Yesterday marked a historic occasion. It wasn’t just the meeting of the Canadian Prime Minister and the American President, those things happen all the time. This occasion was historic for no two leaders could be so different.

The American President is an inexperienced physically repulsive fascist classist racist misogynist who is suspected of not only tax evasion and sexual assault but also of high treason against his own country, treason, which most likely led to his current position as leader of the free world.

The Canadian Prime Minister is young, handsome, openly feminist, physically fit, and has made efforts to reconcile white Canadians with its racial and ethnic minorities. Unlike President Agent Orange, Trudeau has political experience and there is no disputing that he won his position somewhat fairly.

People watched on the edge of their seats yesterday as the two of them met.

For Canadian politicians and businessmen, the big concern was North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The Agreement was negotiated between Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, US President George H. W. Bush and President Carlos Salinas de Gortari of Mexico. It has recently become a yuge cause of worry because Cheeto Head’s electoral campaign was marked by inflammatory rhetoric branding NAFTA a bad deal that had to be renegotiated for the sake of American workers.

According to Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister and de facto Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, updating treaties is routine. On February 8, 2017 she told the CBC that NAFTA has had at least eleven updates since it came into force in January 1994. She also said that if the Americans are looking for a better deal, Canada has every intention of going on the offensive and protecting our national interests.

To everyone’s surprise, yesterday’s meeting went well. People were concerned because of Trump’s talent for bullying other men and many thought that Trudeau’s popularity and good looks would bring that out. It seems, however, that our Prime Minister knows and applied the tactic that works with all vain, self-important wealthy old men: flattery.

Trudeau presented the Orange Narcissist with something he knew he’d love: a picture of himself (with his father). By the end of the meeting the President emphasized that his issues with NAFTA were primarily about Mexico and in a joint statement he and the Prime Minister said that:

“We recognize our profound shared economic interests, and will work tirelessly to provide growth and jobs for both countries.”

This is a far cry from the words of Minister Freeland, so it’s time to look at NAFTA and what it actually says.

The Agreement’s main goal is to eliminate trade barriers and facilitate the cross-border movement of goods and services between Canada, the United States and Mexico. It contains a lot of rules about intellectual property and different industries but the main issue with NAFTA seems to be regarding tariffs.

Tariffs, also known as customs duties, are taxes that must be paid on a particular class of imports or exports. The practice of imposing them serves to protect products produced domestically and helps to set the prices of certain classes of goods.

Tariffs have become a big issue because NAFTA discourages tariff use and President Agent Orange’s picks for Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross Jr, and Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, are in favor of tariffs.

As per NAFTA, no party can increase existing tariffs or adopt new ones on goods produced in a member state. Parties to the Agreement also have to eliminate existing customs duties as per a schedule set in the Agreement but can consult with one another on how to speed up the process thus doing away with tariffs ahead of schedule.

Until the Orange Racist Misogynist’s picks for Commerce Secretary and Trade Representative are confirmed, no re-negotiation of NAFTA can take place. It’s therefore time to look at who these men are.

The President’s pick for Commerce Secretary is billionaire investor Wilbur Ross Jr. He is deeply critical of trade agreements, NAFTA included, and wants to impose a thirty five percent tariff on the goods of companies that send jobs overseas.

Ross is also a hypocrite for as Reuters reported, he is guilty of sending two thousand seven hundred American jobs overseas since 2004. Ross justified the move by claiming he was able to save other jobs in the process, but it nonetheless adds to his questionable reputation.

With the Orange Administration already under suspicion for links to Russian espionage, nominating Ross, who has close financial ties to the Renova Group, a conglomerate closely linked to the Kremlin does not bode well for his chances of confirmation. As Commerce Secretary, he would be responsible for the US Patent and Trade Office, the Census Bureau, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration among others, if confirmed.

Then there’s the pick for US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, a man whose last name sounds like an infomercial fitness product. Unlike Ross, Lighthizer has a lot of political experience, having served as a Reagan Administration Trade Official. He is a skeptic of free trade, advocates for increasing tariffs on imports from competitors, and if confirmed as Trade Representative, will be responsible for negotiating trade agreements and representing the US at the World Trade Organization.

Of the two men, Lighthizer is the one most likely to be confirmed with minimal conflict. It is unlikely, however, that any decisions they make will affect Canada’s obligations as per NAFTA. Canada shares the largest and least defended border with the United States and the US is our greatest trading partner.

With our Prime Minister’s charm, feminism, and message of welcome, tolerance, and inclusiveness, we look like pillars of virtue compared to our neighbors to the South and they know it. So long as Trudeau continues to fluff Cheeto-Head’s fragile ego, we can take comfort in the fact the White House won’t give any trouble, NAFTA or not, if only because standing next to us makes them look a little less awful.

On January 31, 2017 US President Cheeto-Head named Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The nomination fulfills Cheeto-Head’s promise to name a conservative justice “in the mold of Scalia” if elected president (legally or illegally). Since so much of what the Orange Racist Misogynist Tax Evader has done is questionable at best, it is time to take a serious look at the man he has appointed to the highest court in the United States.

Neil Gorsuch is in many ways the embodiment of what conservative Christian Republicans think a judge or politician should be. He is a white middle aged male who Is devoutly Christian, but not Catholic (his family are Episcopalian). He is well spoken, looks good in a suit and tie, and while he and his college sweetheart wife and two kids raise horses, chickens, and goats at their home in Colorado, they are no rednecks.

His family has a history of serving Republican presidents. Gorsuch’s mother, politician and lawyer Anne Gorsuch Burford, was appointed by former president Ronald Reagan to run the Environmental Protection Agency. For Republican climate-change deniers, Gorsuch Burford was ideal for she slashed the EPA’s budget, cut most clean water regulations from the books, and filled vital positions within the Agency with people from the very industries it was supposed to be checking. The scandals resulting from her actions led to her resignation in 1983.

Gorsuch’s resume is impressive. He is a graduate of Columbia, Harvard, and Oxford. After a couple of clerkships with conservative judges, he worked in private practice at a prestigious law firm in Washington DC for ten years and eventually ended up as a Federal Appelate Judge based in Colorado. At the same time Gorsuch has served as an occasional adjunct law professor at the University of Colorado.

There are also a lot of concerns about Judge Gorsuch.

People are worried that he is anti woman and would choose religious freedoms over people’s right to self determination.

There is a lot of evidence to support this worry.

While at Oxford, Gorsuch studied under Professor John Finnis, an Australian legal scholar who is considered an expert on natural law. After his studies, the Gorsuch and Finnis remained close. This seems harmless, but it’s not when you consider that Gorsuch’s mentor wrote about “the evil of homosexual conduct” in 1994 and has been branded a hatemonger by many.

As a judge, Gorsuch has a history of favoring religious freedoms over people’s right to health care and self determination. In the famous Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases involving for-profit corporations demanding religious exemptions from the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act requiring corporate health plans to cover contraceptives for female employees on penalty of fines for refusal, Gorsuch sided with the corporations. In the Little Sisters of the Poor decision, he wrote that it was:

“An issue that has little to do with contraception and a great deal to do with religious liberty … When a law demands that a person do something the person considers sinful, and the penalty for refusal is a large financial penalty, then the law imposes substantial burden on that person’s free exercise of religion.”

Though Gorsuch has never decided an abortion case, he did publish a book called The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in 2009 and many argue that the views expressed in it could easily transfer to abortion. In his book he says that human life is “fundamentally and inherently valuable, and that the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

Whether this view actually extends to abortion remains to be seen, but it has caused enough concern that the National Institute for Reproductive Health has called his appointment “an extension of the Trump administration’s attack on women’s rights,” and Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted on January 31, 2017 that:

Despite his worrisome track record on certain issues, Gorsuch does show promise for two fundamental reasons.

First, he is outspokenly against excessive criminalization. That means that he thinks there are too many criminal laws punishing ordinary behavior on the books.

In 2013 he gave the 13th Annual Barbara K. Olsen Memorial Lecture in which he points out that too many laws violate people’s rights to fair notice to the point that “criminal law comes to cover so many facets of daily life that prosecutors can almost choose their targets with impunity.”

Neil Gorsuch’s legal decisions reflect this belief as he often sides with defendants in criminal cases. This bodes well when it comes to issues of race for African Americans and Hispanics are excessively targeted and prosecuted in the United States.

Another reason to hope is because of Gorsuch’s belief in the judiciary’s role in containing the excesses of Executive Power. He is in favor of term limits for elected officials because “men are not angels.”

Though, like Scalia, he believes in interpreting the constitution from the perspective of its authors. This comes with an understanding of the need to enforce the checks and balances on the legislative and executive branches to save the country from abuse by those who govern it.

Though thus far only lower courts have halted the enforcement of abusive and illegal Executive Orders from the Oval Office, Gorsuch’s reputation as a principled jurist against executive excess suggests that he would not hesitate to rule against the White House if he ascended to the Supreme Court.

Though there is hope for the United States, there is also the danger of a deadlock. Democrats are still bitter about the Senate’s refusal to confirm Judge Merrick Garland, who was named to the Supreme Court by Barack Obama. Like Garland, Gorsuch is mostly respected across party lines, so the question remains whether the Senate will do its job this time, or give the Cheeto Administration the silent treatment.

On January 27, 2017 the President of the United States signed an Executive Order, one of his first acts as leader of the free world. Its premise is to protect Americans from the alleged threat of terrorists pretending to be refugees in order to get into the United States.

There has been a lot of discussion about this Order. Some people are calling it a Muslim ban, while others are justifying it as a legitimate and reasonable approach to American security. What no one seems to be doing is actually reading the Order itself.

Whoever wrote the Executive Order deserves a medal for literature. It is subtle and eloquent in a way the man who signed it will never be.

Does it ban Muslims outright?

No.

What the Executive Order does is suspend immigrant and non-immigrant entry into the United States from certain countries “of Particular Concern”.

Refugees from Syria are denied entry until the president says otherwise. People from countries designated by the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security as having repeatedly provided support for international terrorism are also banned, but for a period of ninety days.

This list (so far) includes Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. Saudi Arabia, which is known for encouraging the extremist Islamic beliefs adopted by terrorists, is suspiciously absent from this list. Whether this is due to the President’s business dealings with the Kingdom or vested American interest in maintaining relations with them is unclear.

The Order also changes the criteria for refugee claims, prioritizing those “made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality”.

As most of the refugees are from Muslim-majority countries, most of those seeking safety in the United States are Muslim.

Though the Order says that “the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including ‘honor’ killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation”, it does not offer any protection to people fleeing persecution due to gender, sexual orientation, or race. Being a member of a religious minority seems to be the only exception to the ban.

The Order speaks of these new rules as necessary in part to “reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies”. However, it calls for a flurry of security reports to be provided by the Secretary of State, Director of Homeland Security, and the Directors of the FBI and of National Intelligence and says that the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security can admit individual refugees on a case-by-case basis. All this sounds like MORE of a burden, not less.

Is this Executive Order legal?

Not according to the former acting Attorney General Sally Yates. A holdover from the Obama administration, she was asked by the new administration to stay on until the president’s nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is confirmed by the Senate.

Last night, Yates told the US Department of Justice not to defend the Executive Order in the courts. In a letter to Justice Department lawyers, she said:

“I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right…At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”

She is not the first to acknowledge the Order as potentially illegal.

On January 28, 2017, a Federal Court in New York presided by Judge Ann Donnelly granted an Emergency Motion of Stay Removal to Hamid Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi who’d risked his life acting as interpreter to the US army during the Iraq war, and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, another Iraqi who was en route to reunite with his wife and child in the US. Both were detained at the airport under the Executive Order and with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, fought back.

In her decision, Judge Donnelly said

“The petitioners have a strong likelihood of success in establishing that the removal of the petitioner and others similarly situated violates their rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”

Many other federal courts have followed suit, granting stays blocking the Executive Order from being enforced.

When you read the US Constitution, something the president has clearly never done, it is easy to understand why the motions were granted.

Article I, Section 9 prohibits laws that single out any particular group for punishment without trial. The Fifth Amendment goes even further, stating that no person should be “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law”.

As far back as the Second World War, American courts have recognized the danger of Executive Orders like these. In 1944 in Korematsu v. The United States, the Supreme Court said that

“All legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group are immediately suspect… courts must subject them to the most rigid scrutiny. Pressing public necessity may sometimes justify the existence of such restrictions; racial antagonism never can.”

The President has rambled on about the danger of foreign terrorists masquerading as refugees, but neither he nor his administration have presented any numbers to back this up. Instead, he fired Sally Yates for refusing to enforce an Executive Order that is legally unenforceable, leaving his administration without anyone with the legal authority to sign warrants authorizing the surveillance of the foreigners he fears so much.

The reaction of protesters, public officials and the American courts are reasons to hope for all who hate xenophobia, for as comedian Aziz Ansari recently pointed out:

“Change doesn’t come from presidents. Change comes from large groups of angry people.”

If the protests and lawsuits are any indication, change is coming.

In February of 1990, Barack Obama was the first black person elected to head the Harvard Law Review. The presidency of the Review is considered the highest student position at Harvard Law School.

It’s therefore fitting that in his final days as the first black person to hold the highest office in the United States, Barack Obama has gone back to his roots by publishing a piece in the Harvard Law Review. His essay is called The President’s Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform and was published on January 5, 2017.

The article is many things. It’s well written and it’s footnoted so you never have any doubts as to where Obama is getting his facts from or whether he’s making them up. It puts faith in you as a reader because there’s never a word wasted. On the other hand it also requires you to do some visual acrobatics because his sources are cited within the text, requiring you to skip over the citations to read the rest of what he’s saying.

His piece is also a little self-aggrandizing, but unlike the incoming president, all the things Obama says are substantiated by facts. He highlights his tackling of racial profiling as a legislator in Illinois and all sources indicate that he did just that.

In 1999 he proposed a bill against racial profiling after hearing that police were pulling over drivers simply for being black. When the bill failed, he revised and reintroduced it over and over again until it passed in 2003, making a point of publicly saying that “race and ethnicity is not an indicator of criminal activity.”

He also mentioned pushing for the videotaping of police interrogations as a requirement for interrogations and confessions in all capital cases. A measure he helped to pass in Illinois.

Chart from the Harvard Law Review essay

As President, he used his power of clemency to pardon or reduce the sentences of 231 people, many of whom had been punished for minor, non-violent drug crimes under tough anti-drug laws. The impact of this gesture is huge, for unlike other pardons, presidential ones wipe away the legal consequences of previous criminal convictions.

Obama hints at his frustrations battling a Republican Congress determined to undermine him during his presidency. Though he successfully passed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 which eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for simple possession of crack cocaine thus reducing excessive punishments imposed on people of colour, he had no such luck with the Smarter Sentencing Act.

The Smarter Sentencing Act was a bipartisan – meaning supported by both Democrats and Republicans – bill that would have reduced mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent drug offenses from twenty years to ten, and given judges greater discretion regarding whether or not to impose said sentences.

Despite support across party lines, many Republicans were skeptical of the bill and it never made it to the floor of Congress. The same happened with the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a law that would have reduced more mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses and offered credits to prisoners who participate in rehabilitation programs. The Republicans tabled that one to death in November 2015.

Despite Obama’s frustrations with Congress in his attempts to pass progressive criminal justice reform, he constantly highlights his respect and faith in the American people and the rule of law.

In a none-too-subtle warning to the incoming president, Obama writes that the President “does not and should not decide who or what to investigate or prosecute.” He praises red states like Georgia, Texas and Alabama for reducing sentences and investing the money saved on incarceration in other public safety programs that help those affected by mental illness and substance abuse, many of whom had previously ended up in jail.

At the same time Obama highlights all the problems with the American Justice System: the systemic racism, overly harsh penalties for non-violent offenses, the excessive use of solitary confinement, and the economic problems caused by the US’ excessive use of incarceration. He points out that the US incarcerates 25% of its population and that the cost of maintaining so many prisons and the people within it is both “unnecessary and unsustainable.”

Though Democrats are widely accused of being fiscally irresponsible, it’s Republicans that always seem to be pushing for harsher penalties that increase the American prison population, thus straining state and national budgets regardless of whether or not it makes people safer. Obama quotes Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates who pointed out in November 2016 that every dollar spent on excessive sentences is “a dollar we don’t have for investigating emerging threats, from hackers to home grown terrorists,” a point that is especially relevant amidst widespread acknowledgement that the Russian government hacked the election to get an orange bigot into office.

Obama’s article reflects his awareness of the higher standard he was constantly being held to. In America people still seem to expect women and visible and sexual minorities and younger people to perform worse than middle aged white men at the same jobs, no matter how despicable and lazy individuals of the latter are.

Though the United States has less unemployment, a decreased federal prison population, and more people with health care due to Obama’s efforts, entitled rich white men are still questioning whether or not he was a good president. Obama clearly knows that he had to be beyond reproach during his time in office and while he did not achieve all he had promised – Guantanamo Bay has yet to be closed, for example – as a president he came pretty close despite all obstacles.

Regardless of what Barack Obama did or did not achieve, the one thing to take from his article is a warning that all the good that he did in his attempt to do right by the American people is in danger of being undone when a racist misogynist Russian puppet takes office on January 20, 2017.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has been in the news a lot recently. This past December, they outraged Canadians by backtracking on a promise to reveal to a Senate Committee how many journalists they’ve spied on in the past, citing “operational security”.

Whenever the issue of terrorism or Bill C-51 comes up, CSIS is always mentioned. With all the talk about the organization, it’s time Canadians knew what they’re all about.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is informally known as Canada’s spy agency. Created in 1984 with the passing of the CSIS Act in the aftermath of the Iranian Hostage Crisis and Quebec’s first sovereignty referendum, its official role is to investigate threats to Canadian security.

As per the CSIS Act, the following are considered threats to Canadian security:

  • Espionage or sabotage that is against Canada or is detrimental to the interests of Canada or activities directed toward or in support of such espionage or sabotage.
  • Foreign influenced activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person.
  • Activities within or relating to Canada directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property for the purpose of achieving a political, religious or ideological objective within Canada or a foreign state.
  • Activities directed toward undermining by covert unlawful acts, or directed toward or intended ultimately to lead to the destruction or overthrow by violence of the constitutionally established system of government in Canada.

Lawful protests, advocacy, and dissent are not considered threats to Canadian security as per the Act unless they are accompanied by the acts listed above.

CSIS is headed by a Director who is named by the Governor in Council – the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, for a five year renewable term. As per the CSIS Act, no director can serve for more than ten years, a measure undoubtedly put in place to prevent corruption.

The current director of CSIS is Michel Coulombe, a former intelligence agent who was appointed by the Harper Government in 2013. He controls and manages and CSIS and all matters connected with it and he and his proxy are in charge of hiring CSIS employees.

Considering a Career?

While the RCMP has a long list of base qualifications such as health and psychological standards, visual and auditory acuity, and official language proficiency. CSIS’ requirements for employment seem much shorter and simpler.

In order to be considered for a position with CSIS, you need to be a Canadian Citizen eligible for Top Secret Security Clearance, have ten years’ worth of viable information – something that undoubtedly refers to employment, health, social services and financial records so you can be properly traced and vetted and have a valid permanent Canadian driver’s license for some posts. Detailed descriptions of various positions on CSIS’ careers’ website give greater insight into what’s needed to work for them.

Intelligence Officers are required to have a Bachelor’s Degree, three years of relevant experience, and be knowledgeable in the Service’s mandate and Canadian security threats as well as current events. They need to be good communicators verbally and in writing, analytical, adaptable, and sensitive to Canadian cultural mores – whatever those are, the website does not specify.

They also need to be willing to relocate anywhere in Canada or abroad depending on CSIS’ needs, be willing to travel and work irregular hours, and be without a criminal record. Though the CSIS doesn’t require bilingualism, knowledge of a foreign language is considered an asset.

Duties, Functions and Limits

The specific duties and functions of CSIS are set out primarily in the CSIS Act. Their primary role is intelligence collection and analysis, security screenings, and reducing threats to Canadian Security. Though the organization is widely perceived to be without limits, the law has many safeguards to keep it from overstepping its bounds.

Any measures taken by CSIS to reduce threats have to be proportional and reasonable to the nature of the threat as per the “reasonable availability of other means” to reduce it. They cannot take said measures if they will contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or any other law. There is an exception to this rule, but it requires a warrant from a Federal Court.

CSIS is not allowed to cause death or bodily harm either intentionally or by criminal negligence. They are not allowed to obstruct, pervert, or otherwise impede the course of justice, and they cannot violate the sexual integrity of a person.

While CSIS can provide security assessments to the government, they cannot do so willy nilly. They are only permitted to provide security assessments with the permission of the Federal Public Security Minister, and if they want to provide provinces with assessments, that is only with the consent of the provincial governments.

Whenever CSIS gets in trouble they always claim there’s nothing wrong with what they do or refuse to do because of all the safeguards in place to prevent abuses. The problem is that because the organization slips beneath the radar of the average citizen, no one ever bothers to check how strictly CSIS’ safeguards are enforced.

With our neighbors to the south slowly slipping into the depths of hell, it’s time Canada checked itself and our agents to ensure our continued place as the world’s sober voice of liberal democracy and freedom.

* Featured image of CSIS Headquarters in Ottawa from dailytech.com

The holidays are finally over.

It started for most of us with a nerve-racking family dinner and ended with a New Year’s Eve party where we drank away the stress of having to spend too much time with our relatives. Many of us spent the eve of the New Year drunk and partying and it’s likely that at least a third of us engaged in some kind of behavior that night that we now regret. Most of this is not blackmail-worthy, but in a world where lives are ruined by crimes like revenge porn, it’s important to know what laws are in place to protect us.

Revenge porn is the publication of explicit images, videos, or films of a person without consent in a situation where the victim would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Though revenge porn at its root is used to cause the victim distress, it’s often redistributed by some porn sites for commercial gain.

Fortunately, Canadian law is on it and has been working to tackle this crime.

Before 2014 the people in Canada who distributed intimate photos or videos of others without their consent could only be charged under the Criminal Code’s provisions on voyeurism, extortion, obscene publications, criminal harassment, defamatory libel, and in some cases child pornography. Unfortunately these laws have very specific requirements to get an indictment and conviction.

For example, extortion requires that the intimate material be used as a threat to force the victim to do something. Criminal harassment requires that the conduct make the victim fear for their safety or the safety of a loved one.

Sometimes charging people under these offenses worked, and sometimes it did not.

The people who drove Rehtaeh Parsons, a Halifax teen, to suicide in 2013 were charged with the distribution of child pornography. Parsons hung herself after photos of her being sexually assaulted by four boys circulated through her school resulting in texts and Facebook messages calling her a slut and soliciting her for sex.

Though none of the boys who assaulted her were charged with rape due to insufficient evidence, two of her attackers who filmed her later pled guilty to child pornography charges and were put on probation. Many agree this is hardly a sufficient punishment for people who drove an innocent young woman to her death.

Fortunately in 2014 the Canadian Criminal Code was amended to include article 162.1 regarding the unlawful publication of intimate images without consent.

It defines intimate images as a photo, film, or video where the victim is nude, exposing their genitalia, anal region, or breasts or is engaged in explicit sexual activity in circumstances where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. A trip to the bathroom to use the toilet or shower is an obvious example of circumstances where most people would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The new law says that everyone “who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, makes available or advertises an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct, or being reckless as to whether or not that person gave their consent to that conduct, is guilty.”

That means that it doesn’t matter whether the person transmitting the image or video intended to cause the victim harm. All the crime requires is that the person knowingly made the material available and they either knew or were aware of the possibility that the image or video was taken without the victim’s consent and distributed it anyway.

Those guilty of this offense are looking at a maximum prison term of five years. Or if they get a summary conviction, a maximum of six months in jail and/or a two thousand dollar fine.

The law limits the kinds of defenses one can use against such a charge. The motives of the accused are considered irrelevant. The only way to get out of a charge under this law is to either prove you didn’t do it, or prove that your conduct somehow served the public good but did not go beyond the minimum required to do so.

This defense was clearly added to the law to protect journalists and investigators in the execution of their professions. A journalist who snaps and distributes a photo of a politician with a sex worker when the politician is anti-prostitution could find himself charged under this act, but could conceivably argue that his actions were for the good of the public and not excessive.

If criminal charges are not laid in the face of the distribution of a person’s intimate images, in Quebec you can always sue the distributor.

The Quebec Civil Code (“the Code”) guarantees the individual right to privacy and protects people from invasions of their privacy without their consent.

As per the Code, the following are particularly considered invasions of privacy:

  • Entering your home and taking something
  • Intentionally intercepting or using your private communications
  • Appropriating and using your voice or image while you are in a private place
  • Keeping your private life under observation by any means
  • Using your name, image, likeness, or voice for any purpose other than the “legitimate information of the public”
  • Using your correspondence, manuscripts, or personal documents

If your privacy is violated in this way resulting in physical, material, or psychological damages, you can sue the perpetrator. The catch is that lawsuits are costly and invasive and it would mean going public with the extent of the violation you experienced.

The laws in Canada regarding revenge porn and privacy are not perfect, but they’re there. In 2017, let’s protect ourselves and keep the scum of society in check.

2016 is ending and we can collectively agree it’s been a shitty year. Cops are spying on journalists, our Prime Minister has turned his back on the young people who elected him, comedians are being punished for their jokes, and icons from Prince to Bowie to Muhammad Ali to Carrie Fisher have left us. In the legal world it’s been an ongoing ugly parade and with the year FINALLY coming to an end, it’s time for a recap of some of the major legal issues affecting us this past year.

Syrian Refugee Crisis

The ongoing crisis in Aleppo has led to tons of refugees fleeing Syria. Unlike the US where debates regarding the refugee crisis were fraught with concerns about terrorism and an emphasis on keeping victims of Aleppo out, the Trudeau government took the moral high ground and pledged to welcome twenty-five thousand Syrian refugees. The Canadian government ended up going above and beyond this pledge and have thus far taken in thirty-eight thousand seven hundred and thirteen Syrian refugees.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

On February 3, 2016, Federal Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement on Canada’s behalf. Canada’s participation in the treaty was negotiated by the Harper government before its colossal defeat by the Liberals in 2015. Whether Parliament ratifies the agreement thus legally binding Canada remains to be seen.

Uber Crisis

Montreal taxi protest (photo Chris Zacchia)

Quebec cities were rife with cab drivers protesting Uber, a car service that is not bound by the ridiculous and expensive rules that must be obeyed by taxi drivers and company owners that specify everything from pricing and car specs to what the driver wears. In September 2016 Uber made a deal with the Quebec government which included Uber acquiring 300 taxi permits and obliging drivers to get a class 4C license and insurance. With the cab industry in Montreal already flooded, it remains to be seen whether this tentative deal will create peace between taxi companies and Uber.

Panama Papers

In April 2016 the decryption of the Panama Papers revealed the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to have helped many of the world’s wealthiest people hide their assets from governments. Those named included terrorists, CEOs, politicians, and athletes. Canadian tycoon and political wannabe Kevin O’Leary is dismissive of the papers, possibly because he too is hiding wealth from Canadian taxpayers for his own benefit.

Anti-Vaxxers and Naturopathic Remedies

David and Collet Stephan were convicted of failing to provide the necessaries of life for failing to get their son medical attention for bacterial meningitis. As the Stephans are anti-vaxxers distrustful of modern medicine, their 19-month old boy Ezekiel was instead treated with echinacea, garlic, onions, hot peppers and horseradish. By the time he was brought to a hospital it was too late and the boy died. David Stephan has since been sentenced to 4 months in prison while Collet to 3 months of house arrest. They have been ordered to bring their kids to a medical doctor once a year and a nurse every 3 months.

OQLF

Quebec Culture Minister Hélène David announced modifications to Quebec language laws that would force businesses with trademarked non-French names to add French to their signs. Though the proposal is clearly in retaliation for the government’s legal defeat against Best Buy in 2014, it remains to be seen whether the changes will go through in a province exhausted and fed up with language and cultural debates.

Ghomeshi Verdict

In May 2016 former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi signed a peace bond to settle a sexual assault trial. Though for many this is a slap on the wrist, his former victim Kathryn Borel celebrated the bond as a public acknowledgment of Ghomeshi’s guilt. The 12 month long bond guarantees Ghomeshi will go to prison should he violate its terms and does not limit the prosecution from going after him for other sexual assaults.

Mike Ward

Mike Ward (photo Cem Ertekin)

In July 2016 Montreal Comedian Mike Ward was ordered to pay $42 000 to a disabled kid and his mother for making fun of him in one of his jokes. The verdict, which Ward has sworn to appeal, has turned the Quebec Human Rights Commission from a means of social justice to one of censorship. No one has questioned why the kid went after Ward and not the bullies who used his joke to hurt him, but it’s likely due to Ward’s celebrity status and wealth.

Pitbull Ban

Following the death of a Pointe-Aux-Trembles woman after she was mauled by a dog, the City of Montreal has adopted a ban on dangerous breeds. The ban is hugely unpopular and has resulted in protests, the latest being the SPCA’s refusal to take in dogs following the Quebec Court of Appeal’s reinstatement of the ban after the Superior Court overturned it.

STM Fines

On September 7, 2016 the Municipal Court of Montreal ruled that fines given by STM rent-a-cops to people unable to produce their transfer is unconstitutional. The STM has vowed to appeal the decision.

Judge Robin Camp

In November 2016, Judge Robin Camp was recommended for removal from the bench by the Canadian Judicial Council following an inquiry into his conduct during a rape trial. Though the judge promised to reform, his behavior demonstrated such contempt for victims of sexual assault the Council ruled no amount of sensitivity training would repair his damage to the judiciary’s reputation.

Seafood and Civil Liability

In May 2016 Simon-Pierre Canuel ingested salmon at a bistro in Sherbrooke sending him into anaphylactic shock. He is now suing the restaurant and waiters for $415,000 though his negligence regarding his food allergy and rumours that he has tried to scam restaurants in the past make it unlikely he will get the full amount.

This past year has been full of legal debates that are as fascinating as they are numerous and outrageous. For every dispute brought before courts and councils we come closer to what we all strive for: a just society.

In 2017, let’s aim for just that.

On May 29, 2016 Simon-Pierre Canuel walked into Tapageur Bistro in Sherbrooke, Quebec with his partner and ordered beef tartare. He told the waiter, Julien Vézina, that he had a seafood allergy and not to bring him any fish.

Canuel was brought a dish that allegedly looked like beef in the restaurant’s poor lighting and began to eat it. The dish he ate was actually salmon, and Canuel went into anaphylactic shock. He was brought to the hospital where he fell into a two day coma after suffering a heart attack as a result of his allergic reaction.

In the aftermath of the event, Canuel’s waiter was arrested for criminal negligence. Quebec’s Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions opted not to press charges, having decided that the evidence indicated it was not criminal negligence on the part of the waiter. On December 16, 2016 the CBC reported that Simon-Pierre Canuel intends to sue the waiters and owners of Tapageur Bistro for $415 000 for the physical and psychological damage he suffered as a result of the incident.

According to his lawyer, the incident made Canuel’s heart so weak he couldn’t exercise until July. He claims that he suffers from anxiety and sleeping problems and has developed a food phobia. The damages Canuel is claiming consists of $390 000 for himself and $25 000 for his partner who was present when the incident occurred.

In order to understand how this lawsuit will play out, we need to talk a little about how civil liability and lawsuits work in Quebec.

Simon-Pierre Canuel (image: CBC)

Civil liability is covered under the Quebec Civil Code. As per the Code, every person has to abide by the rules and practices of conduct so as not to cause injury to another person. Where the person fails to do so and causes injury to another by such a fault, they are bound to make reparations for the injury, be it physical, moral (psychological) or material.

In order to successfully sue someone, the plaintiff in a civil case has to prove a direct link between the damages they suffered and the fault, if any, of the person(s) they are suing. The burden of proof is not as severe in civil suits as it is in criminal cases.

In criminal cases, guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, liability must be proven based on a balance of probabilities, meaning the court does not have to believe liability beyond a reasonable doubt, only that liability is more likely than not.

In order to get out of liability, the defendant has a few options. First, if the incident was a case of “force majeure”, meaning an unforeseeable inevitable or irresistible event like a lightning strike, the person is not liable. The defendant can also evade liability by proving they are not at fault or proving the plaintiff did not suffer any damages or greatly exaggerated the damages they did suffer.

The way the court decides on the defendant’s arguments is via the reasonable person test. The test is the asking of what precautions an average, reasonable person would have done in the same situation to avoid the damages.

Public opinion about Simon-Pierre Canuel’s case is divided and it’s easy to understand why.

The day Simon-Pierre Canuel walked into Tapageur Bistro with his partner he, by his own admission, left his EpiPen – the first line of defense against a potentially fatal allergic reaction – in his car. Food Allergy Canada, an organization that educates, supports and advocates for the needs of people with potentially fatal food allergies said in an op ed piece in August 2016 that mistakes can happen and that leaving his EpiPen in the car was one such mistake. They push the classic guilt trip helicopter parent argument:

“What if it was you or your child?”

This argument does not work because Simon-Pierre Canuel is NOT a child. He is a 34 year old adult who has presumably lived with a potentially fatal food allergy for many years. A reasonable person would suspect any food he did not prepare or supervise the preparation of. A reasonable person with a potentially fatal food allergy would have kept their EpiPen on them at all times.

Canuel claims he could not tell the dish he was served was fish due to the restaurant’s poor lighting. Being unable to see a food item does not necessarily mean you cannot tell it’s something you’re allergic to.

Salmon and beef have very different textures and very different smells. All it would take to tell one from the other is to move the food around with a fork and/or smell it. A reasonable person would not have blindly tasted his food, and could have had his dinner guest taste it for him just to make sure it was safe.

Simon-Pierre Canuel by all accounts did none of those things and a reasonable adult would know that restaurants screw up orders all the time. The only thing Tapageur Bistro is guilty of is screwing up his order.

If the restaurant is indeed at fault for serving Canuel a dish that almost killed him, Canuel is equally responsible for not taking the reasonable precautions an individual with severe food allergies would have taken when dining out. Fortunately, civil liability law in Quebec allows liability to be shared with several people including the victim.

The fact that prosecutors chose not to go after the waiter suggests that there was no liability here, just another restaurant employee that accidentally messed up an order. If someone with severe allergies is allowed to make a mistake of this magnitude, restaurants should be given some leeway too.

Does Canuel have a chance of winning his lawsuit? Maybe, but he’s unlikely to get all the money he asked for.

That’s just unreasonable.

* Featured image: estrieplus.com

In the last few months the animal rights debate in Quebec has been dominated by Montreal’s proposed pit-bull ban. One side argued that animals are not dangerous if they are raised right, while people in favor claimed it was necessary to protect humans from dangerous dogs. With all the discourse about whether we can protect humans from animals, it’s time to talk about the laws that protect animals from us.

On December 8, 2016 the Quebec Court came to a unique decision. Over the course of ten years, the SPCA had seized four dogs from the Alain Marchand, a man in Outaouais. The dogs had been neglected, abused and malnourished.

Marchand was charged under Quebec’s Animal Health Protection Act and the court undoubtedly realized he could not be trusted with a dog and fined him eighteen hundred dollars but also, for the first time in Quebec legal history, banned him from owning animals. Criminal charges of animal cruelty against Marchand are soon to follow.

Quebec Animal Health Protection Act

The Quebec Animal Health Protection Act has the goal of ensuring “an appropriate level of animal health protection is maintained.” The law establishes standards of hygiene, care, and disease control of livestock and domestic animals.

Specific rules for dogs and cats are established in the Regulation Respecting the Safety and Welfare of Cats and Dogs, which was enacted to work in conjunction with the Animal Health Protection Act. Its violation can result in the penalties set out in the Act, which range from two hundred and fifty dollars to two thousand four hundred and fifty dollars for a natural person (first offense) and six hundred and twenty-five dollars to six thousand seventy five dollars for a legal person such as a business.

The Regulation establishes the standard of care for cats, dogs, and their hybrids. The rules set out not only cover the owners of pet shops, breeding operations and obedience schools, but also set standards that must be obeyed by individual pet owners.

Dog and cat owners have to provide food and drinking water for their animals. The water has to be clean and free of contaminants like urine, feces and kitty litter. Snow and ice don’t count as sources of drinking water.

The animals have to get their biological needs met as per their species, size, growth stage, age, level of physical activity, state of health, whether they are gestating or lactating, and as per their ability to adapt to different levels of heat or cold.

Dogs and cats have to have access to a rest area at all times that is clean, dry, comfortable, and large enough for the animal to be able to lie on its side with its legs extended. This rest area has to provide shelter from the elements that could risk the animal’s health or cause it stress. Such elements include bad weather, sun, drafts, loud noises, and harmful gases.

Image via WikiHow Creative Commons

If you have a dog you want to keep mostly outdoors, the regulation restricts what kinds of animals can be kept mostly outdoors and under what circumstances. Only animals whose specific structural features, age, health, coat and who have the ability to adapt to heat or cold in such a way as to be protected from weather conditions can be kept mostly outside.

If the owner or caretaker of the animal doesn’t know the adaptability level of the animal to be kept outdoors, they have to plan for a gradual acclimatization period. The animal has to have a sturdy shelter made of durable non-toxic materials of a decent size to allow it to keep warm and protect it from the weather.

The regulation also covers the rope or chain used to keep an animal tied up outside, as well as the collar an animal wears. The rope or chain cannot cause discomfort for the animal due to its weight. It cannot be liable to get stuck or shortened by wrapping itself around an object, and has to allow the animal to safely move around and reach its food and water. Collars are not allowed to hurt the animal or restrict its breathing.

Muzzled animals cannot be left unattended.

The Canadian Criminal Code covers the worst animal cruelty offenses, and unlike the Quebec law and regulation, the penalties are not just financial but can also include a prison sentence.

Criminal Animal Cruelty Offenses

There are three types of animal cruelty offenses in the Criminal Code.

The first is the act of Causing Unnecessary Suffering which includes willfully causing or permitting unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal, willfully giving an animal or bird poison or harmful drug or substance, and even getting money for promoting or arranging hunts where captive birds are liberated for the sole purpose of being shot. Penalties for this kind of offense can be up to five years in prison if you’re indicted or up to eighteen months in jail and/or a maximum fine of ten thousand dollars if you get a summary conviction.

The second type of animal cruelty offense is Causing Damage or Injury. This entails damaging animals while driving them through willful neglect, and willfully abandoning an animal or failing to provide food, water, shelter and care. This offense can result in up to two years in prison or a maximum fine of two thousand dollars and/or six months in jail.

For some kinds of these first two offenses there’s a legal presumption that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the person is presumed guilty, a reversal of the innocent-until-proven-guilty standard in criminal law.

The third type of offense is about cockpits and punishes the owner of a location used to hold cockfights. The penalty can be up to five years in prison or if a summary conviction, a ten thousand dollar fine and/or up to eighteen months in jail.

With all the talk about how humans need to be protected from animals, it’s time we look back at how to protect animals from humans. People can yell and write letters and picket, but dogs and cats can only scratch, bite, growl, bark or meow in order to be heard.

It’s time we remember that we can fight back better than they can and protect them for the vulnerable beings they are.

* Featured image: blacklemag.com Creative Commons

On November 29, 2016, the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) made the recommendation women across Canada were hoping for. They recommended that Justice Robin Camp, the Alberta judge who acquitted a rapist in 2015 after making comments to the victim during the trial such as “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?” be removed from office. In their inquiry report, the CJC found that Camp had made comments that suggested an aversion to laws enacted to protect the vulnerable and promote equality, and that the damage he’d done to people’s faith in our judicial system could not be fixed by sensitivity training and promises to reform after the fact.

This article, however, is not about Robin Camp. There is no disputing that Camp’s conduct during this trial revealed him to be wholly unfit to be a judge in a society where gender equality is constitutionally guaranteed and that a recommendation for removal from the bench is him getting off light in the eyes of many victims of sexual assault.

This article is about the judiciary, the Canadian Judicial Council, and the process by which Canadians hold federal judges accountable for their behavior on the bench.

Removing a Judge

One of the tenets of democracy is the existence of an independent judiciary. For the judicial system to work it must act independently of the influences of the executive and legislative branches of government, as embodied in Canada by the Prime Minister and his cabinet and the House of Commons and Senate.

The way our founders attempted to ensure this independence was by putting rules in our constitution that require that judges be appointed not elected, and once appointed, they get to keep their position “on good behavior” until the age of retirement.

Before the creation of the Canadian Judicial Council in 1971, the only way to get a federally appointed judge removed from the bench was to have the government recommend his removal to the House of Commons and Senate. That all changed in the late sixties with the Leo Landreville scandal.

Leo Landreville was a former Sudbury mayor who’d been appointed to the Supreme Court of Ontario. While he was mayor, he got involved in some shady stock dealings that came to light while he was a judge and led to criminal charges including corruption. The ensuing scandal prompted Lester B. Pearson to recommend his removal from the bench to Parliament in 1967, and was one of the events to spark the creation of the CJC.

The Canadian Judicial Council

The Canadian Judicial Council was created with the goal of promoting efficiency, uniformity, and accountability in Canada’s Judicial System. It consists of thirty-nine members and is led by the Chief Justice of Canada’s Supreme Court, currently the Right Honourable Beverly McLachlin. The Council meets twice a year and while their primary responsibility is to set policies and create tools that allow the judicial system to work better, it has the added task of investigating complaints against judges.

The Council can only investigate complaints against federally appointed judges. They cannot investigate or overturn a judge’s decision in a case. To get a judge’s decision overturned, you have to go through the appeals courts. What the CJC can do is investigate a judge’s conduct, but to get them to do that, you have to follow the complaint process.

As per the Judges Act, the CJC must start an inquiry of a federal judge upon request by the federal justice minister or the attorney general of a given province. The Council can also choose to investigate any other complaints or allegations made against a judge. In the case of Robin Camp, for example, the complaint was initially made by four law professors.

Unlike many other government applications, a complaint to the CJC does not require specific forms, there is no application fee and no deadline. All you do is submit a complaint in writing about a named federally-appointed judge about their conduct and not their decision(s) via snail mail.

The Canadian Judicial Council then reviews the complaint and where necessary, conducts an inquiry and releases a report. In the report they can recommend that the judge remain on the bench, be removed from the bench, be granted paid leave, or if the judge resigns before the age of mandatory retirement, the Council can recommend they continue to get an annuity.

If the Council recommends the judge’s removal, the Federal government can then go to the House of Commons and Senate within fifteen days of the removal recommendation and publicly remove the person from office. Federal judges can only be removed for the following reasons:

  • Age or infirmity
  • Having been guilty of misconduct
  • Having failed in the due execution of that office
  • Having been placed, by his or her conduct or otherwise, in a position incompatible with the due execution of that office

Justice Camp was recommended for removal from the bench for misconduct and the fact that it happened during a rape trial amplified the magnitude of his actions. Rape trials are widely and justifiably believed to be tainted by bias and prejudice so the appearance of impartiality and fairness in the presiding judge is extremely important.

A judge who seems to favor one side over the other from the get-go damages society’s faith in the fairness of our judicial system, and a lack of faith in the law and the people who interpret and enforce it will ultimately lead to vigilantism and anarchy.

The Canadian Judicial Council is an important check on federal judges who may take for granted that their jobs are secure in order to ensure their independence. It’s important but it’s not perfect.

Since its creation only four judges have been recommended for removal by the Council in recognition that judges need freedom to criticize the law, talk to witnesses and lawyers, and conduct proceedings in order to make sure justice is served.

Neda Topaloski, one of the FEMEN activists who disturbed the 2015 Montreal Grand Prix, had her second and final day in court today. As per FEMEN’s usual tactics, Topalski protested bare-chested during the high profile event, and in a national first, she is now facing criminal charges for it.

“We’re in Canada and there’s no precedent for such cases. Our bodies are our banners for our values and ideas. It’s the first time there is an attempt to criminalize them,” explained Topaloski in a phone interview with FTB on Thursday morning. According to her, it’s the state of democracy and freedom in Canada that is at stake in this trial.

Topaloski was arrested on June 4th 2015, after she appeared topless in front of one of the showcased cars on Crescent Street and yelled “Montreal is not a brothel!”

She was referring to the sexual tourism that doubles or triples every time the high profile Grand Prix is organised in Montreal. She was initially charged on four counts, but the charges of indecency and exhibitionism were dropped last week. The crown is thus going forward with charges of mischief and disturbing the peace.

Topaloski claims FEMEN’s actions are a non-violent form of political expression and should not be criminalized. “Seeing activism as disturbance of peace is absolutely perverse, because expression doesn’t trouble peace, violence troubles peace,” she argued.

She was also accused of mischief. The crown alleges she dented the hood of the car she was leaning on during the stunt. The activist says that this is “absolutely impossible.” She notes that the Grand Prix is always full of pictures of women sitting on cars for publicity purposes and that none of them faced such accusations.

The Grand Prix: “A powerful lobby”

This is the first time a FEMEN protest has resulted in criminal charges in Canada, despite several public actions of the same sort. Topaloski believes that she is only being prosecuted this time because She managed to “sully the image of the Grand Prix.”

“It bothers this powerful lobby and it is because of their pressure that we are charged this time, but not the time that we were in the Canadian parliament, nor the time we were at the National Assembly in Quebec.”

In April 2015, Neda Topaloski interrupted a press conference about Law 20 at the National Assembly. She irrupted topless on stage to protest against the new law’s failure to prioritize free and accessible abortion.  She had done a similar act on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to protest C-51 just a few weeks earlier.

Allegations of excessive use of force

On Wednesday, Topaloski’s lawyer immediately moved to have all the charges thrown on the grounds that the arrest was unlawful. She argued that the Grand Prix’s private security made an excessive use of force.

“It was more than an arrest; I was dragged on the floor, still topless, they pulled my hair out…” recalls Topaloski. She highlights that their behaviour was wildly different from what she has seen from police officers in similar situations.

“[The security guards] were trying to prove that they were the guys in control of the situation and of the value of women. They used that situation to abuse, physically and violently.”

A video of the arrest was submitted to the court as proof. Although she is not sure of this move’s potential success, Topaloski explained that it is important for her to “shed light on those who perpetuate violence rather than those who protest for equality and are repressed and targeted by violence because of it.”

The court will probably not reach a verdict today, but Topaloski says she trusts that “common sense” and “constitutional rights” will prevail: “I have the law and the constitution on my side. Therefore, I hope that the judge will be able to recognize this.”

 

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding female lawyers lately. First, there was the rumour that Hillary Clinton mocked the twelve year old rape victim of a man she was charged with defending during her days working at a legal aid clinic in 1975. The second was with the announcement that Jian Ghomeshi’s attorney Marie Henein was planning on speaking at Canadian schools.

Female attorneys are judged more harshly than male lawyers for the cases they take, and it has to do with the perception of why they got into the profession. Male lawyers are usually believed to have gone into law for money and power, whereas female lawyers are perceived to have gone into it to save the world and protect the innocent.

It should be noted that the rumour that Clinton mocked a rape victim turned out to be just that, a rumour. The story was circulated by racist misogynist now president-elect and right wing groups supporting him. When fact checking organizations like Politifact looked into it, it was revealed that recording was of Hillary Clinton mocking the Arkansas crime lab for accidentally destroying DNA evidence linking her client to the crime and NOT the victim. For many people it does not matter who she was mocking because like Henein, she is a woman who defended a rapist.

Women who defend rapists are vilified as being traitors to their sex. It does not make sense to many that a woman could defend someone who violated another, despite the fact that male lawyers defend rapists all the time regardless of whether the victims were male or female. What people seem to forget is that female lawyers are bound by the same rules as their male counterparts so it’s high time we looked at what those rules actually are.

The rules governing the behavior of lawyers vary from province to province and country to country, but in liberal democracies they are all based on the same principles of rule of law and an accused’s right to a fair trial and defense.

In Quebec, lawyers are bound by many laws including An Act Respecting the Barreau du Quebec, the Code of Professions, and the Code of Professional Conduct of Lawyers which they have to study as part of their preparation for the Bar exam. The Code of Professional Conduct sets out some of the basic rules of practice for lawyers towards their clients, the public, and with regards to the administration of justice. Here are some of the rules lawyers have to follow as per the latter Code.

The Code defines a lawyer’s client as any person or organization that a lawyer provides or undertakes to provide professional services for.

Lawyers are bound by law to act for their clients with integrity, competence, loyalty, confidentiality, impartiality, diligence, and prudence.

Attorneys cannot engage in their professional activities if they are in a state or under conditions that would compromise the quality of their services. That means that if, for example, an attorney knows he makes bad decisions after a few drinks, he is legally bound not to act as an attorney after having those drinks.

A lawyer has to act in their client’s best interests at all times. In doing so, they must act in compliance with the rule of law and in a way as to establish and maintain a relationship of trust with the client.

Lawyers also have to respect a client or prospective client’s right to choose their counsel, and cannot provoke disputes in order to get their business.

Most importantly to the perception of attorneys, it should be noted that lawyers are allowed to agree to act for a client no matter what their opinion on said client’s guilt or liability is. One could argue that a lawyer’s decision to defend a client whose innocence they doubt is what makes the difference between the bloodsuckers and the heroes, but it’s not if you consider that our legal system is based on the notion of innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and it’s certainly not if you believe everyone has the right to the best defense possible.

It should also be noted that there are many things lawyers are not allowed to do.

Lawyers in Quebec have to avoid all methods and attitudes that would give the profession “a profit-seeking character” by making it look like they became an attorney just to get rich.

Though lawyers have to support and respect the rule of law, they are allowed to criticize and contest legal provisions or their interpretations and applications for a good reason. They are not allowed to help, advise, encourage, or facilitate their clients to engage in behavior they know or SHOULD know is unlawful or fraudulent. Lawyers are also forbidden from concealing or not disclosing what the law obliges them to disclose.

In light of all the controversial cases before the courts, people should not take the silence of a lawyer as a sign of their client’s guilt. The law says that lawyers in Quebec are not allowed to make public statements or communicate information to the media about a matter that is pending before the courts “if the lawyer knows or should know that the information or statements could adversely affect a tribunal’s authority or prejudice a party’s right to a fair trial or hearing.”

The perception of lawyers in our society ranges from bloodsucker to hero and there are many good examples that justify both sets of beliefs. Regardless of what you think of the legal profession, we owe it to our society not to use the a person’s gender identity as the gauge whether a lawyer is acting in the greater good or selling it out for money.

At the end of the day what matters is whether they offered their clients the best possible legal representation while respecting and obeying the very laws they studied.

* Featured image: Courtroom sketch of Marie Henein defending Jian Ghomeshi

Montreal is a great city. The diversity of our population is unmatched in most of Canada, we are unilingual by provincial law, bilingual by federal law, but if you walk down our streets you’ll hear everything from Tagalog to Hebrew spoken.

We have an impressive nightlife and artists from around the world come to perform at our annual festivals. Despite all its diversity, and action, there are many areas where Montreal could use some improvement, especially if you drive a car.

Parking in Montreal is a nightmare.

Part of the city’s parking problem is due to all the construction. When snow and ice aren’t interfering with road work, parking is compromised by construction that takes huge chunks out of the streets.

There’s very little indoor parking despite high demand, and the existing indoor and outdoor lots in the downtown core are heavily taxed by the City. What’s left are areas taken up by signs reserving parking spaces for residents, and everything else seems to have a parking meter on it.

There’s a saying that in life there’s no such thing as a free ride, but in the City of Montreal there’s no such thing as free parking.

Montreal Parking Law

To prevent a few headaches, I’ve decided to give you all a crash course on Montreal’s parking laws. These rules apply only to the City of Montreal, which includes such boroughs as NDG/Cote des Neiges, the downtown core, and the Plateau. Areas on the Island that operate independently of the City of Montreal, such as the City of Cote-Saint-Luc and Westmount have their own rules.

The City of Montreal’s parking rules should be easily accessible online, but they aren’t. Most of the city’s online resources for parking are devoted to helping people pay parking meters and tickets.

The law itself is the By-Law Concerning Traffic and Parking and is almost impossible to find online unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. The most updated version is only available in French so if you don’t know the language, you’re screwed.

montreal-parking-meter
Image: WikiMedia Commons

If you get a parking ticket, the ticket WILL indicate what rule you are deemed to have violated, but it will usually list the number of the offense, not the whole rule, probably due to the size constraints of the ticket itself.

Here’s what the law says:

On public land belonging to the City of Montreal, you are not allowed to park anywhere prohibited by a sign. If a sign states that there’s no parking in an area outside of certain hours, you are not allowed to park there outside of those hours. If the sign says the spot is reserved for other vehicles like taxis, for example, you can’t park there if you’re not driving a taxi. Unless there’s a sign posted expressly allowing you to park in an alleyway, it is illegal. Same goes for parking on median strips or traffic islands.

If a parking space is blocked or barred by an official barrier, a system of orange lights, a removable no parking sign, or there’s a cover on the parking meter, you’re not allowed to park there. If stopping is forbidden in a designated area by law, bylaw, or regulation, that area is not a viable parking space either.

Parking is forbidden in public parks except in areas officially designated for parking by signs. Offroad parking is also forbidden.

If a spot has a parking meter, you can’t park there without paying it. The exception is if you parked in that spot outside of the hours in which you are obliged to pay, and those are always indicated on the meter.

The City parking meters only accept Canadian currency, but thanks to modern technology you can pay by credit card and even by app. It is against the law to do anything that will keep the parking meter from working, and no two vehicles can take up one spot covered by a single meter.

Getting a Parking Ticket

If you break the rules, you will get a parking ticket either handed to you, left on your windshield, or sent to you by mail. The ticket, officially called a “statement of offense” will require you to pay a fine. Fines for parking violations range between thirty and two hundred bucks.

You have two options for responding to the ticket: you can plead guilty and pay it, or plead not guilty and contest it. Both options have a deadline of about thirty days. If you do nothing, a judge may rule against you by default and order you to pay the fine and any additional costs.

Contesting the ticket is entirely up to you, but there a few things to consider. You need to think about the cost of biting the bullet and paying the fine versus the time, cost, and stress related to contesting the ticket in court. You also need to brutally honest with yourself as to whether or not you deserved it.

If you opt to contest the ticket, you can do so by giving notice within the thirty days you have to respond. Just follow the instructions on the back of your ticket. The court will eventually send you a hearing date. On court day, bring any documents you have to prove your version of events such as photos taken the day you got the ticket, and bring a copy of the police report.

If you live and work in an area facilitated by Montreal’s public transit system, you can avoid the problems and cost of a car by investing in tickets or a pass. The bus and metro have their own set of problems, but in many ways they are a lot faster than taking a car.

If you have a driver’s license you can always follow many Montrealers in occasionally renting a car or joining a carshare service like Communauto so you have access to a vehicle when you occasionally need it.

Parking in Montreal is a pain, and with everything going on, we could all use less of it. Don’t suffer.

* Featured image: Goethe.de, Creative Commons

On November 8, 2016 the United States of America elected a racist, misogynist, rapist scam artist as President. Prior to the election people spoke of how, if this KKK poster child were elected, they’d promptly move to Canada.

The tone of many in the US was similar to that of Judith Viorst’s hero in the popular children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible No Good, Very Bad Day who pronounces after every misfortune that’s he’s going to move to Australia.

There has been no mass migration of Americans to Canada yet, despite Cheeto-head’s election (I refuse to call him by name because he has an orgasm every time he is mentioned in the press), but people in the US have been looking into it. On November 8th Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) website crashed.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not that easy to move to Canada. In order to spare CIC and Immigration Quebec’s websites, I’m going to give you a crash course on Canadian Immigration law and the programs through which one can come here.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to go over the main, less expensive paths to permanent Canadian Immigration, leaving out temporary programs like student and visitor’s visas and work permits, however, it is important for prospective residents to maintain their legal visitor status when applying for permanent residency.

Family Sponsorship

The main federal program in which someone can permanently immigrate to Canada is family sponsorship. The Federal Government administers this program in all provinces except Quebec. The Quebec Government is in charge of the federal program for applicants seeking to move to the province and have their own criteria in some cases.

Family sponsorship becomes the most popular program when a candidate threatening the fundamental freedoms of Americans runs for election. Many believe that all you have to do is marry a Canadian and presto! You’re in, right?

Wrong.

Family sponsorship allows Canadian citizens or permanent residents to bring their spouse, common-law or conjugal partner, and/or children to Canada. The definition of what constitutes a spouse and children is available on both the CIC and Immigration Quebec websites.

In order to sponsor someone, you need to prove you have the money to meet the person’s basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter, support them financially for a given period of time so that they don’t need to seek financial help from the government. Veracity of the relationship is weighed more heavily, though, than the financial status. In order to qualify to be a sponsor, you have to be a citizen or permanent resident age 18 or older.

come_to_canada_online_tool_en

If you yourself were sponsored as a spouse and became a permanent resident less than five years earlier, you cannot be a sponsor. You are also ineligible if you have declared bankruptcy which has yet to be discharged. If you have an outstanding immigration loan, you won’t be granted a sponsorship application.

You cannot be a sponsor if you have been convicted in Canada or abroad of sexual or violent crimes or threats of committing them or if you are in default of court ordered alimony payments.

In Quebec, you cannot be a sponsor if you are a current welfare recipient, the exception being if you receive benefits due to your age or a disability that keeps you from long term employment. Sponsors in Quebec are also forbidden from sponsoring a spouse who is under the age of consent in Canada (16).

Let’s say requirements are met and all the right forms and documents have been submitted. It should just be a couple of months before the person can move to Canada, right?

Wrong!

Processing times vary depending on what country the sponsored relative is coming from. At the federal level, the government is currently working its way through a backlog of applications. If you are sponsoring your American spouse, for example, you both could be waiting at least 14 months for processing, but that time will also allow CIC to assess you as a sponsor.

Skilled Workers

* Ed’s Note: Changes were recently made to the Quebec Skilled Worker Program, adding additional hoops to jump through, including when you apply, that aren’t mentioned in the text below. The Quebec Government lists some of them on their website.

Then there is the Quebec Skilled Worker Program. The program allows you to get a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ). By itself, the CSQ is worthless, but it does make it easier to become a Permanent Resident. Only when you become a Permanent Resident can you actually move to Canada.

The CSQ program is a points system based primarily on you (and your spouse’s) education, age, work experience, and knowledge of French and English. You can get a copy of the evaluation grid online but remember that the government changes the grid every few years.

In order to get points for language proficiency, you must provide the results of French and English tests recognized by the Quebec government, and documents in a format other than Immigration Quebec’s preferred format can lead to delays or a refusal of the application. Unfortunately, the government also has a quota of how many CSQ applications they accept annually, so check the website regularly to make sure it’s not too late.

Do you need a lawyer to help you immigrate?

Not really; it’s just a matter of correctly filling out forms, getting the right documents and fees together, and sending them to the right place on time. All of this information is available online. However, if you have trouble with one or both of Canada’s official languages or are contesting a decision, it’s better to get the advice of an expert. There are scores of qualified individuals working in this field who can help you.

The process is long and annoying but if you get here, we promise to welcome you, eh!

* This post was updated November 16th, 2016

Protests, like potholes, are a year-round occurance in Montreal. The economy is in the toilet, tuition costs are on the rise, and Prime Minister Trudeau has turned his back on the young people whose coattails he rode into office.

Young people voted for Trudeau hoping that he would help stabilize employment in Canada only to be told to get used to temporary, low paying jobs without benefits. Quebeckers voted for Philippe Couillard hoping to do away with the Parti Québecois’ message of aggressive xenophobic secularism and language issues only to find the provincial government raising the language and signage disputes people are sick of. Municipal austerity measures are coming at the expense of the pensions our blue collar workers worked so hard for.

Votes don’t seem to count anymore and the cynicism pushed by bitter columnists is proving true. With the government ignoring the reason they were voted into office, people are forcing the government to listen by taking to the streets.

Everyone from students to cops to healthcare workers to Native leaders are taking to the streets with pickets, hoping to have their voices heard. Like the potholes, the City of Montreal has a pathetic track record of dealing with protests, reverting to persecution rather than reasonable negotiation. To our elected officials, protesters are not frustrated human beings with legitimate concerns but noisemakers and disruptors.

Laws Used Against Protesters

With the cops using their authority to assault people desperate to be heard, it’s time to look at the laws the government uses and overuses to suppress dissenters.

Let’s start with the Canadian Criminal Code.

Protesters are commonly charged with assault, harassment, mischief, unlawful assembly, and obstructing police officers. Since I addressed mischief in my piece on Devil’s Night, let’s look at the rest.

Assault is defined as applying force directly or indirectly to another person without their consent. The penalty is up to five years in prison unless the person is tried on summary conviction, which carries a lesser penalty. If a weapon is used in the assault, the penalty increases to a maximum of ten years, or if tried on summary conviction, a minimum of eighteen months. Since the definition of assault is so vague, it can range from hitting or kicking, to simply pushing and shoving.

Harassment is the act of engaging in conduct that would make a person feel harassed, which includes following them, repeatedly communicating with them, and watching their workplace. As protests often occur in front of government buildings where elected officials work, and repeated communication is the only way they feel they can be heard, it is far too easy for those ignoring them to call it harassment. Harassment is a serious charge, with a maximum penalty of ten years in prison, and its broad definition bears the risk of overuse.

Unlawful Assembly is when three or more people get together for a common purpose and their group causes the surrounding neighborhood to fear a disturbance of the peace. Unfortunately many protests, even peaceful, are noisy. An unlawful assembly charge, which fortunately only runs the risk of a summary conviction, is applied willy nilly by authorities to punish protesters.

Obstructing a police officer is a charge that became popular against protesters this past summer when people stormed the National Energy Board (NEB) hearings to voice their dissent against the proposed Energy East pipeline. To be convicted of this charge, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person resisted, willfully obstructed, or did not assist a public or peace officer in the execution of his or her duties. The penalty is up to two years in prison unless there is a summary conviction.

Protesters are also punished with municipal bylaws.

The municipal bylaw used to punish protesters is bylaw P-6, formally called the “By-law concerning the prevention of breaches of the peace, public order and safety, and the use of public property”.

The bylaw was added to by former Mayor Gerald Tremblay in 2012 following the massive student protests against tuition hikes. Article 2.1 of the bylaw requires assemblies, parades, or gatherings in public places to disclose their itineraries to authorities prior to the event. Article 3.2 of the bylaw makes it illegal for protesters to cover their faces with a scarf or hood without a reasonable motive.

Both of these articles were ruled unconstitutional by Judge Chantal Masse of the Superior Court on June 22, 2016, following a successful challenge by Julien Villeneuve, a CEGEP professor who attended the protests in a panda costume.

Laws that Protect Protesters

We know about the laws used to punish protesters. Now let’s talk briefly about the laws meant to protect them and all of us.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms entrenched in our constitution guarantees freedom of thought, opinion, and expression. It guarantees freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association. It also guarantees the right against arbitrary detention. In spite of this, protesters are arrested left and right and their protests, no matter how peaceful, are punished as being unlawful.

Then there’s the Quebec Charter, a quasi-constitutional law entrenched in Quebec legislation. Like the Canadian Charter, it guarantees freedom of assembly and association.

Our criminal laws are also in place to protect, yet they are used to suppress protesters not keep them safe. Police officers who act prematurely by shooting rubber bullets and smashing people with batons rarely see any consequences for their actions, confirming the protesters’ belief that they are there to persecute, not protect.

Protests may be a public nuisance but they are a necessary one. As long as the government refuses to listen to the people who elected them, the protests will continue. As long as people feel voiceless, they will take to the streets to make sure they are heard.

For every time the government betrays the ones who voted for them, hundreds pickets will spring up. The act of listening and communication is the key to most conflict resolution. If politicians want the protesting to stop, they have to start listening.

* Featured image by Cem Ertekin

Halloween is this coming Monday and we can expect a hearty mix of cute kids in costumes going door to door for candy and drunken idiots who think a cheap dollar store mask excuses obnoxious behavior. Despite the occasional incidents of idiocy, Halloween is by no means dangerous. The holiday the night before is an entirely different matter.

Devil’s Night, also known as Mat Night here in Quebec, is a night for pranks and mischief. It is celebrated throughout Canada and US and is believed to date back to Ireland in the 1880s. Though originally a night for fairies and goblins, it has evolved into a night for pranksters. Some believe the custom of handing out candy on Halloween developed in an attempt to appease jokers with sweets in order to spare their property.

In Quebec, Mat Night used to be celebrated by taking people’s doormats and switching them, ringing doorbells and running off, and by leaving a flaming bag of dog feces on someone’s doorstep. For those unfamiliar with this particular prank, the prankster fills a paper bag with dog poo, puts it on someone’s doorstep, lights it on fire, rings the doorbell, and runs away. When the occupant opens the door and sees the fire, they will presumably stamp it out, thus ruining their shoes.

Other common Devil’s Night pranks include egging people, toilet-papering houses, dumping rotten produce on front porches, smashing pumpkins, covering cars in shaving cream, and tipping garbage cans. In the US, the nature of the prank depends on the location.

In rural areas, pranksters tip outhouses and open the gates of livestock pens. In Detroit, Devil’s Night is a night for arson and was undoubtedly the inspiration for the setting of the 1994 film The Crow. Arson is so prevalent on this night in Detroit that in 2008, the mayor recruited thirty thousand volunteers to try and prevent the mayhem.

Mischief in Canada comes with a price. Laws against mischievous behavior make what might seem like a harmless prank an indictable offense with serious penalties.

The crime of mischief is a property offense, meaning it’s a crime that affects people’s stuff, not their person. In order to be guilty of the crime of mischief, an offender has to have willfully destroyed or damaged property, rendered the property “dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective”, obstructed, interrupted, interfered with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of the property, or interfered with a person’s lawful use, enjoyment, or operation of it.

Mischief laws also apply to computer-related offenses. That means that if you’re the type to stay in on Devil’s Night and prefer to pull your pranks from behind your computer screen, you might still be criminally liable.

The law specifically prohibits the willful destruction or alteration of computer data rendering data meaningless, useless, or ineffective, obstructing, interfering, or interrupting the lawful use of the data, and interfering with a person’s lawful use of said data or denying that person access to information that they are legally entitled to.

The penalty for mischief varies according to the degree of danger involved. If the prank endangered someone’s life, the prankster is liable for life in prison. If the prank damaged property worth five thousand dollars or more, the prankster is looking at a prison stay of up to ten years unless the prosecution agrees to a summary conviction, which has a lesser penalty. Where the value of the damaged property is less than five thousand dollars, the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment unless you get a summary conviction.

If you play a prank at a location that has meaning for society, the penalties for mischief change.

Religious properties such as churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, cemeteries associated with them, and objects on their grounds are protected by specific anti-mischief laws. If the prank was motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate based on religion, race, colour, or ethnic origin, the offender is looking at a maximum prison sentence of ten years, regardless of the value of the property. Just as in other mischief offenses, it is possible to get a summary conviction, but unlike regular mischief offenses, a summary conviction for this kind of prank comes with a maximum sentence of eighteen months.

The penalties for acts of vandalism on War Memorials vary. If the prosecution opts to charge the prankster with an indictable offense, the offender is looking at a maximum of ten years in jail. If it’s a summary conviction, the penalty is a maximum of eighteen months. Unlike other mischief offenses, this one comes with a minimum punishment: a fine of a thousand dollars for a first offense, at least fourteen days in jail for a second offense. Every subsequent offense will get a prankster thirty days in the slammer.

As with everything, there are good, harmless pranks, and there are bad ones. The good ones are funny for all involved, prankster and victim, and require a maximum cleanup of a hose, some water, and maybe a trash can. The bad ones leave permanent damage to both public and private property and to our collective consciousness by making people frustrated, angry, and feeling unwelcome and unappreciated.

This Devil’s Night, in the wake of heated cultural and political debates, economic strife, and disputes between young and old, it is time to remember what the holiday is really all about: a bit of harmless fun to keep people on their toes.

* Featured image via YouTube screengrab