January 09, 2006
Ottawa – Conservative Justice Critic Vic Toews has called for the use of the notwithstanding clause to revoke the right to equal marriage in Canada, which is an equality right as defined by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Vic Toews has also put forward a plan to have Supreme Court Justices face a public committee before their appointment could be approved. This suggests judges would be subject to scrutiny of their views on social issues, to prevent what Mr. Toews has called “radical liberal judges” from implementing “their own social agenda.”
In a 2003 interview with a far-right American organization, Toews stated:
“The second question is what are the chances of the Supreme Court overturning that? I’m very pessimistic, I think it needs to go to the Supreme Court, I think we need to hear from the Supreme Court on this issue because, remember, in Canada, Parliament has the ultimate tool. It’s called the notwithstanding clause, section 33, so that when the courts make a fundamental error in jurisdiction, Parliament can overrule it for a period of five years by an Act of Parliament. That is renewable, so they can do it over and over again. So what I think we need to hear is from the Supreme Court of Canada. And then if the Supreme Court continues on that radical agenda we need to push for the federal government to use this constitutional mechanism to ensure that courts understand that they not to interfere with social policy matters and stay within there realm of judicial interpretations.” (listen to this quote)
Toews also questioned the integrity of Canada’s judiciary, saying “we have seen these radical liberal judges who have their own social agenda coming to the bench and forgetting that their responsibility is to interpret the law and not to make law. And so we are very, very concerned about that.” (listen to this quote)
Toews made the comments in an interview with Concerned Women Today, a “broadcast ministry” run by Concerned Women for America (CWA), an American organization that seeks “to protect traditional values that support the Biblical design of the family.”
CWA founder Beverly LaHaye started her organization to respond to the advances of feminism after watching the National Organization for Women’s founder Betty Friedan on television in 1978. CWA identifies feminism as “anti-god, anti-family.” CWA has also identified state-level Equal Rights Amendments (ERAs) as responsible for the breakdown of families: “The ERA proposes the elimination of our God-given roles as men and women, resulting in the redefinition – and eventual destruction – of family.”
These comments are particularly disturbing given Mr. Toews prominent position within the Conservative Caucus, which was demonstrated when he stood beside Leader Stephen Harper to announce the party’s justice platform in Toronto on January 5.
From a man who would likely be Canada’s next Justice Minister if Stephen Harper and the Conservatives were to form government, this willingness to use the notwithstanding clause to take away a Charter right is deplorable. With one vacancy on the Supreme Court already, and others possible during the next mandate, Mr. Toews’ radical views and plans to reform the appointment process suggest that the rights of Canadians may hang in the balance.