28 February 2014

Don Macpherson: Diane De Courcy’s Bonjour-Hi remark isn’t so funny

Don Macpherson: Diane De Courcy’s Bonjour-Hi remark isn’t so funny

We laugh at the apparent pettiness of Diane De Courcy’s attempt to
discourage Montreal businesses from greeting customers with a “Hi” as
well as a “Bonjour.”

Nevertheless, the Parti Québécois language minister’s remarks this week
about “Bonjour-Hi,” an offer to serve the customer in either French or
English, have serious implications for English-speaking Quebecers.

it’s an attempt by the PQ government, by pressure if not legislation,
to discourage not only private businesses from offering service in
English, but even individuals from speaking English in public.

05 February 2014

Op-Ed: The other notwithstanding clause (Section 28)

Op-Ed: The other notwithstanding clause

It seems obvious that there will be constitutional challenges to
Quebec’s proposed Charter of Values, which prohibits “conspicuous”
religious symbols for provincial civil servants and contains other
requirements purportedly relating to the removal of religion from the
provision of government services (and even some non-governmental
services, like daycares.)

Usually, the arguments revolve around
what seems to be a clear violation of freedom of religion under the
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, provoking in turn further
constitutional sabre rattling in other quarters that raises the spectre
of Quebec simply invoking Section 33, the “notwithstanding clause.”
Quebec has done so before. Supporters of the Charter of Values maintain
that the government could use Section 33 to validate the legislation to
preserve Quebec’s “secular” society.

What has not been
acknowledged, by the Quebec government, its supporters, nor any of the
other commentators on the issue is that there is a very obvious block on
using this “notwithstanding clause” when it comes to legislation
affecting the rights of women. There is, in fact, another
“notwithstanding clause.” Section 28 of the Canadian Charter of Rights
and Freedoms guarantees all rights and freedoms equally to male and
female persons, “notwithstanding anything in this Charter.” In 1981,
when the Charter was being negotiated, the feminist drafters of Section
28 successfully beat back an attempt to make it subject to the Section
33 override clause, in a very public battle. There is no question about
whether a province could use the Section 33 “notwithstanding clause” to
override a court decision invalidating a law on the basis of sex

04 February 2014

Editorial: Good riddance, Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act

Editorial: Good riddance, Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act

A new ruling from the Federal Court of Appeal is a new twist in the
headache-inducing story of the hate-speech provisions of the Canadian
Human Rights Act. Politically, it makes the issue muddier, as it will
allow supporters of those provisions to argue that they have the courts
in their corner. But the courts tell governments what they can and can’t
do, not what they should and shouldn’t.

The court found that Section 13, even with its penalty provision,
does not violate the Constitution. It is a limit on free speech, but in
the court’s view, an allowable limit.
The ruling is interesting, from a political standpoint, because
Parliament passed a private member’s bill last year repealing Section
13. The ruling suggests that if any government wanted to reinstate
Section 13 or something like it, it might be able to do so without
violating the Constitution.