OTTAWA — A not-for-profit organization has standing to challenge mental-health law in a British Columbia court, even though no individuals are plaintiffs in the case, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.
The court’s unanimous decision Thursday came six years after the Council of Canadians with Disabilities contested the constitutionality of mental-health legislation in B.C. that allows non-consensual psychiatric care.
Two individual co-plaintiffs discontinued their claims, but the council hoped to proceed in court without them.
The council promotes the equality, autonomy and rights of people living with physical and mental disabilities in Canada, pursuing these goals through advocacy, policy development, and advancement of rights — sometimes by way of litigation.
A judge ruled the action should be dismissed on the basis that the council lacked public interest standing to pursue the challenge on its own.
However, the B.C. Court of Appeal found the council’s claim was a comprehensive challenge to specific legislation that directly affects all members of an identifiable group in a serious, specific and broadly based manner, regardless of individual experiences.
The Appeal Court ruled there should be a fresh hearing in the B.C. Supreme Court on the question of public interest standing, which prompted the provincial attorney general to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In its decision, the country’s top court said public interest standing allows individuals or organizations to bring cases before the courts even though they are not directly involved in the matter and even though their own rights are not infringed.
It can therefore play a pivotal role in litigation concerning the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, where issues may have a broad effect on society as a whole, Chief Justice Richard Wagner wrote on behalf of the court.
In deciding whether to grant public interest standing, a court must look at whether the case raises a serious issue, whether the party bringing the action has a genuine interest in the matter, and whether the proposed suit is a reasonable and effective way of proceeding.
A court must also be mindful of allocating scarce judicial resources and screening out busybody litigants, ensuring the courts have the benefit of contending points of view of those most directly affected by the issues, the Supreme Court said.
A directly affected plaintiff is not vital to establish a concrete and well-developed factual setting for a case, Wagner wrote.
Public interest litigants can establish such a setting by calling affected, or otherwise knowledgeable, non-plaintiff witnesses, he said. “If a directly affected co-plaintiff is not required, then would-be public interest litigants should not have to justify — or compensate for — the absence of one.”
The council’s pleadings are well drafted and raise a serious issue: the constitutionality of laws that implicate — and allegedly violate — the Charter rights of people with mental disabilities, he added.
The council’s claim undoubtedly raises issues of public importance that transcend its immediate interests, Wagner said.
“The litigation has the potential of affecting a large group of people, namely people with mental disabilities. Moreover, granting public interest standing in this case will promote access to justice for a disadvantaged group who has historically faced serious barriers to bringing such litigation before the courts.”
Further, the pleadings reveal that the case does not turn on individual facts, Wagner said.
“Much of the case can be argued on the basis that the legislation is unconstitutional on its face because it authorizes, under certain circumstances, forced psychiatric treatment without the consent of the patient or of a substitute decision-maker,” he wrote.
“Expert evidence regarding how health care providers treat involuntary patients and evidence with respect to particular patients may provide helpful insight into how the legislation is applied.”
Lawyer Michael Feder, who argued the case on behalf of the council, said the ruling “has broad importance for access to justice and for ensuring discriminatory and other unconstitutional laws can be challenged in court.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2022.
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
I was placed in ESL classes despite being fluent in English. It made me feel less Canadian – CBC.ca
This First Person article is the experience of Alvin Ma, a second-generation Chinese Canadian. For more information about CBC’s First Person stories, please see the FAQ.
I tried to avoid eye contact and slump in my chair, but it didn’t work. It was the start of my Grade 4 school year and for the fourth consecutive year, my name was called to receive “additional English language instruction.”
It didn’t matter that I could fully comprehend the Guinness Book of Records I purchased from the Scholastic Book Fair or that I read the Vancouver Sun sports section every morning. I was going back to ESL.
I was born in Canada and grew up speaking English with my parents. My Chinese-born mother immigrated to Canada as a high school student and my father, also an immigrant from Hong Kong in the 1970s, taught culinary classes in English. However, my grandparents and other elderly family members were not fluent in English and spoke predominantly Cantonese at home.
It’s why my parents put down Cantonese as the language most spoken at home when filling out my public school registration form.
It’s also the reason we believe I was placed in English language learner classes (ESL) despite the fact I was born in Canada and spoke English fluently.
I don’t have negative memories of these ESL classes or teachers themselves.
But as a kid, being placed in those classes made me feel less than a full-fledged Canadian.
I just wanted to be treated like the “CBC” (Canadian-born Chinese) classmates who did not require these ESL classes. Some of these students would occasionally flaunt their English abilities and poke fun at those perceived to be “fresh off the boat.” I don’t remember making fun of people, but I do remember wanting to prove that I was better than others in English — thinking a superior grasp of the language would make me somehow more “Canadian.”
Even if I secretly found ’90s Cantonese pop songs such as 每天愛你多一些 and Sugar in the Marmalade catchy, I listened to Shania Twain. I unfailingly watched every Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. Twenty-two years before Simu Liu’s rendition at the Juno Awards, I was able to effortlessly recite the “I AM CANADIAN” rant in its entirety.
I distanced myself from my Chinese heritage and purposely failed assessments at Chinese school to prove I was more Canadian than Chinese. My mother knew I would only speak to her in English, and there was an unspoken understanding that she was to speak only English to me when she came to my school to pick me up.
When I asked my mother if she thought it was odd that I was placed in ESL for so many years, she shrugged.
Considering that my grandparents supervised me during weekdays, my parents reasoned that “additional English language instruction” would help my education in the long term.
Then one day and without any explanation, I was put into the regular stream of Grade 5 students. My student record simply noted that my ESL status had been delisted. I felt relieved, but I remained self-conscious of my pronunciation of words and tried to avoid a stutter that would label me as anything but a born-in-Canada Canadian.
Years after I graduated, my elementary school faced allegations that it falsely inflated the number of English learners in order to get more government funding.
As an adult, I know now that neither my fluency in Cantonese nor perceived accent makes me any less Canadian. Years of academic research and presentations made me a confident speaker in multiculturalism-related issues.
But I hadn’t really considered the impact of those ESL classes until I met a 10-year-old student through a tutoring job. As his mom left the room, she said these parting words: “你需要努力，進步你的英文分” (you must work hard to improve your English mark).
He indignantly responded in English, “Stop bothering me in Chinese if you want me to improve!”
That student was a mirror of my younger self: a second-generation Canadian who desperately tried to prove his English fluency by shunning Chinese.
Although I wanted to avoid confrontation, I plucked up my courage. I told him — and by extension my younger self — that knowledge of another language is a strength; not an embarrassment to hide. My student nodded, but if my journey is an indicator, it might take many years for him to comprehend my message. I just hope the message sinks in eventually.
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Philippines’ new President promises policies that will benefit everyone
The new President who was sworn in yesterday said he would work on healing divisions in the country, to grow the economy, recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and lead a more unified prosperous country.
“This is a historic moment for us all! You picked me to be your servant, to enable changes to benefit all. I fully understand the gravity of the responsibility you put on my shoulders. I do not take it lightly but I am ready for the task.
I am here not to talk about the past, I am here to tell you about our future. A future of sufficiency, even plenty, of readily available ways and means to get done what needs doing. I will get it done,” said Marcos Jr.
In addition, the President said he would improve food sufficiency, infrastructure, waste management and energy supply, and give full support to millions of overseas Filipino workers.
Marcos Jr won last month’s Presidential election with 31.6 million votes, or 58.77 percent of ballots cast, a margin not seen in decades and replaces outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte.
His running mate, Sara Duterte-Carpio, the former President’s daughter, was sworn in as Vice-President on June 19, and they will both serve until 2028.
According to human rights groups, during his father’s reign between 1965 and 1986, tens of thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured or killed for perceived or real criticism of the government.
As a result, activists and survivors of the martial law era under his father protested against Marcos Jr’s inauguration. Nevertheless, more than 15 000 police, soldiers and coast guard personnel were deployed across the capital to ensure security.
Canada Day: Parties, protests planned in Ottawa | CTV News – CTV News Ottawa
Thousands of people wearing red and white and waiving Canadian flags packed downtown Ottawa to celebrate Canada’s 155th birthday, while police monitored the crowds for possible protests against COVID-19 vaccines and restrictions.
It’s the first in-person Canada Day in Ottawa in three years, after COVID-19 restrictions forced the cancellation of events in 2020 and 2021.
“We have missed two years already,” said Rebecca Lau, while standing in front of Parliament Hill. “We used to come here every year to celebrate for Canada Day, but the last two years because of the pandemic we had to stay home.”
The main events include a daytime ceremony and evening show at LeBreton Flats, activities for families and fireworks at 10 p.m. The Canadian Forces Snowbirds were forced to cancel the annual fly-by over Ottawa on Canada Day following a recent technical issue.
Two kilometres away from LeBreton Flats, Parliament Hill and the streets around the parliamentary buildings were packed with people marking Canada Day.
“It is fabulous to see everybody here celebrating and enjoying Canada Day. It’s nice to see all the patriotism going on; the good kind, the positive kind,” said Todd Salter, visiting Ottawa from Erin, Ont. “There’s protesters here; but they seem calm right now which is a nice change. It feels a little bit normal and really nice to be back.”
Canada Day festivities come months after “Freedom Convoy” protesters occupied streets around Parliament Hill protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates. A protest march against the mandates and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is scheduled for later this afternoon.
The Freedom Fights Canada website says a “March to Freedom” will be held at 3:30 p.m., followed by speeches, live music and DJs on Parliament Hill from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Just before 1 p.m., dozens of people gathered on Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill and chanted “Free Pat King.” Pat King was one of the organizers of the “Freedom Convoy”, and remains in jail on charges connected to his involvement in the three-week protest.
A “Family Day Picnic” hosted by the group Police on Guard for Thee at a nearby park was cancelled, with organizers citing “a recent incident in Ottawa.” However, there were no further details provided.
A small crowd gathered at Strathcona Park despite the picnic being cancelled, and People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier planned to deliver a speech to supporters in the area. Several vehicles with Canadian Flags were parked in the parking lot, while police patrolled the area.
There is a visible police presence patrolling the parliamentary precinct and the roads around downtown Ottawa, with a motor vehicle control zone set up to prevent vehicles from stopping or engaging in protests.
Any vehicles stopping or parking in the control zone will be ticketed and towed, while police say any vehicles participating in protests will be prohibited from entering the area.
As of Friday morning, Ottawa Bylaw Services officers issued 275 parking tickets and towed 72 vehicles from the vehicle control zone. Bylaw officials have also increased fines for the unusual noise, shouting, urination or defecation on roads and sidewalks, blocking a highway and idling. Fines are now $1,000.
Despite their presence, Ottawa police says it is safe for families to come downtown for Canada Day events.
“Come, don’t be worried. This is a festival. This is to celebrate Canada, that’s why we’ve gone to the extent we have to put the plans in place and the resources around it,” interim Chief Steve Bell told The Evan Solomon Show on Thursday. “It’s going to be a safe environment, that’s why we’re here to ensure that.”
Four people were arrested following an incident at the National War Memorial Thursday, shortly after Canadian Forces veteran James Topp completed his cross-country march to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
“We are reviewing video and investigating the incident at the National War Memorial this evening,” police said on Twitter Thursday evening. “The initial investigation finds that an interaction with officers became confrontational and 1 officer was choked. Other officers immediately responded, 4 people were arrested.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling on Canadians to recommit to the country’s values on Canada Day, including respect, hope and kindness.
In his official Canada Day message, the prime minister said July 1 is an opportunity to commit to the values that the Maple Leaf represents.
“It’s also a promise — a promise of opportunity, a promise of safety for those fleeing violence and war, and a promise of a better life,” he said.
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News Ottawa’s Natalie van Rooy
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