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B.C. Civil Liberties Association Releases Best and Worst of 2002

Brickbats

Canadian Alliance MP Randy White for suggesting that prisoners will be able to determine the outcome of federal elections in places like Abbotsford and Kingston, Ontario. In fact, federal prisoners vote in their home ridings so the impact of their votes are spread across the country. It’s the sort of fact you’d think the Honourable Member for Abbotsford would know, having had the job since 1993. Loosen your sombrero, pal!

Mayor Doug McCallum and the City of Surrey for the year’s most exorbitant tax increase – 5000 percent. It seems Sheriff McCallum wants pharmacies dispensing methadone out of town by sundown, so he and his posse jacked their business license fee to $10,000 from $195. In fact, such pharmacies reduce crime, drug abuse, HIV/Hep C transmission and improve the quality of life for addicts by providing a stable and safe supply of a drug while addicts seek to overcome their addictions in recovery. Don’t think pardners like Mayor Larry Campbell will take kindly to you trying to dump your social problems on your neighbours either.

Geoff Plant, Attorney General of B.C., for cutting legal aid. Sorry, he didn’t actually cut it, he fired the board of the Legal Services Society and had his new team swing the big ax. Replaced community clinics and other real live services with a 1-800 number. Someone should really cut down on watching those late night infomercials, they aren’t the best source of policy advice.

Sandy Santori, Minister of Management Services. He’s the guy who tried to sneak exemptions from the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act through in a miscellaneous statutes amendment law. Unfortunately some people do read those things, and there it was, right between the Escheats Act and the Highways Act. It follows 35 percent budget cuts to the Freedom of Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Ombudsman’s offices. So much for open government. Maybe they should have discussed it at an open cabinet meeting first…

Government of British Columbia – Referendumb. Need we say more?

Gordon Hogg, Minister of Children and Family Development for forcing the closure of the Campbell Valley Women’s Centre, the only intensive residential treatment facility in B.C. for girls aged 13-18 suffering from drug or alcohol addiction. If this facility was still around, we might have fewer drug/prostitution/crime problems in our communities. Short term gain for long term pain, isn’t that how it goes? It doesn’t have to.

The RCMP for their ahem, unusual, criteria for press accreditation at the G-8 Meeting in Kananaskis. Particularly troubling was the use of criteria such as “history of anti-social behavior” and “affiliation with subversive groups” in determining accreditation status. At least the meeting was safe from a ‘menace 2 society’ like Alan Twigg of BC Bookworld, whose application was one of those denied.

Speaker Claude Richmond for putting decorum before democracy. The Speaker is big on reporters who wear ties and who don’t write disrespectful articles about the legislature. And if you don’t get out of his office PDQ after receiving his wisdom on the role of the press in a free and democratic society, he’ll have you thrown in jail like gadfly/columnist/candidate Brian ‘Godzilla’ Salmi.

Federal Justice Minister Martin Cauchon for trying to score cheap political points by trying to get rid of the artistic merit defence in child pornography cases. A quick heads up – the courts may well find that ‘artistic merit’ comes under the ‘public good’ rubric you’ve replaced it with. That freedom of expression sure is hard to kill, isn’t it?

Elinor Caplan, Minister of National Revenue, for ringing in the New Year, 1984, eighteen years late. The Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) is collecting all kinds of personal information on everyone traveling in and out of Canada for all sorts of purposes aside from fighting terrorism. Not only that, they are keeping it for six years, and sharing it with other departments of government. Think of it as Santa’s naughty list, but with audit powers. You are not guilty until we can get something on you.

Minister Cauchon, again, this time for his department’s proposal to try to outdo Elinor Caplan’s Big Brother database. His department’s Lawful Access proposals would make it easier for police and security authorities to tap phones, track Web surfing and read e-mail, but while passing the cost along to service providers and customers. Maybe he thought the German telecom people were onto something when they sent a bill to people whose phones were being tapped.

Solicitor General Wayne Easter who announced that the federal government would create a national registry of sex offenders. At least they don’t plan to make it retroactive and give it its own cable channel, as some seem to be demanding.

B.C. Solicitor General Rick Coleman for trying to revive the “War on Drugs”. Funny thing, it only seems like Minister Coleman, cops, ultra-religious conservatives and U.S. drug czar John Walters are interested in continuing to wage a war that has little moral justification and does much more harm than good. Can anyone say “Vietnam”?

The Supreme Court of Canada for pulling the plug on a hearing of a challenge to the legality of Canada’s marijuana laws. The reason for putting the case off? The federal Justice Minister Martin Cauchon said it was going to look at amending the law. Less than a week later Prime Minister Chretien poured cold water on the idea in a year-end interview. Nice to see someone in the country still believes a politician’s promises. (BCCLA is intervening in the case.)

Bouquets

Philip Owen, Larry Campbell, the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs each get a bouquet of primo BC flowertop for finally realizing what a majority of Canadians understood a long time ago – drug abuse is a health issue not a criminal issue and thus we should be instituting harm reduction measures like safe injection sites to reduce overdoses and the transmission of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C. The Commons Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs gets a boutonnier for not taking the courageous stand of their Senate colleagues and advocating the legalization of marijuana.

The Government of British Columbia and particularly Geoff Plant, for ignoring its own referendumb on Aboriginal rights, and by dropping its insistence on ‘extinguishment’ before settling treaties. By finally getting rid of a major roadblock, we can now hope that negotiations with First Nations in BC will start bearing fruit. Somebody must have been reading “Getting to Yes” on the way to work.

The Honourable Mr. Justice Duncan Shaw for his courageous and much criticized decision in the Robin Sharpe case. Justice Shaw ruled that Mr. Sharpe’s writings were not child pornography because they had artistic merit, although he did find Mr. Sharpe guilty on other charges. Justice Shaw endured threats and abuse of all sorts, but remained steadfast in his duty – to uphold the Constitution. His is perhaps this year’s finest example of the importance of judicial independence.

Marc Hall, who took his own courageous stand by insisting that his boyfriend be his date to the prom at his Catholic high school in Oshawa, Ontario. The school board and the principal were opposed, but an Ontario court upheld his right to attend the prom his way. Just because you’re a teenager doesn’t mean you don’t have rights.

The Supreme Court of Canada, in two separate cases, for upholding the fundamental right to vote and for effectively overturning the Surrey School Board’s prohibition on children’s books depicting same-sex parents. In Sauve, the Court ruled for the second time that the federal government could not take away prisoners’ right to vote, thereby protecting the voting rights of all Canadians. In the book ban case, the Court hung its hat on a particularly Canadian value – tolerance – in ruling that the school board can’t ignore a basic fact that exists in Surrey classrooms when making curriculum decisions: that some students have parents who are of the same sex. (The BCCLA intervened in both cases, first to support prisoners’ right to vote and in the second case to argue that B.C.’s School Act prevents the school board from relying on religious viewpoints of some parents to prevent the use of school materials that reflect the diversity of the student population.)

Little Sisters bookstore for having the courage to take on Canada Customs yet again (with BCCLA’s help) on behalf of themselves but other gay and lesbian bookstores whose material always seems to be running into trouble at the border. This time it’s comic books that are the problem. Some suspect that if they were to change their name to Indigo or Chapters that they wouldn’t have these problems.

George Radwanski, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada for tirelessly standing up to the federal government’s numerous initiatives to cut into the privacy rights of Canadians. From police cameras in Kelowna to databases on travellers to bigger and better brothers of all sorts, Mr. Radwanski has never hesitated to make his views known to those in power. He is definitely the right person for this job in these troubled times.

Barbara Moyle, the accidental icon for police accountability, for steadfastly sticking by her principles and refusing to let the police complaint process beat her down. Ms. Moyle filed a complaint about the Vancouver Police actions in the Riot at the Hyatt in December 1998. Four years and three Police Complaint Commissioners later, she is still waiting for an answer. We hope she gets it, and soon.

The Woodsquatters, for making a very important point in a dignified, non-violent way. At a time when demonstrations so often degenerate into police/protester melees, this is a shining beacon for how protests can raise awareness, get action on an issue and do it peacefully. Quite an accomplishment for a disparate collection of groups and individuals in really tough personal circumstances.Congratulations to all of you, and congratulations to the new city council for helping to make it happen and the VPD for showing necessary restraint in allowing it to happen.