Law Commission Closure

Anyone wishing to sign the letter [below] should contact 

Dr. Darin Barney at directly.

Dear Friends,

Some of you will know me from past Law Commission Advisory Councils,
some of you I have not had the pleasure of meeting. I served on the
Advisory Council from 2000-2005.

As you will have heard, as part of the Conservative government’s cuts
announced Monday, the Law Commission is slated for closure. I am
hoping you will agree that this is terrible development that should be

To that end, in consultation with past Commission Presidents Nathalie
Desrosiers and Roderick MacDonald, I have composed an open letter to
the Minister of Justice urging the government to reconsider this
decision. I am hoping you will join June Callwood and me in signing
this letter.
The letter is pasted below. As time is short, I would ask you to
refrain from making editorial suggestions – of course, if you have
serious objections to its content that prevent you from signing please
let me know and we can think about a modification. Once I have
gathered signatures I will send the letter to the Minister and Justice
critics from the other parties. I am also now in the process of
attempting to place the letter for publication in the national
newspapers, either as an op-ed piece or in the form of an open letter.
If it is the latter, it is likely that the newspaper will insist on
listing only a representative sample of signatories, followed by an
indication of the number of others (in this event, please do not be
offended if your name does not appear under the published version –
all names will be listed under the letter sent to the minister).

So, if you agree to sign the letter pasted below, please indicate this
in a reply to this email (to avoid cluttering people’s mailboxes, do
not press “reply all”), indicating your name and title/affiliation as
you would like it listed on the letter.

Thanks very much,


Darin Barney, PhD

Canada Research Chair in Technology and Citizenship
Associate Professor and Chair
Dept. of Art History and Communication Studies
McGill University
853 Sherbrooke Street West
Montréal, QC
H3A 2T6
voice: 514.398.5683
fax: 514.398.7247

An open letter to Mr. Vic Toews, Minister of Justice, Canada

26 September 2006.

Dear Mr. Minister,

As part of a package of program and spending cuts announced on
September 25, the Government of Canada has decided to close the Law
Commission of Canada. As former and present members of the
Commission’s citizens’ Advisory Council, researchers who have
contributed to the Commission’s work, and citizens who recognize the
importance of its contributions to justice in Canada, we ask that you
reconsider this action and restore funding to this vital and important

In 1992, a previous government abolished Canada’s path-breaking Law
Reform Commission. It took five years before the federal government
realized the value of what had been lost, and established the new
Commission in 1997. We urge you to avoid making this mistake again.

The mission of the Law Commission is to engage Canadians in the
renewal of the law to ensure that it is relevant, responsive,
effective, equally accessible to all, and just. Its mandate is to
provide independent, non-partisan advice to the government to ensure
that our laws and legal system meets the changing needs of Canadian
society and its citizens. It also stands ready to advise the
government on specific questions referred to it by your office.

The social issues Canadians face in their communities are complex and
dynamic. The Law Commission facilitates an approach to law reform that
recognizes this complexity and is equal both to Canada’s diversity and
to its common commitments to justice, equality, fairness and

Since its inception, the Commission has addressed a range of difficult
questions. How can the law be used to restore the dignity of those who
have suffered institutional child abuse? How can law better support
close adult personal relationships? What should the relationship be
between public and private law enforcement? How can law support
participatory and restorative justice? How should age be used as a
category in law? Does contemporary labour law adequately address the
realities of working in the new economy? What can we learn from our
country’s indigenous legal traditions? Does Canada’s electoral system
produce just outcomes? What is the status of Canada’s laws beyond its
borders? When is criminal law the best means to control unwanted
social behaviors? When are other alternatives preferable?

These are complicated questions that go to the heart of justice in
this country. The Law Commission of Canada has been uniquely
positioned to address them. Parliament and the Ministry of Justice
develop policy and make laws. The Law Commission does neither.
Instead, it gathers the best expertise and sponsors comprehensive
research on the toughest questions. Most importantly, it engages
everyday Canadians directly in deliberating upon how law and the legal
system can best serve their communities.

Through its citizens’ advisory council, and through innumerable
forums, roundtables and consultations held across the country on a
regular basis, the Commission engages diverse Canadians from all walks
of life in debate and discussion about their laws and legal system. In
this way, it fulfils its mission to ensure that law is relevant to
Canadians, by actively ensuring that Canadians always remain relevant
to the law, and to those who make and enforce it.

The quality of debate and proposals that emerges from this process is
nothing short of outstanding. In the nine years of its existence, the
Law Commission of Canada has become a model of best practices to law
reform bodies operating in over sixty countries throughout the world.
Should you close it down, Canada will go from being a country that
boasts one of the world’s finest such bodies to one that does not have
a law reform commission at all. Sadly, Canada’s international
reputation is only the least of that which will suffer should the
closure of the Law Commission proceed. Once again, we urge you to


June Callwood, Companion of the Order of Canada

Dr. Darin Barney, Canada Research Chair in Technology & Citizenship,
McGill University

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