Holding court

Parents — encourage your children to be lawyers. I haven’t seen any statistics,  but by the look of things, legal disputes involving governments are a growing industry.

“Majority” governments, like the kings of old, can pretty well do whatever they want to. Unhappy citizens can pout, protest, or go to court. More and more are going to court, and they often win.

Sometimes governments run afoul of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Harper government lost two cases recently for Constitutional no noes. The courts didn’t like the retroactive “tough on crime” law, and found the proposed appointee to the Supreme Court to be ineligible.

The BC Civil Liberties is challenging the government in a number of cases.

On another front, Taseko Mines Ltd. has launched a suit claiming the federal environmental assessment panel acted unfairly in rejecting the New Prosperity Mine proposal.

Both the federal and provincial governments have had trouble with anti-union legislation.

The federal public service union is challenging Bill C-4 which, they say, has “gutted” their collective bargaining rights and the courts ruled against the B.C. government and in favour of suits by health workers (2007) and more recently the teachers’ union. Three environmental groups are taking the BC Oil and Gas Commission to court for violating B.C.’s Water Act.

Closer to home, Williams Lake city council parted with $300,000 in legal fees last year for one thing or another,  and the Harper government is reversing the process by challenging itself regarding a Tribunal decision that found the Williams Lake Indian Band has claim to city land.

There probably would be more such lawsuits if they weren’t so costly, few individuals have the money to take on a government. Governments, on the other hand, have unlimited access to our pocketbooks.

Looking at the positive side, the citizen challenges, along with protecting our freedoms, do create jobs through the court process.

Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.

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