Category Archives: Rule of Law

The Representation in Representative Democracy

Electoral Ridings in Montreal

Some hullaballoo about new seats for Ontario, BC and Alberta. The NDP and Quebec oppose the change and root their opposition in this decision: Reference re Prov. Electoral Boundaries (Sask.), [1991] 2 SCR 158 Read below for a backgrounder.

“The Commons has 308 seats at present. Our Constitution guarantees 75 of those to Quebec. That’s 24.4% of the seats for a province with 23.2% of the national population. (Ontario, by comparison has just 34.4% of the seats despite being home to 38.8% of Canadians.) Even if the federal Tories move ahead with plans to add 30 seats to the Commons – 18 in Ontario, seven in British Columbia and five in Alberta – Quebec will still have 22.2%.

After adding the planned new seats, Quebec would still come as close as any province but B.C. to having the proper number of seats for its population. If more seats are added, Quebec’s representation will be one percentage point below its share of the national population, Alberta’s will be 1.2 percentage points under and Ontario’s will be 2.1 points under. Only B.C., which would then be 0.6 percentage points under-represented, would be more equitably treated than Quebec. (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and all the Atlantic provinces already are over-represented, and would remain so under the new plan.)

But in 1991, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that electoral districts in Canada do not have to honour the one-person, one-vote standard. (Well, actually, the Supreme Court said the oneperson, one-vote rule was sacred in a democracy, but then listed so many allowable exemptions as to make the rule meaningless.)

The majority on the court explained that “relative parity of voting power is a prime condition of effective representation.” The judges then added that “deviations from absolute voter parity, however, may be justified on the grounds of practical impossibility or the provision of more effective representation. Factors such as geography, community history, community interests and minority representation may need to be taken into account to ensure that our legislative assemblies effectively represent the diversity of our social mosaic.” Other than all those exceptions, though, “dilution of one citizen’s vote, as compared with another’s, should not be countenanced.”” – Thomas Mulcair’s numbers game, Lorne Gunter, National Post

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Thunder Bay rule of law in Question: Racism in the Jury Roll

Something Rotten in Thunder Bay

March 2011 decision finding jury rolls in Thunder Bay unrepresentative, i.e., systematically excluding the participation of First Nations people. Pierre v. McRae, 2011 ONCA 187 (CanLII) http://canlii.ca/s/6jsqb

“[The] ruling confirms what we have suspected for years – that First Nations have been systematically excluded from the justice system. Even if an inquest into the death of Reggie Bushie could be convened, two more of our youth have died since 2007 and there is no inquest that is designed to address all seven deaths.” – NAN Deputy Grand Chief Terry Waboose

Here is a recent press release calling for a commission of inquiry:
http://www.nan.on.ca/article/nan-calls-for-commission-of-inquiry-into-the-deaths-of-seven-nan-youth-in-thunder-bay-730.asp