The intemperate Mr. Cotler
By Fr. Alphonse de Valk
Issue: March 2005
Irwin Cotler is the most active and strongest member of Prime Minister Paul Martin's cabinet. If he remains Minister of Justice for any length of time, his "legacy"" will outlast that of Martin and Chétien combined.
Consider that in the short time Mr. Cotler has served as justice minister—that is, since December 12, 2003—he has first pushed the Prime Minister into committing himself to same-sex "marriage" (or homogamy) legislation ever more firmly, in part by controlling the sequence of events vis-à-vis the Supreme Court. Second, he has consolidated the Liberal party's somewhat hesitant commitment to the decriminalization of the possession of marijuana by introducing specific legislation. Third, he has re-ignited another divisive issue by suggesting that the assisted-suicide/euthanasia debate should be revisited (Nov. 2004). Fourth, he has plans to introduce same-sex divorce and use that opportunity to "overhaul" the Divorce Act in general as well as the child-custody laws. Fifth, he has thrown his weight around in the re-making of foreign policy when, on a weeklong visit to Israel and the mid-east in December last, he called for a new Canadian model of international co-operation based on ideas of democracy and justice as expressed in the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Sixth—and perhaps most importantly—he has been busy as a bee in consolidating Canada's judicial ranks in favour of judicial activism, feminism and radicalism.
According to the Canadian Jewish News weekly, the Justice Minister's work is shaped by Jewish values (CJN, Nov. 25, 2004). In December 2003, the then newly-appointed minister announced to the media that the Jewish injunction "Tzedek, tzedek tirdof" (Justice, justice shall you pursue) would guide his work as a principle for building a just, compassionate, and humane society and extend it to people of all races and religions. A former president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Cotler has devoted much time to promoting Jewish causes, the defence of Israel, and "Jewish values and human rights." The question, of course, is how are the last named to be interpreted?
Now there appears little exclusively "Jewish" about Cotler's interpretation of "values and human rights." For example, while he has the backing of the aggressively secularist part of the Jewish community such as Osgoode law professor Ed Morgan and his newly invented 'Liberal rabbis for same-sex marriage,' his position on homogamy does not find approval among more conservative Jews and rabbis such as David Novak of the University of Toronto's Jewish Studies Department (CJN, Dec. 16, 2004) or the Rabbinical Assembly, Ontario Region (CJN, Jan. 6, 2005).
As well, Cotler's interpretation of what are "human rights" and what we mean by "justice" are clearly opposed to the bulk of the religiously active Christian community, which also bases itself on "biblical" justice. Indeed, Cotler's activism has all the earmarks of the non-religious, secular egalitarianism which has been the cultural trend since the days of Pierre Trudeau.
Cotler's views fit the secularist interpretation of multi-culturalism, which interprets it, not as permission for ethnic groups to carry on their cultural folklore — to which they don't object — but as a new principle of equality of all cultures whereby Christianity — no matter how large the majority of Canadians who profess it — is of no greater standing and importance than the Raelians, the Satanists, or the newly invented Metropolitan "Church of the gays."
In brief, Cotler has little understanding, if any, of the common good; rather, he thinks in terms of the rights of individuals seen as isolated actors, just as the Charter of Rights emphasizes rights only and has nothing to say about duties or responsibilities. Cotler's drive for sodo-matrimony is in fact an assault upon the Christian foundations of Canadian society, in particular upon the family, which is the cornerstone of our whole national fabric. This Christian understanding is directly connected to human reason, and to the natural God-given moral law, of which egalitarians know nothing, but which is recognized by the old traditional religions of Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, and, yes, Judaism.
On Mr. Cotler's promotion of sodo-matrimony one can be brief. His views are well known. The courts have spoken and that should settle it. Sexual orientation is the source of new human "rights." To speak of using the "notwithstanding" clause (No. 33 of the Charter) to overrule the judges is an outrage.
As with the question of homogamy, which Canadians thought was put to rest by an authoritative vote of Parliament in 1999, yet re-opened merely four years later, so the question of assisted suicide will not be resolved, apparently, until its advocates have the law they want. A Supreme Court ruling in 1994 and an exhaustive Senate study in 1995, both recommended leaving the ban on assisted suicide in place. These are to be revisited, if Mr. Cotler has his way. Capitalizing on headline-grabbing cases such as the acquittal of Evelyn Martens of Victoria, B.C., who assisted two women to take their own lives, and a Montreal woman who assisted in the suicide of her 36-year-old son, a victim of multiple sclerosis, Cotler has seized on the idea of a "take note" debate in parliament. He speaks ponderously of the "complexity" of the issue of assisted suicide, thereby suggesting it is a matter for the experts. He claims dramatically that there are people out there right now being "denied the right to die," leaving the impression with some that there is an urgent demand across the country for this "right." Meantime he has sent shivers down the spines of the handicapped who once again see themselves threatened, while the need for palliative care is postponed. Toronto's Globe & Mail enthusiastically supported Cotler's call for a renewed debate on the subject (Star, Nov. 18, 2004; Nat. Post, Nov. 18, 2004).
Under the pretext of compassion for erring youth who should not be saddled with a criminal record for possessing marijuana, Cotler wants to decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug. In spite of studies which show that marijuana users are less likely than non-users to carry out their daily work and also experience more absenteeism, tardiness and accidents on the job, Cotler wants to push his agenda forward. Warnings from MP Vic Toews, the opposition justice critic, and Paul Cellucci, U.S. ambassador to Canada, about the effect on trade between the two countries and on border traffic go unheeded.
Loss of privacy is another potential consequence of legalizing the drug, since more and more companies and corporations would expect the right to test for the drug to protect their work ethic. The foreseeable consequences to a change in the law are palpable, the benefits ephemeral, yet our Justice Minister forges ahead (Globe, Nat. Post, Star, Nov. 17,18,20,22, 2004).
Law and justice reforms
By his own declarations Mr. Cotler's most important task is to "revamp" the federal justice system especially that of lower-court judges, 'to lessen the potential for patronage and to build a judiciary second to none.' He is, he told the Globe, "trying to create an ethos, almost like a culture of merit" (Oct. 11, 2004). The question again is, merit by whose standards?
Already we have experienced Mr. Cotler's supreme confidence that his idea of merit should indeed be the standard for the country. His, and surely not Martin's, appointments of two secular Jewish like-minded friends, Morris Fish and Rosalie Silberman Abella, and of like-minded nominally Catholic Louise Charron to the Supreme Court bypassed even the most rudimentary forms of consultation. Mr. Cotler's appearance before a House of Commons committee after the appointments had been made was a direct insult to the promised "greater participation" in Supreme Court appointments. It has been no better with other judges.
Harry La Forme
The Supreme Court appointments of Abella and Charron left vacancies on the Federal Appeal Board. Cotler appointed Madam Justice Jean McFarland and, under the guise of redressing Canada's racist attitudes, Judge Harry La Forme, in November. According to the Toronto Star (Nov. 20, 2004), "Cotler has made it clear he wants an aboriginal person on the Supreme Court." With this appointment to the Appeals Court, La Forme is a frontrunner for such an appointment.
Harry La Forme is another activist judge, one who, in 1998, legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. In 2002, he struck again, this time by ruling that same-sex matrimony was valid, that the federal definition of marriage as between one man and one woman was invalid, and that the federal government had two years to get the definition changed. All this was upheld by three judges of the Ontario Court of Appeal in June 2003 who then gave the Federal Government six months to come up with a new definition.
The above appointments, in turn, needed replacements on the Ontario Superior Court from whence the two judges came. Cotler then appointed John McMahon, Ontario's assistant deputy attorney-general, and Alison Harvison Young, dean of Queen's University Faculty of Law in Kingston. Queen's law school is renowned as a hotbed of outraged feminism.
Mr. Cotler has also named the new chairman of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, namely the Tribunal's old deputy-chairman, Grant Sinclair, who has been there since 1989. The main task of this body is to apply the equality clause of the Charter with radical egalitarian devotion.
What about the battle against the now supposedly much despised appointment of judges by Liberal or Conservative party patronage? At the end of November, Mr. Cotler placed his former political chief of staff, Yves de Montigny, as a judge on the Federal Court (at $240,000 annually), without consultation with anybody. The Minister defended this patronage plum as being perfectly meritorious; he could not think of a better person, he said, obviously someone who fulfilled his new 'ethos of merit,' that is, someone having the same biases and prejudices as himself.
Mr. Cotler has also announced he will pay close attention to the regional judiciary advisory committees, bodies who advise the Minister of Justice on upper and lower court appointments. No doubt they, too, will have to conform to his ideology.
Not content with simply appointing aboriginal lawyers to judgeships, Cotler would go so far as to introduce a third tradition of justice in the country to join the common and civil law traditions, in order to achieve the "mainstreaming" of aboriginals (Nat. Post, Nov. 23, 2004). It seems he has been taken in by the self-congratulatory description of aboriginal justice as "therapeutic," provided to him by none other than the aboriginals themselves.
As noted, Mr. Cotler's ideology has as little to do with Judaism as Paul Martin's policies with Catholicism. Despite their continued utterances to the contrary, both are wedded to the anti-religious, secularist mentality of the day.
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Updated: Apr 6th, 2005 - 14:29:00