Canadian judges once deferred to government on questions of national security. No more. Federal Court Justice Russel Zinn's withering critique of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government for refusing to let a Canadian citizen back into Canada is just the latest in a series of judicial decisions indicating that, on matters of terrorism, the courts no longer believe everything Ottawa says.
So far, Harper has ignored the courts.
Now the front-line Federal Court is pushing back hard. Why? University of Ottawa law professor Craig Forcese says it's not so much that the judges are changing. It's that the government is becoming more obdurate.Globe editorial:
"The court is ... following the law," adds Toronto lawyer Paul Copeland, a special advocate in the Harkat case.
"The reason there have been so many orders against the government is because this government, even more than previous ones, does not care about the rule of law."
Ottawa could show that it understands the errors of its arbitrary and unconstitutional ways by agreeing to take back Mr. Abdelrazik, rather than seeking a stay and appealing the ruling. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson could do what he does not seem to have done thus far, or at least, not done effectively: push the cabinet to act within accepted legal norms. Based on the Conservative government's track record, expect it to take "trust us" to a higher court.
One after another, judges on the Federal Court and the Supreme Court have chastened, rather than trusted, the federal government. Perhaps judicial activism on these benches is rampant; more likely, Ottawa is consistently wrong. Abousfian Abdelrazik is a citizen and has a right to come home. (emphasis added)Could there be any more damning indictment of a government? A supposed "law and order" government that hypocritically puts on elaborate presentations replete with backdrops full of nifty slogans to make a show of being strong criminal justice types. That "law and order' posturing is a farce in the face of these repeated rulings. On the one hand they seek to ratchet up penalties and sentences, yet on the other, when they're the ones being handed a sentence in the form of these lost Federal Court cases, they ignore those judgments. They're the lawless ones with no moral authority to support their latest electoral gambits. They cynically count on the Canadian people not to understand their hypocrisy.
The Federal Court is speaking loudly to Canadians in repeated rulings against the Harper government, amplified now by the media. I hope Canadians are listening and figuring out that this government does not walk their talk.
Update (5:45 p.m.): Just saw Dr. Dawg's piece from yesterday, worth a read. Although I do see a pattern with this government, which is to pick and choose their legal position based on what they perceive to be the most electorally advantageous on any given legal issue.