NEWSLETTER – June 2010
Irwin Rudick, President
Allen Mendelsohn, Dorith Toledano, and Larry Markowitz, Editor(s)
Message from the Outgoing President
Over the years and most recently during my term as President of the Lord Reading Law Society, I have often heard the view, sometimes expressed in very strong terms, that the LRLS should be more “involved”. The school of thought would like to see a more activist LRLS. My view is that we must tread very carefully before going very far in this direction. There are a number of reasons for this.First, our membership, like any other grouping, has diverse opinions on any legal or political issue, which may come to the fore. Taking one side or the other on a topic of hot debate may alienate certain members who may then say “I didn’t sign up for this” and resign. Obviously, this would not be a desirable outcome.Secondly, in considering whether to go “activist” on a given issue, we must consider the position of a vital component of our membership, namely our judges. I think I could state without any fear of contradiction, that one of the most worthwhile and enjoyable aspect of the LRLS experience is to be able to talk informally and share a cocktail with our members who are judges. However, this experience could be compromised if the LRLS becomes embroiled in various controversies.This being said, there are times when the LRLS must take a stand. The key, however, is that we do so with thorough care and deliberation. We recently had occasion to do this on the General consultation on Bill 94 – An Act to Establish Guidelines governing Accommodation Requests within the Administration and certain institutions – the “niqab law” for short. I think the procedures we followed in this case set an excellent precedent for the future.• Firstly, we had the matter studied by our Human Rights Committee led by Me Frank Schlesinger and its findings were reported to the Executive and Board of Directors.• Secondly, the report of the Human Rights Committee was disseminated to the Board of Directors, Executive and Past Presidents of the LRLS for comments, suggestions, amendments, etc.• Thirdly, the final draft of our brief to the Committee on Institutions was distributed to the Executive, Board of Directors and Past Presidents of the LRLS for a vote via e-mail. Only when a vote favouring the submission of a brief to the Committee was received by myself as President, was the brief filed.• Fourthly, and most importantly, we made it absolutely clear in the terms of our brief that no member of our Society, who was a full time sitting or supernumerary judge, participated in any manner in the preparation of the brief.The Executive and the Board of Directors, by a strong majority vote, approved the brief of our Human Rights Committee which condemned the draft legislation.I note with a certain amount of pleasure that following the submission of our brief, along with others, the hearings were suspended and the proposed legislation may be abandoned.The bottom line is yes, we can and must be “activists” on occasion; but we must do so very carefully, and above all, we must pick our spots!
Message from the Incoming President
From the Crib to the Coffin – Review of the Henry Steinberg Memorial Lecture
On March 25, 2010, the Lord Reading Law Society had the honour of welcoming Dr. Adrienne Asch as its guest speaker on the occasion of the annual Henry Steinberg Memorial Lecture. Dr. Asch is the Edward and Robin Milstein Professor of Bioethics at the Yeshiva University Wurzweiler School of Social Work and professor of epidemiology and population health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Her work focuses on the ethical, political, psychological, and social implications of human reproduction and the family. In her talk, she weaved together issues of medical ethics at either end of the human life cycle with concepts of Jewish bioethics.
Dr. Asch began by reminding us that Jewish teaching dictates that all humans are equal before their creator. However, what exactly is meant by the term “equality?” While not all people are equal in their abilities, each individual should have an equal opportunity to reach their potential in life.
When a person is disabled in some respect, who are we to decide what it means to be “impaired?” Rather than using impairments to differentiate between how valuable each life is or how much medical care each person deserves, society’s goal should be to minimize differences between individuals and to promote the flourishing of each individual according to their respective talents and abilities.
In well-known cases, such as those of Sue Rodriguez, in which, diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Ms. Rodriguez fought to have the legal right to assisted suicide; and the case of Robert Latimer, in which Mr. Latimer was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his daughter Tracy, who was suffering from cerebral palsy, the issue of whether one has the right to end one’s life (or one’s child’s life) was at play.
For a society to permit euthanasia, its legislators must first define what is meant by patient autonomy. Should someone who is not disabled also be allowed to end their own life, even though they don’t have a disability? Society often has the attitude that only those with disabilities have the right to assisted suicide. But, by the same token, if someone merely has a low quality of life, does that also justify their having the right to assisted suicide? If somebody whose abilities are declining has a fear of becoming a burden to their loved ones or a fear of not being able to participate in meaningful activities, does that justify assisted suicide? Perhaps before society promotes the right of such individuals to die, stated Dr. Asch, society should do what it can to improve the quality of their lives.
In Dr. Asch’s view, before our legislators make rules regarding physician assisted suicides, they should move their attention toward preventing situations that lead people to lose their will to live. However, before legislators will think this way, we first need to change the attitudes by which society does not value people with disabilities. We should work towards helping those with disabilities to live better lives, despite their health problems. This would be consistent with the Jewish view of the moral equality of life.
On that note, Dr. Asch ended the “Coffin” part of her talk. She then moved on to the “Crib” part of her talk, during which she explored the issue of what to do when prenatal testing shows that a fetus will be born with a disability, such as autism or brain injuries.
Health care is an expensive resource and, while we know that it will be expensive to treat a child born with disabilities over the course of their lifetime, such an individual must be seen as a valued community and family member, even if they “won’t turn out to be Nobel Prize winner.” Even children who are disabled should be helped to reach their own potential. We should not give up on people because of their particular traits. A disabled person should not be diminished from being considered worthwhile.
Dr. Asch presented these difficult questions within the Jewish framework of Tikun Olam, of healing and repairing the world. She concluded by stating that we should keep a notion of utopia in mind and then asked what it would take our society to get there. Then we must engage in difficult political and ethical conversations about how to allocate scarce resources in society. While having such conversations, it is important to ensure transparency and to allow all stakeholders the opportunity to be heard.
Although Dr. Asch did not answer many of the difficult moral questions she posed, her talk provided us with a framework within which to make such decisions. She raised some difficult moral dilemmas for us to consider – both as lawyers and as leaders in Canadian society.
Hershie Frankel and Larry Glazer Honoured
On the evening of the Henry Steinberg Memorial Lecture this year, the Society took the opportunity to extend its most sincere appreciation to long-standing Executive members Hershie Frankel and Larry Glazer, for their decades of selfless work for the Society. A picture is worth a thousand words:
Thank you Hershie and Larry!
Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime – Review of the June 10th Dinner-Meeting
The names Bernard Madoff, Vincent Lacroix and Earl Jones conjure up thoughts of financial fraud and the suffering of its victims. In this era of high-profile financial scandals, the Conservative government has seen fit to introduce legislation imposing tougher sentences on those who commit such crimes.
On June 10, 2010, the Lord Reading Law Society had the honour of hosting Mr. Robert Frater, Senior General Counsel, Litigation branch of the Federal Department of Justice, who stepped in at the last minute for the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Robert Nicholson, who had been scheduled to be our speaker, but was obliged to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances. Mr. Frater’s speech was entitled “Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime: The Government’s Proposed Legislation”.
During his talk, Mr. Frater focused on two current legislative initiatives, namely:
• Bill C-21: an Act to Amend the Criminal Code, also known as the Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act, and
• the proposed national securities act.
Bill C-21 was introduced by the Tories in response to the humiliation and loss suffered by victims of fraud. In addition to the financial effects of fraud, victims suffer emotional and psychological side effects, as they have been tricked to facilitate their own victimization and are often traumatized as a result. In recognition of the suffering of victims of fraud, the government has proposed amending the fraud provisions of the Criminal Code to include tougher sentencing, consideration of aggravating factors, restitution orders and the introduction of community impact statements.
Bill C-21 proposes increasing the maximum jail term for fraud from 10 years to 14 years. It would also require a minimum sentence of two years for all fraud cases of over $1 million. Moreover, as a part of the sentence, the judge would be allowed to issue an order that prevents the offender from gaining employment in any area of work that involves the money of other individuals, so as to reduce recidivism.
In handing down its sentence, the court would be allowed to consider aggravating factors, such as the financial and psychological impact of fraud on the victim. The government is also proposing that judges be allowed to order restitution of the proceeds of fraud to victims, in addition to considering community impact statements.
Mr. Frater then touched upon the recently introduced Canadian Securities Act (which has been referred to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality). This act would provide the soon-to-be created Canadian Securities Regulatory Authority with greater investigative tools than those wielded by existing provincial securities regulatory authorities. In addition, key securities-related offences from the Criminal Code would be moved into the Canadian Securities Act itself.
During the question-and-answer period that followed, Senator Yoine Goldstein stated that he was concerned by the concepts of minimum and mandatory sentencing, asserting that it has been shown that such provisions have no deterrence effect and remove discretion from judges, thereby giving the impression that the government lacks confidence in the judgment of judges. Me Goldstein’s comments were echoed by criminal defence lawyer Richard Shadley, who stated that minimum sentences “do nothing” and, in addition, rob trial judges of their discretion. For instance, a minor player in a fraud would get the minimum compulsory two years when normally they would have gotten zero jail time. In response to these comments, Mr. Frater simply stated that he would “take back” the messages of Me Goldstein and Me Shadley to the government. Professor Stephen Scott then stood up and made a brief statement in favour of the Tories’ tough-on-crime legislation, essentially stating that since the victims have suffered as a result of fraud, the fraud artists should also be made to suffer.
This well-attended event brought Irwin Rudick’s term as Society president to a close. Me Rudick was applauded by all those in attendance for his hard work and service to the Society during the past year.
News from the Mishpuchah
- To the Honourable Judge Lori Weitzman on being named to the Cour du Québec, Chambre criminelle et pénale. You can see the letter of congratulations from the Society
- To Board member Neil Hazan on the occasion of his wedding
- To Board member LB Erdle on the occasion of his son’s wedding
- To Board member Frank Schlesinger on the occasion of his daughter’s wedding
- To Past President Ian M. Solloway on the occasion of his daughter Heather’s wedding
- To Past President Sharon G. Druker for being honoured by the Association of Québec Women in Finance (AFFQ) to receive its “Prix Reconnaissance” to mark her contribution to the AFFQ
- To the family of Leo Kravitz, who passed away June 29th
- To Past President Alan Stein on the loss of his mother