The legal profession is not the most diverse of profession. For the longest time it was reserved for white cis men with enough financial mean to survive legal training. It has slowly opened its door to white cis women (although there are still issues, especially in the private sector). It is still very white and cis-hetero normative however. There are probably many causes for the homogeneity of the legal profession (financial barrier to access the profession, hiring biases in large firms, the image of the profession, etc). The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) is at least currently considering ways to increase diversity in the profession. While the LSUC is far from having control over all the factors affecting diversity, it does have the power to accredit law schools, and law schools are often viewed as the true gatekeepers of the profession. This power is, however, rarely used as new law schools are a rare thing. Trinity Western University (TWU), a private university that caters to evangelical Christians, is the most recent university so seek accreditation. TWU has an infamous covenant that all students are required to sign. This covenant forbids sexual intimacy except between married heterosexual couples. This unsurprisingly shocked many people including benchers (the decision-makers of the LSUC). Accrediting TWU seemed, at the very least, to go against diversifying the legal profession. The LSUC ultimately rejected TWU accreditation because of its discriminatory covenant. A law suit ensued, pitting equality against freedom of religion. Days before Toronto Pride, the Ontario Court of Appeal (ONCA) upheld the decision of the LSUC. In this post, I shortly expose additional background on the case. I then explore the decision’s treatment of the LSUC’s decision making power. I finish by looking at the ONCA’s approach to the balancing of rights.
For those who are unaware, the Toronto Pride Parade was on 3 July this year. Usually the parade is pretty uneventful for the erudite. It can be a fun and colourful event (and has some significance when it’s your first), but it’s pretty repetitive (especially the one in Toronto). Same floats, same corporations pretending to care, same organisations, etc. This year, however, something pretty significant happened during pride. No, I’m not talking about Prime Minister Trudeau’s participation in the parade (I couldn’t care less about that in all honesty). Nor I am talking about the 34 years too late apology by the police for the Toronto bathhouse raids in the 80s (what about reparation?). I’m talking about the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest during the parade. The group, composed largely of black queer people – supported by other people of colour and indigenous people (POCIP) – stopped the parade for 25 min to make demands to Pride Toronto. The demands were mostly more inclusion of POCIP in pride. One, however, shocked a great many people: the removal of the police as participants in pride events. The executive director of pride accepted the demands, only to backtrack in part the next day. We will see how things progress, but I doubt BLM will simply give up (thankfully).
It is the time of the year when people get their rainbow flags out and celebrate sexual diversity. This weekend will be pride in Toronto with all the glitter and the shirtless men it entails. There is a lot of debate surrounding the political aspect of pride, or lack thereof, but that’s not what I want to talk about. I don’t mind pride as it is: a giant queer festival (I have issues with it on some level but I will not explore them here). I usually just let myself get carried by the atmosphere and let the politics behind for a time. Nevertheless, I thought it was a good time to see were we, Canada, were on trans issues (legally speaking). Two years ago, I lamented the foreseeable death of Bill C-279 in a post. The bill was revived at the beginning of the current session of Parliament, but sabotaged in committee with a slew of bathroom panic arguments. Now it will likely die (again), only to be brought back if the next government, after the fall election, actually values the lives of trans people. From that point, let’s see what has happened and will happen for trans rights in Canada.
Carter and the right to end one’s life
Last week the British Columbia Court of Appeal decided to allow the Attorney General’s appeal to the constitutional challenge of the assisted suicide prohibition: the Carter case. This case featured two persons named Gloria Taylor and Lee Carter. Both suffered from intractable and progressive diseases, and wished to have the option of physician assisted suicide when their life would become intolerable (they both passed away before the appeal was rendered). However, s 241(b) of the Criminal Code makes aiding or abetting a person to commit suicide a crime. Ms. Carter and Taylor challenged the constitutionality of the section alleging a violation of their right to life, liberty and security of the person, and of their right to equality. One of the major hurdles they faced was that a similar issue involving the same section of the Code was challenged on similar grounds and had been decided by the Supreme Court of Canada in the past. In Rodriguez, the plaintiff lost her appeal to the Supreme Court by a close 5 to 4 vote. Nevertheless, the trial judge, Justice Smith, found that she was not bound by the Supreme Court ruling because this case raised three new grounds: (1) the right to life was not at stake in Rodriguez; (2) two principle of fundamental justice did not exist at the time of Rodriguez, overbroadness and gross disproportionality; (3) the majority did not consider s 15 (equality) in its entirety in addition to the fact that recent Supreme Court decisions changed the applicable test. She found in the plaintiffs’ favour and declared the section unconstitutional with a grace period of one year for the government.
We are all aware (hopefully) that the human rights situation, especially for LGBTQ people, is highly variable around the world. Many means of advocating for changes in countries with less enviable situations than ours (and by ours I mean Canada specifically but the global west generally) make me uneasy as they are often tainted with imperialism and colonialism, even if unconsciously (homonationalism). Beside direct interventions and other saviour type interventions, one thing that can help and does not require forcing western values on developing countries is welcoming and protecting refugees. It is the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, adopted in the aftermath of the Second World War as a reaction to States who turned back Jewish and other refugees, that establish the prohibition to return refugees to their country of origin (the obligation is called non-refoulement). Crucial to this obligation on State is the determination of refugee status which is done mainly by the State of refuge in accordance with the Convention or by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In Canada it is the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that governs refugee status. This post looks at recent problems encountered by Mexican queer refugees within the refugee determination system of Canada. Mainly it looks at the impact of perceived state protection, as exemplified by X (Re), 2012 CanLII 91398, and of Designated countries of origin.
This weekend was Pride in Toronto (and coincidently it is Canada day this Monday). Millions of people from across the country and the word converged on the metropolis to celebrate LGBTQ Pride, a mostly commercial but also a bit political event. I always approach Pride as a festival more than anything else. I can be an advocate nearly all other days; this one is for celebration and fun time. Nevertheless, this year felt very different as I did not feel like celebrating much. While many were celebrating the death of DOMA and Prop 8, a much more Canadian issue was mainly absent from Pride (outside of the trans circles/specific events of course): the inclusion of gender identity as a protected ground in the Canadian Human Rights Act.