CBA welcomes new federal cabinet members

  • February 26, 2020

The election’s over, the federal cabinet has been named and the ministerial mandate letters have been published. Time for everyone to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

The CBA has been writing to cabinet members installed in the portfolios of interest to the Association, outlining areas of mutual interest and offering its expertise and assistance.

The first of this year’s ministerial welcome letters went to federal Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti, who once again took up the portfolio he’d held before the October election.

Based on the mandate letter for the Justice portfolio, CBA President Vivene Salmon identifies a few key priorities that the government and the Association are both committed to moving forward, for example:

  • Administration of, and access to, justice – Measures addressing court delays and improving access to justice, including publicly funded legal aid.
  • Sentencing reform – The CBA is happy to see a commitment to evidence-based decision-making and supports the a reinstated Law Reform Commission of Canada. That said, it expresses its disappointed that the mandate letter did not explicitly contain a direction to eliminate mandatory minimums. “We are also disappointed that other effective sentencing options, like conditional sentencing orders, are not part of your mandate letter.”
  • MAID – The CBA supports clarifying the law about end-of-life decision-making, particularly in the wake of the Truchon decision in Quebec. It offers to help the government in its work on end-of-life issues.
  • HIV Non-Disclosure – The CBA notes that the issue of criminalization of HIV non-disclosure requires urgent reform, to bring the existing law in line with science and human rights.

We have also written to:

Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance – The Pensions and Benefits Section, Family Section, Charities and Not-for-Profit Section and Business Section addressed several issues of interest to the sections, including offering assistance with the legal considerations as the government moves to implement a national pharmacare program; raising concerns about the way the Income Tax Act is applied in family law cases, as well as how changes to the ITA could affect charitable donations; and the creation of a pan-Canadian public registry for beneficial ownership.

Karina Gould, Minister of International Development - to talk about the work of CBA International Initiatives and to thank Global Affairs Canada for its generous assistance in program work supporting public interest and constitutional litigation, human rights training for lawyers, access to justice, constitution-building and policy-making capacities.

“Global Affairs Canada has generously provided program funding for most of our program work. We thank you for the past support and look forward to collaborating with you and the GAC professionals to continue this important work across the globe.”

Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness – The Criminal Justice and Immigration Sections comment on the proposal for a National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence, but expressed its disappointment that, unlike the 2015 mandate letter, this one does not refer to corrections issues, in particular for Indigenous Peoples. Among others, the Criminal Justice Section also mentions concerns with inmate poverty and hunger. The Immigration Section says it welcomes the bill proposing oversight for the Canada Border Services Agency and urges the Minister to review the CBSA’s policies to ensure that inadmissible applicants with pending applications in other areas are granted a deferral of removal.

Marco Mendocino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship – The Immigration Section noted its pleasure with some of the priorities outlined in the mandate letter, including reducing processing times, improving client services and municipal sponsorship of immigrants. It also raises areas of concern, including restoring appeal rights for permanent residents, addressing labour shortages while protecting Canadian businesses and jobs, and protecting the public from immigration fraud.

Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Infrastructure - The Construction and Infrastructure Law Section has written to comment on her mandate to create a national infrastructure fund.

MĂ©lanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages – The French-Speaking Common Law Members says it is pleased the Minister “has been tasked with modernizing and strengthening the Official Languages Act” and asks her government to take a leadership role on adopting a fully bilingual constitution.