Monday, April 30, 2007

Bertha Wilson (1923-2007)


Bertha Wilson, the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, passed away on April 28:

OTTAWA, April 30, 2007 – The Supreme Court of Canada issued the following press release today:

The Honourable Bertha Wilson, formerly a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, passed away in Ottawa on April 28, 2007 after a prolonged illness. Justice Wilson attended the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and graduated with an M.A. in 1944. She continued her education at the Training College for Teachers in Aberdeen, obtaining her diploma in 1945. She married the Reverend John Wilson in December 1945 and they emigrated to Canada in 1949. In 1955, Bertha Wilson enrolled at Dalhousie University to study law, and in 1957 she completed her LL.B. and was called to the bar of Nova Scotia. In 1959 she was called to the bar of Ontario. She practised law in Toronto with Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt for 17 years.

Bertha Wilson broke ground in 1975 as the first woman appointed to the Court of Appeal for Ontario, and again in 1982 when she became the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. She retired from the Court in 1991.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, on behalf of the members of the Supreme Court of Canada, lamented Justice Wilson’s passing, “Bertha Wilson was known for her generosity of spirit and originality of thought. She was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada the same year the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted. As a member of this Court, she was a pioneer in Charter jurisprudence and made an outstanding contribution to the administration of justice. She will be sorely missed by all who were privileged to know her.”

A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 8, 2007 at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Wellington and Kent Streets, Ottawa.

Wilson J.’s most famous opinions include R. v. Morgentaler, [1988] 1 S.C.R. 30, the decision that decriminalized abortion in Canada, and R. v. Lavallée, [1990] 1 S.C.R. 852, which allowed the defence of self-defence in a case where the accused, a young woman who had been abused by her partner for a number of years, was suffering from the “battered wife syndrome”.

Wilson J. was also criticized for a speech about the role and influence of women in legal professions and the judiciary, aptly titled “Will Women Judges Really Make a Difference?”


See also: “Bertha Wilson: Law as Large as Life” by Eileen Anderson.

Official Supreme Court bio

Wikipedia bio


UPDATE (2007-05-03):

More on Wilson J.'s work and legacy:

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Tell your MP to Support Bill C-254

On April 19, Mr. Borys Wrzesnewskyj, Liberal MP for Etobicoke Centre, introduced a motion in the House of Commons, requesting that the House unanimously supports Bill C-254, which would provide protection to women under hate speech laws.

As our criminal law currently stands, subsections 318(4) and 319(7) Criminal Code only prohibit hate propaganda and public incitement of hatred that is based on the colour, race, ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation of a particular group of persons. Thus, it is still not a criminal offence in Canada to public assert that “all women – or men, for that matter – must die”.

Bill C-254 must be enacted into law, so that Canadians can be protected from the most heinous forms of gender-based discrimination and violence, and that their dignity can be enhanced and preserved.

Yes, folks! The time has come to contact your MP to tell him/her that it will be a cold day in hell before you vote for him/her if he/she doesn’t support his Bill.

Here is a suggestion of what you can do:

1) Find your MP here;
2) Write him/her an email telling him/her to support Bill C-254 (should you lack inspiration, just copy/paste the models reproduced below);
3) Either CC your email to the Prime Minister and/or the Minister of Justice, or directly write to them;
4) Tell your friends/family/coworkers/random acquaintances about it. That stuff is important.


The Right Hon. Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

The Hon. Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson:


In English:

Dear [Your MP/Minister of Justice/Prime Minister],

I am writing to you as a resident of your riding, [your riding].

I have recently learned that Mr. Borys Wrzesnewskyj, MP for Etobicoke Centre, had introduced a motion to request that the House of Commons unanimously supports Bill C-254, which adds women to the groups protected by the Criminal Code against incitement of hatred, as per subsections 318(4) and 319(7) Criminal Code.

I believe that this measure is a necessary step towards the elimination of all violence against women, the achievement of substantial equality between the sexes, and, generally, the respect of the fundamental human dignity of Canadian women.

Therefore, as a woman, a voter and a Canadian citizen, I am asking you to support Mr. Wrzesnewskyj’s initiative, and demand that you do everything in your power, as [MP for …/Minister of Justice/Prime minister], to ensure that Bill C-254 becomes the law of the land.

I thank you in advance for your consideration.




En français :

[Monsieur/Madame - votre député ici],

Je vous écris en tant que résidente de votre comté, [votre comté ici].

J’ai récemment appris que M. Borys Wrzesnewskyj, député d’Etobicoke Centre, avait déposé une motion devant la Chambre des communes demandant l’appui unanime au Bill C-254, qui vise à englober « les femmes » dans la définition des groupes identifiables pouvant faire l’objet de propagande haineuse et d’incitation publique à la haine au sens des paragraphes 318(4) et 319(7) du Code criminel.

Je crois que cette mesure est un pas essentiel vers l’éradication de la violence faite aux femmes, de la promotion de l’égalité substantielle entre les sexes, et tout simplement, du respect de la dignité fondamentale des Canadiennes.

En tant que femme, électrice et citoyenne canadienne, je vous demande d’appuyer cette initiative, et de faire tout ce qui est en votre pouvoir, en tant que [député de mon comté/ministre de…], pour vous assurer que cette proposition ait prochainement force de loi.

Je vous remercie à l’avance de votre considération et vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur le [député/ministre], mes sincères salutations.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

News Flash: Women Are Not Rodents!

I should stop reading the Globe and Mail. This paper constantly surprises me by reaching new lows of misogyny.

Today's paper featured an article, called "Sluts and Vermin", about the findings of Ms. Nafissa Ismail, a graduate student at Concordia University's Centre for Studies in Behavioural Neurobiology, who recently completed a research on the reproductive behaviour of rats. Her experiments namely involved allowing a male rat to have sexual access to two females, the first on an occasional basis, and the second, on a regular basis. She concluded that male rats, when in presence of both females, preferred the former female.

Now, I'm no rat expert, but I'd tend to say that rats are quite different from human beings. However, Globe reporter Siri Agrell, apparently figured that the conclusions of this study were significant for women (by which I mean, human, non-rodent females).

As a matter of fact, this is how she summarized the results of the experiment: “Girl lab rats know the rules: Play hard to get or your man won't respect you."

OK, I thought. That was a bit of a shocker. But are they really comparing the behaviour of rats (I repeat: rats) with that of mentally competent, presumably responsible, 21st century adult women?

Oh yes they are! *sing song voice*:

"Left in a room with both sexual partners, he found himself instantly drawn to the one who had been playing hard to get.
This story will not surprise most women, who have undoubtedly been told - either by peers or pop culture - not to put out too early in a relationship, lest the man lose interest.

Ms. Ismail added:

"I don't know if it will reinforce behaviours, but I think it should definitely give women something to think about on being too easy with men… Especially if it's one that they care about and want to develop a bond with." [emphasis added]

So just in case you were still scratching your head in total incomprehension, they are indeed implying that female who have "give in" too "easily" to sex, or who have multiple partners, are sluts, just like those nasty, promiscuous rodents.

But wait! The fun doesn't end there! Not only does this research on rats (how many times do I have to point it out?) entails that men have no respect whatsoever for women who choose not to entirely devote their sexuality to one of them, but it also explains why women are "wired" to despise "promiscuity":

"When the three animals were put in an enclosure together, [Ms. Ismail] said, the favoured or 'prudish' female rat displayed contemptuous behaviour toward her 'slutty' competitor."

Forget everything I've said so far. Despite the slut-bashing and the comparing women who *gasp* sleep with more than one partner with f***ing rats, there must be some truth in there. I mean, it's got to be a serious, well-researched article. I mean, otherwise, why would they be referring to Louann Brizendine's anachronistic masterpiece The Female Brain all over the place?

For those who haven't heard of it yet, Dr. Brizendine's book is about how hormonal and genetic differences between men and women condition us to behave in a feminine way(from childhood's girly games, to preferring to have children over pursuing a career and one's personal interests).

This book has been severely criticized, both in feminist and medical circles. For example:

"Yet, despite the author’s extensive academic credentials, The Female Brain disappointingly fails to meet even the most basic standards of scientific accuracy and balance. The book is riddled with scientific errors and is misleading about the processes of brain development, the neuroendocrine system, and the nature of sex differences in general. At the ‘big picture’ level, three errors stand out. First, human sex differences are elevated almost to the point of creating different species, yet virtually all differences in brain structure, and most differences in behaviour, are characterized by small average differences and a great deal of male– female overlap at the individual level. Second, data on structural and functional differences in the brain are routinely framed as if they must precede all sex differences in behaviour. Finally, the focus on hormone levels to the virtual exclusion of the systems that interpret them (and the mutual regulatory interactions between receptor and secretion systems) is especially lamentable, given the book’s clinical emphasis on hormone therapies. »

“The emphasis on myth-busting turns into a vehicle for dressing the myth up in new clothes — such as Simon Baron-Cohen’s recent hypothesis that the ‘male brain’ is hard-wired for ‘systematizing’, and the ‘female brain’ is hard-wired for ‘empathizing’ — there is no shortage of pseudo-scientific ways of saying ‘thinkers’ and ‘feelers’. The problem with such explanations of sex differences is not that they are overly biological, but that they are fundamentally non-biological and explain nothing.”

"Look at that slut... Did you see what she's wearing?"

Monday, April 23, 2007

News posts coming soon

Coming soon on this blog:
  • Violent girls and warrior women;
  • Men on the "Mill";
  • Virginia Tech Tragedy: Echoes of the École Polytechnique Massacre, victim blaming, and the trivilization of relational violence in the media;
  • André Picard on breastfeeding: Call me back when you grow breasts...;
  • US Supreme Court ruling on "partial birth abortions" - A (tentative) comparative analysis in Canadian constitutional law;
  • Gender parity achieved at last at the Québec National Assembly.


For now, please check out, a fabulous goldmine of information on women's issues and feminist resources (includes materials in both French and English).

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Earth to Conservatives: Women have a life, too...

In the wake of past efforts to improve childcare measures, the Conservative government had already made clear to the Canadian population that such measures would be at the expense of moms in the workforce.

Remember when they made those budgets cuts in federal funding for public daycare programs, and substituted “childcare allocations” of $1,200 per annum for families with children under 6? WOW. What a bargain. You really have to applaud those geniuses who did the math and figured that families did not incur any daycare expenses when their children turn 6. I’m just so impressed.

But that’s not all! The Conservative have just come up with yet another wacky proposition to keep women where they should be, that is, at home, making babies, lactating, and picking up after their offspring. A Cabinet-appointed panel, the Ministerial Advisory Committee on the Government of Canada's Child Care Spaces Initiative, recently released the result of a study that was supposed to find solutions to the problem of the lack of spaces in daycare facilities.

The solution? Extending Employment Insurance benefits for parents from 50 weeks to 2 ½ years (which would allow stay-at-home parents to receive the equivalent of 55% of their salary), so as to provide an incentive to parents to stay at home to care for their children as long as possible.

Besides the obvious question of the tax increase that will be necessary to fund this measure, you’ve got to admire the reasoning behind this:

1) Women rely on daycare facilities to care for their children so that they can work ;
2) All women can’t work because there is a shortage of daycare spaces for their children ;
3) The Harper government appoints a Committee to find solutions to increase the number of available daycare spaces in order to allow women to work;
4) The Committee finds out that women who do not work and stay at home to care for their children because they can’t put them in daycares instead, don’t send their children in daycare.
5) The Committee recommends that if women stay home to care for their children, there will be more available daycare spaces.

Seriously : WTF ?!? Am I missing on something ?

If you can forget the blatant lack of logic of this plan for a minute, and look at the substance of it, it strikes you with its hypocrisy.

On the one hand, while this recommendation purports to benefit *parents*, its actual effect, if and when it is implemented, will be to remove women from the workforce on a long term basis. Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that EI benefits, when they are available to either or both parents, are close to essential to child-rearing. But they should not constitute an impediment to reintegrate the workforce, nor a disguised incentive for women to assume traditional roles and abandon their lives and careers outside the home.
Do the math. Suppose you’re a women in your mid-20s, and you have three children, 3 years apart. That’s a 7.5 year period out of the workplace, during which you have presumably not acquired additional professional skills, education or experience. Just try and find a job after that…

On the other hand, the rationale behind giving EI benefits on such a long period of time is either (1) that it is a social imperative that women stay at home to care for their young children, otherwise those kids will grow up to become delinquents and that will be the end of modern society as we know it, or (2) that women just work because they need the money, they would rather stay at home doing womanly things if they had a husband or the State to support them.

Either way, it is insulting and demeaning not only to mothers, but also to all the women in the workforce.

This information could save your life.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a very informative website about relationship violence that provides, among other helpful information about this problem, lists of warning signs and indicators that a person is stuck in an abusive relationship.

It also provides safety tips for people who want to escape such situations, in a realistic and non-judgmental manner.

A must-read for anyone who is in a relationship.

Friday, April 13, 2007

In the News: Belinda Stronach is leaving federal politics

Last Wednesday, April 11, Newmarket-Aurora M.P. and former Liberal minister, Belinda Stronach announced that she was leaving federal politics to resume employment with auto parts giant Magna International Inc.

She had left the family business in 2004 to run for the Conservative leadership, which she lost to now PM Stephen Harper. As a Conservative MP, Ms. Stronach embodied dissent in the party by supporting reproductive rights and same-sex marriage. In 2005, she unexpectedly crossed the floor and joined the Liberals, who offered her a position as Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. Her bold move was vigourously criticized, both by the media (the National Post called her a "blonde bombshell" and many Conservative MPs publicly called her a whore and a prostitute), while Stephen Harper's lieutenant, Peter MacKay, whom Ms. Stronach was dating at the time, made various distasteful comments that (unfavourably) compared her to his dog.

(Recently, Mr. MacKay, who apparently still can get over the fact that Ms. Stronach dumped both his political convictions and himself, despite his new fling with Condi, called her a "dog" in te House of Commons.)

Canadians will miss Ms. Stronach's presence in federal politics. (Well, the non-mysogynistic portion of us.) For once, we were blessed with a female politician who did not seem to be apologizing constantly for being wealthy, professionally successful, young, physically attractive, unmarried, and – yes! – ambitious and opportunistic.

From a very young age, girls and women are indoctrinated into thinking that competitiveness, assertiveness and power are male attributes, and that women in positions of authority rather lead their people by being maternal, by seeking to make compromises between competing interests, and so on and so forth. Female leaders who do not conform to this model are considered cold, “bitchy”, ruthless and manly.

Women who work in traditionally male fields understand only too well that the latter – “feminine” - approach will not make them a better litigator, for instance, or get them promoted. Nor will being nice and low-key all the time. At the same time, however, they are often aware that they could be criticized and shunned by their peers and superiors should they rather choose to conform to the former – “masculine” – model.

Too often, we see female politicians bowing to the pressure, and apologizing for having a life of their own, for wearing too manly – or too feminine – clothing, or for being “visibly” wealthy or “opinionated”.

Girls and young women drastically lack assertive and self-confident female role models, both on the political scene and in the workplace. They need to be told that despite what the whole world might say, despite the unfair, uncalled for and degrading treatment that they may face one day, they are allowed to be ambitious and opportunistic in the pursuit of their personal goals and desires.

I am saddened by Ms. Stronach's leaving federal politics, but I rejoice at the thought of another strong woman leading a large corporation on the path to prosperity.

To learn more about Belinda Stronach's professional and political background, have a look at this article.
You can want to write to Ms. Stronach (free of charge!) at:
The Hon. Belinda Stronach, M.P.
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
or by email at:

"The Conjugal Rights Guide"

A funny sketch by Harry Enfield, on everything you've always wanted to know but never dared to ask about... uh... Paddington?

Gender and discrimination issues finally addressed at Duke...well... sort of...

I recently found out about the Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy, which recently published an entire issue on "Makeup, Identity Performance and Discrimination".

The entire thing is available online, and features such articles as "Gender Performance Over Job Performance: Body Art Work Rules and the Continuing Subordination of the Feminine".

An interesting read for any woman who is contemplating a career in traditionally male disciplines. (It should also constitute a mandatory reading in first year law/engineering/business administration/economics...)


Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail just reported some shocking news: trying to balance your job and family obligations limit your productivity at work and hinders your chances of promotion.

No shit, Sherlock.

I guess that means the "glass ceiling" is not a fairy tale after all. I mean, that must be true, since it's men who are whining about it this time...

Monday, April 9, 2007

In the News: 2/3 of Canadians would prefer an elected judiciary

Hanging around “law people” most of the time often causes mind-altering side-effects, which include, among others, the illusion that everybody thinks like a lawyer. “Law people” often find themselves mistakenly assuming that their peers think like lawyers, and share common values and opinions with the members of the legal profession.

Law people eventually realize their error when reality smacks them in the face.

It can be a lot of fun, though – or a little creepy – depending on whether you’re a “law person” or not. Just try and ask people around you, both lawyers and non-lawyers, whether they think that an elected judiciary is a good thing. You’d be surprised at how many lay people actually think that the Canadian judiciary would be better off if judges were elected by the people, just like regular politicians are, while most law people educated in a Commonwealth jurisdiction firmly oppose this very idea.

As a matter of fact, a recent survey about the public perception of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and of its application by the judiciary, published in today’s Globe as part of a special series marking the 25th anniversary of the Charter, revealed that 63% of the Canadians polled “supported the idea of elected judges”.

Speaking for myself, I vigorously oppose any form of politicization of the judiciary, as it would on the one hand deter competent but politically shy candidates to express their interest for a nomination, and on the other hand, encourage judicial activism, rather than deter it.
In particular, the introduction of an election-based form of nomination for Canadian judges could bring about catastrophic consequences for the advancement of the rights of women and other socially disadvantaged groups, at a moment when voters’ inclinations seem to be leaning a lot more to the right than usual.

However, Canadians also find themselves at a time when their Conservative PM casually admits he’s willing to cherry-pick judicial appointments to reflect his political agenda.

As Canadians, we’re thus faced with a dilemma. Should we trust our peers with the nomination of competent and non-partisan judges, rather than entrust special boards and committees of law people with this task, or trust a government that is openly willing to impede on fundamental rights and freedoms – remember how Tories deemed that it was no longer necessary to fund women’s rights groups because equality had been achieved? - to achieve what it believes to be society’s “greater good”?
In any case however, the Globe's survey is an indicator that the legal community in Canada must reach out to the general public, in order to demystify its functioning and to champion the value of judicial independence.
You'll find below two excerpts of speeches by the Right Hon. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin on the importance of judicial independence in the juridical and constitutional context of Canada.
Remarks of the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin
Presented at the Law and Parliament Conference
Ottawa, November 2, 2006:
Accountability in the judicial context is driven by the fact that judges must be independent, in fact and in perception. On the occasion of his retirement as the Chief Justice of Saskatchewan, the Honorable Edward Bayda summarized the importance of judicial impartiality and independence in this way. I am paraphrasing a little:

A judge must always think of himself or herself not as a person with power, but as a person in service. A person who serves all of the people is answerable to all of the people. And the best way for her to be answerable to all of the people is to be totally impartial and totally independent. She must not be in the pocket of the minority. He must not be in the pocket of any minority. It is that kind of impartiality and total independence that instills the confidence of the public in the administration of justice.

Judicial independence is not an end in itself, or some self-serving judicial privilege. It is a concept that “is now deeply rooted in the common law world. It is inherent in the concept of adjudication ... that the judge must not be an ally or supporter of one of the contending parties”.

Independence of the judiciary is the foundation of impartiality and the constitutional right of all Canadians. Indeed, John Locke claimed that the adjudication of disputes by neutral judges was the most important benefit of civilization.

The underlying principle of democracy that power should not go uncontrolled is furthered by an accountable, independent judiciary [emphasis added]. Ultimately no one can be accountable without this. The need for public confidence in the independence and impartiality of the courts dictates the form that judicial accountability takes. This is the essential link between judicial independence and judicial accountability. Any system of accountability for judges must take judicial independence as a necessary condition.

What then are the requirements judicial accountability must meet? For the individual judge – looking at the matter in its most simple terms – accountability should encourage good decision making. A good decision is one that is just, according to law. The methods by which decisions are made must be seen to be transparent and fair. The decision maker must be seen to be independent and impartial.

All of these things dictate special mechanism of accountability. For example, the usual form of accountability for legislators. Accountability of judges at the ballot box is rejected by most western democracies. Election of judges would make – or appear to make – judges dependent on and partial to those who underwrite their campaign or vote for them. Judicial accountability must not interfere with the actual or perceived independence of the individual judge making a particular decision. In this important sense, independence and accountability are not opposed but work towards the same goal: To ensure that justice is rendered according to the law [emphasis added].
(footnotes omitted)
Remarks of the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin Chief Justice of Canada
The University of Western Ontario
Faculty of Law
London, Ontario
November 6, 2002:
We often hear people say that the courts are undemocratic. That, in my view, is a false charge. Far from being undemocratic, the courts are essential to modern democracy [emphasis added]. They do this first, by maintaining the rule of law upon which democracy depends, and second, by maintaining constitutional governance.

Before we get to these two functions, we need to back up for a moment and look at what political scientists and our constitutional traditions say about the courts in democracy. Essentially, this is the picture. The government is comprised of three branches - the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judiciary. Far from being outside democracy or antithetical to democracy, courts are an essential part of the democratic structure. This is true in all modern democracies. Moreover, the courts are not an adjunct of the executive or legislative powers; they are an independent branch of government. Although the legislative and executive branches of government support the judiciary by naming judges, paying judges and providing court facilities, judges must be independent of these branches of government in the sense that the other branches of government cannot influence or be seen to influence them, directly or indirectly. This independence is essential to the two roles the courts play in democracy - maintaining the rule of law and maintaining constitutional governance.

Let me turn first to the function of the courts in maintaining the rule of law. What do we mean by the rule of law? Once again, the concept is one we are all familiar with. Nevertheless, it may be instructive to unpack the concept and isolate the values for which it stands.

In the Reference Re Succession of Quebec, [1998] 2 S.C.R. 217, para. 70, the Supreme Court of Canada said this about the rule of law: "[a]t its most basic level, the rule of law vouchsafes to the citizens and residents of the country a stable, predictable and ordered society in which to conduct their affairs. It provides a shield for individuals against arbitrary state action".

This statement contains two related but distinct ideas, both essential to the rule of law as we understand it. The first idea is that the rule of law describes a state where society is ordered by rules. People can consult the rules and arrange their affairs and conduct accordingly. This gives, as the statement suggests, stability and predictability. It provides the foundation for security, civil society and economic and social growth. Absent a clear set of rules relating to our rights and obligations -- be they in the area of crime, contract, tort, labour law or some other field of human interaction - people will not feel secure and will not invest the human and economic capital necessary for human flourishing and growth.

The second idea implicit in the rule of law is that governmental power is exercised in accordance with the rule of law and not arbitrarily. In this way the rule of law protects people against arbitrary state action. All branches of government - legislative, executive and judicial - are bound by the rule of law as expressed in the primary law we call the constitution and the secondary laws made pursuant to it. If the state exercises power in a way that is inconsistent with the rule of law, the citizen may seek legal redress in the courts.

While in Canada both aspects of the rule of law are present, this is not the case everywhere. Dictatorships or totalitarian regimes may espouse the first idea without the second. They may seek to provide a clear set of rules to discourage crime and encourage enterprise and human development, but at the same time reserve to themselves the right to transgress the law, refuse to enforce the law, or arbitrarily and retroactively change the law.

There is a difference between the rule of law and rule by law. Rule by law incorporates the first of the two ideas I have set out - the idea of a society ordered by rules or laws. The rule of law incorporates this idea together with the second idea - the idea that the rulers and all those who exercise power on their behalf - from deputy ministers to the beat cop -- are themselves bound by the law.

While the twin ideas of a rule-ordered society and governance limited by the law can be separated, an argument can be made that the best guarantee of a stable, rule-ordered society is governance by and under the law. Absent the latter, there is always the lurking danger that those who hold power - the rulers and their minions - will change the rules arbitrarily or refuse to enforce them in a fair and consistent manner. That is why constitutional democracies where power is limited by the foundational law of the state seem to offer the best model for stability and growth in the long run [emphasis added].

Having discussed the rule of law, let us return to the role of the courts in maintaining it. Quite simply, there can be no rule of law without a judiciary that is independent of the legislative and executive branches of the state. A rule-based society must have an institution that interprets the rules and determines the consequences of their breach. And that institution must be empowered and seen to be empowered to make its decisions independent of influence from the legislative or executive branches of government. Without an independent judiciary, people cannot be sure that the laws will be interpreted and applied in a stable, predictable and just manner. This in turn undercuts the aim of a society regulated by rules and discourages people from investing human and economic resources in their society. Thus many developing countries have come to realize that they must put in place an independent judiciary and fight corruption if they are to progress. The World Bank and other world agencies are increasingly insisting that nations seeking assistance take steps on a priority basis to develop an independent judiciary. Quite simply, without a strong, independent and honest judiciary, the rule of law cannot be maintained. This then is the first role the judiciary play in democracy - to maintain the rule of law.


(footnotes omitted)


To learn more about McLachlin C.J.C., click here or here.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Repent, sinners!

The Biblical Plagues are upon us! Waters are turning to blood as a punishment for rejecting godly, submissive womanhood!

(Just kidding. This is actually an apparently harmless bauxite spill in the Saguenay River, in Québec.)

Blog Against Theocracy Weekend

Apparently, the Easter holiday also marks the "Blog Against Theocracy Weekend", during which bloggers are invited to post about such issues as:
  • "No religious discrimination;
  • "PRO End-of-Life Care (no more Terri Schiavo travesties) (sic);
  • "Reproductive health decisions made by individuals, not religious "majorities";
  • "Democracy not Theocracy;
  • "Academic Integrity (like, a rock is as old as it is, not as old as the Bible says);
    "Sound Science (good bye so-called "intelligent" design);
  • "Respect for ALL families (based on love, not sexual orientation. Hellooooo.); and finally;
  • "The right to worship, OR NOT."

Oh well, I guess I'll do my part too.

Here's an article that was featured in this morning's Globe, which illustrates how the strict application of religious doctrines and the abstinence movement fails to meet its objectives when it comes to the prevention of life threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and the incidence of pre/extra-marital sex and pregnancy.

The article is about Kevin Dowling, the Catholic Bishop of Rustenberg, South Africa, who works with impoverished parishoners and volunteers with AIDS patients, and who advocates the use of condoms. Although Bishop Dowling's position has - predictably - sparked the ire of the Vatican, he refuses to back down on the issue, and insists that the Vatican's policies are disconnected from the reality of the poorest of its worshippers, because of its obstinate refusal to "allow the reality to interrogate [their] assumptions."

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 6, 2007

Call for Proposals: Hon. Claire L'Heureux-Dubé Fund for Social Justice

The University of Ottawa, in collaboration with the Hon. Claire L'Heureux-Dubé Fund for Social Justice has called for groups of young women under 30 to submit proposals with respect to the organization of a 3-day event about "Young Women, Feminism and the Future", to be held in 2008. The Fund offers a maximum of $40,000 to the selected project.

The deadline for application is May 31, 2007.


You can learn more about the life and legal career of the Hon. Claire L'Heureux-Dubé here, and here.

For those who are not familiar with her work on the Bench (yep! the "capital-B" bench!), here are a few cases where she kicked ass:

Picture of the Day

"It feels good to be told that my sexuality is inherently wrong."

A publicity campaign for abstinence, targeted to teenagers, has adopted the slogan "Abstinence feels good."

It sounds naive, but reasonably good-willed at first.

But as you'd expected, it gets way better.

"It feels good to have a good reputation", the website says. "It feels good to have a clear conscience."

Just another hypocritical attempt to shame teenagers - who, as everybody knows, are going to have sex anyways - into remaining silent about it, and develop irrational anxieties and feelings of guilt about the natural reactions, sensations and emotions associated with human sexuality.

The abstinence movement in the U.S. just feels like a long-winded and pathetically unfunny practical joke.


At least, this one is a joke.

Bible Casualities, or why the only life worth protecting is in someone else's womb

Easter is there to remind all of us who have been raised in the Christian faith, that the Bible is but a long succession of gory and gratuitous violence. If the Bible were a movie, grade school kids would not be allowed to even hear about it.

A few statistics on the issue, via Cynical-C...

Have a happy Good Friday!

Freaky Conservative Parents

Anyone who still doubts that boys are educated to become physical, violent men, while girls are socially conditioned to become passive and uninteresting creatures, should have a look at Doug Philips's blog, located at Vision Forum.

Once you get past his apparent obsession with the the British colonization of America (and the various forms of re-enactment thereof), you discover Doug's wacky ideas on sex segregation in education. His blog links to the "All-American Boy's Adventure" catalogue, in which almost all the toys and games features are related to war or consist in toy weapons.

("Awwwn! Look at that cute patriotic kid! Lovingly playing with guns, tanks, blackjacks... hum... How could such an innocent creature possibly become a violent mysogynistic, wife-beating monster"?)

The website also refers its audience to a catalogue of girl "toys", called "Beautiful Girlhood". Except for a line of old fashioned dolls, the "toys" actually consist of books about being an obedient daughter or about how to become a "godly" wife, tea sets, sewing supplies, cooking accessories, and colonial era dresses.

So here's the bottom-line kids:

If you're a boy, go play outdoors, and practice your fighting, stabbing and shooting skills from a young age. You never know when your pre-school militia might be needed to fend off those evil British Loyalists!

If you're a girl, just shut up, smile, and keep your hands busy with meaningless work so you can avoid thinking about what to do with your life, or lusting about your future husband. 'Cuz that would be, you know, ungodly and all...

Makes me want to hang up my boa too... *sigh*

Comedian Jessi Klein comments on the "Search for the Next Pussycat Doll":

('love the Gloria Steinem joke... Hahaha!)