Osgoode experts say abolishing Senate would be difficult

If Stephen Harper follows through on his veiled threat to try to abolish the Senate, experts say he’d be plunging the country into years of constitutional wrangling and court challenges with a very limited chance of success, wrote Canadian Press Sept. 11. Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said abolition has a certain popular appeal and it might theoretically be possible to obtain enough provincial support to do it. But he added: “I still think it’s a very, very long shot and to go down that road would not in fact result in a successful amendment at the end of the day.”

Peter Hogg, a top constitutional expert and former dean of Osgoode, said finding the support of seven provinces, representing 50 per cent of the population (the so-called 7/50 formula), would be difficult enough. But that hurdle has been raised a notch by the Regional Veto Act, passed by Jean Chrétien’s previous Liberal government. The act stipulates that Parliament will not approve any constitutional amendment unless it has the approval of Ontario, Quebec, BC, at least two Prairie provinces and at least two Atlantic provinces.

Moreover, Hogg predicted one of the smaller provinces would go to court to insist that unanimous provincial consent is necessary. “I think it’s a little hard to predict how that would go,” Hogg said of the probable court reference.

It’s equally hard to predict where the constitutional haggling might end up if Harper were to open the can of worms to deal with Senate abolition, wrote CP. “The moment you get into that kind of amendment, you’re going to have this problem where there’s going to be a series of trade-offs,” said Monahan, a veteran of the failed Meech Lake and Charlottetown constitutional sagas which ballooned out of control. “People are going to want other changes in return for their support…and it will become very complicated and will be bogged down.”

Police scanning York surveillance tapes

Toronto police say they don’t believe that two assailants who committed a pair of sexual assaults on York University’s campus last week live inside the residence where the attacks occurred, wrote CBC News online Sept. 12. Police are now in the process of working through hundreds of hours of security tapes collected from a variety of sources. There is no camera inside the residence, but there is one on the roof and others in surrounding areas. Police are also returning to the Vanier College residence to complete their canvassing of students. Det. Christine Long said she hopes to release sketches of the perpetrators as soon as possible. "We’re trying to get a more defined description, a better description, something that, you know, maybe even leads us to producing a composite as our goal," she said.

Long said she hasn’t yet seen anyone on the videos who matches descriptions of the perpetrators. She also said it’s extremely rare for two people to commit sexual assaults as a pair.

  • Reports of developments in the case, and comments on campus security at universities across the country were featured on several national radio and television broadcasts Sept. 11.
  • Almost two weeks ago, when we dropped our daughter off at York, we were greeted by friendly, enthusiastic students and staff, wrote Susan Virtue in a letter to the Toronto Star Sept. 12. Moving in was a breeze with the help of dozens of "frosh bosses". There was an atmosphere of celebration, almost a camp-like feel. At the parents’ orientation, the overriding theme of all of the officials, including York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, was, "this is a community; we want your kids to feel at home." Sadly, that community feeling has been shattered.

    You send your child off to university with all of the familiar admonitions: "Don’t walk alone at night," "Make responsible decisions about behaviour," "Don’t let anyone buy you a drink," etc., etc. Never did it cross my mind to worry that my daughter might not be safe in her own bed at night. That is what makes this crime particularly heinous: No one feels truly safe any more. What should be the beginning of a wonderful adventure has now been tainted with the worst kind of fear. I can only imagine the pain the victims and their families must be feeling.

On air

  • Philanthropist Seymour Schulich spoke about his new book Get Smarter, on BNN-TV and CBC Newsworld Sept. 11.
  • York alumna and filmmaker Raha Shirazi (BFA ’06) spoke about her latest movie which is being screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, on SUN-TV (Toronto) Sept. 11.
  • Ricardo Grinspun, economics professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, took part in a panel discussion about 9/11 on CTS-TV’s “Michael Coren Live” Sept. 11.