NB Human Rights Commission to examine abortion funding

Fredericton — The New Brunswick Human Rights Commission will hold hearings on whether the province’s abortion funding policy is a violation of the human rights of women. Under New Brunswick’s Medical Services Payment Act the province will only pay for abortions committed at hospitals and which are referred by a family doctor. The NB HRC is not making public who filed the complaint but abortion advocates and feminists complain that the restrictions are onerous, that too few hospitals do abortions, and that the policy results in women paying out of pocket for abortions done at the Morgentaler abortion facility in Fredericton. Randy Dickinson, chairman of the NB HRC, said, ”there is sufficient evidence to send it to an official board of inquiry” which will be held behind closed doors because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Prostitution decision appealed, stayed

OTTAWA – The Canadian Justice Department submitted a legal brief to the Ontario Court of Appeal supporting the federal government’s appeal of an Ontario Superior Court judge’s decision to eliminate Canada’s prostitution laws. In September, Ontario Justice Susan Himel ruled that Canadian laws against prostitution violated the Canadian Charter of Rights by supposedly forcing prostitutes into dangerous situations. She granted a 60-day stay to allow the federal and provincial governments time to prepare their appeals. The justice department’s legal brief states that Himel’s ruling “will likely encourage the movement of prostitutes to Ontario from other jurisdictions” and cause increased drug trafficking, violence, and degradation of communities. Justice Marc Rosenberg must decide to preserve the laws restricting prostitution such as prohibiting communications for the purpose of prostitution and maintaining a bawdy house while appeals are considered. Lawyer Alan Young, representing the prostitutes who challenged the law, said there is no reason to stay Himel’s decision while the case continues to be heard in the courts. Rosenberg’s decision was expected in late November.

Assisted reproduction agency criticized

OTTAWA – A complaint filed by NDP health critic Megan Leslie with the Information Commissioner alleges that officials at Assisted Human Reproduction Canada destroyed and doctored its documents. The MP requested documents through the Access to Information Act regarding the AHRC’s budget, out-sourcing of consultants, and scheduling details for the president. The organization, which is tasked with regulating fertility treatment and conducting scientific research into reproduction, denied the accusations. The AHRC has already been criticized for doing little to regulate the fertility industry, despite the routine illegal purchase and sale of human eggs and sperm. There have also been questions about how the AHRC spends its budget of $10 million per year. From April 1 to October, the agency gave out more than half a million dollars in management and communication consulting contracts, even though it is still waiting for the Supreme Court to decide whether the federal government has jurisdiction over assisted reproduction and thus cannot perform most of its mandate. Three members of the board have already resigned.

Common-law privileges in Quebec

MONTREAL – On Nov. 3, the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned a Superior Court ruling that denied alimony to women in common-law relationships. This struck down a section of the province’s civil code that restricts alimony and other benefits to married couples. The decision comes in a case where a former Brazilian model brought her former common-law billionaire husband to court to collect alimony. The appeal court is giving the government of Quebec a year to change the law. Quebec, although being the province with the highest proportion of cohabiting couples, is the only province in Canada that does not recognize common-law unions.

Polygamy case begins in B.C.

VANCOUVER – Lawyers for the British Columbia government, which has brought a reference case on polygamy to the B.C. Supreme Court, say permitting plural marriage would open the door to “an influx of polygamists” because no other western country legally recognizes polygamy. The province has struggled for years with how to proceed against the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a breakaway Mormon group that illegally practices and promotes polygamy. FCJCLDS leaders in Bountiful, B.C., where the group lives, say the ban on polygamy violates their Charter of Rights and Freedom protection to practice their religion. The B.C. Attorney General, Craig Jones, says the practice is harmful to society because it entails the trafficking of underage girls and the expulsion of young men from their communities because they are a threat to elders who want multiple wives. Justice Robert Bauman refused a request by the Canadian Broadcast Company to broadcast the hearings live over the internet and television. The CBC said the country had a right to witness proceedings that could alter social policy, but the federal government objected to broadcasting the hearings.