Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

“Canadians want our judges to continue being selected without political or ideological interference. Will the Prime Minister stop his shameless attempts to stack the committees with his ideological friends?”
"Liberal leader Stéphane Dion

When governments seek to remove the “checks” embedded in the system in which they exist, opposition politicians, journalists and general citizens should be engaged and informed about the issue. That is, if they aren’t already completely outraged.

This A+ goes to Stéphane Dion not because of any kind of Liberal policy, but because he was quick to address the disturbing recent actions of the Conservative government.

It’s not the first time Harper has taken issue with political or social institutions able to criticize or temper his government’s power. For instance, his fight with the media still lingers in the public’s memory. However, Harper’s dogged attempts to eliminate as much opposition as he can is getting excessive.

Canada’s independent judiciary has been a sense of pride for a long time and is in the Constitution as a principle of our society. It’s not exaggerating to say Harper is threatening this important feature of our democratic society.

He is doing so by proposing changes to the judicial advisory committees, which generate lists of potential judges that the justice minister then appoints. These influential committees used to be composed of three members appointed by the government, and four others from different sources like the Canadian Bar Association. Harper has rearranged the structure so there are four voting government-appointed members, and only three other voting members.

Harper, of course, is taking advantage of this change " nearly half the members chosen for various committees are easily identifiable as partisan Conservatives " but his promotion of his own agenda is only part of the issue.

The point of an independent judiciary " a standard the UN endorses worldwide " is to act as a balancing agent on governments, preventing the “tyranny of the majority,” or the potentially dangerous whim of a government in power.

Tampering with the committees that appoint judges to make them more partisan doesn’t just hurt people with liberal or left political views; it hurts justice and democracy.

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