The Harper government seems perfectly willing to push the limits between executive and judicial function. In the past, this government has ignored court decisions when they don’t suit the Tory agenda, but now they seem to be directly interfering with the legal system.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson declared on August 13 that Federal Cabinet members should not be ruled out for judicial appointments. This statement follows rumors that current Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews, may be appointed as a judge in Manitoba after the Harper government appointed three Conservatives to the selection board. Nicholson did not directly name Toews, but said he was not in the business of eliminating anyone or any group of people from potential appointments.
With a Senate already stacked in Stephen Harper’s favor, despite his promises that he would not name any new Senators, this opens questions of Harper stacking the courts in his favor whenever openings come up.
The government has already shown disdain for the courts, ignoring the Supreme Court ruling that Omar Khadr’s rights were being violated among others. Ministers have also been attacking the courts for striking down elements of the government’s beloved omnibus crime bill, particularly the provisions for mandatory minimum sentences.
Based on the crime bill, the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) has asked that the Justice Department to review legal aid funding. The crime bill is increasing demands on the system, said Dan MacRury, the chairman for the CBA’s national criminal justice section. Nicholson was unmoved by the request, saying that the government has managed to maintain current levels of legal aid funding despite cutbacks across the board.
The Harper crime bill is also putting extra strain on the prison system, forcing double bunking and causing an increase in violence in some prisons.
The crime bill is another case where the Tories are determined to ignore the best advice of people working in the system and do what’s best for their base vote.
Photo Credit: Dan4th Nicholas