Sunday, February 7, 2010

Supreme Court of Canada Cops Out

The Supreme Court of Canada has started doing an odd thing -- it has been finding that the Government has either broken its own laws or the constitution but then saying it will do nothing about it except leave it to the government to figure out how to address its own wrongdoing.

In the Miningwatch case the Supreme Court of Canada restored an lower court decision that had been overturned by an appeal court. The Court found that the Federal Government has deliberately set about redescribing a mining project so as to avoid having to an indepth environmental assessment (as opposed to a destop once over lightly). But then the Court held that since the poor mining company (which had been involved in the case after all) should not be made to suffer further. What about the poor public who actually expect that proper environmental assessments are being done in accordance with the law.

In the Khadr case the Court said that the Government of Canada had breached Omar Khadr's rights. Effectively Canada participated in the process of torturing Mr. Khadr who -- odious as he may be -- is entitled under the law not to be tortured. After finding this the Court effectively said "international affairs are too delicate and complicated for us so we'll just leave it up to the government to figure out how to do the right thing." I would like that kind of approach to my potential wrongdoings.

There is another side to this -- perhaps the court would not point out wrongdoings at all if it had to determine the conseuqences of holding the governmemt to account. However, I wonder if there is really that much difference given the present government's contempt for the idea of judicial review and being held to account.

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