Saturday, November 11, 2006

Our New Police State

Those who enforce the laws of the State, should have no say in the Judiciary. To do otherwise is to move towards a police state. The police are already sufficiently 'above the law', laws that apply to you or I do not apply to them in the execution of their duties.

Welcome to the new government of law and order. Friendly fascism by any other name.

Toews scolded over plan to name judges

The Harper Conservatives, refusing to back down in a fight with the country's senior judges and lawyers, said Friday they are going ahead with a contentious plan to give police a voice in screening judicial contenders to the federally appointed bench.

The plan was first reported this week in an exclusive Winnipeg Free Press story.

Justice Minister Vic Toews issued a news release confirming his plans less than an hour after Canada's lawyers joined a growing chorus of protest that the move could politicize the judiciary by "stacking the deck" in the judicial selection process.

A flagging relationship suffers another blow

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin has never been one to play her cards carelessly or blurt out an indiscretion.

When she chose to lead the country's top judges into a very public battle with Justice Minister Vic Toews over his plan to transform the judicial appointment process, it meant only one thing: that she believed the very independence of the judiciary was at stake.

But the legal establishment was sent reeling anew yesterday when, just hours after she and the Canadian Judicial Council publicly rebuked Mr. Toews for his arbitrariness, he plowed ahead with a plan that many believe will politicize the federal bench. Without a word of apology or concession, Mr. Toews put his official stamp to a scheme that could destroy a judicial vetting process created specifically to reduce patronage and favouritism.

The most serious effect of Mr. Toews's plan is a change that could allow the government to block virtually any judicial candidate it does not favour, a dramatic change to the legal landscape that opens the door to the government packing courts with political cronies or candidates who share its ideology.

Mr. MacCarthy said that four federal nominees on the reconfigured advisory committees -- one of whom will be drawn from the police community -- could potentially be swayed by the government to operate as a sort of voting bloc to stack each vote.

The key to this scenario is that Mr. Toews's plan calls for the eighth member -- the sole judicial representative on each committee -- to be a non-voting chair. (The committees are a mélange of government, law society and bar association representatives.)

As a result, the federal bloc would emerge a 4-3 winner in any close vote. "Those people will carry the day, rather than a consensus forming," Mr. MacCarthy said.

The storm over the appointment process underlines a spreading abyss of distrust between the judges and Mr. Toews, a leading critic of the judiciary during his days as an Opposition critic.

Indeed, the controversy is merely the latest blow in a relationship that has spiralled steadily downward.

In what was perceived as a direct slap at the judiciary, the Justice Department recently refused to implement a 10.8-per-cent salary raise for federally appointed judges that had been recommended by an independent salaries commission. The government instead substituted a 7.5-per-cent raise.

Various of Mr. Toews's law-and-order bills have also sought to reduce judges' sentencing discretion, furthering his view that judges cannot be trusted

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