Will Justin Trudeau keep fighting Stephen Harper’s court battles?

Likely that a number of these kinds of cases will be dropped, presumably to the relief of Justice Canada lawyers (given that at least part of the Harper government’s motivation appeared to be more scoring of political points than enforcing the law):

Bahareh Esfand couldn’t vote for Justin Trudeau, but she sees the prime minister-designate’s victory reflected in her own Federal Court battle

For the past year, the Coquitlam, B.C., woman has locked horns with a Conservative government bent on winning the right to remove her permanent resident status.

It’s a complicated story: Esfand came to Canada from Iran in 2006 with her political refugee husband, but the minister of citizenship and immigration wants to strip her of refugee status for returning to see her ailing mother.

Regardless, the battle is almost pointless, because even if the government won, it’s unlikely they could deport a hard-working, non-criminal mother of a Canadian-born child and wife of a newly minted Canadian citizen.

As if to put a fine point on all of that, Federal Court Judge George Locke sided with Esfand this week in a scathing decision that suggests the outgoing government was “more concerned with removing refugee status than granting it.”

‘They’ve got a lot of decisions to make’

Esfand claims Stephen Harper’s government threw her life off balance in a bid to score an ideological point.

In that, she wouldn’t be alone. Canada’s courts are packed with claimants alleging their rights were violated by an agenda that purported to be tough on bogus refugees and tough on crime.

But her case also raises a question. What next? Even before Locke handed down his decision on Esfand, Ottawa announced plans to appeal if they lost.

But will Trudeau want to continue fighting Harper’s battles?

“They’ve got a lot of decisions to make,” said Josh Paterson, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

“They’re going to have to take a good, hard look at the whole suite of laws that have been passed by the current government and the legal challenges that are out there and figure out what to do.”

Broadly speaking, the cases in front of appeal or Federal Court judges involve either broad Charter of Rights challenges to legislation or specific cases where the application of policy allegedly undermines the intent of a law.

Issues range from mandatory minimum sentences, victim surcharges, the Fair Elections Actrefugee health care and Bill C-51 to the controversial niqab issue — just for a start.

Source: Will Justin Trudeau keep fighting Stephen Harper’s court battles? – British Columbia – CBC News

Staffing cuts strain Justice Department

Confirms other reports (e.g., Justice Canada chops research budget by $1.2-million), and provides additional explanation for the large number of cases lost by the Government. An amusing, if sad, contrast between the comments of former officials and the everything is fine assurance from the political and bureaucratic levels:

Separately, in the Public Safety Department, lawyers were given just one week to draft a new law on parole, according to Mary Campbell, who retired last year from her job as the department’s director-general of the corrections and criminal justice directorate.

By her count, 30 bills on justice, sentencing and corrections are either currently before Parliament or were given royal assent in June. She likened the legislative development process to a sausage factory.

“When you’ve got a pace that says, ‘Keep the sausage machine going,’ you’re going to get errors,” she said in an interview.

Jason Tamming, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, said the government has passed more than 30 measures to get tough on crime. “Our Members of Parliament work very hard to pass the best legislation to keep our communities safe,” he said. “We expect our civil servants to do the same.”

The Justice Department, in an internal report on the criminal policy section released on its website, did not use the colourful language that Ms. Campbell did. But it spoke of lowered morale as research and statistics staff have been cut from 35 to 17, between 2008-09 and 2012-13. It said 81 per cent of the department’s lawyers said the quality of their work has suffered because of the short timelines they must meet.

However, when contacted directly, a Justice Department spokesperson said it is important to note that the criminal policy section is achieving its objectives and the government has a high degree of satisfaction with its work.

David Daubney, a former senior bureaucrat in the Justice Department who retired in 2011, said the purpose behind the research staffing cuts is obvious. “They don’t want to encumber their minds with the facts,” he said of the government. “We always at Justice prided ourselves as being ‘stewards of the criminal law.’ We were seen as the go-to place for the facts and research on criminal policy, justice and corrections. That’s certainly no longer the case.”

He said morale has dropped as advisers conclude the government doesn’t want their advice. At a recent retirement party, an assistant deputy minister he wouldn’t name “confirmed that they’re not bothering to put as much background data as they used to into anything going into the minister’s office or into memoranda to cabinet.”

In the 2010 C-37 Citizenship Act revisions, we only had three weeks to draft legislation which my staff and the lawyers were concerned about.

Not sure how much time was given to the drafting of the recent C-24 Citizenship Act comprehensive changes, but the Canadian Bar Association did comment on what they considered poor quality drafting (may be sniping between lawyers but I also found the changes hard to follow):

The government has an opportunity to improve the poor drafting in the current Act. However, Bill C-24 uses excessive cross-referencing within the Act and to previous citizenship legislation to the point of near incoherence. This results the legislation being inaccessible to the public as well as many public servants, politicians, lawyers, and judges, delayed processing times for citizenship applications and an increased backlog, and an increased burden on Canadian courts. Plain language drafting is in the interest of all parties.

Staffing cuts strain Justice Department – The Globe and Mail.

Justice Canada chops research budget by $1.2-million – The Globe and Mail

Worrisome. Not the decision itself to cut research funding as much as the reason: not liking the results, and wanting to align research to government policy, rather than understanding of society. While public service research sometimes was less neutral and impartial than it should have been (had my experience in multiculturalism research in this regard), this change abandons any claim to independent and objective research.

Abdication of “fearless advice” role of public service. Hopefully this will provoke more serious reflection among senior ranks of the public service rather than the rather shallow Destination 2020 initiative:

The result is a diminished research capacity, which now must be better controlled from the top to ensure it supports the government policies, says the report.

“The review confirmed that there have been examples of work that was not aligned with government or departmental priorities,” says the October 2013 document, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

Some past projects have “at times left the impression that research is undermining government decisions.”

The report did not cite specific studies, but a department report last year on public confidence in the justice system appeared to be at odds with the Conservative government’s agenda.

Researcher Charlotte Fraser found many Canadians lacked confidence in the courts and prison system, but suggested it was the result of misunderstanding rather than any failures in the system, and that education could rectify the problem.

Justice Canada chops research budget by $1.2-million – The Globe and Mail.

Le budget de la recherche en droit fond de 1,2 million (La Presse)