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Trudeau names Quebec judge Nicholas Kasirer to Supreme Court of Canada

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has nominated Nicholas Kasirer, a Quebec judge and former professor with a passion for civil law, to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Kasirer has served on the Quebec Court of Appeal for a decade. Fluently bilingual, he spent 20 years as a professor of law at Montreal’s McGill University, including as dean of the law faculty.

Kasirer’s outstanding legal and academic experience will be an asset to the country’s highest court, Trudeau said in a statement.

The nomination fills the vacancy created by the coming retirement of Justice Clement Gascon.

On July 25, the House of Commons justice committee will hold a special hearing, moderated by a law professor, where members will be able to question Kasirer and learn more about why he was chosen.

In his application for the position, made public Wednesday, Kasirer stressed his specialty in Quebec civil law but described himself as a generalist as a judge.

During a decade on the bench, he has written extensively in criminal law, constitutional and administrative law, commercial law, and in cases involving fundamental rights, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, he noted.

The institutional and practical constraints of deciding cases invite caution, if not humility, for the judge contemplating a change of the law, Kasirer wrote.

At the same time, judges must take up their public duty by showing imagination, and indeed some courage, in the pursuit of justice, he added.

“Striking the right balance between these competing calls to caution and to courage is a central challenge in the exercise of judicial responsibility in a constitutional democracy,” he wrote.

“In my experience, they are not incompatible — there is an immense satisfaction in moving law resolutely forward, but only so far forward as is necessary to solve the problem at hand, leaving the rest for another day.” 

Whether signing unanimous reasons or a strong dissent, a Supreme Court judge cannot, despite the independence attached to the role, decide a case on his or her own, Kasirer said.

“Taking into account the points of view of one’s colleagues — and adjusting, if necessary, one’s conception of what constitutes ‘good’ law or a ‘just’ result — requires as much if not more moral courage than signing a dissenting opinion.”

He also emphasized a professional commitment to bilingualism and a personal and family life steeped in Montreal’s cultural complexity.

“I sense that Canadians want judges who are modest of temperament and who, in proposing themselves for public service, see their ‘most significant contribution to the law’ lying ahead of them rather more than as a trophy on an office shelf.”

The nomination was praised by Independent Sen. Pierre Dalphond, a former judge who met Kasirer at McGill and worked closely with him on the Quebec appeal court.

“I am pleased with this appointment, which brings to the Supreme Court an exceptional legal expert, both in civil and common law, a great listener, who is curious and open-minded, an elegant writing style, an experienced appeal judge, and a man with collegial spirit,” said Dalphond.

— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Agriculture

151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot

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VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.

The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.

The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.

“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.

He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.

An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.

A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.

James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.

Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.

“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.

James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.

“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”

James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.

Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.

The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.

“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”

James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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Education

School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar

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A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.

Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.

The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.

The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.

The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.

“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.

Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.

The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.

The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.

The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.

Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.

“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.

Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.

“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”

 

 

 

 

 

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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