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Justice Canada lawyer Edgar Schmidt leaves federal court in Ottawa on Jan. 15, 2013. Mr. Schmidt asserts that Parliament is not being told when new legislation likely violates the Charter. (Dave Chan For The Globe and Mail)
Justice Canada lawyer Edgar Schmidt leaves federal court in Ottawa on Jan. 15, 2013. Mr. Schmidt asserts that Parliament is not being told when new legislation likely violates the Charter. (Dave Chan For The Globe and Mail)

What readers think

Jan. 18: Train the lawmakers to make laws, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Train the lawmakers

Re MPs Not Told When Bills Violate Charter (Jan. 17): The problem here is even greater than the article implies. When I was in Parliament, Reformers frequently asked ministers introducing bills to provide the legal opinion on their Charter compatibility. We were told such opinions were “client confidential” between ministers and their legal advisers, and our requests were denied.

If the House officers who assist members to draft private members bills were free to say how many of these proposed bills are unconstitutional in their initial form, I’m afraid they would say “far too many.” Here the biggest problem is not Charter incompatibility, but members being unclear as to which subjects are clearly within the constitutional jurisdiction of the federal government and which are not.

Nor is this problem confined to Canada. A recent Washington Times survey of 3,000 bills introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2011 found that many of these were of dubious constitutionality. This despite the fact that congressmen are under oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and are required to reference that part of it which authorizes Congress to take the action they are proposing.

What all of this points to is not only the need for greater access by lawmakers to legal opinions on bills, but the need for more rigorous training of lawmakers in lawmaking.

Preston Manning, former leader of the Reform Party, Calgary

.........

Kudos to senior lawyer and whistleblower Edgar Schmidt: Canada needs a Charter of Common Sense. Heard recently on a TV drama: “When the law is an ass, somebody needs to kick it.”

Barbara Smith, North Vancouver

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It hit the mark

Many thanks to cartoonist Brian Gable for his glorious depiction of the National Rifle Association’s notion of Paradise, which superbly complements the strong editorial alongside on guns in the United States (Life, Liberty And Be Ready To Duck – Jan. 17). I particularly appreciated Adam’s bandolier and the souped-up Bren gun that covered all of Eve’s attractions but her shapely hips, not to mention the lion lying down with the lamb, and the python’s pistol. It will have pride of place in my bulging album of Mr. Gable’s better cartoons. Such detail. Such humour.

Clyde Sanger, Ottawa

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‘Linguistic purity’

Another mean-spirited directive by the much-despised Office Québécois de la langue française (In Sainte-Agathe, Language Ruling Disrupts A Tradition Of Harmony – Jan. 17).

The Quebec government continues to shine a bright light on its own intolerance and scorn for “others.” Banishing a page of English from the town bulletin does nothing to attract tourism or business development, is a slap in the face not only to those wishing to read the civic bulletin in English but to all reasonable Quebeckers.

I, like thousands of Montrealers, spend a lot of time in the Laurentians. I consult the Sainte-Agathe bulletin regularly online (our chalet is in the neighbouring town) in order to access the arena, pool, skating and more. Each time I visit Sainte-Agathe, I pay for services and purchase products, food or meals. Less communication means less attraction and fewer dollars spent in a town that has struggled economically for years. It means fewer points of contact between the two communities that have lived side by side in harmony for over a century.

When will Quebeckers finally realize how we are causing damage to ourselves, our reputation and our economy in the name of linguistic purity? How sad for us all.

Glenn J. Nashen, Cote Saint-Luc, Que.

...........

How Canadian

A letter writer is in high dudgeon because The Globe’s editorial board dared to call for the Venezuelan president to resign (Chavez’s Future – Jan. 16). It seems the board spurned the traditional but passé sovereignty doctrine in favour of the more fashionable “responsibility to protect” – how Canadian!

The letter continues: “Imagine for one moment, if you will, a newspaper in Venezuela calling on Stephen Harper to resign.”As someone living under a Harper majority, I would welcome calls for our Prime Minister’s resignation from concerned editors worldwide.

Peter Alexander, Toronto

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Cut police costs

Your endorsement of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’s recent push for nationwide police budget reductions recalls the British expression, “What you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts” – only in reverse (Eating Up Budgets – editorial, Jan. 17). This is the same minister, and the same government that ceaselessly preaches the virtues of more mandatory minimum sentences, penalties that have dubious deterrent effect, and a highly questionable policy given the declining crime rates noted in your editorial.

Fewer police, but more inmates; less crime, but more trials, appeals, and associated constitutional challenges to such sentences, all on the public dime. And with prison programing cutbacks as recently authorized by the resourceful Mr. Toews, we can look forward to fewer police dealing with more people returned to society who spent longer periods simply locked up – no greater recidivism risks (and those social costs) posed there, surely.

The minister is right to question ever-increasing police budgets. A little justice-systemwide consistency would be just as welcome.

Bryan Davies, Whitby, Ont.

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Cut firefighter costs

Kudos to Margaret Wente (How Firefighters Fan The Flames Of Fear – Jan. 17): Aside from the issues regarding the need to change the model of response to emergencies and the justification for budget restraint, the insurance/fear-mongering ticket has successfully been pulled once again. It appears that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s gravy train still offers first-class seating.

Ray Wolanin, Toronto

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Toronto Fire Services stabilizes your father who had a heart attack until the EMS arrives, and rescues your daughter from an elevator when the power goes out in the downtown core. They extricate the injured civilians from car wrecks before the EMS can begin to treat them. In instances of suicide or death in the subway, it is the firefighters who go onto the tracks to retrieve bodies for the police investigation. They are the front lines. They fill in the gaps between the roles of the police and EMS, and yes, they really do run into burning buildings to save your children.

Anyone who truly understood how far above and beyond their job description Toronto firefighters go would not question their essential nature.

Deanna Soloninka, Toronto

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If Toronto firefighters are making as much money as Margaret Wente claims, why would they need to “drive limos and work construction”?

I would have thought shopping more likely.

Tony Burt, Vancouver

 

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