Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Past time to get serious about national security

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

In a statement at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed that his government will spend more than $250-million over the next two years to improve passenger and baggage screening at airports, rail terminals, urban transit facilities and ports. "This is how the fight against terrorism will be won,” he said. “Modernizing equipment and procedures, plugging the holes, filling the gaps and thinking one step ahead of the agents of hate and terror."

Harper is right. When, though, is his government going to do something to plug one of the biggest and most dangerous gaps; namely, the tens of thousands of immigrants and refugee applicants from terrorist-exporting countries who enter Canada each year without proper screening?

Jack Hooper, deputy director of operations for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, underlined the seriousness of this problem in testimony before the Senate Committee on Intelligence and National Defence on May 29. First, he pointed out that about 20,000 immigrants have entered Canada from the terrorist-beset Afghanistan-Pakistan region alone since 2001. He then added: “We’re in a position to vet one-tenth of those. That may be inadequate.”

David B. Harris, former chief of strategic planning for CSIS, agrees. In testimony to a subcommittee on immigration of the United States Congress on June 8, he noted that on a per capita basis, Canada takes in twice as many immigrants, and three to four times as many refugees as the United States. He warned: “Canada cannot effectively screen and integrate such numbers, and we’ve seen the proof.”

Indeed, we have. Literally dozens of Muslim terrorists have been unmasked in Canada over the past 10 years.

Given the seriousness of the ongoing terrorist threat, it’s urgently necessary to plug all the gaping holes in our national security. To this end, Harris suggests the Harper government “consider a moratorium on immigration and refugee intake until we get a handle on our policies and process for mitigating related security risks.”

While there is much to be said for this proposal, there is no need for any prolonged moratorium on the intake of all immigrants and refugees. In the interests of national security, the Harper government should focus instead on the primary threat posed by adult males among Muslims, Tamils and other nationalities and groups linked to terrorism.

The great majority of Muslims and Tamils are not terrorists, but that’s not the issue. The Harper government should urgently resolve that no person who might conceivably be sympathetic to terrorism can enter and remain in Canada without a full security screening by CSIS.

In addition, Immigration Minister Monte Solberg should undertake to bar even temporary entry into Canada by hatemongers like the British Shaykh Riyadh ul Haq. In an harangue before a rally of Muslims in Leicester, England, he alleged that “the rabbis of Israel have made their position clear for all the world to see: They regard the lives of Palestinians – Muslims and Christians alike – as less valuable than those of Jews, and thus expendable.”

Ul Haq is scheduled to serve as a keynote speaker at two major impending guidance conferences for Muslim youths in Montreal and Toronto. These are not fringe events. The roster of featured speakers also includes such prominent Canadian Muslims as Ahmad Shehab, a candidate for mayor of Toronto in 2003, and Dr. Munir El-Kassem, the Muslim chaplain at the University of Western Ontario.

Responsible leaders of the Muslim community in Canada should make sure that Jew-baiting bigots like Ul Haq are not invited to address mainstream Muslim conferences. Failing that, it’s up to the government of Canada to prevent these hatemongers from getting into the country.

In fact, the Canadian Coalition for Democracies has asked the Harper government to bar entry to Ul Haq, in particular. But Solberg has rejected the proposal on the ground: “If a visitor to Canada publicly incites hatred while here, they can be arrested and prosecuted under our Criminal Code."

That policy is preposterous. It gives Muslim extremists free reign to visit and incite their followers in Canada so long as they refrain from spewing their hatred in public.

When oh when will the Harper Conservatives and the opposition parties in Parliament finally get serious about safeguarding Canada from Islamist terrorism?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Standing up to the Court

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

Last week, Justice Minister Vic Toews recommended to Parliament a set of pay hikes for judges that would give Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of the Supreme Court of Canada an immediate raise of $20,100 retroactive to April 1, 2004. In the opinion of Joe Comartin, the justice critic for the New Democratic Party, that’s not nearly enough. He fumed: “What we have here is another reflection of the contempt this government holds toward our judiciary.”

The mind boggles. Not so long ago the socialists of the NDP subscribed to the Marxian precept: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Now they berate a Conservative cabinet minister for suggesting that the Chief Justice should be content with a 7.25-per-cent pay hike that will give her an annual income of $298,500.

The New Democrats are not alone in calling for heftier pay hikes of judges. The previous Liberal government accepted the recommendations in a May 2004 report by the independent Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission that called for an immediate salary increase of 10.2 per cent for federally appointed judges. That proposal would give McLachlin a retroactive pay hike of $30,000.

Now the NDP insists that the Harper government should likewise endorse the commission’s recommendations. Toews disagrees. Given that federally appointed judges already have their salaries permanently indexed by law to inflation, he thinks that McLachlin and her colleagues on the Supreme Court of Canada should be content with an additional retroactive pay hike of 7.25 per cent.

In support of this proposal, Toews points out that even at the current rate of pay, there has been no lack of highly qualified applicants for vacancies in the federally appointed courts. And he contends that the commission’s recommendation of a 10.2-per-cent increase in judicial pay on top of inflation indexing is not “reasonable and generally proportional” to all the other economic pressures and legitimate fiscal demands upon the Harper government.

Underlying this dispute is disagreement over who should have ultimate responsibility for determining judicial pay. Toews has good reason to insist that it’s up to elected representatives of the people in Parliament inasmuch as Section 100 of the Constitution of Canada plainly states: “The Salaries, Allowances, and Pensions of the Judges of the Superior, District, and County Courts … shall be fixed and provided by the Parliament of Canada.”

Despite this explicit provision of the Constitution, the Supreme Court of Canada held in the 1997 PEI Judges Reference case that the government of Canada must establish an independent commission on judicial pay. The court also warned: “if the executive or the legislature chooses to depart from (the commission’s recommendations), it has to justify its decision -- if need be, in a court of law.”

With this decision, the unelected judges on the Supreme Court of Canada declared, in effect, that they have a right to determine their own pay. In support of this unprecedented assertion, the majority could cite nothing but the “underlying, unwritten, and organizing principles found in the preamble to the Constitution Act, 1867.”

In a stinging dissent in this case, former Justice Gerald La Forest contended that the Court has no authority to subordinate the express provisions of the Constitution to some unwritten principles lurking in the preamble. The express provisions of the Constitution are the Constitution, he insisted: “To assert otherwise is to subvert the democratic foundation of judicial review.”

La Forest is right. In conformity with the separation of legislative and judicial powers, the Supreme Court of Canada should respect the authority of Parliament under section 100 of the Constitution to determine the salaries, allowances and pensions of all federally appointed judges.
Moreover, in fulfilling this legislative responsibility, Parliament should stick with the reasonable increases in judicial pay proposed by Toews. If McLachlin and other judicial activists on the Supreme Court of Canada are not content with his generous offer of an additional $20,100 and $18,600, respectively, per year, they should quit.

In this way, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Toews would have an opportunity to come up with some eminently qualified replacements who would respect the democratic foundation of judicial review, by upholding the plain language of the Constitution as originally understood.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Perversion of Human Rights

Catholic Insight
By Rory Leishman

In a remarkable ruling on Maundy Thursday, a three-judge panel of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal unanimously quashed the rulings of a Saskatchewan human rights board of inquiry which found that a Regina man had violated the province’s human rights code, by drawing public attention to Biblical teaching on the sinfulness of sodomy.

The man in question, Hugh Owens, is a Regina prison guard and Evangelical Protestant. His troubles with the human-rights thought police stem from an advertisement he placed in the Saskatchewan Star Phoenix that listed four Bible passages -- Romans 1, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-19 -- together with a picture of two stick men holding hands and superimposed with a circle and slash -- the universal symbol for something forbidden.

Acting on a complaint by three homosexual activists, the human rights board of inquiry ruled that “the circle and slash combined with the passages of the Bible … can objectively be seen as exposing homosexuals to hatred or ridicule” contrary to section 14 1(b) of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. To atone for this offence, the board ordered The StarPhoenix and Owens to pay the complainants $1,500 each in damages and to promise that they would never again publish such an advertisement. The publisher of The StarPhoenix meekly complied. Owens appealed the ruling, and lost again in the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench.

Luckily for Owens, he has now been vindicated by the Court of Appeal. In reasons for the Court, Mr. Justice Robert Richards pointed out that an objective observer would know that the passages cited by Owens are “self-evidently part of a larger work, the Bible.” Richards dryly added: “One need not be a Biblical scholar, or even a Christian, to know that the Bible as a whole is … the source of messages involving themes of love, tolerance and forgiveness.”

On this basis, Richards held that the publication of Owens’s advertisement did not offend the ban on hateful publications in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. But if the province’s Human Rights Commission were to appeal this judgment to the Supreme Court of Canada, would Owens win again? That, to say the least, is doubtful.

Ian Hunter, emeritus professor of law at the University of Western Ontario, has observed that the ostensible guarantee of freedom of religion in section 2 of the Charter “has been interpreted by the Supreme Court since the landmark decision in Big M Drug Mart [1985] to mean freedom from religion.” Correspondingly, in Egan [1995], the Supreme Court defied the manifest will of Parliament and the provincial legislatures by reading equality rights for homosexuals into section 15 of the Charter.

Following these precedents, lower courts and human rights tribunals have repeatedly censored Christians for publicly affirming the sinfulness of sodomy on the ground that the equality rights for homosexuals in section 15 trump the rights of all Canadians to freedom of conscience, religion, opinion, expression and association in section 2.

Homosexuals, of course, are not the only favoured minority of human rights commissions and the courts. In Calgary, an Imam has persuaded the Alberta Human Rights Commission to undertake an investigation of Ezra Levant, the publisher of The Western Standard, for allegedly violating the equality rights of Muslims, by republishing “hateful cartoons” of the Prophet Muhammad.

Who might be the next victim of Canada’s human-rights thought police? No one knows. All Canadians are vulnerable. Theoretically, even a Muslim could get charged for saying or publishing something offensive to homosexuals.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the expansive human rights codes that were enacted in the 1980s were supposed to safeguard and enhance the rights and freedoms of Canadians. Instead, judicial activists on the Supreme Court of Canada have transformed these codes and the Charter into veritable instruments of oppression.

While three enlightened judges on the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal have given Owens a rare reprieve, the rest of us should beware: No one can be safe in a country where a mayor who refuses to issue a gay pride proclamation or a publisher who reproduces a cartoon that some Muslims find offensive could end up in jail as a prisoner of conscience.

A Harper majority government could yield major gains for the pro-life movement

The Interim
By Rory Leishman

So far, Canada’s new Conservative government has done precious little to promote the sanctity of human life, but pro-lifers should not give up on the Conservative Party. There is good reason to hope for major pro-life gains from the Harper Conservatives after the next federal election.

Consider what Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already accomplished. Thanks mainly to his leadership, the formerly hapless Conservatives are now in power, while the once seemingly invincible Liberals are in disarray.

Since the election, Harper’s overriding aim has been to win the confidence of the Canadian people for his government. To this end, he has promoted an equitable settlement of the softwood-lumber dispute with the United States and authorized Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to present a moderate budget that honours the Conservatives’ commitments to cut the GST from seven- to six-per-cent and to introduce a Universal Child Care Benefit that will provide all families with $100 per month for every child under age six.This strategy of moderation is working. According to a series of recent opinion polls, the Harper Conservatives now enjoy a commanding lead in nationwide support.

At the beginning of May, the Montreal daily La Presse published a CROP poll indicating that the Conservatives have even taken over the lead in Quebec. Other reputable polls in this same province have put the Conservatives behind the Bloc Quebecois but well ahead of the Liberals.Altogether, these polls spell disaster for the Liberals. If they lose what remains of their base in Quebec, the Conservatives will likely win a majority in the next federal election, even if the Liberals and New Democrats retain their stranglehold on urban seats in Ontario.

During the last election campaign, Harper undertook to broaden the support of the Conservative Party, by promising that his government would not support any legislation on abortion. He said: “I will use whatever influence I have to keep that off of the agenda, and I don't see any likelihood of that in the next Parliament."

Harper might well have foreseen that pro-lifers would pick up some additional seats in the last election, but not enough to constitute a majority. Regardless, there is indeed no likelihood that any back bench legislation to curb abortion will pass in the current Parliament.

However, with the pro-choice Liberals in a state of collapse, pro-lifers are well poised to win a solid majority of seats in the next Parliament. Harper, then, could no longer block bills to curb abortion even if he wanted to. Willy-nilly, he would have to uphold the official policy of the Conservative Party that: “On issues of moral conscience, such as abortion, the definition of marriage and euthanasia, the party acknowledges the diversity of deeply held personal convictions among individual party members and the right of Members of Parliament to adopt positions in consultation with their constituents and to vote freely.”

Until the last election, Harper consistently supported this policy. In the 1990s, he helped Preston Manning unite the Reform Party around a similar commitment to free MPs from the obligation to follow party discipline on controversial issues of morality like abortion and euthanasia.The next federal election could come as early as next spring. In anticipation of this contest, pro-lifers should start now to make an all-out effort to get more pro-life and pro-family candidates nominated and elected. With majority support in Parliament, pro-life MPs could finally make some dramatic breakthroughs in reaffirming the sanctity of human life in Canadian law and policy.

It’s not inconceivable that Harper, himself, could take the lead in promoting pro-life and pro-family legislation. Unlike his immoral Liberal predecessors who disgraced themselves by championing both abortion on demand and same-sex marriage, he has steadfastly upheld the traditional legal definition of marriage and resolutely refused to pander to the feminist proponents of uninhibited abortion.

Moreover, Harper is an astute political strategist. As prime minister, he has surrounded himself with several key, pro-life colleagues. There is reason to hope, and better reason to pray, that in conjunction with them, he is simply biding his time until his government can proceed with the support of a majority of Canadians to enact legislation to reaffirm the natural family and curb the abortion licence.