1st Session, 44th Parliament
Volume 153, Issue 14

Friday, December 17, 2021
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker


Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is also to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Senator, I asked you part of this question yesterday. I want to quote what the Prime Minister said in 2015 when he clearly stated:

Canada’s diversity is our great and unique strength. We are the one country in the world that has figured out how to be strong, not in spite of our differences but because of them. So, the prime minister of this country has a responsibility to bring people together in this country, not to divide us by pandering to some people’s fears.

Leader, yesterday you said that the Prime Minister will intervene at the appropriate time. Do you have an idea of what is meant by an “appropriate” time?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you, colleague. As Government Representative, first of all, please let me repeat what I said and have tried to make clear on two occasions. The Government of Canada and the Prime Minister have said that he is not eliminating the possibility of intervening at the appropriate time, not that he has decided to intervene. With regard to the appropriate time, colleague, I don’t have the answer. However, the answer will be a function in part of how legal proceedings unfold in Quebec. They are currently before a lower court. Thereafter there would be other stages and legal proceedings, and at each stage the Government of Canada will consider its options and respond appropriately.

Senator Jaffer: Senator Gold, you said — fairly — that the government is looking at the legal proceedings. Legal proceedings cost a lot of money. The Cities of Toronto and Brampton have stepped up to help civil liberties — Sikh and Muslim organizations — to fight this in court. Is the Prime Minister also going to support them financially? Because otherwise it’s an uneven balance. To fight a government is very difficult, as you know. Will the Prime Minister support those groups to make sure they can fight the case equally?

Senator Gold: Thank you for your question. There is no doubt that litigation is an expensive proposition. That is why this government has reintroduced and reinstated the Court Challenges Program, which was eliminated by a previous government. There are mechanisms to support litigants in their efforts to challenge laws — whether provincial or federal — on grounds of alleged Charter violations, and the government is pleased those measures are in place to assist any litigants who qualify.