Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.


Monday, February 27, 2006

suitably pointless

I don't mind today's Supreme Court review hearing. Why? Both because it served no purpose, and because it may have been perceived as serving some purpose. Allow me to elaborate.

Had today's proceedings actually, in any practical way, 'opened up' the Supreme Court appointment process, than it would have undermined judicial independence and thus, the very framework upon which we operate. How could it have actually embued the process with accountability? By following the American model, simply put. In the most extreme, it could have afforded this committee veto power over the appointment. Almost as bad, Justice Rothstein may have been faced with ideological-litmus-test-type questions about specific cases. The result of either of these would be a politicization of the Supreme Court. Our three orders of government would be consolidated into two (sometimes one). Our Charter would lose all relevance. Etc., etc., etc.

Thankfully, this committee was completely devoid of any real responsibility. It did not have veto power, and its particpants seemed mostly committed to maintaining a suitable decorum. Rothstein did an admirable job of deflecting any question that may have comprimised later court rulings. The committee was asked to evaluate the quality of a candidate that its own membership had recommended. That evaluation was necessarily going to be a good one - but if it hadn't, it wouldn't have mattered in the least.

I'm thusly content with the review process's complete irrelevance. So why, then, do I think it may have been worthwhile? For the simple reason that someone out there may have bought it. A Canadian or two may go to bed tonight believing that the Supreme Court is more accountable. If this has in fact happened, then the position of the Supreme Court vis-a-vis parliament is actually strengthened. Steven Harper has inadvertently bought legitimacy for the institution he sought to limit. With more legitimacy comes less willingness to disregard personally unpopular decisions of the court. More legitimacy means it is harder for Stephen Harper (or Jack Layton if you listen closely enough) to invoke the Notwithstanding Clause. In fact, it makes it easier for us to extinguish that clause all together, at long last.

I'm sure I've made it clear that I don't believe any actual reform of the Supreme Court is necessary (and reform would in fact be wholly damaging). What may be necessary, if we are to ever emphasize the constitutional nature of our constitutional democracy, is a socialization process. Canadians need to understand the non-objectionable nature of an independent Supreme Court. This nothingness disguised as something may serve that purpose.


Blogger Mark Sholdice said...

Steve seems to have found my kryptonite - he can smell sleaziness a mile away.

American-style judicial reviews are idotic. One NDP MP mentioned that they can't ask important and confidential questions as done previously by the committee in camera.

Harper needs to learn that content is far more important than presentation in the long run.

10:50 AM  

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