OTTAWA, Ontario, February 14, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The Liberal government has revived a program used by left-wing activists and sexual minorities to remake Canada in their image.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre, created the Court Challenges program in the 1970s to defend federalism in Quebec, but it was twice shut down by Conservative governments. It funded activist groups to challenge the constitutionality of Canadian laws and had become “a tool to undermine Canada’s Judeo-Christian values,” Gwen Landolt of REAL Women of Canada said.
Now it is back, as Justin Trudeau vowed in his 2015 election campaign, with a $5 million budget, two panels of expert advisers and an expanded mandate.
“Our laws are not perfect, and that is why it is important to allow Canadians to fight for their rights. That is the program’s biggest strength,” Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly said.
The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, a frequent challenger of Canadian laws, applauded the move.
“We and many others had asked the government to expand the scope of the previous program, which prior to its cancellation in 2006 was limited to equality rights and official language rights cases,” it said.
The Liberal-dominated House of Commons Justice Committee recommended the revival. It stated, “The purpose of the CCP was to give a voice to those who might not have the ability to bring court challenges.” Doing so, however, was necessary “to clarify, expand and breathe life into constitutional equality and linguistic rights, and to hold government to account.”
But others take a dimmer view. Brian Lilly of The Rebel news service said the CCP had been used by “the Lefty government of the day” to introduce unpopular policies. “They could fund the court case, help the lefty activists go before lefty activist judges who would rule in their favour.” Then the government “could stand back and say they have to follow the court’s orders, they have no choice.”
“It was an appalling program,” she said. “It was highly undemocratic. It ensured the funding went to left-wing organizations.”
REAL Women applied for funds four times but was always turned down.
“But LEAF was funded for 140 different cases,” she said. The Legal Education and Action Fund is a feminist legal group.
According to University of Calgary political scientist Ian Brody, the program initially had a different goal before it was closed down in 2006 while he served as Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff.
As Brody explained last spring, Pierre Trudeau created it in 1978 to fund groups fighting Quebec’s new language laws that suppressed English.
However, Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney expanded it “to prove [his] ‘progressive’ bona fides.” He “expanded the CCP again to support litigation by feminist, gay and disability rights groups,” Brody said. “Pretty soon, CCP-funded cases were forcing a broad-scale social reform agenda on governments from coast to coast.”
This proved so unpopular with Mulroney’s social conservative base that he cancelled the program. But it was too late. In the 1993 election, the PCs nearly vanished at the national level. Their social conservative supporters in western Canada shifted en masse to the Reform Party.
Back in office, the Liberals restored the program, which continued to challenge Canadian laws by claiming they violated the Constitution. Homosexual activists used its funding to mount 41 court challenges between 1994 and 2005, according to Landolt.
“The Liberals used it to do what they knew they could never get Parliament to do,” said Landolt. “They were evading Parliamentary debate.”
Homosexual rights, abortion rights, and prostitution rights all advanced, she said, with CCP funding.
The new program will not only cover equality and language rights but will fund challenges based on freedom of religion, expression and association, democratic rights, and the right to life, liberty and security of the person.
John Carpay of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said his group had yet to decide whether it would seek funding. “We are quite proud of our independence. When you take money from government, you could lose that.”
Carpay said his group will watch the CCP closely to see whether the funding will be political as in the past.
“It has been used very successfully by left-wing groups to advance their agenda,” Carpay said. “I don’t know what the new incarnation will be like.”