Canadian Senate Blues

They call it “the Red Chamber” but it sure seems like Canadians have been singing the Senate Blues for most of my life.

In the dying days of the Harper Government, the misadventures of Senator Mike Duffy proved to be a major embarrassment for the Canadian Government.  By the time the dust settled, Duffy had resigned from the Conservative Caucus, the criminal charges against him were dropped, and Duffy, now an un-aligned independent, resumed his seat as Senator for PEI (even though he still doesn’t actually seem to live there). Then Prime Minister Stephen Harper was certainly mixed up in Mr. Duffy’s case, but was never properly investigated or held to account.

But Duffy’s case was just the tip of the iceberg. The Auditor General report identified thirty (THIRTY!) past and present Canadian senators or former senators as having “made inappropriate or ineligible expense claims.”  In addition to being implicated in the expense scandal, 39 year old Senator Patrick Brazeau had a host of still unresolved other problems.   About a year ago Press Progress shared an Angus Reid Opinion Poll that suggested only 6% of Canadians were happy with the Senate as is.

Senate Thrones

Real or Imagined?

Canada’s new Trudeau Government had ostentatiously promised, ahem, real change.

And yet, once again, there are Senators making news in ways that reflect very poorly on Canada’s Upper House.

Interim Conservative Party Leader Rona Ambrose has called for the resignation of Stephen Harper appointee Senator Don Meredith after Senate Ethics Officer Lyse Ricard’s investigation exposed his inappropriate sexual relationship with a teen.

Senator Meredith has made it abundantly clear he has no intention of going quietly, even though the other Senators are determined to expel Don Meredith after his relationship with teenage girl.

It has become increasingly clear that a code of conduct that hopes miscreants will quietly resign in the face of exposure is simply not sufficient. Real change requires a framework that allows for summary suspensions of Senators (and MPs) accused of impropriety and/or lawbreaking, removing them from office if such charges proven. Our Westminster System of government was designed for a feudal society that allowed the nobility to get away with a great deal.  But in a society that aspires to citizen equality there is no place for such abuses of power.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, now we learn Senator Lynn Beyak, member of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples  has spoken up in defence of the “abundance of good” in Residential Schools.

I speak partly for the record, but mostly in memory of the kindly and well-intentioned men and women and their descendants — perhaps some of us here in this chamber — whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part and are overshadowed by negative reports. Obviously, the negative issues must be addressed, but it is unfortunate that they are sometimes magnified and considered more newsworthy than the abundance of good.

Honourable Lynn Beyak, Senate Debates: Increasing Over-representation of Indigenous Women in Canadian Prisons

As might be expected, Senator Beyak’s attitude has not gone over well.  CBC reports Senator’s residential school comment ‘hurts the integrity of the Canadian system,’ survivor says.  The Liberal Indigenous Caucus issued a statement asking Senator Beyak to “resign from the Senate as her views are inconsistent with the spirit of reconciliation that is required in both chambers of Parliament.”  Committee Chair Senator Lillian Eva Dyck agrees Senator Bayek’s should resign after her ill-informed and insensitive comments.

Even the United Church had some strong words for the Hon. Ms. Beyak:

“Indigenous peoples and organizations have responded to Senator Beyak’s comments. As one of the parties responsible for the operation of residential schools, The United Church of Canada also feels a responsibility to respond.

“Senator Beyak spoke of the “good intentions” behind the residential schools system. Thirty years ago, The United Church of Canada apologized to First Nations Peoples for our role in colonization and the destruction of their cultures and spiritualties. In the process of preparing, delivering, and attempting to live out that Apology, we have learned that “good intentions” are never enough, and that to offer such words in explanation is damaging and hurtful.

“The United Church of Canada participated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission not just as part of a legal agreement but also as part of a moral and ethical commitment to understand the impact of our role in the residential schools system, to atone for it, and to participate in healing and building of a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.”

— Moderator: Senator Beyak’s Comments on Residential Schools

Not everyone is right for every job, and it’s pretty clear to everyone but Senator Beyak that she is not a good fit for the Senate of Canada.  Again, there doesn’t seem to be any provision to remove her in spite of the growing outcry.  The longer this goes on, the worse the Senate, and, indeed the Government of Canada looks.

Canadians need a government capable of governing itself with decorum and accountability.

As often happens in Canada’s unrepresentative democracy, there is a Petition:

We demand the resignation of Senator Lynn Beyak and issuance of a formal apology

It seems Canada’s unfair First Past The Post electoral system continues to engender a political culture of shameless entitlement even (especially?) in our un-elected Senate. A democratic government that fails to answer to its citizens is seriously dysfunctional.

Image Credits

Senate photos by Makaristos have been dedicated to the public domain.  Click the images to find the originals on Wikimedia Commons.

Bill C-51 in Bullet Points


Cardinal Richilieu on PrivacyMy friend Paul suggested:

Someone needs to publish or post a good summary for the layman, with perhaps bullet points of what Bill C-51 entails. So many websites I have gone to are filled with opinion that just rambles on ad nauseam. I am more confused than ever!

Anyone who reads this blog knows how hard this assignment will be for someone as inclined to over-explain as I.  But I’ve tried.

BILL C-51 in Bullet Points

  • Bill C-51 is overly broad, so it can be made to mean anything the authorities want it to mean.
    [Instead saying someone who bombs a government building commits a terrorist act punishable by 50 years in jail, it might say someone who commits a terrorist act can be punished by 50 years in jail. Defining endangering Canada’s economic stability is terrorism, it could be used to identify as terrorists: factory workers picketing their place of employment because their employer’s lack of safety standards endangers their lives might be sent to jail for terrorism.]
  • Bill C-51 dispenses with the need to get evidence before targeting suspects.
    [Instead of requiring evidence showing “probable cause,” law enforcement agents will be able to proceed against citizens based solely on suspicions.*]
  • Bill C-51 introduces the “constitutional breach warrant” granting permission to breach civil rights in advance.

    But now, for the first time, judges are being asked to bless in advance a violation of any or all our Charter rights, in a secret hearing, not subject to appeal, and with only the government side represented. What the government proposes now is a “constitutional breach warrant”. It is a radical, idea that contorts basic constitutional understandings and the role of the courts. It has correctly been compared to a stealth use of the notwithstanding clause, in which judges and not Parliament are being asked to do the dirty work of abrogating rights.”

  • Bill C-51 dispenses with citizen privacy by allowing indiscriminate unsupervised information sharing.
    [Instead of requiring the various law enforcement agencies to share information cooperatively (which would be good), it will allow the sharing of information stored in 17 government departments  “to any person, for any purpose”with no review for 14 of the 17 recipient departments, and no judicial review at all.  The two scariest departments that would be required to give out our personal data so recklessly?  Health and Canadian Revenue Agency.  Yay.]
  • Bill C-51 will put all Canadian citizens at risk of secret trials.
    [At present, Canada’s “Security Certificate” regime has been used only against immigrants who have not yet become citizens. Bill C-51 would extend this to all citizens through secret procedures that fly in the face of human rights. You can see what this will be like in the documentary film The secret Trial 5. The trailer on the site will give you a good idea, but it is well worth downloading the very well done important documentary.]
  • Bill C-51 will render our civil rights protections meaningless by allowing CSIS to breach law or the Charter.
    Bill C-51: What Did We Learn About The Government’s Intentions From The Clause-By-Clause goes into this in much more detail.
  • Bill C-51 expands the government’s ability to spy on Canadians without any oversight.
    [The office of the Inspector General used to provide oversight (oversight=supervision) but it was quietly dissolved as part of the Bill C-38 omnibudget leadnow dubbed the “Black Mark Budget” in 2011. The Harper Government maintains the underfunded understaffed part-timers of SIRC provide oversight, but it can’t.  SIRC provides limited review of only selected CSIS operations after the fact.
  • Bill C-51 makes the no-fly list (already an incursion in the Charter’s mobility rights) even worse.
  • Bill C-51’s vagueness threatens free speech because it allows arbitrary censorship at the whim of government.

*The rule of law is the legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials.
Rule of Law, Wikipedia

A big part of the problem is that there is no time.  But when the entire legal profession, information technology folks,  the Government’s own Privacy Commissioner (and every other Canadian Privacy Commissioner past and present), civil rights organizations at home and abroad, along side a vast array of ordinary people from all walks of life and across the breadth of the Canadian political spectrum opposes a law, it should not pass.

The Canadian Senate will vote on Bill C-51 this week, and the Senators might yet prevent it from passing. Please contact as many Senators as you can to tell them not to undermine our civil rights.

Here’s a tool that makes contacting Senators easy:

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leavesP.S.  The only way a law like Bill C-51 could have gotten this far is because our unfair outdated electoral system puts absolute power into the hands of any majority government.  Bill C-51 would not have a hope if we had Proportional Representation.  With the exception of the Conservative and Liberal Parties, every one else wants to adopt meaningful electoral reform.   So no matter what, and no matter who for, every Canadian needs to vote in the fall election. 

More Information

WWhat Is A Disruption Warrant?Professors Kent Roach and Craig Forcese are the acknowledged experts on Bill C-51. As well as testifying before both the House of Commons and Senate Committees on Bill C-51 they have studied it as exhaustively as possible and published their findings as they go in the website Canada’s Proposed Antiterrorism Act: An Assessment

Among the vast amount of material already out there, I have covered Bill C-51 as extensively as possible here in Whoa!Canada, (just read back… you might like Our Kids Deserve to Have Civil Rights, but there are a lot more, just read on) and I’ve have shared copious links and articles like “What is a Disruption Warrant” on Visual Laurel.

My Bill C-51 YouTube playlist features important snippets of things I’ve learned from ordinary people.
I’ve also assembled a playlist of other people’s Bill C-51 videos on YouTube

Privacy is an incredibly important human right, necessary for the “security of the person.” Former Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart published a list of excellent movies that dealt with the Privacy issues we increasingly face. These films demonstrate the importance of privacy matters, and why Bill C-51 must not pass.

The Lives of Others

Red Road

The Conversation

Minority Report


Could the Senate actually stop Bill C-51?

Canadian FlagBill C-51 passed through the House of Commons after a mere two days of debate (if you can call it that.)

Currently the law that will effectively remove our civil rights that are supposed to be guaranteed by the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is before the Senate, where it seems to be getting better presented than it was in the House of Commons Parliamentary committee.

It appears that Liberal Senators are planning to vote against it, so there may yet be hope for Canadian Civil Rights.  You can follow the progress of the bill (as you can any Canadian legislation) at LegisInfo.

Leadnow has a nifty online tool to make it easy to write to your senator to let them know where you stand on Bill C-51.

The Senate has served as a rubber stamp for the house of Commons for so long that it’s hard to even imagine that it might provide sober second thought.   But maybe it will.

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Here’s hoping the House of Commons will reject Bill C-51

Canadian flag

Bill C-51 will deepen and widen Canada’s democratic deficit into an abyss. Is it possible to stop it?

postcard design #2 - Preserve the canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Stop Bill C-51From the beginning, Green Party leader Elizabeth May has led the opposition against Bill C-51. Happily she has been joined by the NDP and every other party in voicing serious concerns, although the Liberal Party has fewer concerns than any other, and say they will actually vote for it. (No, I don’t get it, either.)

From the very beginning, the Harper Government made it clear it would fast track Bill C-51.

Bill C-51 was even presented to the Senate before it even cleared the House of Commons, something that is certainly unusual, and possibly even unprecedented. Even there, an MI5 intelligence expert (one of Canada’s “Five Eyes” intelligence ally) condemned Bill C-51 roundly before at the Senate hearings. In the past, Canadians have seen the Senate’s reluctance to provide sober second thought, so we really can’t expect anything more than it’s usual rubber stamp of Harper Government Policy.

The Parliamentary Committee meant to study Bill C-51 was severely limited in the number of submissions the Government would allow. An NDP filibuster made it possible to slightly expand the scope of the presentations, but it still fell very short of the mark. Nevertheless, most of the experts on the array of issues covered by this omnibus bill were not allowed to even speak to the committee.

Rather than silencing opposition, this policy had the opposite affect: the experts made an effort to wade through and dissect this law in a way seldom seen any more. Since the committee couldn’t hear their opposition on this incredibly important issue, the experts have presented their findings to us, the Canadian public.

The Parliament Buildings drawn by Roger Duhamel, from the Canadian Bill of Rights (public domain)

Legal scholars Craig Forcese (University of Ottawa) and Kent Roach (University of Toronto) began by presenting their findings online, as they found them. Former Prime Ministers, Supreme Court Justices and finally the entire Canadian legal community rose up against this dreadful draft legislation. Canadian Privacy Commissioners — past and present — spoke strongly against Bill C-51. Civil Liberty groups, Conrad Black, Rex Murphy, the Communist Party of Canada and even a group of business owners have all come out against Bill C-51 in the strongest terms.

In the beginning, ordinary Canadians were told this law would make us safe from terrorism, when in fact this claim has failed to rise above the rhetoric. Instead of being supported with evidence, the expert evidence demonstrating that stripping Canadians of Charter protections will in fact make us less safe. As a result, ordinary Canadians held rallies and Days of Action across Canada to raise awareness. When Canadians learn the import of Bill C-51, we oppose it. Now that ordinary people have the facts, support for the bill has plummeted and the vast majority of Canadians are in opposition to this bill.

Because Bill C-51 is not a partisan issue, it’s a Canadian issue. This law would be un-Canadian.
Stop Bill C-51

And yet none of this seems to have dampened the Harper Government’s determination to fast-track the Bill. The deepest flaw in our electoral system is that a party with 39% of the vote can gain 100% of the power. When a party has 100% of the power, it can pass any law it likes. (This is why we need Proportional Representation.)

Rather than scrapping the bill outright, the Harper Government’s domination of the parliamentary committee instead flexed it’s dictatorial muscles by defeating every amendment presented by every other Canadian political party with representation in Parliament. The only amendments to the law have been the three 3 cosmetic changes in an unconvincing effort to demonstrate the Government had in fact noticed public opinion opposes the bill.

At the Report Stage, Ms. May delivered an excellent speech on Bill C-51 in Parliament. Everything she said is born out by experts.

And yet The Harper Government continues to spread misinformation about this bill through its response made by the West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Sea to Sky Country MP. John Weston claimed Bill C-51 made “modest changes” which would “bring our government up to the level of other western democracies” without providing a scrap of substantiation. Then he attempted to discredit Ms. May with an ad hominem attack, then he concluded with a false claim that Bill C-51 would provide “judicial overview.”

This was Ms. May’s response.

Mr. Speaker, let’s be clear, this bill does not contain a single element of judicial oversight.

It does allow a CSIS agent to go to a judge and obtain a warrant–  but does that judge have the overview and the oversight to continue to monitor the way that warrant is used?

And no other modern democracy — NONE — anywhere — would allow a judge in a secret hearing to give a warrant to violate the constitution.

It is unheard of in the democratic world.

It’s unheard of, period

and this parliament should not stand for it.

Elizabeth May, Speech on Bill C-51

Although I am not a lawyer, my reading of the Charter suggests this is all that will remain of our rights and freedoms if Bill C-51 becomes law.

Canadian Charter After They pass Bill C-51

For this reason, I sincerely hope that Bill C-51 is withdrawn by the Harper Government. To this end, I sincerely hope Canadians will continue to call or write or email our MPs (you can print your own post card here) — even Conservative MPs — or sign the petition or petitions of your choice, and encourage others to do so as well. If we keep silent, our Charter will become a ghost of itself, our civil rights a sham.

For this reason I lend my own voice to Ms. May’s plea that her colleagues in the House of Commons will reject this bad law.

I’m only an ordinary citizen, maybe I’ve gotten it wrong.  But the experts have out the evidence out there.  Because the experts know why Bill C-51 must be scrapped.  Please watch the video (it’s only ten minutes) and hear for yourself.

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Image Credits:

My flag photo is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License;

My post card designs are CC0 (in the public domain)

Roger Duhamel‘s rendering of the Canadian Parliament Buildings is Public Domain.  The image is from the Canadian Bill of Rights, which was originally under Crown Copyright, which expires 50 years after publication.

My graphic “the Canadian Charter after they Pass Bill C-51” was used under the fair dealing exemption to Canadian copyright law, and I’ve dedicated my resultant work to the Public Domain.

Canada needs an Independent Senate to Protect the Public Good

Canadian FlagSo far, I have received one stalling response to my email from a Conservative Senator’s office which said:

Your correspondence will be brought to the Senator’s attention as soon as possible.”

And I have received one very nice response from one Liberal Senator. It touched on many of my concerns, but it is clear that my communication failed to make my point clear.   I wrote this response:

Dear Senator:

I am sorry you have mistaken the content of my message. I do not support “the sensible position of the Liberal senators” but rather an independent and autonomous Canadian Senate — a Senate in which Senators rise above party lines to provide sober second thought for the Public Good.

Just as you say, your role as a senator is to serve all Canadians.

But “all Canadians” encompasses the entire spectrum of citizens, from those Canadians who support the Pirate Party of Canada all the way to those Canadians who support the Conservative Party of Canada, everyone in between, and even people who support no party at all.

Although this may surprise you, Liberal Party of Canada policies do not support the interests of all Canadians, they support the interests of the Liberal of Party of Canada. This has been demonstrated very clearly by the current LPC Leader’s staunch opposition to meaningful electoral reform to Proportional Representation.

As you say, all Canadians are supposed to enjoy the same rights and protections guaranteed under our constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, the reality is that we do not. The Current Government, as well as many previous Governments, have amply demonstrated all of us will in fact not enjoy these rights and protections until we all have representation in Government.

This will not happen until all of our votes count.

The dysfunctional political system in which you labor cannot be laid solely at the feet of the CPC. Within my own lifetime Liberal Prime Ministers Trudeau and Chrétien have laid the foundations of PMO centralization of power. And of course the game of “Senate stacking” has been played equally by LPC and CPC Prime Ministers.

I myself do not support any political party at all, because every Party puts Party interests before Canadian interests. While I understand the justification of the need for political parties in the Canadian House of Commons, the Senate is expected to rise above partisanship for the good of all.

I believe that an autonomous upper house is a vital component for the security of our democracy.  A growing number of Canadians disagree with me; they can see no solution to the seemingly unending venality of the Senate.  Many see the Senate as a superfluous echo of the House of Commons, which is why they advocate abolishing the Senate and replacing it by adding a few new seats to the HoC. That both Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Harper share the goal of Senate deprecation should make it abundantly clear to all Senators that the Upper House must begin doing what it was constituted to do if it is to survive.

All Senators must cast off Party shackles that prevent them from doing what is right. If the Senate is to have any hope of public support, it must first work for the public good.

I hope this helps.

Ms. Laurel L. Russwurm

The government’s motion to suspend Senator Duffy, Senator Brazeau and Senator Wallin will be put forward on Monday, November 4th, 2013.

Incredibly, the government Senators intend to limit debate to a mere six hours.

Today Senators have been talking about the flood of emails they have been receiving. Apparently I’m not the only citizen plagued with serious concerns about our Senators being coerced to vote as their Party orders them to.

Has our Senate lost the ability to engage in sober second thought? Please let them know how you feel.

email the Senators,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,


a horizontal border of red graphic maple leavesAnd now to my hiatus. I hope you all will Keep an eye on the country for me during November.

Dear Senators…

Canada’s antiquated political system lacks much in the way of democratic protection.

When cursed with a majority government, there is little that can be done to prevent our government from passing bad laws.

There is only a single legal power to prevent the House of Commons from passing laws that are detrimental to the public good: the Senate.

I’m planning to write more about this later (just now I’m getting ready to go bang a pot at City Hall) but the meanwhile you can find out more about the Senate here, and the Senators here.
Write and tell them why the Omnibudget (Bill C-38) and the “Copyright Modernization Act” (Bill C-11) should not be made into law.

Contact the Senate

Senator Raynell Andreychuk Saskatchewan (Conservative)
Senator W. David Angus Québec ~ Alma, (Conservative)
Senator Salma Ataullahjan Ontario ~ Toronto, (Conservative)
Senator George Newfoundland and Labrador (Liberal)
Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu Québec ~ La Salle, (Conservative)
Senator David Braley Ontario, (Conservative)
Senator Patrick Brazeau Québec ~ Repentigny, (Conservative)
Senator Bert Brown Alberta (Conservative)
Senator JoAnne L. Buth Manitoba (Conservative)
Senator Catherine S. Callbeck Prince Edward Island (Liberal)
Senator Larry W. Campbell British Columbia (Liberal)
Senator Claude Carignan Québec ~ Mille Isles, (Conservative)
Senator Andrée Champagne Québec ~ Grandville, (Conservative)
Senator Maria Chaput Manitoba (Liberal)
Senator Marie-P. Charette-Poulin Ontario ~ Northern Ontario (Liberal)
Senator Ethel M. Cochrane Newfoundland and Labrador (Conservative)
Senator Gerald J. Comeau Nova Scotia (Conservative)
Senator Anne C. Cools Ontario ~ Toronto Centre-York (Independent)
Senator Jane Cordy Nova Scotia (Liberal)
Senator James S. Cowan Nova Scotia (Liberal)
Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais Québec ~ Victoria (Conservative)
Senator Roméo Dallaire Québec ~ Gulf (Liberal)
Senator Dennis Dawson Québec ~ Lauzon (Liberal)
Senator Joseph A. New Brunswick ~ Saint John-Kennebecasis (Liberal)
Senator Pierre De Bané Québec ~ De la Vallière (Liberal)
Senator Jacques Demers Québec ~ Rigaud (Conservative)
Senator Consiglio Di Nino Ontario (Conservative)
Senator Percy E. Prince Edward Island ~ Charlottetown (Liberal)
Senator Norman E. Newfoundland and Labrador (Conservative)
Senator Michael Duffy Prince Edward Island ~ Cavendish (Conservative)
Senator Lillian Eva Dyck Saskatchewan (Liberal)
Senator Nicole Eaton Ontario (Conservative)
Senator Art Eggleton Ontario (Liberal)
Senator Joyce Fairbairn Alberta ~ Lethbridge (Liberal)
Senator Doug Finley Ontario-South Coast (Conservative H)
Senator Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis Québec ~ Rougemont (Conservative)
Senator Joan Fraser Québec ~ De Lorimier (Liberal)
Senator Linda Frum Ontario (Conservative)
Senator George Furey Newfoundland and Labrador (Liberal)
Senator Irving Gerstein Ontario (Conservative)
Senator Stephen Greene Nova Scotia ~ Halifax-The Citadel (Conservative)
Senator Mac Harb Ontario (Liberal)
Senator Céline Québec~ Bedford (Liberal)
Senator Leo Housakos Québec ~ Wellington (Conservative)
Senator Elizabeth Hubley Prince Edward Island (Liberal)
Senator Mobina S.B. Jaffer British Columbia (Liberal)
Senator Janis G. Manitoba (Conservative)
Senator Serge Joyal Québec ~ Kennebec (Liberal)
Senator Colin Kenny Ontario ~ Rideau (Liberal)
Senator Noël A. Kinsella New Brunswick ~ Fredericton-York-Sunbury (Conservative)
Senator Daniel Lang Yukon (Conservative)
Senator Marjory LeBreton Ontario (Conservative)
Senator Sandra M. Lovelace Nicholas New Brunswick (Liberal)

Senator Michael L. MacDonald requires contact via website form Call 613-995-1866 or 1-800-267-7362 or Fax: 613-995-1853

Senator Frank W. Mahovlich Ontario ~ Toronto (Liberal)
Senator Ghislain Maltais
Senator Québec ~ Shawinegan Québec (Conservative)
Senator Fabian Manning Newfoundland and Labrador (Conservative)
Senator Elizabeth (Beth) Marshall Newfoundland and Labrador (Conservative)
Senator Yonah Martin British Columbia (Conservative)
Senator Paul J. Massicotte Québec ~ De Lanaudière (Liberal)
Senator Elaine McCoy Alberta (Progressive Conservative )
Senator Terry M. Mercer Nova Scotia ~ Northend Halifax (Liberal)
Senator Pana Merchant Saskatchewan ( Liberal)
Senator Don Meredith
Ontario (Conservative)
Senator Grant Mitchell Alberta (Liberal)
Senator Percy Mockler New Brunswick (Conservative)
Senator Wilfred P. Moore Stanhope St. / South Shore (Liberal)
Senator Jim Munson Ontario ~ Ottawa / Rideau Canal (Liberal)
Senator Nancy Ruth Ontario ~ Cluny (Conservative)
Senator Richard Neufeld British Columbia (Conservative)
Senator Pierre Claude Nolin Québec ~ De Salaberry (Conservative)
Senator Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie Nova Scotia ~ Annapolis Valley-Hants (Conservative)
Senator Donald H. Oliver Nova Scotia ~ South Shore (Conservative)
Senator Dennis Glen Patterson Nunavut (Conservative)
Senator Robert W. Peterson Saskatchewan (Liberal)
Senator Donald Neil Plett Manitoba ~ Landmark (Conservative)
Senator Rose-May Poirier New Brunswick ~ Saint-Louis-de-Kent (Conservative)
Senator Vivienne Poy Ontario ~ Toronto (Liberal)
Senator Nancy Greene Raine British Columbia ~ Thompson-Okanagan-Kootenay (Conservative)
Senator Pierrette Ringuette New Brunswick (Liberal)
Senator Michel Rivard Québec ~ The Laurentides (Conservative)
Senator Jean-Claude Rivest Québec ~ Stadacona (Independent)
Senator Fernand Robichaud New Brunswick (Liberal)
Senator Bob Runciman Ontario ~ Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes (Conservative)
Senator Hugh Segal Ontario ~ Kingston-Frontenac-Leeds (Conservative)
Senator Judith Seidman Québec ~ De la Durantaye (Conservative)
Senator Asha Seth Ontario (Conservative)
Senator Nick G. Sibbeston Northwest Territories (Liberal)
Senator David P. Smith Ontario ~ Cobourg (Liberal)

Senator Larry Smith Québec ~ Saurel (Conservative) has no email *or* web page
613-996-8555 or 1-800-267-7362 ~ Fax: 613-996-8565 [see below for something to try]

Senator Gerry St. Germain British Columbia ~ Langley-Pemberton-Whistler (Conservative)
Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen New Brunswick (Conservative)
Senator Terry Stratton Manitoba ~ Red River (Conservative)
Senator Claudette Tardif Alberta (Liberal)
Senator David Tkachuk Saskatchewan (Conservative)
Senator Betty E. Unger Alberta (Conservative)
Senator Josée Verner Québec ~ Montarville (Conservative)
Senator John D. Wallace New Brunswick ~ Rothesay (Conservative)
Senator Pamela Wallin Saskatchewan (Conservative)
Senator Charlie Watt Québec ~ Inkerman (Liberal)
Senator Vernon White
Senator Rod A. A. Zimmer Manitoba (Liberal)

Fax Alternative

Every Senator has a fax number, so for the Senators who have unpublished email addresses, we can try to email a fax using a free online service like TPC fax service

For Senator Larry Smith type the following as the addressee:

If you prefer this email-fax solution to an online web form, you can do the same for Senator Michael L. MacDonald

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Bad News: Canada Passed Bill C-10

LegisInfo: House Government Bill 41st Parliament, 1st Session June 2, 2011 – Present Text of the Bill Latest Publication: As passed by the House of Commons: 

C-10 An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts

You can read Bill C10 here.

I had hoped the Senate would fulfil its legislative function and provide oversight by preventing the passage of this law that hasn’t even been properly costed out, let alone justified.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Union calls Bill C-10, The Omnibus Crime Bill Unwise, Unjust, Unconstitutional

What I don’t understand is why our government would spend money we don’t have on jails we don’t need.

Razor wire and bars

Why Canada Needs the Senate: Omnibus Crime Bill

yes, another one... against a cyan sky


In the world of books, an omnibus is a perfectly acceptable way to package a collection of previously published stories, related either by content or author, in a single over sized volume.

black and white head and shoulders photo of uniformed officer from behind

But in government, especially in a democracy, an omnibus bill is problematic.

An omnibus bill is several pieces of unpassed draft legislation lumped together into an unwieldy package, and inevitably fast tracked. Because the original drafts have already been part way through the process, they have received varying amounts of scrutiny and debate. Legislators can have a sense of déjà vu about the disparate parts of an omnibus, even without having completely examined it all.

The sheer size of an omnibus bill makes it difficult or impossible for it to get the same kind of scrutiny any individual piece of legislation would receive. It is allotted about the same amount of time as any individual piece of legislation. It’s one thing to skim a book you’ve already read; but it is something else entirely for a legislature to skim through draft legislation.

Laws need to be debated and weighed to ensure they fulfill the needs of a democratic society.

The problem, of course, is that our less than perfect “first-past-the-post” adversarial political system allows any government that holds a majority of parliamentary seats — the “majority party” — to pass any law it wants.

And they frequently do. This is the government equivalent of a parental rules that exist “because I said so.”

I don’t know about you, but I would rather see laws made with care instead of rushed to completion. Fast tracked laws have more chance of unintended consequences than laws that are more carefully considered.


black and white snap of toddler and mother

Not just as a citizen, but as a parent, Bill C-10 strikes me as totally wrong.
My child was raised with logical consequences, not unreasonable harshness. Punishment should always be a last resort.

Experience has taught me that prevention and inclusion are far more effective than punishment and exclusion — in both parenting and society — because they deter bad behaviour. Isn’t that the point of law?

Child poverty in Canada is as bad — or worse — than it was when first identified as a priority years — maybe decades? — ago. Modern statistics say crime rates have been dropping across Canada. So I don’t understand why our government wants to invest vast sums into building bigger jails and incarcerating more Canadians.

Black and white: looking up at the Don Jail

If it costs around $100,000 a year to incarcerate someone, shouldn’t we be concentrating on prevention? Canadian tax dollars could be better spent on social programs that address child poverty and the appalling conditions in which many of our first nations citizens struggle.

black and white police car parked in a lot

What I don’t understand is why our government would spend money we don’t have on jails we don’t need.

As a parent I know that the children who are excluded are the ones that become a problem.  The same is true for citizens.  People who do not feel a part of society have no motivation to fit in or follow societal laws.  Harsh punishments result in hardened criminals.

You don’t have to take my word for it: that’s what the experts say, too.

senatorial oversight

The Canadian electoral system is archaic and horribly overdue for reform. Our “First Past The Post” system was established in the days of quill pens, so it isn’t surprising to find it unsuited to the computer age.  Nonetheless we seem to be stuck with this unstable adversarial system that confers an unfair advantage to the political party that achieves the most seats, and thus a majority government even without a majority of votes.

The inequities in our system are so great that it is common for political parties that are not in power to rail against the inequity. They can clearly see how Canada’s outmoded electoral system is detrimental to Canada — until their own party benefits from the inequity and achieves a majority.

It is an adversarial system which has winners and losers. But the biggest loser is always Canadian democracy, particularly when we have a majority government typically elected by 30-40% of the popular vote.  With a system so imbalanced, huge numbers of Canadians vote “strategically” in futile attempts to make their votes count.

Fewer than 30% of eligible voters voted for the Conservatives, who currently hold the majority of seats in parliament. 

Our system makes no provision for a majority of Canadians to oppose any draft legislation. The majority government is vested with the authority to act as an effective dictatorship until the next election.  The majority has the power to pass any law it likes, and there is nothing Canadians can do about it.

Canada is out of luck…

black and white emergency poleOr is it?

Isn’t this why the Senate exists?

Senators are appointed for life which frees them to make their own choices. Senators can’t lose their Senate seats for stopping harmful legislation and sending it back to the drawing board.

Which is why Senators are appointed for life.

Many Canadians question the validity of the Canadian Senate, since succeeding governments have attempted to suborn the institution by “stacking the deck” with patronage appointments intended to turn the Senate into a mere rubber stamp for their party agendas.

sober second thought

The Senate exists to provide necessary checks and balances to our imbalanced system of governance. The Senate has the opportunity to slow or stop laws that may well prove terribly detrimental to Canada.

It is far better to legislate with care rather than with haste. Bundling many different bits of draft legislation together into an omnibus bill is always dangerous; and without proper scrutiny, laws passed hastily can cause harm.

But it is within the Senate’s purview to review the evidence. The Senate’s constitutional role is to make substantive analysis of legislation, especially for bills of far reaching consequence, and then submit needed improvements through amendments which are then sent back to the House of Commons. The Senate’s role is most crucial when we have a majority government.

This is why our Senate has the power of oversight, to ensure that a single political party’s agenda doesn’t act against the public good.

black and white image of a stop sign at an angle

What’s the rush?

We are at the beginning of a new term of a majority government.  We are told that majority rule is “more stable,” since majority governments have both the luxury of time and the last word. So what harm is there in taking the time, doing the research,  listening to the experts and examining the evidence before rushing to legislate?

Bill C-10 has been fast-tracked, and the House of Representatives has passed it hastily in the wake of growing objections from many quarters.

The Crime Omnibus is precisely why Canada need an Upper House. We need the Senate to perform the function for which our Upper House was created. It should not matter which government appointed a Senator; the Senate’s purpose goes beyond party politics, stretching into the wider purpose of serving Canada.

Canada truly needs some sober second thought.

Bill C-10: What The Experts Say

References courtesy of

The page has a form e-letter to make it easy for you to send a message to your senators. For those of us who prefer crafting our own missives for our elected representatives, I’m putting together an online senatorial contact list to allow easy contact with the appropriate senators.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves