Posts by Shelina Ali

Do efforts to protect Canada’s electoral system from foreign interference go far enough?

November 29th, 2018 by Shelina Ali

This article was first published on rabble.ca

The federal government’s efforts to address foreign interference in next year’s federal election came into the spotlight recently after it was reported that the Minister of Democratic Institutions, Karina Gould, told the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee that it would be “virtually impossible” to prevent foreign interference in the upcoming election.

In response to the threat of foreign interference in the Canadian democratic process, the government has proposed a variety of amendments to the Canada Elections Act, through Bill C-76, the Elections Modernization Act. Bill C‑76 undoes many of the amendments passed by the Harper government through the Fair Elections Act (which were widely criticized as undemocratic at the time), and attempts to address foreign interference by prohibiting the use of funds from foreign entities for political advertising or election surveys and by amending the prohibition in the Canada Elections Act against making false statements about political candidates. Despite these efforts, the amendments, particularly around making false statements, do not go far enough in addressing the problem of “fake news” and the use of social media to spread it. Read the rest of this entry

National housing strategy affirms that housing rights are human rights

December 14th, 2017 by Shelina Ali

This article was first published on rabble.ca

Last month, the federal government released what it is calling the country’s first national housing strategy(NHS). Some highlights include establishing a National Housing Co‑Investment Fund, providing support to provinces and territories to build a community-based housing sector, developing a First Nations National Housing and Infrastructure Strategy, and creating a portable rent supplement to assist families who are waiting for social housing.

Given the dismal outlook in Canada for access to affordable housing, there are many reasons to look skeptically at the commitments in the NHS. But from a legal perspective, the government has actually made a very significant acknowledgment that housing rights are human rights, and through the NHS, has affirmed Canada’s commitment to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966. This acknowledgment opens up a very real path to push for recognition that positive rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms exist. Achieving this would be a dramatic change to the human rights landscape in Canada.  Read the rest of this entry

The law is settled on sexual assault. When will the legal system catch up?

March 30th, 2017 by Shelina Ali

This article was first published on rabble.ca

Over the past year, the treatment of sexual assault complainants in the justice system has received a great deal of mainstream media attention. Much of the coverage has focused on how unfairly sexual assault complainants are treated. Examples include:

  • The cross-examination of complainants in the Jian Gomeshi case and the judge’s findings that inconsistencies in the complainants’ testimony made them not credible.
  • Comments made by Justice Robin Camp during a sexual assault trial in Alberta — asking why the victim didn’t keep her knees together — that ultimately led to his resignation.
  • A comment by a Nova Scotia judge that a drunk person can consent — in a trial where the complainant was found by police unconscious and undressed in the back of a cab.

And then, just this past week, the Supreme Court of Canada released a one-sentence decision that sums up the exasperation at the failings of the justice system when it comes to sexual assault.

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With judges like Robin Camp, how impartial is Canada’s justice system?

September 29th, 2016 by Shelina Ali

This article was first published on rabble.ca

I was recently listening to a radio program featuring racialized lawyers in Ontario discussing the challenges they faced in the legal profession and was struck by my reaction. I thought: how unfortunate that this was all being shared publically. Unfortunate, not because I did not believe the experiences of these individuals or sympathize with the challenges they were describing, but because I didn’t want people to know about the challenges. Why would anyone hire a racialized lawyer if they knew that the lawyer felt that there was a higher standard placed on them in court, by judges, as compared with their non‑racialized colleagues?

I wish my reaction was that this was the unusual experience of one lawyer and not a reflection of the justice system’s treatment of marginalized groups generally. Instead, it was one which exposed my own distrust in the Canadian judicial system and its impartiality. And my belief that the justice system as a whole does not provide the same opportunities and access to justice for individuals of colour, women, and other marginalized groups.

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