Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gay marriage in California

Kudos to the California Supreme Court for overturning the state's ban on same-sex marriage. For some initial reaction and commentary, see Dan Savage's commentary at the Stranger.

The ruling, which will make California the second jurisdiction to permit same-sex marriage (not just civil unions) goes into effect in 30 days, and Governor Schwarzenegger has indicated that he will uphold the ruling, and not support the referendum initiative that is being organized to overturn it (which would be on the November '08 ballot).

This does have the potential to complicate the 2008 presidential election, but as has been pointed out elsewhere, there's always some election or another in the offing. If the Terminator is willing to uphold the ruling, it will make it difficult to present a united Republican front in California at least. Maybe, just maybe, our friends who we visited in San Francisco will be able to get legally married at their wedding ceremony next April!

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French immersion in court will not succeed on Charter grounds - hopefully it will on procedural ones

New Brunswick parents, understandably upset with the province's incomprehensible decision to axe early French immersion programs, have decided to challenge this decision in court. According to the article in the Globe and Mail, they are claiming both that the province did not adequately consult with interested groups and that the decision violates their Charter rights to have their children educated in French. (Update: In stories on other news sites, the Charter issue does not appear.)

I can completely understand why the parents thought that legal action might help them win their case. Faced with recalcitrant legislatures, various interest groups, including French language minority communities, have found that Canadian courts are more willing to defend their rights. However, when it comes to French immersion, there is no right entrenched in the Charter that these parents can appeal to. In fact, in the 1980s, the New Brunswick courts explicitly ruled that Acadian parents have no right to send their children to French immersion schools - the section 23 right only applied to their right to send their children to French-language minority schools. Recent decisions in Quebec have also ruled that Quebec francophone parents did not have the right to educate their children in English, nor to send them to French immersion schools. The Charter protects the right to an education in one's mother tongue - not in one's second language. Second language education is, unfortunately, a privilege granted by the provincial legislatures.

Back in the early 1980s, Canadian Parents for French did lobby to have the Charter include the right of parents to educate their children in the official language of their choice, but this was rejected by the participants in the 1980-1982 constitutional talks.

I wish the parents well in their quest to have early immersion and core FSL reinstated in the province, and hope that they might succeed in having the courts rule in their favour on some other grounds. However, they should not pin their hopes on the Charter - Canadian jurisprudence is quite clear on this issue, and it is against the parents.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The socialist hordes of San Francisco

I have just returned from a very enjoyable vacation in San Francisco. A week of sunny spring weather, friendly people and California sun was just the ticket after a long winter term. During my stay there, I noticed a very interesting program launched by the city government there, seemingly in defiance of popular opinion in the country. At most of the restaurants we ate at, we were charged an additional 2-5% on our bill in accordance with a new "Healthy San Francisco" program that had been launched by the city government. Curious, I asked our friend, an ex-pat Canadian working for Google, for more details about the program.

As it turns out, this is yet another example of the innovations possible with federalism as the system of government. The San Francisco municipal government has launched its own public health care program, mainly to cover the medical costs of part-time workers and lower income workers. Muncipal employers, such as restaurants, that employ significant numbers of part-time workers are required to contribute to the program to cover their employees' health care costs. It isn't a completely comprehensive program, but it appears to cover a reasonable range of expenses, which is important in a country that lacks a full publicly-funded medicare program. I will be curious to see how well this program functions in the long run, whether other municipalities decide to mimic it, and whether it will withstand legal challenges or elections. But it's heartening to see a jurisdiction take a bold step forward in this regard.

Regular Canadian-oriented blogging should resume shortly, depending on how smoothly my move to a new home goes!

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