Monday, June 29, 2009

Tim Hudak and OHR reform

The champion of Canadian human rights commission/tribunal reform, Ezra Levant, reviews the past Ontario PC Party’s leadership campaign in terms of proposals made to maintain, reform or eliminate the human rights establishment in Ontario. This is an important conversation to be having for what happens in Ontario will almost certainly have a major impact federally and in other provinces.

I’m not 100 per cent sure just where new PC Party Leader Tim Hudak stands on the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (OHRT). I’m pleased that one of his promises during the leadership campaign was to scrap the OHRT and instead move to a court-based system. But his May 12 announcement also mentioned:

“Complaints would go to specially trained judges, similar to the existing Domestic Violence and Family Law Courts.”

Frankly, I would have been happier if the announcement had not added this reference to “specially trained judges.”

Why do our judges have to be specially trained? Are human rights so complicated or subtle that experienced judges have to be specially trained to adjudicate infringements? If our current judges have to be trained up to understand human rights legislation, what are the implications for the average citizen who is expected to understand the law well enough to comply with it? After all, ignorance of the law is not a defence.

We should be simplifying the law rather than training the judges. Surely human rights should be obvious and basic, not in any way complicated or subtle. Our intent should be to protect fundamental freedoms, not to enrich lawyers and the human rights establishment with its cadre of activists.

The language in Mr. Hudak’s May 12 announcement sounds a bit too much like the gobbly goop we have been hearing from the currently entrenched human rights establishment—you know, the likes of Barbara Hall of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and her Ottawa counterpart, Jenifer Lynch.

Human rights, as they exist in Canada, are pretty well spelled out in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And so I fail to understand why an average judge is not already competent to interpret the Charter well enough to adjudicate complaints? And, if an average judge is not up to the task, doesn’t this call into question the competency of our judiciary—the very judges currently trying all sorts of complicated, subtle cases of great importance.

I hope that with Mr Hudak’s proposals we will not be swapping one form of judicial tyranny for another.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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