Toronto – July 9, 2014 – Under a majority government, opposition parties are limited in what they can do to stop the government’s agenda. They can filibuster, try amending legislation, put forth private member's bills, and question the government in the House of Commons and Senate, and at committee. But in the end, the majority government controls the agenda and with an unprecedented use of time allocation to limit debate, Harper’s Conservatives have bullied through with their agenda.
However, since 2011, Harper has faced an opposition that he can’t vote down in Parliament — the Supreme Court of Canada. Despite Harper having appointed a majority of judges to the Supreme Court (five justices since 2006) the court has issued a string of rulings throwing a wrench in Harper’s plans.
Since 2011, when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in support of Insite, Vancouver’s safe injection site; to the recent decision upholding Aboriginal land claims; to the Conservatives' tough-on-crime and undeterred resource development agenda; Harper's anti-Charter game plan has repeatedly run into roadblocks at the court. The Supreme Court unanimously overturned the Truth in Sentencing Act, rejected Harper's plans for Senate reform, and ruled unconstitutional Harper’s attempt to appoint Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court.
The lower courts have also gotten into the act by ruling against mandatory minimum sentences, the abolition of early parole, and in a recent decision by the Federal Court, the rejection of Harper’s cuts to health-care for refugees which the court referred to as ‘cruel and unusual'. Harper has already signalled that the Conservatives will appeal this latest decision to the Supreme Court.
The HarperCons also recently introduced revised prostitution legislation – a response to the Supreme Court's overturning of Canada’s prostitution laws – that is also likely to end up back at the Supreme Court as it appears the government legislation fails to meet the intentions of the court’s decision on the issue. It almost appears that the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are unfamiliar to Harper’s Conservatives, or just a nuisance to be ignored.
In his old Reform days, Harper and the reformers would rally against the courts and unelected judges so it will be no surprise to watch them ratchet up their attacks once again as we move closer to the next federal election. Harper promised to change Canada, however his efforts to impose his ideology has run up against a court system that tends to better reflect Canadian values.
For now, the courts are doing their best to keep us safe from Harper, but as he continues to make more appointments to all levels of the court system — appointments which reflect his harsh ideology — the only certain way to end the madness is to elect a new government that respects our Constitution, and unlike Harper’s Conservatives, a government that respects the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.