A Dodek: Why won’t MacKay release his legal advice on prostitution?

ADAM DODEK  Contributed to The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Jul. 08 2014, 12:34 PM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, Jul. 08 2014, 12:42 PM EDT

Minister of Justice Peter MacKay has confidently asserted two things about Bill C-36, the Government’s new proposed prostitution law: that it will certainly be challenged in the courts and that it is constitutional. Mr. MacKay is undoubtedly correct that there will another round in the legal battle over the country’s prostitution laws that will make its way back to the Supreme Court. Until then, we will not know if he is correct about the bill’s constitutionality.

Mr. MacKay can, however, back up his second claim by showing Members of Parliament and Canadians the legal advice that supports his confident assertion. And he should.

Canadian governments have remained steadfast in their refusal to publicly reveal the legal advice that forms the basis for many of their decisions. Governments love to rely on solicitor-client privilege – the protection afforded by the law to confidential communications between a client and lawyer. The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized solicitor-client privilege as a fundamental legal and civil right that enjoys constitutional protection in certain circumstances. For reasons that I have argued elsewhere, it does not make a lot of sense to talk about the government enjoying such constitutional protection.

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