NP View: Racism lurks in the supposedly ‘woke’ Liberals’ new impaired driving laws

Valid parallel to the biases of carding:

Has the self-styled “party of the Charter,” as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau still, curiously, calls the Liberals, actually even read the Charter? Have the Liberals, for that matter, paid much attention to what their own prime minister has been saying?

Canada’s impaired driving laws underwent a major overhaul last month, courtesy of the federal Liberal government. Some of the changes were necessary to recognize the changed reality of legalized cannabis. Others were simply intended to further reduce rates of impaired driving, by drug or alcohol, on our roads. This is a goal everyone shares — impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death in Canada, way ahead of anything else. It’s a stubborn problem that governments are right to try to address, particularly a government that has recently legalized a whole new category of intoxicant.

But the new laws have given to police significant new powers. In a free society, that’s never something to be done lightly. And in this particular case, what is being done is especially bizarre because the Liberals are now insisting that such powers will not be abused even while insisting, in a slightly different context, that they inevitably will be.

One of the new powers given to police is the right, under certain circumstances, to demand a breath sample from someone who has not provided any sign that they might be impaired. Previously, a police officer needed at least some grounds to insist on such a test — the officer could have observed erratic driving before pulling the car over, for instance, or suspected a whiff of alcohol on a driver’s breath. Under the new law, a driver stopped by police for any lawful reason whatsoever (which is a very low bar) may be subjected to a breath test. Refusing to provide one is itself a criminal offence. Canadians effectively have no choice but to comply.

This is a meaningful expansion of police search powers, and it will absolutely be challenged — hopefully successfully — as a violation of Canadians’ fundamental protections against unreasonable searches. This is also an expansion of police authority that the Liberals were explicitly warned would result in abuses of power, most likely taking the form of racial discrimination. “There will be nothing random with this breath testing,” defence lawyer Michael Spratt told a parliamentary committee reviewing the bill before it became law. “Visible minorities are pulled over by the police more often for no reason. That’s what is going to happen here.” The Canadian Civil Liberties Association sounded a similar warning in its own filing, writing, “Experience has also unfortunately demonstrated that ‘random’ detention and search powers are too often exercised in a non-random manner that disproportionately targets African-Canadian, Indigenous, and other racial minorities.” It continued, “… the reality of racial profiling and the increased invasiveness that attends a mandatory alcohol screening means that the practice will adversely impact those disproportionately targeted by police for vehicular stops, in particular African-Canadian, Indigenous, and other racial minorities.”

The ratcheting-up of systemic racism might normally be an issue you would expect the gloriously woke federal Liberals to be falling all over themselves to fix, or at least to tweet piously about. That’s not the case here. The Liberals have readily acknowledged that they expect that this new law will be challenged in court, but say they will defend it, and are confident it will survive the challenges.

There’s reason enough to be alarmed at the expanded use of police powers, even if they weren’t bound to be targeted disproportionately at racial minorities. Random, groundless searches conducted by whim of the authorities are manifestly a gross violation of Canadians’ fundamental rights. Now that the law is finally being used, there are already unsettling stories of such mandatory searches starting to emerge: Global News reported this week that a Toronto-area man, who was not in the slightest bit impaired, was given a breath test after a police officer observed him returning empty beer bottles to a store for recycling, as if he’d knocked them all back on the way over in his car.

But the thing that makes this so especially strange is how the Liberals, not long ago, were embracing the very same arguments they now say concern them not at all. During the run-up to the legalization of cannabis, no less an authority on right-thinking Liberal values than Justin Trudeau himself explained that it was important that Canada legalize cannabis because of — wait for it — racial factors, that saw police applying marijuana laws with disproportion and discrimination against minorities. The prime minister even shared an anecdote about how his own late brother, Michel, after being arrested for possession of cannabis, was able to have that charge quietly taken care of. It helps to be a powerful white guy, the prime minister confessed, especially one as well-connected as the son of a prime minister. “That’s one of the fundamental unfairnesses of this current system is that it affects different communities in a different way,” he said in 2017, acknowledging that random screenings are rarely truly random, and that discretion is rarely equally applied.

The prime minister was right. So was Mr. Spratt and the CCLA. Beyond the basic offence to everyone’s rights constituted by such random and baseless searches, these expanded police powers will obviously be applied unevenly, and that is fundamentally unfair. Why was that so true for cannabis that the prime minister used it to justify why legalization was necessary, but the Liberals deem it to be of no concern whatsoever for impaired driving?

Source: NP View: Racism lurks in the supposedly ‘woke’ Liberals’ new impaired driving laws

National Post View: Are Republican candidates actually on to something about “anchor babies”? | National Post

National Post Editorial on the US debate in the Republican primaries on  birth tourism (‘anchor babies’) and implications for Canada:

We aren’t endorsing any policy change here, but would simply point out that birthright citizenship is not the gold standard of fairness many might believe. As with the United States, changing the status quo would involve great expense and effort, making it of questionable pragmatic value. But in principle, the GOP candidates have a point: in a liberal democracy, the right of citizenship should be based on actual connection to the country in question, not a mere reflection of where one happened to be born.

The editorial ignores that CIC and provincial evidence shows this is a minimal issue in terms of numbers (see my earlier article of a year ago in the Hill Times What happened to Kenney’s cracking down on birth tourism? Feds couldn’t do it alone):

Officials could only identify about 500 cases of suspected birth tourism out of an annual average of some 360,000 live births in Canada, or 0.14 per cent.

CIC public consultations in  2013 resulted only in more anecdotes, not hard evidence.

Evidence-based editorials please!

National Post View: Are Republican candidates actually on to something about “anchor babies”? | National Post.

Supreme Court rules against prayer at city council meetings and selected commentary

Lot’s of coverage of the SCC decision on regarding prayer city council meetings, starting with the basics:

In 2008, city officials initially changed the prayer to one it deemed more neutral and delayed the opening of council by two minutes to allow citizens a window to return follow the reciting.

The Supreme Court said Canadian society has evolved and given rise to a “concept of neutrality according to which the state must not interfere in religion and beliefs.”

“The state must instead remain neutral in this regard,” the judgment said.

“This neutrality requires that the state neither favour nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non-belief. It requires that the state abstain from taking any position and thus avoid adhering to a particular belief.

“When all is said and done, the state’s duty to protect every person’s freedom of conscience and religion means that it may not use its powers in such a way as to promote the participation of certain believers or non-believers in public life to the detriment of others.”

The City of Ottawa quickly reacts with a sensible approach: a minute of silence and reflection:

In Ottawa, Mayor Jim Watson replaced the prayer with a moment of silence — even though he said the prayer councillors have been reciting for years was non-denominational.

“I always thought that our prayer was very respectful of all religions and cultures. But the court has ruled and we’ll take the ruling seriously. The alternative I believe would make some sense is to offer, as we did today, a moment of personal reflection and people can pray themselves personally and privately,” Watson said.

Supreme Court rules against prayer at city council meetings – Montreal – CBC News.

Best commentary seen to date:

The Court didn’t bite. It lacked evidence of the circumstances and purpose of the Commons prayer, Justice Gascon argued, and besides, it might be covered by parliamentary privilege. That might save it from the judiciary; it shouldn’t save it from Canadians’ scrutiny. While Maurice Duplessis’ crucifix still looms over the speaker’s chair in Quebec City, the National Assembly abandoned its introductory prayer nearly 40 years ago in favour of a moment of reflection — one in which members and others can gather courage and inspiration from whichever sources, earthly or otherwise, they choose. That’s an idea worth reflecting on.

National Post Editorial: The separation of prayer and council

But perhaps the part of the judgment that will be read most carefully by justice officials and their political masters is the section that spells out that a neutral public space is not one that obliterates religious diversity.

In paragraph 74 of the judgment, and almost as an aside from its core narrative, Justice Clément Gascon writes: “I note that a neutral public space does not mean the homogenization of private players in that space. Neutrality is required of institutions and the state, not individuals.”

He adds for good measure: “. . . a secular state does not — and cannot — interfere with the beliefs or practices of a religious group unless they conflict with or harm overriding public interests.”

That amounts to a red light flashing in the face of any government contemplating — as Quebec recently did — the imposition of a secular dress code on its public sector employees.

It also suggests that the federal government, should it want the court to give its ban on face-covering niqabs at citizenship oath ceremonies a green light, may have to come up with a pretty compelling demonstration of the “overriding public interest” served by such a measure.

Canadian legislators will have to pay attention to Supreme Court’s prayer ruling: Hébert