On May 18, the Supreme Court found that a section of the Canada Elections Act, the so-called Gag Law, passed by Parliament, did not violate the Charter Rights of Canadians. By a comfortable margin, the Court upheld the legislation by a vote of 6-3. This is an outrage. This judgment was judicial activism by omission: the same Supreme Court which has so often used the Charter as an excuse to rewrite the laws of the land declined to uphold the rights of concerned citizens to participate freely in the political process. And not only is the judgment a cause for concern in itself, but the very timing of the decision is highly suspect. Such challenges usually take months, if not years, to wend their way through the labyrinth of the Canadian judicial system.
But with unseemly haste and on the eve of an election, a ruling to limit the participation of citizens in political campaigns was handed on a platter to the party which placed these political activists on the bench-the six judges who voted to uphold the gag law were all Liberal appointees, five of whom were appointed by Chretien himself.
The Court, it seems, is little more than a rubber stamp of the party in power. Even though all of the judges admitted that the law curtailed the freedoms of Canadians, the majority on the bench deemed this violation necessary, so that the electoral process would not be tainted by the undo influence of third party groups. But however they arrived at their decision, its benefit to the current government cannot be denied.