Insite: Will Harper prevail by stacking Supreme Court of Canada?

This afternoon, there was a rally at Victory Square for Insite, which is Vancouver's incredibly popular supervised-injection site.

The protesters gathered to object to the Conservative government's decision to appeal a recent ruling in B.C. Supreme Court.

Earlier this week, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Pitfield granted Insite an exemption from Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

In a presentation to the federal health committee on May 29, Health Minister Tony Clement downplayed the effectiveness of Insite, and highlighted the importance of prevention. Clement told members of the committee that the government is appealing Pitfield's decision.

From Clement's testimony, it was pretty obvious that he hasn't read Gabor Mate's superb recent book, Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction. It gives a pretty thorough explanation why so many people are dealing with addiction in western society, and why the war on drugs is a massive public-policy fiasco.

If Clement and Harper had any real compassion, they would take the time to read Mate's book and not just rely on briefings from their staff or from police lobby groups about the nature of addiction.

There's another issue--one that hasn't received much attention so far--in connection with the Conservative government's decision to appeal the Insite decision.

In 2000, the B.C. government lost a court case in the B.C. Supreme Court regarding its legal obligations to fund early-autism intervention. Justice Marion Allan ruled that the government's actions violated autistic children's constitutional rights.

The B.C. government lost again in the B.C. Court of Appeal. But the government succeeded in the Supreme Court of Canada in what was known as the Auton case, thanks to the highest court's narrow interpretation of the government's obligations under medicare.

If Harper remains prime minister for a few more years, he'll have an opportunity to stack the Supreme Court of Canada with judges who support his strict view regarding the powers of governments under Canada's constitution.

If enough conservative-minded judges are appointed, it's quite conceivable that Pitfield's ruling--which was grounded in the constitutional rights of drug addicts--will ultimately be overturned.

And one day, that could lead to the closure of Vancouver's supervised-injection site, and a whole lot more protests on the Downtown Eastside.




Jun 2, 2008 at 8:47am

The canadian public is exceedingly wary of Stephen Harper's conservatism; it's the main reason why his party has failed to rise far enough in the polls to be safe calling an election.

The Harper tories are still on probation with the public. They may never get off probation; the public knowes that Stephen Harper wants to do things we'll hate, and only the short leash he's on is holding him back.

Any attempt to stack the cupreme court--for this issue or any other--would rapidly turn into an abortion scare, and that would rapidly turn into an election the conservatives will lose.

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Jun 19, 2008 at 12:19pm

Wrong s1m0n. The public is exceedingly wary of Harper's conservatism because of the liberal-biased media and the leftist propaganda circulated in major urban centers.

As a matter of fact, the Conservative minority government has managed to hold almost all of the support that brought them to power 2.5 years ago. All the Conservatives need is another 5-7% in popular support (depending on which poll you read) and they will win a majority government in the next election. This election will most likely happen later this year.

No matter when the election is, Harper will have made 2 appointments to the Supreme Court - the second coming before the September session starts. That is already enough appointments to sway the court from their liberal interpretations of the charter to a more centrist view. Did you see the latest ruling on spousal support after a divorce?

The truth is that Canadians are leaning more towards the right. The more gradual the change, the longer the change will last. The Trudeau-Liberal years are finally coming to a close and not a second too soon.

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