Friday, January 19, 2007


Reprinted from CBC Website

This loss by Little Sisters and the subsequent axing of the Court Challenges program by the right-wing Conservative government has dire consequences for many minority and marginalized groups who will go into heavy debt in order to finance the costs of funding Charter challenges which are in the public's interest for the greater public good. Of course, gvernments have all the necessary funds to trample on average Canadians civil rights and everyone who reads this blog must be deeply concerned over this--Jamie Lee

Gay bookstore loses bid for government-paid court fees
Last Updated: Friday, January 19, 2007 | 9:31 AM PT
CBC News

A Vancouver bookstore specializing in gay literature lost its bid Friday to have the federal government cover legal costs it had accrued over two decades in a fight over the powers of Canada Customs.

The Supreme Court of Canada decision sided with federal government lawyers, who argued the case was "simply not important enough" to warrant Ottawa footing the tab.

If Friday's decision had ruled in favour of Little Sisters, it could have set a precedent in which Ottawa would have to cover legal costs for ordinary people who raise challenges under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The store's original lawsuit against Canada Customs involved the seizure by customs officers of gay erotica bound for the shop because the agents considered the material obscene.

Vancouver's Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium argued their decades-old case was of high public interest because it dealt with unjust censorship.

As such, the shop wanted Ottawa to pay advance legal costs for their charter challenge. The store's lawyers argued there was no point to having a charter system if ordinary people could not afford to challenge the federal government.

The Little Sisters case dragged the bookshop in and out of courts for two decades, racking up large legal fees that may exceed $2 million by the end of the trial. The store maintained the government should pay the fees regardless of the outcome of the trial.

In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled the actions of the customs officers to be "oppressive and dismissive," but upheld the rights of Customs Canada guards to ban material from entering the country.

Although a B.C. judge agreed with Little Sisters that the federal government should pay costs up front, an appeals court later overturned the decision.

Friday's decision came after the Conservative government axed a $2.8-million-a-year Court Challenges Program last September. The Trudeau-era program was intended to protect the constitutional rights of minority and other marginalized groups by helping to finance their court battles.