Aniz Alani, a Vancouver lawyer, has launched a legal action to force Prime Minister Harper to appoint new senators to fill the vacancies in the Red Chamber. The lawyer considers illegal Mr. Harper’s position that he will not advise the Governor General to fill existing vacancies in the Senate. The federal government opposed the application, arguing that, so far, there is no decision to be reviewed by a court, there is no constitutional convention that says the prime minister must make appointments, and this is not a question for the courts in any event. Justice Harrington, of the Federal Court of Canada granted Mr. Alani standing before the court on the basis of the public interest. The Judge noted that there is still much argument and evidence that must be placed before the Court and it is too early to dismiss the application. He wrote: “Certainly, it is premature to say now that this matter is not justiciable.” He also added: “Without a doubt there is a political aspect to Senate appointments. From time to time the Senate, or some Senators, may be a source of embarrassment to the Government, to the House of Commons as a whole, and indeed, to many Canadians. However, I know of no law which provides that one may not do what one is otherwise obliged to do simply because it would be embarrassing. The Supreme Court made it perfectly clear in the Reference Re Senate Reform that significant changes to the Senate, including its abolishment, require a formal constitutional amendment.”
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About Teresa Mitchell
Teresa Mitchell is the former Editor and Legal Writer for LawNow at the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.