In a speech last week, Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin attributed to "ignorance" the notion that "the Charter has put law, order and public safety at risk by making it harder to convict felons and softening punishment." She is mostly right, of course — the Charter is used only rarely for get-out-of-jail-free cards, and usually only in high-profile cases defended by very expensive lawyers. It is judges and politicians that are responsible for the lax judicial treatment and punishment of dangerous criminals, and while it is true that the Charter is indulged occasionally by law-makers and law-bringers for an excuse of their lenient sympathies, it is from mistaken or tendentious beliefs.
In fact, this is a fatuous remark since there are no statistics correlating crime and the Charter, nor can there be any correlation except strictly anecdotal or rhetorical in nature. Coming from a Chief Justice, however, the comments could be taken, as by the Montreal Gazette (link via Paul Tuns), as an "incendiary assertion" given that "one national political party persistently calls itself 'the party of the Charter' and another is trying to crack down on crime." But this is only a matter of interpretation…
"In fact, I don't believe the statistics bear out the claim that the Charter puts law, order and safety at risk."
Nevertheless, it is aside from this that McLachlin "sailed close to the wind" in her speech, as the Gazette puts it.
Educational policy is, however, the jurisdictional preserve of the legislative branch — in just one speech, McLachlin makes a complete hash of her credibility and assertions by trespassing on the very same "traditional relationship" that she believes to be so important to "the people's confidence in democracy." And it's not the first time that McLachlin has parted the tissue binds of the judicial branch's role in the relationship. As the Gazette suggests:
"The most important thing I think is to educate the children and young people. The basics of the Canadian Constitution — including the Charter — should be mandatory learning in our schools and high schools."
Update: Little Tobacco demonstrates in the comments why it's always a good thing to have an in-house lawyer, and why it's never good policy to try to give the Supreme Court Chief Justice even just a half-break.
Instead of teaching just the Charter, perhaps schools should be invited — not ordered — to emphasize the difference between elected politicians and appointed judges as arbiters of what's good for democracy.