National Post

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Tuesday, July 27, 1999

Letters to the Editor
National Post

Who's the boss?

Allan R. Walker
National Post

Neil Seeman's piece on who runs Canada is by far the best critique I have ever read regarding the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court of Canada is indeed a very real and dangerous threat to our democracy. Thank you for exposing the truth.

Allan R. Walker, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Who's the boss?

Stephen Bindman
National Post

In the Post's latest diatribe against the Supreme Court of Canada, Mr. Seeman suggests there is something sinister in the top court's media relations activities.

To suggest that James O'Reilly, the court's current executive legal officer, is some sort of propagandist or spin doctor, does him and his distinguished predecessors a great disservice. For years, we in the media have criticized the courts for being too secretive. Since when is it undemocratic to have someone knowledgeable available to answer questions and explain the nuances of complicated areas of law?

Perhaps Mr. Seeman and his colleagues at the Post feel they can figure out the Supreme Court on their own, but the rest of us need a little assistance.

Stephen Bindman, former legal affairs correspondent, Southam News, Ottawa.

Who's the boss?

David T.S. Fraser
National Post

Mr. Seeman comes close, but does not quite identify what the real issue is for the critics of judicial activism. The issue is not supposedly megalomaniacal judges. It is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Less than 20 years ago, our elected politicians handed a document to the judges of this country and told them that it is the supreme law of the land. Unless the "notwithstanding" provision is used, the Charter trumps every law in Canada. It was our democratically elected representatives who specifically tied their own hands and decided Parliament cannot go beyond certain bounds. Judges simply have the unenviable task of enforcing it.

Perhaps the critics should be demanding the repeal of the Charter. But then again, it would not be as simplistic and politically acceptable as judge-bashing.

David T.S. Fraser, Halifax.

Who's the boss?

Eva Saira
National Post

Re: Who runs Canada? by Neil Seeman (July 24).

A couple of examples of the fathomless ways of the Supreme Court come to mind:

1) The recent Dobson decision concerning foetal rights. Both the plaintiff and the respondent admitted they were in collusion in order to defraud the insurance company. The question of foetal rights had nothing to do with this case. It seems the Supreme Court of Canada's justices were the only nine people in the country who were unaware of this fact. Furthermore, the case was settled before it went in front of the court.

2) In the precedent-setting Regina v. Lavallee case, Madame Justice Bertha Wilson made the following comment: "The gravity, indeed, the tragedy of domestic violence can hardly be overstated. Greater media attention to this phenomenon in recent years has revealed both its prevalence and its horrific impact on women from all walks of life. Far from protecting women from it, the law historically sanctioned the abuse of women within marriage as an aspect of the husband's ownership of his wife and his "right" to chastise her. One need only recall the centuries-old law that a man is entitled to beat his wife with a stick "no thicker than his thumb."

This quotation is used now by Justice Canada in its Crown Counsel Policy Manual as a justification for exonerating women who have been proven to have murdered their husbands ("The Department of Justice has found that the vast majority of spousal assaults involve men assaulting women. Indeed, those were the facts in R. v. Lavallee where, in a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, Wilson J. made the following observations: . . .").

The only trouble is that no such law seems to have ever existed. I have researched all the available legal sources, as well as asked the justice minister and the chief justice to clarify where this law could be found. They have not been able to give me the source.

Eva Saira, Ottawa.

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