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Conservative Government Cancels Court Challenges Program

From May 14, 2008

The Court Challenges Program was first established in 1978. It was designed to provide legal and financial assistance to Canadians whose voice would not otherwise be heard by the courts. It was believed that in order to assure the equality rights of all Canadians, it was vital that Canadians, regardless of situation or financial means, have the ability to challenge government laws and directives on constitutional grounds. Without this protection, many Canadians would be voiceless when confronted by an unconstitutional action by their government - for them, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms rendered an ineffectual piece of paper.

This seemed to be of little concern to the Conservative party when they cancelled all funding for the program, on September 25, 2006.

In the House of Commons, Stephen Harper responded indignantly to questions about the program's cancellation, saying that his government "intends to behave in a constitutional manner," and that they "do not intend to adopt unconstitutional legislation." But can Mr. Harper make the same guarantee for the governments that follow his? Why cancel a long-term protection that was functioning perfectly well, at very little cost?

Does it make sense to remove all the fire extinguishers from a building, reasoning that "We have no intention of starting a fire"?

Harper's Conservatives have a history of not handling well the questioning of their authority or judgment, whether in the House of Commons or in the courts. When confronted, they would sooner silence the opposing voice than debate it. One might ask, "Is it wise to trust the intentions of a government that behaves in this manner?"