Thursday, September 11, 2008

So a couple of things today.

The Supreme Court of Canada issues its ruling in R. v. L.T.H., unanimously overturning the conviction of a youth with a learning order on the grounds that there are special protections, both constitutional and statutory, in existence to protect young people from waiving their rights without understanding them.

L.T.H., the Court said, waived his right to retain and instruct counsel or to consult with a parent or adult relative in private without actually understanding what the wavier of those rights meant; and as the police went to no great pains to explain these to him, (beyond merely asking "Do you understand?") his confession, elicited after this 'wavier', was inadmissible in a court of law.

The Crown, the Court ruled, must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the statement was voluntary and that the requirements relating to the taking of statements given by young people had been met.

In further Supreme Court news, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeals judge Thomas Cromwell has been nominated to fill the vacancy. Apparently, Cromwell is a legal centrist and was likely to be suggested by the House committee which was appointed to suggest a list of justices. Not only does Cromwell represent Atlantic Canada by replacing Bastarache, who had just stepped down and came from New Brunswick, but he's also bilingual. Nobody really knows anything about this new judge, and neither do I, so there's not much help there, sadly. Given the Supreme Court's history, however, he's at worst a centrist and more likely to be somewhat left-leaning.

This appointment came a mere two days before the Canadian federal election call, which of course leads some to wonder if in fact it wasn't purely a partisan political appointment.

Which brings up up the next point- the Canadian federal election is scheduled for October 14th, 2008, the day after thanksgiving. There are to be two debates as I understand it, October 1st and October 2nd and I plan to cover them (last election I did a live transcription not of what they were saying, but of what they were saying) .

Let me just say right now that I hate this election. It's like a rat race. No matter who wins, you've still got a rat as Prime Minister. As for who's going to win, it's hard to tell; everybody does polling, but nobody does it well. A popular opinion poll of the country might leave you with the impression that the Liberals and the Conservatives are tied at about 33%, the Bloc has 7%, the NDP has 15%, and the Greens have 7% or so.

However, that was basically what happened last election- and out of 308 seats, the Greens got none, the Bloc got about 50, the Conservatives got about 130, the Liberals got about 95, and the NDP got about 30. Opinion polls fail drastically because they don't tend to take into account the fact that our electoral system is first-past-the-post in each riding. The result is that the Bloc, who poll only 7% nationally, may win 75% of the seats in Quebec (The only area they run candidates) because they can focus their electoral strength, whereas the Greens tend to have it dispersed throughout Canada.

So what's happening is really anybody's race. It's also rather amusing that the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Danny Williams (who is a Conservative) has decided to campaign in this federal election on the platform of ABC- Anything But Conservative, urging Canadians and Newfoundlanders to vote for, well, anybody but the conservatives.

And, of course, I had International Law and National Security and Civil Rights in Wartime.

The former involved a very long discussion about the history of International Law from pre-Greek times to about 1900, and the latter involved....well, I wasn't exactly listening. It was when he started trying to explain the disposition of the US federal appeals circuits that I tuned out.

Problematically, even in law, you can't actually expect any of the students to show up with a background in law or any experience in reading or interpreting cases (or really, any understanding of the structure of the legal system). This results, rather hilariously, in some very odd answers to some rather basic questions as students struggle against the understanding that slowly settles over them like a heavy blanket that they're expected to actually know something by the time they show up at a university...

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