August 2011 Archives

Episode 10

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Hard to believe that our ten weeks is up! What a ride we've had. I've learned a lot - and hope you have, too. It's been our honour to bring you this show.

To bid farewell, we decided to have a look at the future. Next year, our Charter will be thirty years-old! Something to celebrate, for sure. But also a good time for reflection on what could be changed or updated. And that's what our final episode is all about: Where do we go from here?

For answers, we ask familiar voices from past shows like lawyers Tom Schuck, Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Rob Holmes and Michael Moon. We'll also have a very interesting discussion about "genetic rights" with Bev Heim-Myers. She's the Chairperson of The Canadian Coalition for Genetic Fairness, and her concerns may be a revelation to a lot of people!

iain russell.jpgWe'll also have a discussion with Iain Russell (pictured left). He loves our Charter so much that he had part of it tattooed on his torso!

You'll hear from Iain that, although The Charter is getting on in years, it's still very vital and important to his generation.

And, in the end, that may be the most rewarding idea of all. No doubt, the discussion will continue - and well it should!


(Check out The Fine Print for some background information on this week's show.) 

Do Dr. Pam Palmater's "Identity Exercise"!

Ever wonder what the Canadian government deems an aboriginal person? Well, you may be surprised by the answer.

One of our guests this week, Pam Palmater, gave us this handy refrence tool: Indian status slides revised.pdf.

Check it out!

Episode 9

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Does the date October 7, 1763 ring any bells? Have any personal relevance? That is the date of King George the third's Royal Proclamation of 1763. So what possible relevance could this dog-eared old piece of paper have in 2011? 

Well, this document has been called the "Indian Magna Carta" or the "Indian Bill of Rights".

So the answer is: Plenty.

This week on the show, we're talking Aboriginal Rights. And yes, it's complex. Look at the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. When it talks about basic freedoms, it's direct: "Everyone has freedom of conscious and religion, freedom of thought."  No messing around.  When it talks about aboriginal rights - well, not so much.

"The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal, treaty or other rights or freedoms that pertain to the aboriginal peoples of Canada including any rights or freedoms that have been recognized by the Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763; and any rights or freedoms that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired."

So, we ask the question: "What is the number one issue right now when it comes to Aboriginal Rights?" Not surprisingly, there is more than one "number one" issue.

Tracy Booth, the executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba believes that the number one issue is the high percentages of aboriginal people in jails.

Jonathan Rudin is the Program Director  at Aboriginal Legal Services in Toronto thinks that how aboriginal people are treated in the courts system should be a priority.

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner, Chris Lewis, is most concerned with the conflicts that occur when treaties and land are in dispute.

But most fundamentally, there is the very question of who the government deems an aboriginal. Lawyer, writer and professor, Pam Palmater, has worked with the government on aboriginal issues for over a decade.

Obviously, in 27 minutes and 30 seconds, we can barely scratch the surface of this topic. But it's our hope that we've at least started a conversation...

(Check out The Fine Print for some background information on this week's show.) 

Meanwhile, at a blood donor clinic near you...


If you can't speak one of Canada's two official languages, chances are you can't donate blood.

If you've ever given blood, you'll know that there is a battery of questions you have to answer. One of those questions is whether the potential donor speaks English or French. If the answer is no, then interview over. The potential donor can't give blood. The reason is that Canadian Blood Services wants to enure that potential donors understand and correctly answer the questions on the screening test. Fair enough.

Now Canadian Blood Services wants to allow translators to assist potential donors  in completing the questionnaires. So far the government hasn't allowed them. 

What do you think? Are they ensuring public safety? Or are they not taking steps to accommodate the language needs of potential donors?

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Episode 8


There are those who argue that the right to English and French is the most important and fundamental right to have. It goes to our basic need to communicate with one another.

But like just about everything else in The Charter, this seems to subject to interpretation (pardon the pun) and lots of questions.

Geneviève Boudreau, director of The Language Rights Support Program, sets this topic up very nicely, explaining that we use language rights each and every day. She also confesses to not liking a certain breakfast cereal. The latter has nothing to do with rights, though.

You can't discuss language in Canada without addressing the business of translation for legal, governmental, educational and even health purposes. For that, I chat with Michelle O'Brodovich, a translator who illuminates some pretty interesting challenges when going back and forth between our two, official languages.

Then, what if you lived in a place where our two official languages were only two of ELEVEN! Roy Goose knows what that's like. He lives in the Northwest Territories and is an Aboriginal interpreter at The Inuvik Regional Hospital.

We'll also delve into the thorny issue of minority language rights for those who fall outside of English and French. Balwant Sanghera, from The Punjabi Language Education Associaton, feels that embracing the language of new Canadians won't hurt us a country, but may even strengthen us.

(Check out The Fine Print for some background information on this week's show.) 

Episode 7

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We're told that we all have them; those preconceptions about someone's ethnicity or colour. It's hard for some of us to admit, to be sure, but studies show that they exist. Even in the most open-minded of us.

But where and when do these preconceptions become racism? That's what we'll look at this week as we tackle the third in our three-part exploration of clause 15. (1)...

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms Section 15. (1) - Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability

From dealing with the legal system to entering the job market, new Canadians face a number of potential problems.

Although comedian, Ali Hassan, has a humourous take on it, his experiences with crossing international borders aren't that funny at all. We'll also delve into racial profiling - specifically in Montreal - with three very distinct voices. Curtis Nash shares his story of being pulled over "driving while black". Fo Niemi has a very poignant question for the Montreal Police, and Fady Dagher answers it.

In a visit to the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic I learn about the unique challenges that some people have when entering the workforce. 

I'll also chat with lawyer, Selwyn Pieters, who fell victim to a very surprising act of racial profiling, and youth leader, Aamir Sukhera assures us that there is reason to have hope in the next generation.

 (Check out The Fine Print for some background information on this week's show.) 

Episode 6

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This week, on part 2 of our look at Section 15, we're focussing on the number one complaint to The Canadian Human Rights Commission: Disability.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms Section 15. (1) - Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

According to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, no one should be discriminated against because of a disability. But it seems that it does happen. And it could happen to anyone.

Now I know what a lot of you are thinking right now - something like, "hey I don't have a disability!" Not so fast...if you're not disabled now, it's almost guaranteed that at some point in your life, you will join the 4.4 million Canadians living with a disability - that is if you're lucky enough to be around that long.

You don't want to miss Jeff Preston and I on a stairbombing mission in London, Ontario. What is "stairbombing"? Oh, you'll find out.

I'll also have a very poignant discussion with Ryan Elrick. He is suing the federal government over wrongful dismissal from the Canadian Armed Forces because of his disability.

Finally, I'll visit The Meeting Place, a drop-in centre at the busy downtown Toronto corner of Queen and Bathurst. Many of the people who go there here have mental disabilities and are homeless. There, I'll chat with lawyer, Sherri Shartall. Every two weeks she sets up shop there to help out with their legal troubles.

Next week, in the final look at this section, we tackle discrimination based on race, origin and colour. 

(Check out The Fine Print for some background information on this week's show.)

Meanwhile, in a courtroom near you...


"KB" is a woman with the mental competency of a three to six year-old. Her step-father was accused of sexually abusing her. When the case came to trial, defence lawyers questioned KB's ability to be able to tell the truth. She was asked what truth means and what it means to make a promise. Her answers were found by the trial judge to be inadequate. She was disqualified from testifying.

Should the court be able to challenge a mentally disabled person's ability to understand the concept of taking an oath? Keep in mind that it's prohibited to challenge a child's ability to tell the truth. So let us know what you think.

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