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Thread: Canadian neocons cut vital legal program for minorities. SHOCK!

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Thumbs down Canadian neocons cut vital legal program for minorities. SHOCK!

    ALEXANDER PANETTA
    CANADIAN PRESS


    OTTAWA The Conservatives are under fire for killing a legal-aid program that has assisted Canadian minority groups in a series of historic court victories over the last three decades.

    The cancellation of the Court Challenges Program was slammed Wednesday by the country's largest legal organization, opposition parties, and at least one Tory provincial government.

    The Trudeau-era program has helped fund successful court challenges that broadened the rights of Canadian seniors, women, the disabled, homosexuals, religious groups, aboriginals, and minority-language groups.

    The federal Tories announced this week that cutting the program would save taxpayers $5.6 million over two years.

    Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams a provincial Tory and a lawyer called the cuts worrisome and distanced himself from the ``right-wing" federal Conservatives.

    The opposition Liberals noted the irony of the cuts coming just months after a famous pre-election quip by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

    "He said, `Don't worry, if you elect me as a prime minister, the courts will hold me in check'," Liberal MP Omar Alghabra told a news conference.

    "(Then) what does he do? He cancels the Court Challenges Program, which is supposed to hold him in check."

    The program helped fund court battles that gave seniors employment-insurance benefits, and gave deaf people the right to get sign-language service in hospitals.

    It helped women win pay-equity cases, and simplified the necessary argument for a sexual-assault conviction.

    It funded cases that opened schools for French-Canadians, guaranteed English-language rights in Quebec, and helped affirm religious freedoms like Sikh children's right to carry a kirpan.

    It helped homosexuals win equality protection under the Charter of Rights in landmark 1990s cases that led to a slew of new legal benefits and eventually paved the path to same-sex marriage.

    But the program has long drawn the ire of the Tories, who already killed it in 1992 the last time they were in power.

    The Liberals revived it in 1994 upon returning to office, and its continued existence has long been a sore spot to conservatives.

    Many conservatives have denounced the program as biased, saying it supports liberal causes while consistently denying funding for things like anti-abortion cases.

    Harper's right-hand man wrote his doctoral dissertation and several other papers about the program in his previous career as an academic.

    Now chief of staff to the prime minister, Ian Brodie published one paper titled "Do the `Haves' Still Come Out Ahead in Canada?"

    "Three interests official language minority groups, feminists, and homosexual rights groups have been particularly successful at pursuing their objectives through the courts," Brodie wrote when he was a professor at the University of Western Ontario.

    "All three of these interests consider themselves traditionally `disadvantaged' groups in Canadian society, and so their success is puzzling."

    The paper, which he co-authored in 2003 just before joining Harper's staff, suggests "a solution to this puzzle."

    The paper concludes that the so-called "haves" really do come out ahead in our legal system and that's because the Court Challenges Program has simply helped reverse the definition.

    "In other words, these self-described `disadvantaged' groups win because under the new conditions they are now among the `haves'," Brodie writes in the paper, co-authored with the University of Calgary's Ted Morton.

    "Being among the `haves' has given them the resources required to become repeat players and succeed in judicial politics."

    One Conservative government official was far more blunt when asked about the program Wednesday.

    If there are any future injustices, he said, offended groups can simply use the news media or the political process to pressure government. Or they can launch lawsuits with their own money.

    "From a small-c conservative standpoint, (people wonder) why are we paying people to sue the government?" said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "They can raise their own money."

    He said the program exposes a key philosophical difference between Liberals and Conservatives.

    "(Liberals feel) citizens are clients of the state, and (they feel), `We better keep those clients, so we'd better stand up for them'."

    He added that, because the Charter of Rights is now a quarter-century old, legal rights for feminists, homosexuals, and minorities are well-entrenched in our justice system.

    But Newfoundland's Conservative premier weighed in against the federal Conservative government.

    Williams distanced his provincial Progressive Conservatives from the federal Tories.

    "In my opinion, it shows the difference between Conservatives: true right-wing Conservatives and Progressive Conservatives," Williams said in St. John's.

    "You know, when you start taking away funding from minority groups just because they're going to sue government, that means you're saying, `We're not going to give you any money if we've done something wrong to allow you to sue us.'

    "So then (do) you take away legal aid at some point down the road so people who commit criminal offences don't have the right to have legal counsel?"

    The Canadian Bar Association which has 36,000 members said the government has been dishonest in characterizing the program.

    "They're making it sound like these fringe groups were the only ones accessing it," said Guy Joubert, a vice-president at the association.

    "That's definitely not the case. . . . What this move has done is silence the voices of marginalized Canadians."

    http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/Con...2154&t=TS_Home
    Like anybody is surprised in the least.
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Hit By Ban Bus! pacific breeze's Avatar
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    Ah, the winds of "change" are carrying us back to the Stone Age. Where's Dracko to sing the praises of this when we need her?

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