The Current

Niqab ruling propels debate on courts vs. politicians defining laws

The niqab ruling by the Federal Court of Appeal represents yet another government loss to the courts on an issue related to societal values. Critics of our courts argue judges are increasingly defining, rather than upholding our laws. Others say judges protect us from political whims and ideologies.
Who should be making our laws: politicians or judges? (rana ossama/flickr cc)

It's getting to be a long list:   Prostitution. Senate reform. Aboriginal land title. Doctor-assisted dying.

Again and again, Canada's courts have delivered a series of defeats to the Harper government.... often upsetting the laws created by our parliamentarians. 

And it continued this week, when Federal Court of Appeal cleared the way for Zunera Ishaq to wear her niqab at a citizenship ceremony. 

"I believe in Canadian justice!Long live Canada!"- Zunera Ishaq, as she left court after her victory
Zunera Ishaq won her case to wear a niqab while taking citizenship oath. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)
  There may be further judicial headbutting on that case – with the government vowing to take it to the Supreme Court.

But it's just the latest case raising questions about the respective roles of our lawmakers, and our courts.     

Marni Soupcoff is executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation and she was in our Toronto studio. 

According to Emmett MacFarlane, the courts may be overstepping their bounds, but that's not to say that it's all their fault. He is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Waterloo and the author of "Governing from the Bench: The Supreme Court of Canada and the Judicial Role".

This segment was produced by The Current's Ines Colabrese, Julian Uzielli, Marc Apollonio and Josh Flear.


♦ Supreme Court's stance against social conservative values - National Post
♦ Talking about judicial activism - Emmett MacFarlane, Macleans