Today, we offer our gratitude. Thanks to all of you who have clicked, shared, liked, retweeted, and otherwise gotten involved with this year’s Law and Social Media project. Special thanks go out to our interviewees, who have braved the camera and taken the time to speak with us.
We’ve had a lot of fun creating these posts and learned a lot in the process. While we’ve occasionally stayed on track with regards to discussing the Constitution Act, 1867, at times, we felt it necessary to broaden the scope of this project, giving you the occasional post about cloned sheep or fictional comic book law. We’ve aimed to strike a balance between educational and entertaining. Learning about a new area of law, concept, or historical figure in order to write competently on such a new topic every week has been a bit of a challenge, but one that has proven to be invigorating.
Special thanks are in order to our academic advisor on this project, Vice Dean Moin Yahya. His unwavering support for this project has facilitated our ability to learn so much over the course of this year.
As for the future of the blog and this semester’s participants, three of us will be concluding our legal studies this month, and will begin the next chapter in our careers. The other two of us will be entering their final year of law school with very demanding schedules and will therefore be unable to continue with next year’s project.
Moving forward, we are pleased to announce that next year’s Law and Social Media project will focus on issues regarding Indigenous people in Canada, specifically the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In addition to five brand new student bloggers, the Vice Dean will be sharing the responsibility for advising the project with Professor Hadley Friedland. Professor Friedland is a recent addition to the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta and recent winner of the Governor General’s Gold Medal. She is a widely respected expert on Indigenous legal issues and has spent a considerable amount of time working with these communities.
Once again, we thank you all for your support, and hope to see you engaged for next year’s project, especially considering its importance to Canada’s growth and healing as a country.
Finally, we wish our fellow Canadians an early happy 150th. As future officers of the court, it will be our privilege and our honour to be able to serve our country in this manner.
What will Canada be like in another 150 years? Despite deepening darkness in the world around us, I like to be optimistic. I think that Canada, and hopefully our world, will be a better, fairer place in the centuries to come. Since Confederation, Canada’s laws have increasingly reflected our social and political values toward equality and fairness.
However, I doubt the text of our Constitution will change much. The amending formula found in section 42 of the Constitution Act, 1982 requires too much buy-in from too many different places with different agendas. Any changes to the text of the Constitution require votes in favour in seven of the ten provinces, which must exceed half the population of the country.1 We will be freer and fairer, but regional squabbles will always exist. Barring a war which redraws maps and forces us to rewrite the entire thing, the text itself probably won’t have changed much. It’s possible Quebec will not even have ratified it..
Luckily, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has always shown a willingness to adopt a living tree doctrine, allowing our society to evolve with changing Canadian values. It was the SCC that insisted on protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation.2 It was the SCC that established the right to assisted suicide.3 It was the SCC that established that our outdated sex work laws were dangerous.4 The SCC split 6-3 over whether something must have identifiable harm to be criminalized and, as the challenger wished to establish, whether prohibition of marijuana was unconstitutional.5
As the SCC and future progressive parliaments will push our society forward in some ways, new technologies will push it forward in others. Automation is the way of the future (though people touting new AI as a replacement for lawyers clearly do not understand the profession), and Canada must adapt accordingly.
One adaptation I see to deal with those issues is the adoption of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) scheme. UBI is the idea of making sure that everyone has a basic standard of living through no-strings-attached cash payments. The largest social change in centuries will have to occur, and will require Canadians to stop stigmatizing a lack of gainful employment. We need to not look down on people who don’t “work”, especially those who choose not to in order to pursue art, education, and invention.
The future is bright. Our courts are willing to reinterpret our constitution to reflect our changing society. Our country is evolving at an incredibly rapid rate. Happy 150, Canada. I hope I live long enough to see a fraction of how great things will be when you hit 300.
1Constitution Act, 1982, s 42, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11.
Where do I see Canada in the next 150 years? To be honest, I have absolutely no idea. However, with the technological and scientific advances occurring in today’s world, we may all be alive to witness Canada in the year 2167!
At Cambridge University, a researcher named Aubrey de Grey believes he has identified all of the causes of aging, and can overcome them all. By doing so, de Grey claims that humans are capable of living up to 1,000 years old.1 He is convinced that he understands the theoretical underpinnings of human illness and death and has indicated that 25 years is all the world will need to make his theory a reality.
However, he recognizes that he is a computer scientist, not a human biologist.2 S. Jay Olshansky, one of De Grey’s contemporaries, has the human sciences background that de Grey lacks. Olshansky is a professor of Public Health and research associate at the Center on Aging at the University of Chicago.3 His work pursues means to slow down human aging and discovering the “upper limits to human longevity.”4
If researchers are successful in extending the human lifespan, what kinds of political obstacles would they face?
Most people are skeptical that humans have the ability to extend their own lives.5 People firmly believe in the inevitability of aging and death and the science world is having a hard time changing that perspective.
But how then are pharmaceutical companies who sell “anti-aging products” so successful if the world refuses to buy into the idea of longevity?
These companies are excellent marketing specialists but they do not truly market “living longer.” Rather, they convince people that their products will allow them to remain young while they are alive. They encourage consumers to buy products that they claim will make them look and feel more youthful.
In the United States, pharmaceutical companies can legally sell anti-aging products that are merely placebo.6 The FDA allows “cosmeceuticals” to be sold without approval, so long as the product does not contain drugs.7
There is the additional problem that even if pharmaceutical companies attempted to conduct research on life extension, it would take a lot of money and a lot of time. These companies want to make money and it is not in their interest to invest all that time and money on an unsure bet.
However, if these money powerhouses teamed up with brilliant science minds, it’s impossible to say what they could accomplish.
There are also organizations popping up that provide cryonic freezing: a low temperature method of preserving human bodies in the hope that they can be revived by future medicine.8 Currently, this method of preservation is only available after death; you cannot be frozen while alive.
Whether or not you believe in life extension, there are many people working towards that ultimate goal.
So I may be long gone by the time #Canada300 rolls around, but who knows: maybe I won’t be.
Where do I see Canada in the next 150 years? What an interesting question. I highly doubt I will be alive to witness it, but I have a few minor wishes for my own life time. Rather than focussing on where I think the country will be in 150 years, I am going to explain where I want it to be in ten.
Last year’s presidential election was contentious, controversial, and fascinating all at the same time. An election filled with name-calling, bigotry, media rants, and outright craziness led to one of the most shocking results ever. The world watched as Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States over Hillary Clinton. A businessman commonly recognized from his appearances on The Apprentice beat out a career politician. Many people thought this was insanity; others prepared for what seems like the start of an apocalyptic movie.
Hillary Clinton’s loss left many women wondering when it will be their turn to hold the highest office in the United States. Will women ever get that chance? How many more years would we wait to shatter the most resilient glass ceiling in the world?
Thankfully, Marie Henein, a named partner at Henein Hutchison reminds us that Canadians should not be patting ourselves on the back yet. We have also never formally elected a female prime minister. The only woman to ever hold the highest seat in our country was the Right Honourable Kim Campbell 24 years ago when Brian Mulroney stepped down from office.1
When we look at our current political climate it is hard to pinpoint when a woman will even have a chance to be Canada’s Prime Minister. Depending on the outcome of the current Conservative leadership race (click here for our post from last week covering this ), all three major Canadian parties will be led by men, assuming O’Leary wins. Since I have been eligible to vote no serious female contender has been available. So my question moving forward is: when?
While it is easy to point a finger at our neighbours south of the border for their lack of female leadership, we tend to overlook our own. In fact, out of the 13 Canadian provincial premiers only three are women. Marie Henein was right when she stated that for women in North America the message is clear, “You can hold office, just not the highest one. You can succeed, just not too much.”2 My hope is that by the time Canada is celebrating its 200th birthday this message has changed.
When we focus on the political climate elsewhere, women in other countries have fared far better than us. Sri Lanka set the stage for the rest of the world by electing its first female Prime Minister in 1960.3 Fifty-seven years ago a woman was leading a country. To many hopeful women, it would seem that we were making progress. As groundbreaking as Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s election was, another woman would not follow suit in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. It took 19 years for another country to catch on, so while women were making progress, it was slow.
Currently only 33 women have been elected to represent their country in the highest office. Notably missing from the list is any North American country. The question remaining is why? What are we teaching young educated women? We are likely teaching women exactly what Marie Henein suggests, set big goals, become educated, and become successful. Just do not become too successful though because that is not what women do.
I truly hope that within the next 10 years this message has changed. It is time we change our attitudes about women in leadership. Instead of criticizing a woman’s “nasty” demeanour, it is time we celebrate her worth, ethic, and drive. Women are brilliant, capable, and deserving of the same successes as men. So by 2027 hopefully we will have one running our country as a result of her election, not as a result of merely filling in temporarily. Until then we will wait, not too patiently, for our turn.
1 Marie Henein, “Thank you, Hillary. Now women know retreat is not an option,” The Globe and Mail (10 November 2016), online: <www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/thank-you-hillary-women-now-know-retreat-is-not-an-option/article32803341/>.
3 Christine Zhang & Andrea Roberson, “When the rest of the world elected women leaders,” The LA Times (14 November 2016), online: <www.latimes.com/projects/la-fg-women-world-leaders/#decade60>.
Studying the British North America Act involves research into history: the foundations of the Dominion of Canada, the social and political factors that drove or opposed Confederation, and the laws that shaped our current jurisprudence and legislation. For this final week blogging as the Dominion 2017, each writer takes a turn looking to the future.
Pop culture has a mild obsession with fantastical zombie apocalypse theories like in the film World War Z and the television series The Walking Dead. Today we exploit this wordplay to write about Canada’s zombie laws.
Today’s post doesn’t predict a zombie apocalypse. Instead, it celebrates the impending doom of so-called zombie laws in the Criminal Code.
Several “undead” laws remain “on the books”—in the Criminal Code—until Parliament amends or repeals them. Zombie laws are effectively null. If a court imposes a conviction under such laws, the defendant will likely succeed on appealing that conviction. Most zombie laws have been struck down by the courts for failing to comply with the Constitution. Others are simply out of date with contemporary customs.
Zombie laws usually don't do anything but sit on the books and make law students chuckle. So, what’s the harm of leaving them written in the code? It’s simply misleading; it can confuse the justice process. The government should clearly express what is an is not a law so that individuals are aware. Without the benefit of a legal education to sort through case law, many people may be unaware of laws that have been struck down.
A parliamentary democracy gives lawmakers parliamentary supremacy. Parliament can enact or repeal any law it wishes by passing a bill through the House of Commons. However, the Constitution supersedes all other legislation. In 1982 the constitutional supremacy clause was introduced. It assures that all Canadian legislation is consistent with the constitutionalprovisions. When courts interpret legislation, they have the power to strike down a law and render it “of no force or effect” to the extent that it is inconsistent with the Constitution; including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Charter also took effect in 1982 and, being part of the Constitution, holds the same status as supreme law. Several laws—among those listed below—that were enacted before 1982 have subsequently been rendered unconstitutional.
To bring the Criminal Code text in line with jurisprudence and contemporary social values, Parliament has announced that it will repeal (hopefully all) the zombie laws. Eliminating uncertainty and vagueness in the Criminal Code will prevent potential future apocalyptic zombie justice system.
List of Undead Offenders:
s. 71: Challenging someone or accepting a challenge to fight in a duel.
s. 159: Anal intercourse for people under 18 years; anal intercourse in groups.
s. 163(1, 7): Publishing crime comics.
s. 163(2)(d): Advertising drugs that “are a method for restoring sexual virility or curing venereal diseases.”
s. 179: Vagrancy.
s. 181: Spreading false news.
s. 230: Murder in commission of offences.
s. 250(1, 2): Water-skiing at night; water skiing without a spotter.
s. 287: Abortion.
s. 296: Publishing blasphemous libel.
s. 365: Fraudulently pretending to practice witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment, or conjuration; or tell fortunes.
s. 427(1): Issuing trading stamps.
 RSC 1985, c-46.
 Constitution Act, 1982, s 52, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11 [Constitution].