Friday, 5 July 2013

Paying for Blood Donations Can Be both Safe and Non-Exploitative

On June 27, 2013, the federal government released a summary report of its consultations with stakeholders regarding payment for plasma donations. Meanwhile, a company called Canadian Plasma Resources has constructed two privately owned clinics in Toronto that await approval prior to paying donors for their blood plasma.

Right on cue, the union representing employees at Canadian Blood Services (which has a government-granted monopoly on whole blood collection in Canada, outside of Quebec) proclaimed that safety will somehow be jeopardized if plasma is collected by anyone other than a public facility. Other opponents have attempted to sway public opinion by arguing that payment for plasma is somehow exploitative. Both criticisms are smoke-and-mirrors. I know from experience.

I have the blood that everyone wants. I am heterosexual, monogamous, and in good health with no underlying medical conditions. I don’t travel to regions of the world where strange infections persist. I’ve had no recent surgeries or dental work. I take no drugs. And I rarely—if ever—get sick. Oh yes, I have no fear of needles.

Despite these ideal attributes, I rarely donate. The entire process is a bother. It inevitably consumes the most productive hours of the day. Even though it involves only a small measure of discomfort, it always seems to negatively impact upon my work and personal endeavors. For me, altruism alone is not a sufficient incentive.

But there was a time in my life when I was attending school in the US, living off loans and struggling to pay the bills. Financially, those were stressful times. That’s why I was delighted by the opportunity to earn $45 per week.

Down the street from my budget apartment was a private medical clinic that collected plasma. The clinic gave first-time donors a thorough health examination. And after a lengthy interview to assess risk factors, donors who qualified were permitted to give plasma twice a week. The first visit in each seven-day period earned me $20, and the second earned $25.

I like to think that my plasma donations helped someone who needed it. Although I can’t claim to have had purely altruistic motives, I doubt the recipient of the life-saving medical products my plasma was used to create cared much about my motivation.

On other hand, the money was a boon for me. It meant that I could afford better food, put gas in my car, and maybe even go on an occasional evening out with my wife. And just for giving plasma—something that regenerates quickly. This is why it annoys me when I hear the word “exploitation” bandied about by those who oppose paying donors. Being paid to give plasma was a great help to me at that time in my life. And I am certain that it could be for others too. There is simply nothing exploitative about it at all.

First, I was in no way being abused by those paying me—if that’s what is meant by “exploit”, the criticism is ludicrous. The plasma was mine. The money was theirs. They wanted my plasma and I wanted their money, so we came to a mutually beneficial agreement to exchange the two. We both got what we wanted. No abusive exploitation.

Second, if anything, it was me doing the exploiting. Even though I made an effort to lead a healthy lifestyle—eating quality foods and exercising, while avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and the like—many of the physical characteristics that made me a good candidate were given me by my parents. Yet I reaped the benefit. I exploited this resource.

Third, how is paying someone for plasma more exploitative than offering no compensation? With or without payment, plasma donations are always voluntary. If either is exploitative, expecting donors to give plasma without payment—perhaps by inducing guilt or shame—seems more so to me.

The concern regarding safety is a sham—most plasma available in Canada already comes from donors paid in private clinics. Health Canada says approximately 70% of the plasma products available in Canada originate from such donors. Most of them are Americans. So either demand for plasma products in Canada outstrips the capacity of Canadians to donate, or Canadians have insufficient incentive. My experience makes me suspect the latter.

Evidently, altruism alone cannot supply all the blood products that Canadians need. It was the financial incentive that motivated me to donate, and my donations likely saved lives. That’s a win-win solution that should not be rejected under pressure from vested interests.

This piece first appeared in the Huffington Post in July 2013.

Censorship Laws Do Not Protect Everyone

On June 19th, comedian Guy Earle lost his appeal of a 2011 BC Human Rights Tribunal decision. The Tribunal found that Earle discriminated against Lorna Pardy during an open mic event for amateur stand-up comics. The story of what happened is difficult to piece together, but it seems that Pardy heckled Earle and he responded by making insulting comments regarding her sexual orientation. The confrontation escalated to the point where Pardy threw a glass of water in Earle’s face. The Tribunal ordered Earle to pay Pardy $15,000 for injury to her “dignity, feelings, and self-respect”—yes, that’s something that human rights laws often protect. The Supreme Court of British Columbia upheld the Tribunal’s decision.

In contrast, in 2003, the Alberta Human Rights Commission did not protect the dignity, feelings, or self-respect of Quintin Johnson. Johnson, a Christian, had complained to the Commission regarding a song titled “Kill the Christian” by the death metal band Deicide. The lyrics included “you are the one we despise”, “I will love watching you die”, and “kill the Christian”. The Commission dismissed Johnson’s complaint on the grounds that Deicide did not have a wide enough listening audience or popular appeal, even though the band had sold nearly 500,000 albums in the U.S. alone by that time.

So why is Earle’s artistic expression discriminatory while Deicide’s is not? What makes Earle’s expression more harmful than Deicide’s?

It’s not the content of the expression. Deicide is counselling violence against Christians, while Earle only demeaned Pardy’s sexuality. Earle may have hurt Pardy’s feelings, but Deicide’s lyrics may be vociferous enough to sustain an investigation under the “hate propaganda” section of the Criminal Code.

It’s not the context of the performances. The song “Kill the Christian” can be purchased at nearly any popular music record store. It is available online via iTunes, Amazon, and from a myriad of other online music retailers. And because of the nature of recorded music, a listener can choose to hear the song over and over again. Earle’s insults were purely transient. After he uttered them, no one, including Pardy, could hear them again.

It’s not the size of the audience. Deicide regularly tours the world, including Canada, and is free to perform music that advocates killing members of the Christian faith. Yet when Earle stood on a stage and made one-time remarks about Pardy’s sexuality, she was awarded $15,000 of Earle’s money. The complaint against Deicide was dismissed because the audience was deemed too small. Yet Earle’s audience was much smaller.

Maybe it’s who the complaint was made about? Deicide’s lyrics are written by the band’s vocalist, Glen Benton. It would be an extreme understatement to say that Benton is a controversial figure in the music industry. He has been labelled an animal abuser, a misogynist, and an anti-Christian Satanist. Earle, on the other hand, is a law-abiding amateur stand-up comic who has an otherwise untarnished reputation.

To be absolutely clear, both Deicide and Earle should have won their human rights cases. Freedom of expression and the liberty to speak freely should prevail. Further, no government official should be in the business of deciding what qualifies as artistic expression or determining the value of that expression.

Even if Pardy and Johnson suffered hurt feelings, neither one should be permitted to drag the party who hurt their feelings through a human rights process. Both Pardy and Johnson should have demonstrated their maturity by walking away. Pardy could have walked out of the club that night at the first sign of trouble. If she had, there would have been no problem. Johnson could have easily avoided Deicide’s music. Had he done so, he could not have been offended.

Any clear-headed appraisal of these cases would find Deicide’s expression more harmful than Earle’s. So if it’s not the content, the context, the audience, or the person who the complaint was made about, then what?

The lesson to be learned is that human rights laws only protect certain people—the identity of the complainant matters. Because Pardy is a lesbian, her feelings are protected by the law. As a Christian, Johnson’s are not.

This piece first appeared in the Huffington Post in July 2013.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Sometimes the Government Cannot Defend Itself

On January 31, 2013, Fiona Johnstone won her discrimination case against the federal government at the Federal Court (Canada v. Johnstone). Many legal experts expect that the government will not appeal the decision even though it has the potential to adversely affect every employer in Canada. In this case, the government has failed to fully defend its own interests and has thereby failed to protect the interests of other affected Canadians.

Johnstone complained to the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2004 because she was unable to maintain full-time employment status due to her rotating shift schedule and ensuing difficultly securing childcare. Without full-time employment status, she was ineligible for workplace benefits. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (Tribunal) found that due to this ineligibility, Johnstone was the victim of an employment policy that discriminated against her on the basis of family status—i.e. having children requiring childcare.

The Federal Court affirmed the Tribunal’s decision that Johnstone’s childcare schedule should have been accommodated by her government employer, the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA). Effectively, the decision means that Johnstone has a right to benefits and a job that fits the time constraints of her personal life. It also demonstrates that both Johnstone and the court expect others—in this case, Johnstone’s employer and fellow employees—to shoulder some of the burden of Johnstone’s life-choices.

Robyn Benson, head of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, called this ruling “a huge win for Canadian workers with family obligations”, and that “it is now clear that employers must carefully consider each and every family status accommodation request and accommodate [those requests] short of undue hardship”.

It is unsurprising that organized labour would gleefully endorse this ruling—it greatly expands employer obligations to employees. But if Benson’s assessment proves accurate, employing young workers (particularly women) with family obligations will become more complicated and costly. This is why this decision will ultimately backfire and not have the desired effect of preventing future discrimination because instead of protecting the interests of young workers with family obligations, this ruling encourages employers to find subversive and clandestine means to ignore the job applications and advancement requests of otherwise qualified young workers since hiring and promoting those workers is now associated with greater risk and higher costs.

What has been the government’s response? In cases like this, the government cannot be trusted to fully defend its own interests in court because it has an insufficient incentive to put up a good fight. Moreover, lacking sufficient incentive, the government may mount a less than rigorous defence because the financial burdens associated with an unfavourable court decision are ultimately borne by the taxpayers.

In defending its interests against Johnstone’s human rights complaint, the government advanced three arguments. First, that the term “family status”, as used in the Canadian Human Rights Act, should not be construed to include childcare obligations. Second, that Johnstone had not satisfied the prima facie test for discrimination. And third, that the tribunal lacked the authority to order the remedies it awarded to Johnstone. These arguments—although interesting to lawyers—do not truly strike at the heart of the matter, especially from a private employer’s perspective.

The government did not argue that Johnstone has no legal right to receive workplace benefits, that human rights legislation should not be used to force others to bear some of the costs of Johnstone’s personal life, that Johnstone was requesting preferential treatment, or that a victory for Johnstone would be a setback for employees with childcare obligations. Although each of these runs contrary to existing and established precedent, private employers had an interest in these arguments being advanced in court.

Of the arguments the government did advance, none addressed whether human rights legislation can or should provide the basis for a positive rights claim, or, in other words, whether the legislation could be used to force a defendant to expend his own resources to provide some good or service to the claimant. No where did the government argue that human rights legislation should not be used as a means of transferring the costs of an individual’s chosen lifestyle to other members of society—in this case, from Johnstone to her employer, her fellow CBSA employees, and ultimately, taxpayers.

A private employer would have defended himself vigorously against Johnstone’s complaint because that employer would directly bear the financial burden of losing the case. The court’s decision means that every employee with childcare obligations in circumstances similar to Johnstone’s must receive accommodation from employers short of undue hardship. This greatly complicates an employer’s task of generating an employee work shift schedule, as a particular segment of employees have effectively been given trump cards permitting them to avoid working undesirable shifts. Even more, this decision not only restricts employer freedom, it also has a negative impact upon employees who do not have childcare obligations since it is these employees who will be scheduled to work the undesirable shifts.

But the government does not bear its own financial burdens the way that a private employer does. A ruling, regardless of the result, would have no direct impact upon the financial bottom-line at the CBSA since it is operated by the government and funded by taxpayers. Further, since it is the government’s legislation that enabled Johnstone to make a complaint, government lawyers were unable to argue that the law is unconstitutional, poor policy, or that it produces absurd results. In other words, not only did the government lack incentive to defend itself fully, it may have had an interest in advancing an incomplete defence to preserve its own legislation.

There are other examples of when the government cannot mount a rigorous or complete defence. On April 26, 2010, five applicants sued the Canadian and Ontario governments for failing to develop an effective housing strategy to deal with “inadequate and high-priced housing” (Tanudjaja v. Canada). The applicants are advancing a positive rights claim asking the courts to force taxpayers to fund their lifestyles. The Attorneys General of Canada and Ontario have filed motions to dismiss the application. And like the Johnstone case, should this application proceed, both government defendants will be incapable of mounting a complete defence.

For example, one argument unavailable to the governments’ lawyers is that the governments’ own policies and regulations are the primary cause of inadequate and high-priced housing. Economists Edward L. Glaeser, Joseph Gyourko, and Raven E. Saks answer the question posed by the title of their own paper, “Why Have Housing Prices Gone Up?”, with,
“…the evidence points toward a man-made scarcity of housing in the sense that the housing supply has been constrained by government regulation as opposed to fundamental geographic limitations.”
And as long-time Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Donald Brash said in his introduction to the 2008 Demographia survey,
“…the affordability of housing is overwhelmingly a function of just one thing, the extent to which governments place artificial restrictions on the supply of residential land.”
Although this may be a controversial proposition in the discipline of urban planning, notice that no government that already places “artificial restrictions” on residential land supply could defend itself by advancing Brash’s argument in court. To do so would be to undermine its own interventionist programs. Instead, in the Tanudjaja application, the Federal and Ontario governments will be forced to justify their levels of interference in the housing market rather than address what Brash thinks is the root of the problem.

Of course, this will suit the five applicants’ positive rights claim well. As long as the arguments before the court concern only the adequacy of the governments’ housing policies and not whether governments should interfere in the housing market, the debate will not address the fundamental problem—that “artificial restrictions” drive-up housing costs. The prevailing assumption shared by all parties to the Tanudjaja application will be that government interference in the housing market is justified and perhaps necessary. No one will suggest that the court undergo a thorough examination of how government intervention creates housing shortages and high prices, despite that it would be in the interests of taxpayers to do so.

The Johnstone and Tanudjaja cases are excellent examples of litigation where the government has an insufficient incentive to defend itself rigorously and completely. In both cases, the government is defending itself against a positive rights claim. In every positive rights claim advanced in court, the claimant is asking that his or her actions be indemnified by the defendant. When such a claim is made against a private defendant, that defendant has a significant interest in defending himself since he will bear the costs of losing. But this is not true for governments.

Governments do not bear the financial burdens associated with an adverse court decision in the same way that a private defendant does. When a positive rights claim is successful against a government defendant, the costs associated with that unfavourable ruling are dispersed across a broader segment of society and ultimately borne by taxpayers (for another example, see Moore v. BC). In essence, the government merely functions as a conduit passing on to others any new burdens it receives.

There are two obvious problems resulting from this. 

First, when the government is defending itself from a positive rights claim, taxpayers have an interest in the outcome because ultimately they will have to bear the cost of an unfavourable decision. If the government—for whatever reason—fails to fully and completely defend itself, taxpayer interests have not been duly represented before the court. 

And second, since every court decision has a precedential value, as similar adverse decisions accumulate over time, the body of case law will become more and more skewed in favour of a claimant advancing a positive rights claim.

This piece was first published by the C2C Journal April 23, 2013.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Canadians should be free to speak without fear

Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that governments are permitted to violate the right of Canadians to speak freely about issues of public importance in order to stamp out any expression they consider hateful. (SK v. Whatcott)

In 2001 and 2002, William Whatcott, a self-proclaimed anti-gay, anti-muslim, anti-you-fill-in-the-blank activist, distributed offensive flyers in Regina and Saskatoon. The Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the flyers contravened the province's hate speech prohibition.

On appeal, the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench upheld the tribunal's decision, while the provincial Court of Appeal overturned it. The Supreme Court of Canada heard the appeal in October 2011.

The Supreme Court of Canada's decision is a devastating blow to free speech and the rights of every individual Canadian. In principle, this decision means that the government can silence your speech on issues of public importance if that speech is deemed hateful. It doesn't matter if what you said was true, that it caused no one any harm, or that you never intended to say anything discriminatory - you can still be dragged into court and lose for committing a victimless crime.

In its 1990 Taylor decision, the Supreme Court of Canada reached a similar conclusion - with one salient difference. In Taylor, Justice Beverley McLachlin (as she was then) wrote a strong and clear-headed dissent. She canvassed many of the problems with hate speech prohibitions.

Hatred is an ambiguous and emotionally charged term, capable of a wide range of meanings among different people. Incapable of precise definition, it inevitably functions as a proxy for the personal and political views of the judiciary. Further, a successful hate speech prosecution requires no proof of actual harm or intent to discriminate, and truth is no defence. These are serious, irremediable flaws.

Fast-forward to 2013. Unlike Taylor, the Whatcott decision is unanimous and monolithic - there is no dissent. The Supreme Court of Canada has closed ranks and will no longer broach alternatives. This means that McLachlin's Taylor dissent has effectively been redacted, leaving us with muddled confusion.

The problems canvassed in Taylor are not resolved in Whatcott - all we get is the Supreme Court of Canada's undivided assertion that no problems exist. Does that imply that there never was a problem? What has happened in the intervening 23 years to change McLachlin's mind?

It wasn't always this way. The Supreme Court of Canada once recognized that the freedom to express unpopular and even offensive ideas is of foundational importance to a free and democratic society.

In 1986, Justice William McIntyre said,
[Freedom of expression] is one of the fundamental concepts that have formed the basis for the historical development of the political, social and educational institutions of western society. Representative democracy, as we know it today, which is in great part the product of free expression and discussion of varying ideas, depends upon its maintenance and protection.
In other words, the continued existence and thriving of our free society is dependent upon the right of each individual to freely express his or her ideas without fear of reprisal.

There's one simple and ironic fact that cannot be overlooked in all of this.

If Whatcott is on a hate campaign, Saskatchewan's hate speech prohibition has provided him with a powerful means to disseminate his views. Each judicial decision has reproduced and circulated his materials. Had no complaint been made about Whatcott's flyers in 2001 and 2002, they would have faded into obscurity and this marginalized, bigoted, fundamentalist would not have received national media coverage.

At this stage, it's entirely likely that Whatcott will be elevated to the status of folk hero by those who share his prejudices. Instead of facing a legal prosecution, lending credence to the appearance of martyrdom, Whatcott should have been ignored or debated. It's best not to silence bigots - let them speak, freely. As the old proverb says, even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise.

The Supreme Court of Canada has shown itself unwilling to uphold the right of Canadians to express their views without worry of a state prosecution. The best answer to this problem has always been legislative. Canada's hate speech laws were enacted by governments and can be repealed at any time by those same governments. It's time to hold our politicians' feet to the proverbial fire for the good of all Canadians.

This piece was originally published in the Calgary Herald on March 4, 2013

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Dean Steacy was wrong: Freedom of Speech is a Fundamental Canadian Value

The right to freedom of expression in Canada was not created by the Charter. Canadians enjoyed a right to free speech and freedom of expression prior to 1982.

Before she became Chief Justice, Justice McLachlin said in Keegstra that “freedom of speech is a fundamental Canadian value”, and 
Freedom of speech and the press had acquired quasi-constitutional status well before the adoption of the Charter in 1982. 
She further said that, 
The enactment of s.2(b) of the Charter represented both a continuity of [this] tradition, and a new flourishing of the importance of freedom of expression in Canadian society. 
Quoting from A. W. MacKay, "Freedom of Expression: Is It All Just Talk?" (1989), 68 Can. Bar Rev. 713, Justice McLachlin went on to affirm that, 
Freedom of expression was not invented by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms..
Justice McIntyre shared Justice McLachlin’s view. In the Supreme Court of Canada Dolphin Delivery decision of 1986, Justice McIntyre indicated the fundamental importance of freedom of expression for our democratic institutions. 
Freedom of expression is not, however, a creature of the Charter. It is one of the fundamental concepts that has formed the basis for the historical development of the political, social and educational institutions of western society. Representative democracy, as we know it today, which is in great part the product of free expression and discussion of varying ideas, depends upon its maintenance and protection.
Now that you know all this, doesn't it make you wonder what Dean Steacy (the lead Canadian Human Rights Commission investigator in the Marc Lemire case) meant when he said,
Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value... It's not my job to give value to an American concept.
Actually, Mr. Steacy, freedom of speech is a fundamental Canadian value that the Supreme Court of the land has ruled responsible for the maintenance and protection of Canadian society.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

No Separation of Church and State in Canada

The National Post reported on December 19, 2012 that a disgruntled Saskatoon resident is about to launch a human rights complaint against the city of Saskatoon for placing the words “Merry Christmas” on its buses.

The media coverage surrounding this issue has made me realize that many Canadians are confused about whether the Charter guarantees the separation of church and state. It does not. Further, our constitution lacks a clear equivalent to the most famous of such constitutional protections—the American establishment clause.

The establishment clause is a phrase in the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights that says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion". Canada has no equivalent constitutional protection.

Although the linked National Post article above focuses on the up-coming human rights complaint, on the Charles Adler show on the afternoon of December 18, 2012, Mr. Solo implied that Canada has constitutional protection regarding the separation of church and state.

If I had to guess, I would say that Mr. Solo, and other Canadians like him, are confused because they have watched US legal dramas on TV and assume that, like the U.S., Canada has a similar separation of church and state. We do not. Consider this plain and simple fact: the Queen remains the Head of State in Canada even though she is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

On the other hand, section 2 of the Charter does guarantee "freedom of religion", and the courts have interpreted this to include a right to be free from religion.

But this right to be free from religion is subtly, yet significantly, different from a separation of church and state. Freedom of religion under the Charter means that Canadians are free to practice their religions in a non-harmful fashion (e.g. the Multani case), while freedom from religion means that Canadians cannot be forced to adopt a religious practice (e.g. the Big M Drug Mart case).

Bylaws Made in Secret, Good Government, and Economic Freedom

Last July 16, Calgary city council voted to enact a bylaw to ban the distribution and sale of shark fins in Calgary.

Ald. Brian Pincott brought the bylaw to council supported by a petition containing thousands of signatures. Ald. John Mar admonished Calgary’s Chinese-Canadians saying they may need to give up some of their traditions, such as shark fin soup. Coverage by some media outlets juxtaposed images of Chinese restaurants and mutilated sharks. As a result, few people outside of Calgary’s Chinese community have questioned the good intentions behind council’s decision. But more of us should.

Council justifies the proposed bylaw on two grounds. First, sharks are “apex predators” that accumulate toxins such as mercury in their bodies. Shark fins therefore contain dangerous levels of mercury. Second, some 70 million sharks are allegedly caught each year, stripped of their fins, and thrown back helpless into the ocean to die a painful death. So shark fins are therefore cruel and unethical.

These two justifications may seem innocuous, initially. Although Alberta’s Municipal Government Act is silent regarding sharks, it does give municipalities the authority to pass laws for human safety, health, and welfare.

So is the proposed bylaw about protecting humans from toxins like mercury? If sharks are contaminated with mercury, why would council ban only the fins and not the entire shark? Why is the practice of finning sharks and not fishing sharks the focus of the bylaw? Also, what about tuna? Tuna is an ocean dwelling apex predator that accumulates mercury, and it’s more regularly consumed by Calgarians than shark fins. If human health is truly council’s concern, the bylaw would be about the regulation or banning of mercury in foods, not just shark fins.

The human health justification appears to be a contrivance designed to divert attention from the fact that council has no authority to enact legislation protecting sharks.

Toronto had a similar ban until November 2012 when a judge ruled the bylaw was outside of Toronto’s authority. Even though Calgary is a different city, in a different province, and functioning under different legislation, the legal principles relied upon by the Ontario judge would similarly strike down Calgary’s proposed bylaw. Like Toronto’s, Calgary’s ban is simply not about protecting human health — it’s about the preservation of a marine animal over which council has no jurisdiction.

Of course, Calgary’s city council could not have known in July about the legal status of municipal shark fin bans before the judge struck down Toronto’s bylaw in November — or could they?

On July 16, hidden behind closed doors, council was given legal advice regarding the proposed bylaw. That advice is currently unavailable because council directed that it remain confidential under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. That seems odd.

Upon exiting their private meeting, council resolved to ask the provincial and federal governments to enact shark fin bans. Why? Perhaps the city’s legal department told council that the proposed ban is outside the city’s authority. If that’s the case, council knew their ban was potentially illegal prior to Toronto’s bylaw being stuck down.

What’s disturbing about this scenario is far more than shark finning. If city council was told that banning shark fins may be outside of their authority, and yet continued efforts to enact the ban while keeping that unfavourable legal advice hidden, what else are they capable of? And even if council was not initially aware that the ban may be outside their authority, they became aware after Toronto’s bylaw was struck down.

This should trouble every Calgarian, not just the Chinese community. Don’t be misled — this ban is about far more than shark fins. Calgarians should consider whether they can trust a council that keeps secrets while seeking to enact legislation it knows may exceed its authority.

The real issues are good government and the freedom to earn an honest living. A Calgary restaurant owner assured me that she purchases shark products not from China but only from Spain — a country that regulates its shark industry to prevent overfishing and cruelty. Throughout the EU, the whole shark is harvested. The media’s gory portrayal of floundering mutilated animals is simply inaccurate in her case. She is serving an ethical and sustainable food product to her customers. It would be unjust if council’s overly broad ban stripped this facet of her livelihood away.

This piece was originally published by the Calgary Herald on February 6, 2013 and Troy Media on February 7, 2013.