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Blue Blogging Soapbox
...rambling rants, thoughts and musings on mostly political topics - from your late night blogger.

Monday, February 27, 2006

NDP MP is the sham 
(en francais)

The following article awaited me as I opened up today's issue of the Windsor Star. I haven't written a Letter to the Editor in a while and this one certainly cries out for a response. My submission follows the article.
MP calls judge hearing 'sham'(subscribers only)
Danger of compromising top court nominee on future legal matters, Comartin says

Roseann Danese, Windsor Star
Published: Monday, February 27, 2006

Windsor MP Joe Comartin is raising concerns about today's historic public hearing that will see MPs question Supreme Court of Canada nominee Marshall Rothstein, a federal court judge.

Comartin, the NDP representative on the 12-member committee that will publicly scrutinize Rothstein this afternoon, is calling the hearing a "sham" and a "public relations exercise" by the new Conservative government.

"I'm highly critical of the Conservatives doing this," Comartin said Saturday. "I think they're trying to mimic a process in the United States that has no particular application in Canada."

Comartin, the NDP's justice critic, is backing away from earlier threats to boycott the hearing. But he plans to table a motion before the hearing, setting out the criteria for questions and spelling out what should and shouldn't be asked.

Comartin says the committee should ask questions about Rothstein's capacity to get along with other judges, about how he analyzes the law and about his specific qualifications. They're technical questions that will bore most people, but they're important to know and they won't subject the judge to partisan grilling about matters that may come before him during his tenure on the nation's highest court.

Comartin believes the government is responding to a segment of their supporters who want to see Supreme Court nominees vetted over their positions on contentious issues such as same sex marriage, abortion and age of consent. "There is this rabid right wing group that is very, very adamant about trying to bring in these types of hearings," he said.

But such tough questioning doesn't really mean anything in Canada. Unlike U.S. Senate hearings, the committee of MPs overseeing the hearing here has no real power to stop the nomination. In the U.S., the Senate can veto a Supreme Court nomination.

"That cannot happen here. Our constitution gives the Prime Minister sole authority to appoint Supreme Court justices," Comartin said.

Real danger

The real danger lies in compromising the justice's position on matters that could be placed before the Supreme Court in the future.

"You do not want the judges to be asked questions that would show that they've prejudged a factual or legal situation," Comartin said. "What you see happening in the United States is where judges are backed into a corner and forced to take a position."

He noted the Bloc Quebecois representatives on the committee have said they want to ask Rothstein how he would have voted on the case of Sue Rodriguez, a severely ill B.C. woman, who was not entitled to receive assistance to end her life, according to an earlier Supreme Court ruling. "So in effect they're asking him what's your position on assisted suicide," Comartin said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he wants the hearing to shed light on an appointment system that always has taken place in private.

Letter to the Editor

NDP MP the sham

The only thing that was a sham in Monday's article on the new Supreme Court selection process was NDP MP Joe Comartin's response. He managed to accuse the Conservatives of implementing an American style process, aligning themselves with a rabid right wing group and carrying out this process only to advance their own social agenda.

How about looking at things from a different perspective. The new hearings are a first step in breaking open a process that has been dominated by secrecy, politics and an elitist legal community. No longer will Canadians have to accept a 'father knows best' attitude when it comes to appointing judges to unassailable lifetime appointments.

For an MP representing a so called progressive party, Mr. Comartin is certainly portraying a regressive attitude. Under the current system, Prime Minister Harper could simply appoint his own version of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. No rabid right wing vetting process to worry about, an absolute fait accompli.

Academics and politicians alike have been spending millions of dollars trying to figure out how to engage Canadians in the political process. The answer is simple. Unlock the door, open the window and let the public in. The public can't be all that bad, we keep electing you and the 307 other MPs to represent us. Although on some days, who knows why we do.

Stephen Taylor also wades in on the issue of Joe Comartin and his 'progressive' attitude.

Paul Synnott at 5:56 a.m.    | en francais | Go to Top|

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