According to this Toronto immigration lawyer, both Stephen Harper and Bob Rae are making a very “simple” mistake when it comes to the question of if Omar Khadr can return to Canada.
I have never dealt in this space with the right of Canadian citizens to enter Canada. The simple reason for this is that the law on this point is crystal clear and rarely in dispute.
This right is considered a â€œfundamentalâ€ one and so it is entrenched in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which was signed by Queen Elizabeth in 1982.
Our Charter describes this right as follows:
â€œEvery citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.â€
…Pretty simple, huh?
Not when it comes to Omar Khadr.
This fundamental right seems to have somehow been ignored during most of the debate, and some of the rhetoric, that surrounds this Canadian citizenâ€™s controversial set of circumstances.
…Prime Minister Stephen Harper has publicly stated that he will not allow Khadr back here unless the charges against him are dropped for good. Of course, Harper has not explained what legal authority he has to prevent Khadr, a Canadian citizen, from exercising his right to return to Canada.
Even the Canadian opposition has it wrong. Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae suggested that Harper appoint a panel of experts to advise the Canadian government on how to deal with Khadr. Any expert, in my view, would agree that Khadr has a constitutional right to return to Canadian soil. What happens to him after that is a matter of domestic criminal law which is unrelated to his right to enter Canada.
The thousand or so senior judges who together form the Canadian Superior Court Judges Association describe our justice system as follows: â€œWe are said to be ruled by law, not by those who enforce the law or wield government power.â€
President Obamaâ€™s actions have signaled a swift and firm return to the rule of law.
I hope that we will follow not only the American lead but also our own legal tradition.
Pretty serious stuff. Bob, on what grounds do you and the prime minister presume to be able to ignore the Charter?
Torontoist invited me to contribute to this yearâ€™s Heroes and Villains. Yesterday I shared my hero pick. Now here’s my villains submission.
Last year, Torontoist readers voted Stephen Harper, Jim Flaherty, et al. the number one villain of the year. Since then, their governance has gotten even worse. Even if you sympathize with the Harper government’s policy objectives, it’s hard to support the way they’ve gone about accomplishing them. Despite expressing respect for the will of Parliament while in opposition, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have done everything they can to obstruct Parliament from functioning properly in a minority situation, to the point of breaking their own fixed election date law for pure political advantage. In other words, this government has given the opposition parties no shortage of fodder.
And yet that opposition has failed, repeatedly and consistently, to offer an alternative that catches the imagination of voters. The Liberal Party, for example, was specifically mocked for their reluctance to vote against the government (perhaps most memorably in a flashy Rick Mercer musical number). In the election that ultimately took place anyway the Liberals received their worst result in recent memory, while the New Democratic and Green parties also failed to make any significant inroads.
With such a vacuum of popular political options another smaller or newer political party might have found its niche (as QuÃ©bec Solidaire recently did in the Quebec provincial election), but none of the nineteen registered Canadian political parties offered anything that caught the public’s attention.
This failure is mostly due to communication and political problems rather than policy ones. It’s not that the opposition parties haven’t had any good ideasâ€”they haveâ€”but rather that they’ve been completely unsuccessful in communicating those ideas in a compelling way. This impotence was epitomized by the year-end coalition debacle, where the opposition leadership allowed perfectly legitimate and potentially exciting democratic cooperation to be successfully characterized by the prime minister as some kind of separatist coup.
As a result, the highly objectionable government of Stephen Harper has been allowed to continue to exist essentially without opposition. To be clear, only the Conservative government is responsible for their actions, but that doesn’t mean the opposition parties can be left off the hook for their failure to perform. No matter what party or ideology is in government, our democratic system relies on an effective opposition to function properly. Here’s hoping for better in 2009.
I’ve spent the day watching the Liberal leadership convention, and StÃ©phane Dion was just announced the winner of the final ballot. Those of you who have been watching as well will remember StÃ©phane as the “green” candidate, literally. He was the only leadership contender whose supporters weren’t using red as their primary colour.
And, of course, I want to also congratulate my former Liberal opponent Bill Graham on the completion of a very successful leadership term. I like Bill a lot, and he’s been a good MP for Toronto Centre.
Watching the leadership race of a rival political party from some other parties can be a conflicted event. On the one hand, you want the best candidate to win for the sake of the country. On the other, you can’t help but speculate on which leadership candidate might be the greater benefit to your own party.
Thankfully, we don’t have that problem (or at least not nearly as much) in the Green party. At the end of the day, what’s good for our party is good for the country, because unlike other parties, we’ve explicitly said that the implementation of our policies and the health of our democracy come first. (It’s sometimes said that we’re the only party that hopes to work itself out of existence.)
Dion, therefore, was the best choice by both measures. Not only does he have the best values and priorities of any of the Liberal leadership contenders, he’ll also be the most willing to cooperate with Green MPs. His biggest challenge, of course, is that he’s still the leader of a party that is systematically invested in the status quo. It will therefore be harder for him to change our country’s disastrous course, which is just one of the reasons why we still need new voices in parliament.
The next few months will be interesting.