privacy rights and even whether drug-sniffing dogs should be used in Canada were all raised as lawyers debated whether Mandeep Singh Chehil should face a new trial.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association countered that while flying does involve some curtailment of privacy rights for safety reasons, that in no way expands to cover random police searches.
The association argued that unless specific signs of wrongdoing are required, police profiling will unfairly target minorities.
Non-citizen offenders don’t deserve lighter sentences, Supreme Court told
Toronto Star – January 18, 2013
“Immigration consequences” cannot be counted on to reduce a court sentence because it defeats Ottawa’s goal to expedite the removal of non-citizen offenders, Canada’s top court has heard.
Permanent residents jailed for two years or more are stripped of their rights to appeal against the revocation of their status.
“If upheld, this approach would require the sentencing judge to ignore the circumstances of the non-citizen offender, which would actually result in the unequal treatment of the citizen and non-citizen offender,” said the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “This is both unreasonable and wrong in law.”
Op-Ed by Nathalie Des Rosiers: Protest is part of life in a democracy
Ottawa Citizen – January 17, 2013
The right to protest disturbs and disrupts. It is meant to. It disturbs ordinary people who may be delayed, inconvenienced or unable to do business as usual. It disturbs businesses for whom any change in scheduling may mean additional costs. It should disturb the government whose job it is to facilitate our life in a democracy and who wants to offer us a prosperous place to live…
Canada casts too wide a net on complicity in crimes against humanity, Supreme Court told
iPolitics – January 17, 2013
A slew of high profile international rights organizations today told Canada’s highest court that the current framework to determine whether a refugee seeker is guilty of the crimes of its government is too broad and should be narrowed to prevent excluding legitimate refugees from shelter here.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and Amnesty International, along with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and others, argued that the Supreme Court should overturn the decision to deny a Congolese man refugee status in Canada because he was too far removed from the crimes of his government and should never have been deemed a criminal.
Top court hears refugee case of diplomat linked to war crimes
Ottawa Citizen – January 17, 2013
The Supreme Court of Canada will hear a case Thursday that grapples with how to determine just who is culpable for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Rachidi Ekanza Ezokola, a former high-level diplomat with the Democratic Republic of Congo, was originally denied refugee status after he fled to Montreal with his family because he was found to be complicit by association with the crimes committed by the war-torn African country.
The case has attracted a number of high-profile interveners, including Amnesty International, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Surge in private security raises concerns over rights
CBC News – January 16, 2013
There are now more than 140,000 private security guards licensed in Canada and only about 70,000 active police officers.
These figures are raising alarms among some experts, who argue that more careful oversight of the security industry is necessary as citizens increasingly come into contact with private security, even in areas that appear to be public spaces.
Abby Deshman, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s public safety program, says that she has seen complaints involving systemic discrimination and excessive use of force by security guards.
Why didn’t police shutdown last weekend’s 14th Street protest?
660 News – January 15, 2013
Whether public opinion is on the side of the Idle No More movement or not, First Nations activists will continue protests like the one Calgarians saw on 14th Street this past weekend.
Cara Zwibel with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association tells 660News, it’s not as simple as telling the police to move in an disperse the protestors.
“There’s a message and a goal here,” adds Zwibel, “and I think it’s one that needs to be dealt with on the political level rather, you know, at the level of policing.”
First man on Canada’s no-fly list denied legal funding for court fight
National Post – January 4, 2013
The first man known to be on Canada’s no-fly list has been denied government funding to fight his legal challenge.
Hani Al Telbani, a Concordia University engineering student, was at Montreal’s Trudeau airport about to board an Air Canada flight to Saudi Arabia in 2008 when he was stopped. He was shown a copy of an emergency direction from the Minister of Transport declaring he “posed an immediate threat to aviation security.”
Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said Mr. Al Telbani is undertaking an “important constitutional” fight, and she was surprised the court rejected the request.
“This is the first case into the legality of the no-fly list and its future use as a security assessment,” Ms. Des Rosiers said.
Applicants for Canadian visas will be checked against U.S. databases
Globe and Mail – January 4, 2013
Almost all applicants seeking a visa to enter Canada will have their identity checked against American immigration databases to see whether they have been previously blacklisted, under a bilateral treaty signed with little fanfare last month.
And in a separate measure, Canada will be fingerprinting visa applicants from about 30 countries, including Colombia, Haiti, the Palestinian territories, Yemen and Iran by the end of this year.
The system lacks “any due process,” says Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Canadians may find they “cannot have family reunions, cannot invite a fellow scientist, a guest or a foreign student” because a visa application was rejected “based on information that may or may not be correct” in the U.S. system.
Ms. Des Rosiers said the fundamental problem with the grand plan for a security perimeter is the absence of “strict transparency rules as to what [rejected applicants] can to do to challenge the U.S. assessment.”
Store video cameras failing to comply with privacy laws
CBC News – December 28, 2012
Andrew Clement, co-founder of the Identity, Privacy and Security Institute, found that not a single video camera in one of Canada’s largest malls complied with the signage requirements of the federal Personal Information, Protection and Electronic Documents Act.
Nathalie Desrosiers, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, called Clement’s findings surprising. She said while many people have come to accept video surveillance as part of everyday life, people also expect to have their privacy rights respected.
“It’s a question of not depriving people of the opportunity to make a decision themselves about what they want to share and what they do not want to share and that’s a fundamental aspect of human dignity.”
Supreme Court raps ‘improper’ jury vetting but nixes appeals
The StarPhoenix – December 21, 2012
Prosecutors might have acted improperly in vetting potential jurors but the misconduct was not serious enough to quash a series of convictions, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday.
The issue of jury background checks has surfaced across the country and several interveners — including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Ontario’s privacy commissioner — were involved in the appeals.
PEI transportation minister eyes unique licence plates for drunk drivers
Globe and Mail – December 20, 2012
In the tiny province of Prince Edward Island, with a mere 140,000 people and few strangers, Transportation Minister Robert Vessey wants convicted drunk drivers to have distinctive licence plates so Islanders know exactly who has been drunk at the wheel.
Civil libertarians aren’t sold. “It definitely raises privacy and dignity concerns,” said Abby Deshman, director of the public safety program with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Did Peel police go too far in murder probe?
Mississauga.com – December 18, 2012
Peel Regional Police breached the religious rights of a Jamaican Canadian family by having an officer pose as an Obeah spiritual adviser to extract information during a murder investigation, the Court of Appeal will hear today.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has intervened in the appeal, arguing that allowing police to impersonate religious advisers “shocks the conscience of Canadians. “People in Canada have a right to spiritual guidance and a right to a relationship with a religious advisor free from police interference,” the association states in written submissions.
Det.-Sgt. David Jarvis testified at trial that the Obeah idea was his. Obeah is not a religion, he maintained, and he would not have infiltrated Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims or Hindus.
Nova Scotia Missing Persons Act Raises Privacy Concerns
Halifax Media Co-op – December 13, 2012
On Dec. 3, Nova Scotia’s provincial Justice Minister Ross Landry introduced the Missing Persons Act. On Dec. 6 the bill received royal assent, effectively becoming law. That is very fast; too fast for critics who say that the law raises many unanswered questions about how to balance privacy and safety issues.
“This legislation definitely raises privacy concerns,” says Abby Deshman, a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “Obviously, in the case of a missing person sometimes it is not feasible to get a warrant and a lower threshold may be justified. But this legislation gives police access to a wide range of records. This is potentially an enormous invasion of privacy based on a very low threshold in terms of evidence.”
Border agents’ name-tag protest delays Windsor crossings
CBC News – December 12, 2012
For much of the day Wednesday, the Canada Border Services Agency told commercial traffic to avoid the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont., due to a dispute over name tags that sparked a slowdown at North America’s busiest border crossing.
The CBSA said the disruptions were the result of refusals by several unionized officers to wear name tags — a new policy that went into effect Tuesday.
Nathalie Des Rosiers, counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the name-tag policy is a good one.
“I think it’s a positive step in terms of allowing some form of accountability,” she said.
Companies push for random drug, alcohol testing
CBC News – December 10, 2012
Two current high-profile legal cases, in which companies want to implement random testing of their employees for alcohol and/or drugs, may determine whether such testing expands in Canadian workplaces. At the centre of both cases is the need for a safe workplace versus privacy and human rights.
Abby Deshman, a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, argues that random testing “imposes a privacy-invasive, dignity-invasive regime on a large number of people without any real proof that these people are going to pose a threat to workplace safety,” adding that “there’s very little evidence that it does actually work as a deterrent.”
(The CCLA is an intervener at the Supreme Court in the Irving case.)
Nathalie Des Rosiers: Punishing victims of human smuggling won’t work
Ottawa Citizen – December 9, 2012
Mass detentions are incompatible with a system of justice based on fairness, as mass arrests are. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has decided to use controversial new provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to recently declare “irregular” the arrival of a group of people from Romania via Mexico and the United States. This designation exposes all members of the group — except the 35 people under age 16 — to mass detention, possibly for a period of six months, unless the minister decides otherwise.
Anti-bullying bylaws may have ‘chilling effect’ on free speech
Calgary Herald – December 7, 2012
Town councillors in Hanna, about 200 kilometres northeast of Calgary, have approved an anti-name-calling bylaw that allows Mounties to fine offenders $250 for a first offence and $1,000 for further offences.
Those undeterred by the fines could face a six-month stint behind bars or community service.
Hanna’s mayor says the town and local school have policies in place to address bullying, but the new bylaw allows RCMP to tackle incidents on public property before they escalate.
But Noa Mendelsohn, equality program director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, says it’s not enough to say police will exercise the bylaw at their discretion.
“Laws need to be clear and they need to not restrict our fundamental rights and freedoms any more than is demonstrably justified.”
Supreme Court to hear case on random workplace alcohol tests
Calgary Herald – December 6, 2012
A union of New Brunswick mill workers arguing that mandatory, random alcohol testing breaches their right to privacy will have their appeal heard by the Supreme Court of Canada Friday.
The top court’s eventual decision has the potential to set a precedent for random alcohol tests in the workplace, and employers and unions across the country will be watching closely, said Nathalie Des Rosiers, the general counsel and executive director for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which is acting as an intervener.
“We are concerned that this is a new trend in Canada where you have more and more employers who are imposing quite invasive tests and employees have no choice but to comply because their job is at stake. And it’s not always clear that those tests are necessary,” Des Rosiers said.
Security ordeal: The curios case of Mohammad Mahjoub
Now Magazine – December 6, 2012
In a courtroom in an unlikely location above a Starbucks on Queen West, detainee Mohammad Mahjoub sits in the front row flanked by a stack of legal binders and an interpreter. Stone-faced, he seems accustomed to the melodrama, occasionally shaking his head ever so slightly in disbelief or squeezing his eyes shut.
Twelve years, after all, is a very long time to be detained and have your life constricted without charge.
[...] For one thing, former public safety minister Stockwell Day stunned observers in September by testifying that some of the intelligence used in Mahjoub’s case may have been acquired through torture by foreign agencies.
That admission prompted an immediate protest by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which argued that relying on this kind of info to incarcerate “cannot be reconciled with the principles of fundamental justice.’’ Says the CCLA’s Sukanya Pillay, “We have expressed our view that intelligence tainted by torture cannot be used to deprive anyone of their liberty.’’
Canadian authorities bust Romanian human smuggling ring
CTV News – December 5, 2012
Government officials say they’ve busted a human smuggling ring that illegally brought carloads of Romanian nationals across the U.S.-Canada border over a period of several months.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced Wednesday that 85 people managed to sneak across the border in Quebec at different intervals, starting in February.
The first group arrived in February, followed by others in April and October — three months after the government enacted new immigration laws to deter illegal entries into Canada.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has decried the legislation as unethical and unconstitutional, saying it unfairly penalizes victims of human smuggling rings.
Minotaurs: Spreading the word about the importance of civil liberties
Now Magazine – November 29, 2012
Your average Canadian musician doesn’t think twice about using lyrics, interviews, videos or concerts as platforms to, say, blast the Harper government’s cuts to arts funding, address G20 violence or protest environmental destruction. But their freedom to do so isn’t necessarily guaranteed, says Nathan Lawr.
That’s why the Minotaurs musician and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) are launching the Canadian Artists for Civil Liberties initiative with an event at Lee’s Palace featuring Minotaurs, Ohbijou, Maloo, spoken word artist Dwayne Morgan, poet George Elliott Clarke, Great Canadian Burlesque and journalist/political activist Judy Rebick.
NOW editors pick a trio of this week’s can’t-miss events
Now Magazine – November 29, 2012
We take for granted our right to express our opinions, but when a government denies funding to an artist or group because it doesn’t like what they’re saying, we learn how fragile that freedom really is. Canadian Artists for Civil Liberties, a project conceived by musician Nathan Lawr, launches at a benefit for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association on Saturday (December 1) at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor West). Hear Ohbijou, the Minotaurs and others, encouragement from activist Judy Rebick, spoken word by Dwayne Morgan and more. 9 pm. $18, advance $15.
Are posters a form of community expression or a nuisance to be stripped away?
Xtra – November 29, 2012
Some community members have requested the Church Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area (BIA) put an end to postering on poles to improve street appeal.
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s equality program, also sees a potential hitch with the public message centres. “If the community boards are insufficient and not visible, then that poses a problem,” she says.
“In a situation where there are spaces for community postering, it’s a matter of if it’s adequate,” Aviv says. “If it’s totally inadequate to the needs of the community, it is a violation of freedom of expression.”
Jury still out on Safe Streets, Communities Act
York Region News – November 23, 2012
As of this week, judges will no longer be allowed to hand out house arrest to those found guilty of violent crimes, kidnapping, sex assault, arson and human trafficking, for which the law prescribes a maximum penalty of 10 years. Instead, they will be forced to sentence them to incarceration.
[...] the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which believes it’s often better to keep convicted criminals in their daily routine, rather than send them to prison.
“If you can keep these people in employment and productive situations, while restricting their movements, they are often able to pick up where they left off,” association communications director Penelope Chester said. Unintended side effects could include people with mental health issues being placed into prisons, which are underfunded and ill-equipped to deal with those inmates, she added.
New policy on religious materials eyed by Chiliwack school trustees
Chiliwack Progess – November 14, 2012
The distribution of Gideon Bibles to elementary school students in Chilliwack sparked a hot debate Tuesday night among school trustees over who shapes policy in the school district.
Ajabu told trustees that his daughter had received “advertising material” from the Gideons offering a free Bible and a website where a “gift catalogue” could be found.
Canadian Civil Liberties Association program director Abby Deshman said there is nothing wrong with exposing children to religious materials
But when schools teach religion, she said, “the aim is not promotion of one belief over others.”
“Public schools should not be used as a vehicle for proselytism, the promotion of one religion over another, the promotion of religious life over secular life or vice versa,” she said.
Toronto police board delays issuing street check receipts
Toronto Star – November 14, 2012
The Toronto Police Services Board is rethinking how to issue receipts for “street checks” and have put them on hold until at least next month, despite the fact the forms are already at the printers.
As the public board meeting was getting underway, police locked down the building, shutting out some speakers who were on a list to give deputations to the board, including former Toronto mayor John Sewell, a street pastor and community and youth activists. A CBC crew was also locked out and later escorted in a back door.
The move came after a rally outside organized by the Justice is NOT Colour-Blind Campaign, which called for an end to racial profiling. The speakers were eventually allowed in.
“Since when are protesters blocked from a public meeting,” said a shocked Noa Mendelsohn Aviv of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “And the fact that three people who were to speak before the board weren’t able to get in — those three people are all racialized — is a further indication that there is a problem here.”
Toronto police to issue receipts to people stopped in street checks
Toronto Star – November 12, 2012
Toronto Police stop up to 400,000 people every year during non-criminal encounters, asking them where they’re going; recording their name and address and the names of the people they’re with.
Now, Police Chief Bill Blair is calling on officers to hand out a record of that interaction to the persons involved in these encounters.
“The fact that they’re going to be issuing people information that’s being taken about them is very positive,” says Noa Mendelsohn Aviv of the CCLA. “There’s going to be documentation that individuals can keep for themselves and pursue.”
“Random street checks are improper,” says Aviv. “If police want to stop and question individuals whether or not they take their information, they need to have reasons for that. It needs to be necessary for police work and by that I don’t mean community engagement.”
UN agency wants to control the Internet
Toronto Sun – November 12, 2012
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is the little-known United Nations agency pushing to regulate the web. Canada is one of its 193-member states and a top-seven financial contributor to ITU operations.
The ITU has suggested a range of reforms that would potentially stifle free speech and make users pay extra to use things like Skype and e-mail as well as place controls on personal social media use like blogging and religious websites.
It’s something that worries the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), an organization that is calling for Canada to use its vote to veto the proposal outright.
“In Canada we have many protections that ensure our freedom of speech is protected,” said Abby Deshman, CCLA’s director of public safety programs. “In that regard we are lucky, but in other parts of the world, governments look for more ways to watch public opinion and monitor dissent.
Bullying: Name online bullies and ban anonymity, says MP
Metro News – November 8, 2012
After reading some vile, anonymous online comments, Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro has decided the government should consider ending people’s ability to post anonymously on the Internet.
Nathalie Des Rosiers, a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, says judges would strike down a law that prohibits anonymity online.
“It’s difficult to imagine how we can protect freedom of expression without protecting some form of anonymity with websites and comments online,” she said. “It’s essential to recognize that good intentions of having people stand by their words chill and prevent many useful expressions that cannot be done publicly.”
G20 policing: Clayton Ruby challenges ‘backroom decisions’ not to hold disciplinary hearings
Toronto Star – November 6, 2012
Veteran civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby will ask Ontario’s Superior Court to overturn “backroom decisions” by three GTA police forces not to pursue complaints of officer misconduct during the G20 protests — even though the complaints have been substantiated by the province’s police oversight body.
The police chiefs decided to follow OIPRD’s advice not to act on its findings, even though it was OIPRD itself that caused the delay.
“They (the OIPRD) had no right to direct police chiefs not to pursue these complaints, which were utterly simple and should have taken 30 minutes to complete, not six months,” said Ruby, whose firm has launched a lawsuit with the support of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Danielle Mclaughlin: Why your child should complain
Huffington Post Canada – November 2, 2012
Is your child a complainer? Do you hear “that’s not fair!” everyday? If so, it’s time to celebrate. Your child could be the next advocate who stands up to bullies; the one who works toward a solution for climate change, or who fights for access to justice or against inequality.
We often tell children to stop complaining when what we really want them to do is to stop whining. Complaining in a well-organized, lawful, and directed fashion is a skill. And it is a skill that people living in democracies have been known to honour, respect and reward, and something that parents and educators should nurture.
New bill refines rules on masks in unlawful protests
The Globe and Mail – November 1 2012
The new law would apply to masks upon the faces of people engaged in unlawful protest, which, if it wasn’t clear, is already unlawful. There’s also an existing law against wearing a disguise while committing an indictable offence.
“There’s already a provision in the [Criminal] Code against wearing a disguise in context of criminal offence,” said Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “We’re concerned that if it is used it would simply create a chill on protests and prevent people from protesting peacefully altogether. On its face, it looks more symbolic than anything.”
Ashley Smith: Videos showing abuses to be shown Wednesday
Toronto Star – October 31, 2012
Graphic prison videos showing abuses endured by teen inmate Ashley Smith are expected to finally be made public Wednesday at the inquest into her death.
Correctional Service Canada, which has been fighting for years to keep the videos secret, abandoned its efforts last week after a Divisional Court judge rejected the federal agency’s motion for an emergency stay of the inquest.
Elizabeth Fry filed an affidavit in support of releasing the videos.
Other parties with standing at the inquest that support the coroner’s examination of the events captured on the videos include the prison guards’ union, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Ontario’s children’s advocate and the coroner’s own counsel.
Kelly Parland: The hole is Alan Borovoy’s pro-abortion argument
National Post – October 29, 2012
As with most arguments in support of abortion rights, Alan Borovoy‘s collapses when you get to the key point: the right of one human to take the life of another.
Mr. Borovoy, the former general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, maintains that “personhood” is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter, he says, because there is no rational way to decide whether someone becomes a person at conception or at some other point up to the moment of birth.
Lawyers and pro-choice advocates love this position because it takes the issue of life and death and turns it into a legal technicality. If it’s not possible to tell when a fetus (or whatever term you choose to give it) becomes a person, then you aren’t committing murder by getting rid of it. You can’t kill something that doesn’t exist.
A. Alan Borovoy: When it comes to abortion, personhood is beside the point
National Post – October 28, 2012
The proposed debate on the beginning of life, triggered by Stephen Woodworth’s failed private member’s bill, is the most recent casualty of the confusion over the issue of abortion. Traditionally, the abortion debate focused on whether a fetus is a person. For those who said “yes,” abortion was tantamount to murder. Those who said “no” felt free to support the right to abortion.
Yet, there is no rational way to decide when personhood begins. Thus, the abortion debate has always been infected with irrationality. But, even if we assumed that personhood begins at conception, why should that “person” have sanctuary in the body of someone who doesn’t want it there? In short, it simply doesn’t follow that the attribution of personhood should resolve the question.
The abortion debate should focus less on the mysteries of embryonic life and more on the limits of governmental power. This would entail facing squarely how far the government of a democracy should be authorized to regulate what people — in this case, women — can do inside their own bodies. It might help to examine other situations where the relationship of government and our bodies is at issue.
Extent of privacy at work clarified in Supreme Court decision
OHS Canada – October 29, 2012
The Supreme Court of Canada has ordered a new trial for a teacher charged with possession of child pornography, after ruling that excluding unlawfully-obtained material found on his work-issued laptop would negatively impact the criminal trial process. The decision, released on Oct. 19, said that although the high school teacher’s privacy interests were diminished due to school board ownership of the laptop and workplace policies regarding computer use, the expectation of privacy is warranted where the computers are allowed for personal use.
Abby Deshman, director of the public safety program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in Toronto, noted that while the association was generally pleased with the decision, it did not specifically address the scope of an employer’s authority to invade employee privacy rights.
9 voices on the Supreme Court election ruling
CBC News – October 26, 2012
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Conservative MP Ted Opitz will not lose his seat, overturning a lower court ruling that had thrown out the 2011 federal election result in Etobicoke Centre.
[..] in a split decision, the Supreme Court found reason to reinstate 59 of those ballots — enough for Opitz’s election to stand. The majority decision argued the entitlement to vote cannot be annulled due to procedural errors and that there was a lack of evidence that most of the discarded ballots came from voters who were not qualified to vote.
“The one concern from the CCLA’s perspective is the court’s accepting that the election laws can be unevenly applied and that is not of concern to the court. … What the court decided was that it was okay, after the fact, to back into records and figure out if people who had not been vouched for or who had not produced ID nevertheless could have voted. And we said, well what happens to the people who came without ID and were turned away? Canadians expect that people are treated even-handedly whatever the laws are.”
— Allison Thornton, lawyer for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which was an intervener in the case
Being fingerprinted to coach hockey did not make my day
Ottawa Citizen – October 24, 2012
Of course, we all know why this mass fingerprinting is happening. There’s been some cases of children sexually abused by youth leaders and coaches, most infamously the molestation of former NHLers Sheldon Kennedy and Theo Fleury by their major junior hockey coach Graham James in the 1980s. As a result, parents are worried. Coaches, youth leaders and parent volunteers at some city schools are now regularly screened with police checks and, in recent years, followup electronic fingerprinting.
Alberta is a hot spot for these checks, reports the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. There are 160,000 police checks done each year in the province, 37 per cent by employers, 22 per cent by volunteer organizations.
Dismiss challenge of Ontario Catholic school funding, government lawyers ask court
Toronto Star – October 17, 2012
Lawyers for the Ontario government are asking a court to dismiss a Toronto woman’s challenge against Catholic school funding.
The woman is asking the court to order Ontario to stop funding Catholic schools on the grounds that, as a taxpayer who doesn’t share the church’s beliefs, it infringes upon her freedom of religion.
The government is arguing the case should be dismissed both because the Supreme Court has already decided the issue and because the woman doesn’t have standing.
Reva Landau argues she does have standing because some of the money she pays in taxes funds Catholic schools.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is intervening in the challenge and is supporting Landau.
Unions to launch court challenge over wage-freeze bill
Windsor Star – October 11, 2012
Unions representing teachers and education workers are launching a legal challenge exactly a month after Ontario’s provincial government passed a bill forcing a new contract on thousands of their members.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has also criticized the Liberal government’s actions, which it has called “undemocratic and unconstitutional.”
[...] Andrew Lokan, a Toronto lawyer retained by CUPE, did make a submission when the bill was before a Queen’s Park committee last month.
Speaking on behalf of the Civil Liberties Association — where he serves a board member and offers pro bono legal counsel, Lokan said the bill violates the Charter right to meaningful collective bargaining because the framework has already been dictated by the province and all future agreements signed between individual school boards and their union locals “must be similar or identical with respect to these terms or they will be void to the extent that they deviate from those terms.”
Abortion, immigration test limits of dialogue in Parliament
CBC – September 30, 2012
The right for MPs to say and discuss almost anything they want is one of the central privileges of Parliament, but a couple of divisive debates over the past week tested the thresholds of dialogue in the House of Commons.
The issue of restricting debate on abortion has come up before in other areas — on Canadian campuses, for example. The pro-choice Canadian Civil Liberties Association has spoken out against barring pro-life advertising and activities at universities as a violation of free speech.
Jason Kenney halts woman’s deportation after claims she’s be stoned to death in Iran
National Post – September 28, 2012
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has stepped in to prevent the immediate deportation of Fatemeh Derakhshandeh Tosarvandan, an Iranian woman who feared she would be stoned to death if returned to her home country, a government source revealed Thursday.
On Thursday morning, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association condemned Ms. Tosarvandan’s impending deportation, saying it would “offend Canadian and international law.” The Charter of Rights and Freedoms prevents deportation to countries where a refugee claimant could face torture, as does the UN Convention on Torture, to which Canada is a signatory.
The Supreme Court is right to protect cyberbullying victims who are minors
The Globe and Mail – September 27, 2012
When a 15-year-old girl is victimized by grotesque cyberbullying, and attempts to learn, through court action, the identity of the bully who defamed her, it is fair and just for her to remain anonymous, as a unanimous Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Thursday.
Several media organizations and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, intervening in the case, argued otherwise. They said the Nova Scotia girl should have to prove that she would be harmed if her name were published. They worry about the precedent – that in another courtroom somewhere, someone else will come forward to ask for a publication ban without having to demonstrate harm.
Dropped criminal charges should be erased from background checks, civil liberties group argues
National Post – September 17, 2012
Individuals who have had run-ins with the law but were never convicted of a crime could find that details of those incidents still appear in police background checks, potentially hindering their ability to land a job, travel abroad or become foster parents.
A report released Monday by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said there is an urgent need for greater fairness and clarity in the background-check process so that innocent people aren’t unfairly stigmatized.
Info released in police background checks ‘unfair’ to innocent Canadians
Calgary Herald – September 17, 2012
Thousands of Canadians are being unfairly and often unwittingly tainted by information contained in police background checks, a prominent civil liberties group said Monday.
The result is that people are denied employment or run into a host of other problems, including finding housing or travelling across the border, according to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
At issue is the disclosure of “non-conviction” records — information about an investigation, arrest or charge that did not lead to a conviction.
“There’s a real stigma attached to the very mention of an interaction with the police,” said Nathalie Des Rosiers, the association’s general counsel.
“The presumption of innocence must mean something.”
Quebec construction inquiry good for society: law experts
Toronto Sun – September 16, 2012
Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and past president of the Law Commission of Canada, said public inquiries are important because they get people talking.
The point of a public inquiry is not necessarily to point blame at any specific people, but to “clarify what are the systemic practices that are encouraging illegality,” she said.
“A commission creates in the public some sort of awareness or sensibility to the problem,” she told QMI Agency.
Public hearings on Ontario teachers’ bill wrap up
CBC News – September 6, 2012
Speedy public hearings on anti-strike legislation for Ontario teachers ended Thursday after less than 24 hours, bringing the minority Liberals another step closer to putting the controversial bill to a final vote next week.
The committee, which heard from unions, advocacy groups and trustees and principals’ associations, had just a few hours to consider the bill that’s being rammed through the legislature.
Andrew Lokan, counsel to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the bill is unconstitutional and undemocratic by quashing the right to strike.
64 blacklisted from municipal buildings
Windsor Star – September 6, 2012
For more than three years, Edy Haddad has been the subject of a no-trespass order covering city hall. After refusing an order from city site manager Sebastian Pirrone to leave the premises during Tuesday’s council meeting, two uniformed officers were called in to escort the banned guest out of city hall.
The Star has learned there are currently 64 trespass notices being enforced. The reasons cited, according to documents obtained under a freedom of information request, range from verbally abusive and confrontational behaviour to hate language and threats being made against individuals.
When it comes to the political arena, “there has to be a very high tolerance level … whenever you ban someone from a public forum, you’re going to engage such core constitutional arguments as freedom of speech,” said CCLA program director Abby Deshman.
Teachers gain support from Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Toronto Star - August 30, 2012
Ontario’s teachers have won support from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association as they fight Premier Dalton McGuinty’s legislation to impose a wage-freeze contract on them and ban strikes for two years.
It’s unconstitutional to take away the right to strike before there’s a threat of one, the association said Thursday in announcing it will seek intervener status if the law passes as expected — likely Sept. 10 — and education unions challenge it.
“Peoples’ rights are not something to be trifled with,” said Sukanya Pillay, director of the association. “We are concerned that this legislation goes too far and violates the civil liberties of all Ontarians.”
Civil Liberties Group Slams Bill Forcing Teachers’ Wage Freeze
CTV News – August 30, 2012
A national civil liberties group is joining the fight against a controversial bill by Ontario’s cash-strapped government that would force a wage freeze and cuts to benefits on tens of thousands of teachers across the province.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association echoed teachers’ unions in condemning the legislation as unconstitutional and a violation of workers’ rights across the province.
“We understand that budget concerns need to be addressed by government, but budget concerns are no justification to undercut the democratic process,” said Sukanya Pillay, a director of the association.
The legislation, which three unions have vowed to fight all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, will also give the government the power to ban strikes and lockouts for at least two years.
That’s alarming because it removes the right to strike before there’s even the threat of one, said Pillay, who plans to seek intervener status in a potential legal challenge of the bill.
Human rights case seeks equal billing for religion and atheism in schools
National Post – August 29, 2012
Arguing that it is “biased” for his children to be given free Gideon Bibles in class but not free atheist literature, an Ontario father is launching a human rights case that aims to drive the Gideons out of the province’s public schools.
In a protest move in 2010, Mr. Chouinard offered to match the Gideons’ offer with a selection of two non-religious texts.
Indeed, when school officials rejected his offer, Mr. Chouinard took his case to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.
On Wednesday, he learned that the tribunal would hear his complaint in February, and that the Canadian Civil Liberties Association had signed on as an intervenor.
Sukanya Pillay: Why Pussy Riot is our riot
The Huffington Post - August 27, 2012
The real danger here is the threat that laws seeking to target real religious hatred or extremism, are being misused to silence dissent — which is protected by the ICCPR, and also by the European Convention on Human Rights which applies to Russia. To stifle dissent is antithetical to democracy.
So why should Canadians care? Canada is a co-party with Russia to the ICCPR. According to the UN Human Rights Committee — the treaty body of legal experts that interprets the ICCPR — every State Party has a legal interest in the performance by every other State Party of its obligations.
Bayfield man faces rare criminal libel charge
Law Times News – August 27. 2012
A Bayfield, Ont. man has been charged with two counts of criminal harassment and two counts of defamatory libel after allegedly spreading false information about several lawyers, members of the police, and justice officials in Guelph, Ont.
While provincial data on the number of cases involving criminal defamatory libel compared to civil libel aren’t often publicly available, and in some cases not recorded, Sheetal Rawal, an articling fellow at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, says the association has seen a number of cases involving criminal defamatory libel this year.
“It’s concerning to us in the sense that defamatory libel includes expressions or criticisms of public officials or government figures under the criminal code,” says Rawal. “We see that as particularly troubling for a democracy, where citizens should be allowed to have a meaningful discussion about those in power. It’s concerning when you have a tool that shuts down that expression.”
Watching the watchmen
Ottawa Citizen – August 23, 2012
The fact is, police have no sweeping authority under Canadian law to order people to stop taking pictures or videos of them in public or confiscate their devices without a court order. Certainly, police can arrest anyone who wilfully obstructs them while taking pictures, but even then they have no automatic right to seize the device, much less delete its contents.
“There is nothing in the Criminal Code that would directly prohibit someone taking pictures of officers in the performance of their duties in public,” says Abby Deshman, Director of the Public Safety Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “They can tell you to move away but they don’t have the right to stop you taking pictures.”
Deshman says the association has been contacted by several people complaining of “feeling intimidated or threatened with charges by police for taking pictures of them in public.”
Cops ‘overzealous’ with Jewish protesters at anti-Israel rally: Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Sun News Network – August 21, 2012
Police may have been “overzealous” in their handling of two Jewish protesters during an anti-Israel rally on the lawn of the provincial legislature last Saturday, says the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Spokeswoman Noa Mendelsohn Aviv said Tuesday there may have been a “problematic” double standard on the part of officers who allegedly threatened to charge a Jewish man who arrived at an Al-Quds Day rally carrying a large Israeli flag, as well as officers who allegedly handcuffed another man for bringing his dog to the Islamic demonstration.
“It appears, based on these incidents, that the police were being overzealous in their reactions to counter-protesters,” Aviv said. “Toronto police need to exercise their authority to protect both the rights of protestors and of counter-protesters, who also have a right to express their opinions and to use public space for this purpose.”
Philosophy gender war sparked by call for larger role for women
National Post - August 11, 2012
It began with a private email last month from one established male philosopher to four others: Proceed with a Berlin-based conference that features 14 male speakers and no women, the writer said, and I will essentially launch a campaign to take you down professionally. Within a week, the email went viral in the international philosophy community, and the writer — a Dutch man named Eric Schliesser — teamed up with another male philosopher to issue a clarion call to all men in the field.
Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the issue is mostly a strategy question — boycotts sometimes work, but can backfire by splitting the community. “This is actually a great academic discussion about the appropriate and moral way to conduct academic conferences. And it is certainly a great philosophical discussion about whether and how to try to influence behaviour,” she said.
Elections Canada’s argument that Ontario justice’s interpretation of Elections Act too rigourous ‘frightening,’ says CCLA
The Hill Times Online – August 10, 2012
The prospect of allowing contested ballots to stand without records showing those who cast them were qualified to vote is a “scary” argument to hear from the federal agency in charge of the integrity of Canadian federal elections, says a national civil liberties advocacy group backing former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj in a Supreme Court of Canada battle over voting irregularities in his razor-thin loss to a Conservative last year.
Ms. Des Rosiers was explaining why the association, the largest and most influential civil liberties advocacy organization in Canada, has intervened in a Supreme Court of Canada appeal launched by Conservative MP Ted Opitz (Etobicoke Centre, Ont.) after an Ontario Superior Court judge earlier this year overturned his 27-vote margin of victory over Mr. Wrzesnewskyj by setting aside 79 ballots because of irregularities that included missing records of voter registration, improper vouching and questions over citizenship qualification.
Toronto police face lawsuit over activist profiling
Rabble.ca – August 9, 2012
Toronto police are facing another G20 related lawsuit after a group of female activists alleged the police politically profiled them for arrest during the G20 Summit in Toronto.
Reports of activists being profiled and stopped by police began earlier in the week with stories of officers stopping people on the street if they approached the security fence or riding the GO train into the city for the Friday demonstration against the G20 in downtown Toronto.
Complaints of activist profiling were even noted the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) report titled: Breach of the Peace: A report into the G20 by CCLA and NUPGE.
It was noted in the report that activists who provided testimony for the report felt targeted, “Arbitrary searches occurred in countless locations across the city, in many instances several kilometres from the G20 Summit site.”
The Top 25 Most Influential
Canadian Lawyers Magazine – August 6, 2012
The Top 25 Most Influential is not just about bright stars, big deals, or number of media mentions — although those may play a part. We have endeavoured to select lawyers who have been influential within the profession as well as Canadian society over the last 18 months. Closing a high-worth deal, for instance, doesn’t necessarily have a big impact beyond that particular business or industry. The Top 25 is about a level of respect, the ability to influence public opinion, and help shape the laws of this country; contribution to the strength and quality of legal services; and social and political influence and involvement. It can include politicians and regulators who are lawyers.
Some of last year’s winners are back, such as Nathalie Des Rosiers of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Banned from city council meetings, Niagara Falls resident vows he’ll be back for the next one in September
Bullet News Niagara – August 3, 2012
Carlo Butera, the ex- parks department worker who claims he was wrongly terminated seven years ago and earlier this year was banned from attending council meetings, says he has done nothing wrong and won’t be treated differently than any other member of the public.
Speaking earlier this year, a lawyer for Canadian Civil Liberties Association said city council’s use of the Trespass to Property Act to outright ban a former city employee from attending council meetings is “problematic” and likely exceeds the municipality’s authority.
“The advice that this is a lawful use of the Trespass to Property Act in this circumstance is questionable,” said Cara Zwibel, director of the association’s fundamental freedoms program. “I think it’s problematic. To use (the Act) in this way… is overreaching.”
Recognition program, which checks plates automatically, deemed too costly by city police
The Chronicle-Online.com – August 1, 2012
Ontario Provincial Police have proven automatic licence plate recognition technology works and have pilot tested at four locations in the province – without your knowledge.
What the technology could potentially be used for has attracted the attention of privacy watchdogs like the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, who point out it’s possible police could be watching to track the movements of people.
More needs to be done to ensure enormous amount of information police can retrieve is being used responsibly and to the letter of the law, the association advised
“There are obvious privacy concerns that need to be addressed,” said CCLA program director Abby Deshman. “Whenever you’re looking at new technology that’s going to vastly increase the amount of information that the government has access to, there are important safeguards that need to be addressed.”
Council meeting prayer ban sought
Ottawa Citizen – August 1, 2012
Claiming the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer causes him anguish and feelings of exclusion, a man in rural Ontario is suing his local government to get politicians to cease praying at the start of their meetings [...]
“I don’t like politicians who break the law, and our county council is breaking the law,” said Ferguson Tuesday from his home in Kimberley — one of nine municipalities within Grey County. He said if he wins the case, he’ll donate the $5,000 to Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust.
“I don’t really care about religion that much, I care about the law. I care about being fair.”
Time for Oshawa to right a wrong
DurhamRegion.com – July 31, 2012
It seems Oshawa council had enough of Barry’s protesting and issued a trespass order against him. This flies in the face of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedom for peaceful assembly and the right to protest. I can see if he was disrupting chambers during a meeting and was asked to leave, but to outright ban him? This is Canada, not Iran. Was it really necessary to have 4 police and the K-9 unit show up to his one-man protest?
Now Oshawa has some explaining to do as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has become involved. The CCLA is a leader in protecting fundamental freedoms and has earned respect nation wide for its stance on issues such as censorship, capital punishment and police powers. You may remember the case in Clarington when Jim Richards was banned from speaking at council. The CCLA was on his side until he dropped his complaint due to most of the politicians not being re-elected that had voted against Jim.
Oshawa council needs to know one thing, and that is the CCLA doesn’t take on cases it doesn’t think it can win.
Anti-mask bills raise free speech questions
The McGill Daily – July 28, 2012
Much like the anti-mask bylaw passed in Montreal this May, a new piece of legislation making its way through parliament, Bill C-309, seeks to criminalize the concealment of one’s face during an unlawful assembly or a riot.
Andrew Lokan, an external counsel to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, has been studying BIll C-309’s implications in a civil liberties context. He called the federal bill “disproportionate” and said that it will have a “chilling effect on lawful and legitimate protests”.
Maghnieh critic no longer banned from city hall as human rights organization intervene
The Windsor Star - July 26, 2012
A leader of last year’s Occupy Windsor movement and outspoken critic of disgraced Coun. Al Maghnieh is no longer banned from city hall.The city’s decision follows a request from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association that the trespassing ban against Mittag be withdrawn.
Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for CCLA, said in a letter to the city this week that the organization had “serious concerns” about the trespassing ban, which she said threatens Mittag’s “constitutionally protected expressive rights and rights of democratic participation.”
Criminals taking advantage of burkas: Hassan
Toronto Sun - July 24, 2012
The former Muslim Canadian Congress president is angry a 14-year-old clad in a burka was filmed buying booze in three LCBO stores without being asked to provide identification or show their face.
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of the equality program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said there are other ways people can determine age, such as looking at one’s hands and stature.
Aviv said an option should be made available to Muslim women covering their faces to be able to identify themselves to a female employee, rather than a male one, adding that she thinks the number of women in Toronto who wear burkas is actually very small. “I think we need to be really careful not to turn this into an anti-Muslim issue. It’s a underage-kids-finding-fraudulent-ways-to-buy-alcohol issue,” Aviv said.
Ex-Aurora mayor lawsuit decision could take 30 to 60 days
Yorkregion.com – July 20, 2012
[...]The $6-million suit attracted widespread attention, raising concerns about privacy rights and drawing in the Canadian Civil Liberties Association as intervenors. Also controversial was town council’s initial involvement, saying town staff and other councillors were also defamed. Although the current council backed out of the suit, the legal action cost the town $65,000. Ms Morris dropped the lawsuit in October after a court ruling found the rights to privacy and freedom of expression outweighed any public interest in having the anonymous bloggers unmasked, leaving her unable to get the names.
Iranian-Canadian bank account closures may violate Charter rights
Toronto Star - July 20, 2012
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is warning that TD Bank may have infringed Charter rights when it suddenly closed a number of Iranian Canadian accounts.
The bank sparked outrage from the Iranian-Canadian community when it began sending letters in May saying accounts had been closed due to economic sanctions against Iran. The sanctions forbid Canadian banks from doing business with Iranian residents, or transferring sums over $40,000 to or from Iran.
This day in 1985 – Former teacher Jim Keegstra fined for promoting hatred
Calgary Herald – July 20, 2012
Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench fined former school teacher James Keegstra $5,000 for willfully promoting hatred against Jews; teaching Eckville students that the Holocaust didn’t happen and that a Jewish conspiracy controls world affairs.
Alan Borovoy of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said there are better ways than prosecution to control hatemongers. Canada`s anti-hate law can suppress legitimate free speech, he said. “Despite the fact it has managed to nail a character like Keegstra, it is also capable of catching others in the same net,” Borovoy said from Toronto.
The End of Canada’s Sovereignty as a Nation State?: Towards a U.S.-Canada Economic and Security Perimeter
Global Research – July 18, 2012
Over the past several months, the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border action plan has taken significant steps forward. This includes efforts to modernize and expand infrastructure at key land ports. In a move that went largely unnoticed, both countries also recently agreed on a statement of privacy principles that will guide information sharing across the border. Meanwhile, a separate joint initiative has been announced which addresses energy and environmental issues [...]
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association have also voiced concerns on privacy safeguard provisions that were not included which, “may permit the lowest standard between the two countries to prevail.” Ever since the perimeter security action plan was first unveiled in November 2011, there have been fears associated with personal data collected and exchanged at the border. This latest announcement has done little to ease these worries with respect to privacy rights and civil liberties.
Former Aurora mayor in court this week
YorkRegion.com – July 16, 2012
Former Aurora Mayor Phyllis Morris is back in court this week. A hearing regarding costs stemming from her lawsuit against local bloggers is set to take place Wednesday in a Toronto courtroom [...] The $6-million suit attracted widespread attention, raising concerns about privacy rights and drawing in the Canadian Civil Liberties Association as an intervenor.
Supreme Court needs to clarify rules of Canada’s election process
Toronto Star – July 11, 2012
In an historic hearing on Tuesday, the high court heard arguments to determine whether the various “technical irregularities” were grave enough to eject Opitz and send voters back to the ballot box.
In Etobicoke Centre people voted at the wrong polling station. Some voters’ identities were improperly vouched for. And registration certificates were improperly filled out or went missing. Mindful of the close vote, Superior Court Justice Thomas Lederer ordered a new election. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association agrees.
Scientists protest the ‘death of evidence’ on Parliament Hill
Rabble.ca – July 11, 2012
They filed down busy Wellington Street to Parliament Hill in the noon sunshine. More than a thousand people, many carrying signs and wearing white lab coats, escorted a black coffin and the Grim Reaper to mark the Death of Evidence.
This was not your average Ottawa demonstration. Organized by scientists and groups like the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the rally was attended by researchers, graduate students, doctors, lawyers and many people who wanted to speak out against the “new Iron Curtain being drawn between science and society.”
Supreme Court of Canada to hear appeal over disputed election result Tuesday
Vancouver Sun — July 8, 2012
The Supreme Court of Canada will hear Tuesday the first appeal under the Canada Elections Act ever brought all the way to the top court, the outcome of which will set a precedent for future contested election cases.
What’s at issue in this appeal is under what circumstances it’s appropriate to require a by-election when something has gone amiss in the conduct of the election, but nobody is necessarily at fault, said Allison Thornton, a lawyer representing the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which is acting as an intervener in the case.
Oversight Board Admits Mistakes in G20 Policing in Light of Critical Report
Winnipeg Free Press – June 29, 2012
The civilian agency charged with overseeing Toronto’s police force made mistakes in handling policing of the violence-marred G20 summit, its head admitted Friday, but the city’s top officer said the biggest problem was the lack of time to prepare for the event.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said Morden’s review illustrates the need for improved civilian oversight of police as key to preserving civil liberties. “The report also illustrates the need for better cross-jurisdictional accountability mechanisms,” the association said. “There are still many gaps and questions that remain unanswered.”
The G20 Summit: Where Are We Now?
Toronto Star—June 29, 2012
Two years after the G20 summit — which gave Canada both its biggest security operation and largest mass arrest in peacetime history — what have we learned from that ignominious weekend?
Whatever lessons have emerged will not come from a public inquiry, despite continued calls for one. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has consistently maintained that only a public inquiry can make sense of the G20 summit and its complex security operation, which involved officers from the RCMP, OPP and multiple local police services.
Canada forced to drop plans to eavesdrop on travelers
The Guardian – June 22, 2012
Canadian authorities have announced that plans to eavesdrop on travellers’ conversations at airports and border crossings have been “halted” after a public outcry.
The move could be illegal under Canada’s Charter of Rights, which guards against unreasonable search and seizure. Sukanya Pillay of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said that any measure intruding on personal privacy had to be “justifiable” and “proportional” under the law, and demanded a privacy review.
Toronto Star Reporter Michelle Shephard Wins Canadian Civil Liberties Association Award
Toronto Star—June 21, 2012
Toronto Star national security reporter Michelle Shephard says the award she won this week from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association is a reminder to keep investigating rights violations in Canada’s own backyard.
“This award is to celebrate her contribution to the better knowledge for Canadians on issues about civil liberties, the repercussion of Sept. 11 and Omar Khadr,” said association General Counsel Nathalie des Rosiers on Wednesday. “And generally, for her capacity to bring to the public the stories of injustices from around the world.
Axworthy, Fontaine Among Honourees at Civil Liberties Gala
Winnipeg Free Press—June 20, 2012
Lloyd Axworthy, president of the University of Winnipeg, will be honoured along with native leader Phil Fontaine, one-time Winnipegger Lawrence Hill, the late Jack Layton and 16 other prominent Canadians by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association at a Toronto reception tonight.
The theme for the association’s second annual fundraising gala is Canadian Diversity, to mark World Refugee Day today.
Guns and ammo ban a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction
Toronto Sun – June 13, 2012
TORONTO - Left-leaning Toronto Councillor Adam Vaughan is jumping the gun with his proposal to ban firearms and bullets in Toronto, say critics.
Such a ban would be next to impossible — and expensive — to enforce, circumvent federal laws and wrongly punish responsible gun owners, said Nathalie Des Rosiers of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “How (would) we enforce this?” said a chuckling Des Rosiers, who added such a measure would not stop illegal guns from falling into the hands of criminals.
She summed up the proposal as a knee-jerk reaction to the gang-related June 2 shooting at the Eaton Centre, which left two men dead and five bystanders wounded. “Everybody jumps the gun,” said Des Rosiers. “It’s time to pause and make sure we don’t go overboard in punishing innocent people. It is a tragedy, (but) the question is whether this proposal would have (prevented) this.”
Prayer Doesn’t Belong at Municipal Events: CCLA:
Sun News – June 12, 2012
Prayers would no longer have a place at government events in Saskatoon if the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has their way.
Sheetal Rawal of the CCLA sent a letter to Mayor Don Atchison calling for an end to prayer at municipal events. “The state should have no role in imposing, endorsing or promoting a particular religion over others, nor should it pressure or coerce an individual into a religious practice,” Rawal said in the letter dated June 5.
Association canadienne des libertés civiles: Le comportement des policiers vivement dénoncé
TVA Nouvelles – June 12, 2012
L’Association canadienne des libertés civiles (ACLCL) prépare un rapport accablant sur les dérapages policiers survenus depuis le début de la crise étudiante au Québec. L’organisme avait très sévèrement critiqué le comportement des policiers torontois lors du G20 et dit y reconnaître les mêmes abus.
Terrorist Momin Khawaja Sideswiped By Legal Jockeying, Lawyer Tells Supreme Court:
Vancouver Sun – June 11, 2012
Ottawa terrorist Momin Khawaja deserves a new trial as he is the victim of a misguided and controversial new criminal law unfairly used against him, his lawyer told the Supreme Court Monday.
Greenspon and co-defence lawyer Eric Granger addressed the top court on several other avenues of appeal in a last-ditch bid to have Khawaja’s convictions quashed and new trial ordered — or, at the least, to have his sentenced reduced to the 12 to 16-year range.
Their broader argument that the reinstated motive clause will “chill” minority groups from expressing beliefs and opinions was supported by lawyers representing the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
Saskatoon mayor asked to stop prayers
CBC News – June 8, 2012
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is calling for an end to prayers at official City of Saskatoon events.
The association has sent a letter to Mayor Don Atchison in connection with a city-sponsored volunteer appreciation event in April at which city councillor Randy Donauer allegedly led the audience in a Christian prayer.
‘Moment’ Should Replace Prayer at Gov’t Events, Says Civil Liberties Association:
The Star Phoenix – June 7, 2012
The City of Saskatoon should offer a “moment of reflection” instead of Christian prayers at civic events so citizens aren’t excluded from celebrations, says the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
In a letter to Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison, the association calls for the end to Christian prayers at city-sponsored events and suggests the city allow a moment of reflection to be more inclusive to religious and non-religious people. The letter is in support of a recent complaint from a citizen over a prayer a civic event.
‘Best Gore’ Should Be Charged for Hosting Alleged Magnotta Murder Video: Lawyer
National Post – June 5, 2012
With Luka Rocco Magnotta now in German police custody and poised to face multiple charges in Canada, questions are emerging about whether there should be other legal fallout in the case — notably around Best Gore, the website that initially refused to take down what’s believed to be video of the graphic murder of victim Jun Lin.
Nathalie Des Rosiers of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, however, argued charges against a web host probably wouldn’t stick and there’s a “good defence” linked to the “protection of freedom of expression.”
Immigration Bill’s Impact Cause For Concern:
The Canadian Jewish News – June 4, 2012
Bill C-31 – titled Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act – is being considered in the House of Commons, and its sponsor, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney, has said he wants the bill passed by June 29, before Parliament adjourns for the summer.
Detractors such as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, among others, say that provisions in C-31, including the proposed creation of a list of designated “safe” countries of origin, give too much power to ministers and don’t give refugees enough time to establish their cases before Canada’s Immigration Refugee Board (IRB).
Schools in Texas to Use Tracking Devices on Students:
Shine from Yahoo Canada – June 1, 2012
According to the San Antonio Express-News, over 6,000 high-school and middle-school students will have to carry around Radio Frequency Identification System tags starting next fall. That way, administration staff can find out whether they’re attending class, or if they’ve left the campus.
“It’s extremely concerning,” says the director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s public safety program, Abby Deshman. But Deshman doesn’t think Canadian students will be carrying around these tracking devices anytime soon.
“The legal framework in Canada is different,” she says. “I think that any school that tried to implement this would have to be extremely careful about students’ privacy and justify exactly why they are doing this.”
Quebec Premier Jean Charest’s Bid to Quell Students Protests Falls Flat:
Toronto Star – May 23, 2012
On Friday, the National Assembly passed Bill 78, a “right-to-study” law that suspends classes at the hardest-hit schools for a three-month “cooling off” period, and bars protesters from interfering with students who want to study when classes resume. The protesters are fighting plans to raise the cost of a university diploma to $12,000 over seven years, from $6,500 today. Students elsewhere in the country now pay $22,000 on average.
According to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the new law casts a chill on Quebecers’ Charter rights insofar as it “drastically limits freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” not only for striking students but for any Quebecer who wants to organize a peaceful protest. While temporary (it will expire on July 1, 2013, unless it is rescinded earlier), it has been likened to the hated War Measures Act of decades ago.
Police Under Attack—The Flip Side of G20 Misconduct
Toronto Star – May 20, 2012
A handful of police testimony in last week’s sweeping G20 report by Ontario’s police complaints watchdog outlines in striking detail the hostility officers faced during the June 26-27, 2010 summit. The report collects in one place for the first time evidence suggesting officers policing the summit were attacked, and possibly provoked, by protesters.
But for Abby Deshman, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s public safety program, the violence and heat are no excuse for police actions during the summit. “Just because a few engage in criminal acts doesn’t mean police have the right to violate the constitutional rights of those who haven’t committed a crime,” she said.
Anti-Mask Legislation Defies Logic:
MacLeans – May 18, 2012
As Andrew Lokan of Paliare Roland Barristers (external counsel to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association) explained, it’s unlikely that Bill C-309—being a private member’s bill—was based on a substantive body of factual research, the kind, for instance, that might link personal anonymity to a violent herd mentality. So what was the mission in the first place? My best guess is the bill was driven by a visceral adverse reaction to cowardice (refusing to put a face to your convictions), by cynicism (the assumption that masked protesters are more likely to smash in a storefront than riled up hockey fans), and basic creepiness (the Richard Nixon mask in the movie Dead Presidents and Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street.) Hence the hatching of a good story—that people wearing Guy Fawkes masks are a dangerous menace to society. If only it were true.
CCLA Calls for Transgendered Option on Passports:
iNews 880 am – May 17, 2012
Transport Canada is reviewing its passport rules and the issue of gender description has come up.
Currently your passport indicates whether you are male of female, but there are groups who want a third option that doesn’t require a choice between the two.
Noa Mendelsohn-Aviv with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association was speaking on 630 CHED’s The Rutherford Show this morning, and thinks it makes sense to offer the third option.
Mask Ban Proposal Worries Civil Liberties Experts:
Vancouver Sun – May 16, 2012
A federal move to regulate mask-wearing at large gatherings could face a litmus test as early as this week, as events in Montreal help foreshadow whether such a plan will do more good or harm. The bylaw will be studied by the city’s public-safety committee Wednesday and could be adopted by the end of the week.
Elsewhere in the country, a private-member’s bill, C-309, is progressing through the House of Commons after easily passing second reading, and it could become Canadian law within months.
“The concern is that both Bill C-309 and Montreal’s bylaw will give police free reign to arrest anyone wearing a mask,” said Andrew Lokan, a lawyer and external council to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
G20 Report Blasts Police for Violations of Civil Rights, Unlawful Detentions:
The Canadian Press – May 16, 2012
Police violated civil rights, detained people illegally and used excessive force during the G20 summit two years ago, a new report concludes, but some caught up in the police operation said there was still no real accountability for their mistreatment.
“Some police officers ignored basic rights citizens have under the charter and overstepped their authority when they stopped and searched people arbitrarily and without legal justification,” the review states.
Numerous individuals and groups, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, have lambasted police for riding roughshod over people’s rights. The association called on the Ontario government and police services to implement McNeilly’s recommendations, issue an “unconditional” apology, and take disciplinary or criminal action against officers implicated in misconduct.
G20 Report Slams Police for “Excessive” Force:
CBC News – May 16, 2012
The number of people police stopped and searched in downtown Toronto increased exponentially between June 25 and June 27. The report concludes that officers overstepped their authority by stopping and searching people arbitrarily, with many officers ignoring “the basic rights citizens have.”
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association demanded that action be taken against senior command officers “responsible for the decisions that violated the civil liberties of hundreds of Canadians.”
“We know that there were rights violations on a massive scale,” said Abby Deshman, public safety director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “”What we need now is accountability.”
CCLA Has Say on Ontario Anti-Bullying Legislation:
Toronto Sun – May 14, 2012
Ontario’s proposed anti-bullying rules go both too far and not far enough, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said at a Queen’s Park committee Monday.
“In an effort to do good, the legislators may have taken it a little too far,” said Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of the CCLA’s Equality Program. “They may not have fully thought through the various situations in which student freedoms may be restricted.”
The broad definition of bullying used in the proposed legislation is too wide, Mendelsohn Aviv said, which has serious implications for freedom of expression.
CCLA Reacts to Minister Jason Kenney’s Proposed Amendments to Bill C-31:
Morning Post Exchange – May 9, 2012
While the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) welcomes the Minister of Immigration’s announcement that the Government is proposing amendments to Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, CCLA believes the bill is still deeply flawed and unconstitutional.
For many months, CCLA has been working alongside numerous individuals, experts and organizations in the areas of human rights, refugee rights, health, law, and more, to raise awareness about the dangers of Bill C-31. One of the most egregious provisions in the Bill was the mandatory warrantless, automatic, unreviewable one-year detention for all persons aged 16 or older for groups of people “designated” at the discretion of the Minister.
Showdown: Ottawa, P.E.I Faced off over Immigration:
Herald News – May 8, 2012
During last fall’s election, the Liberal party released several documents containing private information about Plourd and Tenetko. These included an email Tenetko sent to then-P.E.I. Innovation Minister Allan Campbell after her contract was not renewed in which she said she would go to federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and the Globe and Mail if she did not get another job with the government.
Tenetko disputes the email, saying it was really a combination of two separate emails she sent to Campbell. She acknowledges a contract extension he promised her in 2009 never materialized, but that this is beside the point: someone, from within government, leaked an email about a private matter. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association denounced the leak of the email, saying it could have a chilling effect on whistleblowers.
NUPGE Applauds Decision to Drop Criminal Libel Charge Against N.B. Blogger:
National Union Of Public and General Employees – May 7, 2012
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) applauds the decision of crown prosecutors in New Brunswick to drop criminal libel charge against blogger Charles LeBlanc.
Libel cases are normally tried in civil court. However, a rarely used section of the Criminal Code allows police to press criminal charges. Section 301 of the Criminal Code says that someone who is found guilty of criminal libel charges can be imprisoned for up to two years.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), a group of legal scholars at the University of New Brunswick and NUPGE have all publicly questioned the charge against Mr. LeBlanc.
Banned protesters get national ally
London Free Press – April 18, 2012
A national civil rights group is blasting Western University for banning two London activists from campus for participating in a demonstration.
In a letter sent to Western president Amit Chakma, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is calling on the university to overturn a one-year ban handed to Mike Roy and Anthony Verberckmoes, both members of the Occupy London movement.
“The CCLA is concerned that Western unduly limits the ability to protest on its premises; and further, has decided to punish individuals and deny them the ability to enter the campus on the basis of participation in a peaceful protest,” says the letter from CCLA general counsel Natalie Des Rosiers.
Using highway safety code to arrest protesters bad for democracy: Rights group
Canadian Press – April 11, 2012
Quebec police are using the province’s highway safety code to launch unjust crackdowns on protest marches, a civil rights group said Wednesday.
It said police are scaring off protesters by doling out fines of nearly $500 by invoking a provision that forbids obstruction of traffic in any way on a public highway.
The practice was first used in March 2011, when Montreal police arrested and fined more than 200 anti-police brutality protesters.
To coincide with court appearances where some of the protesters were preparing legal battles against the tickets, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said Wednesday it is bad for democracy for police to use the highway code in such a manner.
Police response to blogger’s arrest ‘disappointing,’ says group
CBC News - March 8, 2012
A national civil liberties group is disappointed with the response of the Fredericton Police Force about defamatory libel charges against well-known blogger, Charles LeBlanc.
Last month, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association wrote a letter to police Chief Barry MacKnight questioning the arrest and seizure of computer equipment from LeBlanc’s apartment in January.
Group demands police reply on blogger’s arrest
CBC News - March 2, 2012
A national civil liberties group says it is still waiting for a response from the Fredericton Police after writing for information about the arrest of a well-known local blogger.
LeBlanc was held in custody while officers searched his apartment and seized computer equipment in connection with a criminal libel investigation.
Councillor’s call riles civil-liberties group
London Free Press – February 17, 2012
A national civil-rights group is concerned the actions of a city politician may trample freedom of speech.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is worried Coun. Sandy White’s call to an employer of a critic of city budget cuts may prevent others from questioning city actions, said Cara Zwibel, director of the association’s fundamental-freedom program.
“It raises concerns around freedom of expression and the chilling effect that this practice can have,” she said. ”We often hear from people that feel municipalities are trying to silence them, one way or another. It’s definitely a concern.”
When a politician calls the boss of a critic, and not the individual, it can be seen as an attempt to intimidate, especially when the agency relies on city money, Zwibel said.
Online privacy erosion dismays critics
CBC News - February 15, 2012
Government and law enforcement access to people’s electronic communications is the norm in dictatorships around the world, but the same intrusion appears to be creeping into North America, say opponents of a new online surveillance bill tabled in the House Tuesday.
Even if Canada’s proposed online surveillance bill passes as expected, it will be challenged as unconstitutional in the courts, as happened in a related U.S. case last month, said Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Civil liberties advocate responds to cyber-crime bill
News Talk 650 – February 14, 2012
A new cyber-crime bill could allow police and C-SIS access to spy on Internet subscriber information including names and addresses without a warrant.
Abby Deshman with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association joined News Talk Radio’s Richard Brown to talk about the issue. She explained that the bill actually reaches much further than protecting children on the internet. She stressed the need to balance the basic right to privacy with the need to track down cyber criminals, especially those invovled with child pornography.
Online surveillance bill critics are siding with ‘child pornographers’: Vic Toews
National Post – February 14, 2012
Opponents of a controversial bill that would give authorities new powers to increase online monitoring of Canadians have been accused of siding with “child pornographers” by Safety Minister Vic Toews.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association also expressed their opposition of the bill on Tuesday by urging Canadians to send Mr. Toews a Valentine’s Day greeting saying they love their online privacy.
“Investigative tools without accompanying oversight such as full warrants, however, is not what we need,” says a statement from the Association.
Online surveillance bill ‘a gold mine’ for hackers: Ontario privacy commissioner
National Post – February 14, 2012
The Conservative government revealed legislation on Tuesday that would increase online surveillance of citizens, as critics and privacy experts argued the bill would unjustly infringe upon the rights of Canadians and act as a magnet for data-hungry hackers.
Bill C-30, tabled as The Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act in the House of Commons on Tuesday, will require telecommunications companies to give police customers’ information without a court order.
“We’re concerned that they’re downgrading privacy protections at every level,” said Abby Deshman, director of the public safety program for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “We’re obviously going to ask to appear before committee. We hope there will be a robust discussion in committee.”
Fight to repeal hate speech law brings together unlikely allies
Global News – February 14, 2012
A bill to repeal part of Canada’s most contentious hate speech provisions, which has brought together unusual allies, is one step closer to becoming law.
The case is now before the Federal Court of Canada and Lemire has found an unlikely ally in his fight to see the bill repealed, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. It’s an organization known for defending human rights, equality and diversity.
The CCLA’s general counsel Nathalie Des Rosiers said it is important liberty and equality are protected for everyone. “When you lose freedom of expression you lose the ability of having the outside voice being forcefully heard,” said Des Rosiers.
Civil Liberties Association ‘troubled’ by council ban on Niagara Falls resident
Bullet News – February 8, 2012
A lawyer for Canadian Civil Liberties Association says Niagara Falls city council’s use of the Trespass to Property Act to ban a former city employee from attending council meetings is “problematic” and likely exceeds the municipality’s authority.
“The advice that this is a lawful use of the Trespass to Property Act in this circumstance is questionable,” said Cara Zwibel, director of the association’s fundamental freedoms program.
“I think it’s problematic. To use (the Act) in this way… is overreaching.”
Sukanya Pillay: When it comes to the U.S. border, don’t put trade ahead of privacy
National Post – January 3, 2012
[...]. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has concurred with the findings of the Federal Commission of Inquiry into the case of Maher Arar: We believe that intelligence agencies and law enforcement must take every listed legal safeguard to ensure they do not wrongly flag an innocent person, and that they do not share, receive, or otherwise use or condone information that has been procured from torture or serious human rights abuses. Such information is not only unreliable, it is illegal and immoral. Indeed the RCMP and CSIS have agreed that such legal safeguards should be implemented.
Off-Island abortion costs hidden, P.E.I. warned
CBC News – November 22, 2011
The P.E.I. government needs to consider all the costs when making arguments about not providing abortion services in the province, says the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
P.E.I. is the only province which does not provide abortion services. The government will pay for the service, but Islanders must have the abortion performed on the mainland. Health Minister Doug Currie said last week abortions are one of a number of health services the Island has chosen not to perform locally to save resources.
Internet links not libel, top court rules
CBC News – October 19, 2011
Hyperlinking to defamatory material on the internet does not constitute publishing the defamatory material itself, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Wednesday.
The majority of judges agreed that although someone can facilitate the transfer of information by what he or she links to, an internet user who follows the link is leaving one source and moving to another. The creator of the words in the secondary article is the one publishing defamatory material, not the first author.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is pleased with the court’s ruling. “The court I think tried to really recognize that a decision that went the other way might have curbed what people are willing to do on the internet and curb the usefulness of the internet,” Cara Zwibel, a representative of the group, told CBC News.
Q&A: Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Cara Zwibel on religion in schools
National Post – July 6, 2011
The National Post reported on Wednesday that Toronto’s Valley Park Middle School opens its cafeteria for 30 minutes every Friday during the school year to accommodate Muslim students who need to pray. The school board said this is a form of reasonable accommodation of religious practice, a principle found in the Constitution and in human rights codes. Others say that by having an imam come to the school to conduct a prayer service comes dangerously close to the school endorsing a religious practice — something a public institution is not supposed to do. The program has run for three years, apparently without complaint. But recently a Hindu group said it worried about special treatment given to Muslims and the use of school property for a religious service.
These issues mimic a recent furor over the distribution of Gideons Bibles through public schools in the Kitchener area, as well as the events that led to the banning of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools more than 20 years ago.
On Wednesday, I spoke to Cara Zwibel, director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association for her views on this recent controversy.