Trudeau questioned on pipelines, carbon tax, Indigenous rights in Regina town hall

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fielded questions on everything from pipelines to Indigenous rights to his favourite childhood toy Thursday evening before a lively Regina crowd.

There was no clear issue that dominated the event. He took about 20 questions and was asked about everything from a controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia, immigration, deficits, support for mental health, as well as steel tariffs and the carbon tax.

One man who works in the steel industry asked Trudeau why his government inked a new trade deal with the United States with steel and aluminum tariffs in place.

In response, Trudeau said in every conservation he has with U.S President Donald Trump he raises the issue that « these punitive American tariffs » are hurting both Canadian and American workers.

« Yes, I would have liked to have been able to convince the president to pull back the steel and aluminum tariffs before signing, » Trudeau told the crowd.

« That was not going to be possible. That was very clear from the U.S. administration, » he said, adding that the choice came down to whether or not to secure the trade deal, which he said is worth $2 billion a day to the Canadian economy.

The town hall took place a day after a similar, but more raucous meeting Trudeau held in Kamloops, B.C., where he faced questions about pipelines and reconciliation with Indigenous people.

In a repeat from the previous evening’s event, the question of pipelines was front and centre.

« You’ve got yourself in a hell of a predicament. You pissed off the Greens, you pissed off your base, you pissed off us that don’t like you and the pipeline still isn’t in the ground, » the same questioner said during the town hall, which had more than 1,000 attendees.

« You can legalize marijuana, but we can’t twin a pipeline, an existing pipeline to the coast. »

Yellow Vest protesters outside event

Before the town hall began, roughly a dozen protesters gathered outside the venue — the University of Regina’s kinesiology building. The group included a pro-oil and gas protester and an Indigenous rights protester.

« I’m not pleased with what’s going on, » said protester Gloria Armstrong.

« He’s giving away money to so many other people — the $10.5 million that was given to the so-called criminal [Omar Khadr] and veterans are not getting money. »

As the event got underway, a convoy of trucks gathered outside. 

Protesters voiced their displeasure with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of his town hall meeting in Regina on Thursday. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

Thursday’s event was not without its interruptions, however, including when Trudeau answered questions about pipelines. 

At one point a woman stood in an aisle and held a sign expressing solitary with the members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, who earlier this week set up checkpoints on a service road in B.C. in protest of a proposed natural gas pipeline.

She asked about the actions of the government and the RCMP, which arrested 14 people. 

One person in the crowd shouted, « Is that reconciliation? »

Later in the evening, Trudeau received praise from elder Noel Starblanket, seated at the front of the crowd, who said Trudeau has done more for Indigenous peoples than any other prime minister in Canada. 

Trudeau defends immigration system

Thursday’s crowd grew particularly animated when Trudeau fielded a question from a man who wanted to know what the prime minister is doing about border control.

At first. some audience members cheered at the question, but boos followed when during an exchange with Trudeau, the man said that Islam and Christianity don’t mix and « they » want to kill « us. »

Trudeau said there is no open border and defended Canada’s immigration system as effective at both allowing people into the country and integrating them into society, singling out Syrian refugees. 

On Friday, Trudeau is expected to make several stops around the city in the company of Ralph Goodale, the Liberals’ lone MP in Saskatchewan.

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Judge who questioned lawyer about pregnancy among recent judicial council complaints

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A judge who questioned a lawyer in court about her pregnancy and a judge who was alleged to have “inappropriately touched” another judge are among the complaints closed by the Ontario Judicial Council that were not sent to a public discipline hearing, according to the council’s most recent annual report.

The report, which covers the period from April 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017, says the council received 110 complaints about provincially appointed judges during the reporting period, and also dealt with an additional 18 complaints from the previous period.

Twenty-eight of the complaints were closed, nineteen were carried forward, and the remaining 81 complaints dealt with Hamilton judge Bernd Zabel, who faced a public discipline hearing last year for wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat to court the day after the U.S. presidential election. He was suspended without pay for 30 days.

The annual report provides insight into how the council deals with the majority of the complaints it receives about provincial court judges, as only a select few ever make it to a public discipline hearing. The rest are handled behind closed doors by committees generally made up of judges and members of the public. Only a summary of each of those cases is published in the annual report, with no identifying information.

A few of those complaints result in written advice to the judge, or a meeting with the chief justice, while the bulk of the cases result in no action being taken at all. In some instances it’s because the case deals with matters outside the judicial council’s jurisdiction. For example, the council cannot deal with complaints about a particular decision rendered by a judge; it can only deal with complaints about his or her conduct.

In another case, a female lawyer alleged she was subjected to “pregnancy discrimination,” according to the annual report, alleging that in open court she was “made to discuss her pregnancy and state of mind at different points in her pregnancy. She alleged that the questioning by the judge was unnecessary and unfair and that his tone was flippant and callous.”

A review panel at the council, having listened to audio recordings of the court appearance, said it was “concerned by the tone and manner of the judge’s interactions with the lawyer.” In a response to the panel, the judge said he had reflected on the interaction and apologized.

“The panel noted that it was important to ensure that the judge was fully aware of the importance of judges being sensitive to and respectful of the personal circumstances of persons appearing before him, particularly pregnancy and gender,” according to the case summary in the report.

The report said the judge met with the chief justice and “showed remorse” for his comments. The file was closed.

Ontario Court judges, who earned a base salary of $291,241 in 2017, deal with the majority of adult and youth criminal charges, but not jury trials or certain serious crimes.

Over at the Justices of the Peace Review Council, 47 new complaints were received in 2016 and an additional 22 complaints were carried forward from previous years. The council managed to close 40 files by the end of 2016.

The majority of the complaints were dismissed either because they were outside the council’s jurisdiction, or a review panel found the allegations did not amount to judicial misconduct. Four complaints resulted in written advice to a justice of the peace, and two were referred to the chief justice.

The bulk of the complaints stemmed from provincial offences court, which the review council noted is the only court that most members of the public will ever face, as it deals with traffic and bylaw offences, among other things.

Several of the complaints that led to JPs getting written advice dealt with their tone and level of patience in court, as some had been accused of being brusque and cutting off self-represented defendants.

In one notable case, a JP questioned a woman, who was in court to deal with a speeding ticket, on her choice of clothing. The complaints committee said it was “concerned by the abrupt, inappropriate nature of His Worship’s conduct and comments towards the complainant.”

As soon as the woman said good afternoon, the JP responded: “Do you promise me that this is the last time you’re going to ever come to a court dressed like that?” according to an excerpt of a transcript included in the annual report.

The woman said she promised. The JP responded by saying that it wasn’t funny, and added, “You lose respect for the last bastion of justice. You don’t do that. If you have no justice you have nothing in any country.”

According to the complainant, she had arrived from work on her lunch break, wearing a sleeveless top, a skirt and dress shoes. She also said that before hearing her case, the JP dealt with a man wearing shorts and flip-flops but did not comment on the man’s attire.

There is in fact no dress code for court, except a prohibition on sunglasses and hats, unless needed for religious or medical reasons, the committee said. While the committee found the JP’s comments did not amount to judicial misconduct, it remained “concerned” that he “did not appear to understand why there was some merit to the complaint, nor why his course of conduct was not appropriate.”

The JP reflected on his conduct and met with the chief justice, the committee said.

“He regretted that the complainant left the courtroom feeling that she had not been heard,” the committee said. “His Worship now understands that there is no specific legal requirement for the dress code in the courtroom, and he must be mindful that he does not make remarks that could be seen to be discriminatory.”

The file was closed.

Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering legal affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant

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Canada’s defence spending questioned at NATO parliamentary meeting

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Canada’s deputy minister of national defence held fast to the government’s stance on defence spending, despite some pointed questioning about Canada’s commitment during a NATO parliamentary meeting in Halifax.

U.S. congressman Michael Turner, the acting chairman of NATO’s defence and security committee, questioned Jody Thomas about whether Canada intends to table a plan for meeting the two per cent of GDP standard for defence spending that was agreed to by alliance members in 2014.

READ MORE: Gen. Vance says Canadian Armed Forces trying to integrate more women, minorities

Thomas stuck to the Liberal government’s line, saying Canada intends to increase its defence budget by 1.46 per cent by the end of 2024.

She also reiterated that aside from its financial commitment, Canada believes it contributes to the alliance in a “qualitative” way through its participation in several NATO operations.

But Bob Stewart, a member of the United Kingdom delegation, reminded Thomas that Canada agreed to the commitment along with the rest of its partners in 2014.


Stewart, a Conservative MP, says Canada’s current spending on defence is “not enough,” and getting to two per cent is crucial to strengthening the alliance.

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