Long read: 10 questions that members of the justice committee should ask Jody Wilson-Raybould

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      Over the past two weeks, national media outlets have devoted enormous attention to whether former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould was pressured by the prime minister's office.

      It came after the Globe and Mail reported that efforts were made to get a serious criminal prosecution dropped against SNC-Lavalin in exchange for a "remediation agreement".

      To opposition politicians, this issue strikes at the core of the independence of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada and whether the country's justice system is free from political interference.

      Yesterday, the story took another twist when Wilson-Raybould said in Parliament that she wants to tell "her truth". But she may not be able to do this if Justin Trudeau doesn't waive solicitor-client privilege.

      The justice committee has invited her to speak about this matter, which will likely occur next week.

      Watch CBC TV's coverage of Jody Wilson-Raybould's decision to abstain in a parliamentary vote that rejected a public inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin inquiry.

      It's been a bumpy 2019 for the federal Liberals, who've been falling in the polls.

      On February 18, the prime minister's principal secretary, Gerald Butts, handed in his resignation. This came a few days after Wilson-Raybould had quit the cabinet. Butts denied pressuring her.

      As important as this matter is, it shouldn't be the only concern for the justice committee.

      As one of Wilson-Raybould's constituents in Vancouver Granville, I would like her to answer other questions in connection with her three-year tenure as justice minister.

      In particular, I would like to know the extent, if any, of the prime minister's office's involvement in a number of controversial decisions.

      In several areas, the Liberal government has taken action—or declined to make a move—in ways that could arguably infringe on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

      The Liberal brand is built around respect for the charter, which was introduced by Trudeau's father in 1982.

      Many progressive-thinking Canadians blithely accept that the Liberals hold the charter in high regard. But this is questionable in light of the record of the Justin Trudeau government.

      In the spirit of shedding more light on this, I offer the following questions below.

      Let's hope that justice committee members decide to lob a few of them at Wilson-Raybould when she appears before them to tell "her truth".

      B.C. filmmaker Kevin Eastwood directed this short, "This Ruling Changes Everything: The Story of Carter v. Canada", about the fight to legalize physician-assisted death.

      1. Physician-assisted death

      It's been widely argued that the Medical Assistance in Dying legislation does not conform with the Carter ruling in the Supreme Court of Canada.

      The court said that medically assisted death should be available to Canadians in cases that are "grievous and irremediable". But your legislation required there to be a "foreseeable death", which is different. It may not offer this relief to someone with a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer's or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

      Did the prime minister's office pressure you, as justice minister, to introduce legislation that was offside with the Carter ruling?


      2. Mandatory minimum sentences

      The Supreme Court of Canada and superior courts in different provinces have ruled that mandatory minimum sentences are unconstitutional.

      You told the Criminal Lawyers' Association's annual conference that restoring judicial discretion was a priority. But you took little action.

      Bill C-39 did not address mandatory minimums for drug and firearm crimes, even though the court had already ruled in these areas.

      Did the prime minister's office pressure you, as justice minister, to hold back on addressing how these sentences were offside with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

      The Liberal government has ignored the voices of sex workers and their allies who've criticized the Conservatives' draconian legislation.
      Charlie Smith

      3. Law targeting the sex trade

      Civil libertarians, health experts, and advocates for sex workers were appalled when the former Conservative government passed the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act.

      Many say it flies in the face of the Supreme Court of Canada's 2013 decision striking down three prostitution laws as unconstitutional.

      UBC associate professor of medicine Kate Shannon has said that the legislation exacerbates "the negative effects of criminalization on sex workers' health, safety, and human rights".

      Yet you, as justice minister, did nothing to roll back dangerous provisions in this legislation.

      Did the prime minister's office pressure you not to amend the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, notwithstanding legal experts' concerns that it violates section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

      Amanda Siebert

      4. Indigenous rights

      The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples calls upon states to "consult and cooperate in good faith with Indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that affect them".

      The prime minister and the finance minister bought the Trans Mountain pipeline system for $4.5 billion and agreed to spend $9.3 billion of public funds for an expansion without having the free, prior and informed consent of all Indigenous governments, including the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish. 

      Did the prime minister's office pressure you to prevent the passage of legislation that would give real teeth to the UN declaration and offer an additional legal avenue for First Nations to fight the pipeline in the courts?

      Over Twitter, Indigenous writer and activist Russ Diabo wrote this message below this image: "The Trudeau Family Values on Indigenous Collective Rights!"
      Russ Diabo

      5. Indigenous self-government

      Kahnawake Mohawk intellectual Russ Diabo has argued that the Trudeau government's long-term goal is to extinguish Aboriginal title by foisting municipal-style governance on First Nations.

      He claims that this is the real agenda behind the Liberal government's plan to introduce a new legislative framework for Indigenous peoples. In effect, Diabo is alleging that Justin Trudeau wants to accomplish the outcome envisioned in his father Pierre's much-despised "white paper" of 1969.

      As justice minister, did you ever feel pressured by the prime minister to introduce legislation that would put Indigenous people on an equal footing with all other Canadians, even though this overlooked their collective Indigenous rights?

      Vancouver Kingsway NDP MP Don Davies has called for far bolder action on overdoses than the Liberal government is prepared to accept.
      Charlie Smith

      6. Decriminalizing narcotics

      In the wake of 4,000 Canadians dying from opioid overdoses—including 1,400 in B.C.—NDP health critic Don Davies stood up in Parliament and called for a dramatic change in federal drug policy.

      Davies proposed eliminating criminal penalties for personal possession of hard drugs, including cocaine and heroin, to eliminate stigma. Some drug policy advocates say legalization is required to ensure addicts have access to clean opioids, rather than resorting to often-fatal fentanyl-laced pills purchased illegally.

      Some suggest that this is necessary to ensure that addicts' charter right to life under section 7 is respected.

      As justice minister, you maintained criminal prohibitions on drug possession as the government eventually expanded access to supervised-consumption sites.

      Did the prime minister's office pressure you, as justice minister, not to take more dramatic action to address the overdose crisis in Canada?

      Health Canada ensured that while cannabis is legal, the packaging will be dull enough to discourage anyone from buying it.
      Health Canada

      7. Cannabis Act

      In the Irwin Toy ruling in 1989, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that companies have a constitutional right under section 2(b) of the charter to advertise their products.

      However, it was a reasonable limit to prohibit these ads being targeted to children under the age of 13.

      The Cannabis Act regulation, however, prohibits advertising and marketing pretty much across the board.

      Did the prime minister's office pressure you, as justice minister, to introduce this measure?

      And do you feel that the Cannabis Act is offside with the Irwin Toy ruling and infringes on section 2(b) of the charter?

      Getty Images

      8. Saliva testing for cannabis

      When you were justice minister, Ms. Wilson-Raybould, your department announced a new roadside saliva test to detect cannabis.

      You subsequently approved the German-made Dräger DrugTest 5000, which supposedly provides reasonable grounds for a police officer to take someone into the station to confirm if they're cannabis-impaired.

      It didn't impress Vancouver police chief Adam Palmer, who announced that his department wasn't going to use it.

      Critics say these roadside saliva tests can record a positive test long after the effects of cannabis have vanished. That's because the cannabinoid THC is stored in fat cells.

      Did the prime minister's office pressure you, as justice minister, to approve this roadside saliva test despite these concerns?

      Do you believe that this test could be struck down by the courts for infringing on section 8 of the charter, which says everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure?

      National Geographic once examined whether keeping people in solitary confinement constituted psychological torture.

      9. Solitary confinement

      For years, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society of Canada fought court cases arguing that the federal government's widespread use of solitary confinement violated inmates' constitutional rights.

      Another lawsuit filed in Ontario claimed that federal penitentiaries "are becoming Canada's largest repositories for the mentally ill". Along the way, the feds lost a couple of court rulings. 

      Yet it wasn't until last fall that legislation finally came forward to address the concerns around administrative segregation and disciplinary segregation. But the federal correctional ombudsman, Ivan Zinger, told the Globe and Mail that the changes in Bill C-83 will still result in "difficult conditions of confinement".

      The minister of public safety, Ralph Goodale, is responsible for the federal correctional system. He's also deputy leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. 

      Did the prime minister's office pressure you, as justice minister, with regard to any legal opinions you might have had with respect to whether Bill C-83 was unconstitutional?

      When Beverley McLachlin retired as chief justice, there were no longer any B.C. judges on Canada's highest court.
      Concordia University

      10. Two Alberta judges on Supreme Court of Canada

      After Beverley McLachlin retired as chief justice in 2017, Justin Trudeau replaced her with an Alberta appointee, Sheilah Martin. There was already another Alberta judge on the Supreme Court of Canada, Russell Brown.

      The prime minister's decision meant there would be no British Columbia judge on Canada's highest court. There are three justices from Ontario and three from Quebec, and not a single one of Indigenous ancestry.

      Did the prime minister's office pressure you, as justice minister, to remain silent about this issue?

      Did you privately argue for the appointment of an Indigenous person from B.C. to the Supreme Court of Canada and were those arguments rejected by Trudeau and his staff?

      Did you privately argue to amend the Supreme Court Act to ensure that B.C. has at least one justice in the future?