The following is the text of my first podcast including the actual downloadable podcast found at the end of the text. I am working on adding the podcast to iTunes and will announce this next step when it is completed!
Welcome to the “Let’s Talk About The Canadian Criminal Code” podcast. This podcast is a companion to my blog found at www.ideablawg.ca where ideas and law connect. In this podcast I hope to go through the Criminal Code section by section and discuss some interesting issues arising from each one. Be warned, although the Code ends at s.849, there are so many sections between sections that this podcast will continue for quite some time. Indeed the length of the Code will form part of one of my podcasts. After a few sections, I will do a “brain break” podcast where we will discuss a fact or issue related to the Criminal Code or criminal law in general but not arising directly out of a particular section.
Today we are going to do the obvious and start at the beginning – section 1. On the face of it, Section 1, as with many statutes does not seem to be very important or overly interesting. Typically, the first section of a Federal statute is called the “short title.” The “short title” names the statute in a user-friendly manner. Often when the government brings forward a statute as a Bill, the working title is lengthy and cumbersome. Thus, the short title is a welcome first section.
Note, however, I said this is typical of the first section of a Federal statute. Provinces, who also produce legislation, do not have the same typical format for their legislation. For example, in Alberta many statutes start with a “preamble.” This preamble sets out the government’s purpose for enacting the legislation as a kind of mission statement indicating why the government desires this legislation and what the legislation aims to do. It also acts as a “forshpeis” or “bouche teaser” and gives us, the reader, a taste of what’s to come in the Act. It fills in the statute with emotive content as it speaks to the societal values ultimately expressed by the legislation. Some cynics might say the preamble is the political posturing or propaganda piece of the law. A good example is the preamble to the Alberta Human Rights Act, which reads as follows:
WHEREAS recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all persons is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world;
WHEREAS it is recognized in Alberta as a fundamental principle and as a matter of public policy that all persons are equal in: dignity, rights and responsibilities without regard to race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation;
WHEREAS multiculturalism describes the diverse racial and cultural composition of Alberta society and its importance is recognized in Alberta as a fundamental principle and a matter of public policy;
WHEREAS it is recognized in Alberta as a fundamental principle and as a matter of public policy that all Albertans should share in an awareness and appreciation of the diverse racial and cultural composition of society and that the richness of life in Alberta is enhanced by sharing that diversity; and
WHEREAS it is fitting that these principles be affirmed by the Legislature of Alberta in an enactment whereby those equality rights and that diversity may be protected:
You get the idea.
So the question is: why doesn’t the federal government do this? First, the federal government through Parliament does present their reasons for bringing forward legislation. They write background papers and other such reports posted to their website to bring home to the nation why they consider their laws to be important and essential for living the “good life” in Canada. So they don’t usually need to express it in a preamble. What they will do is have a section in the Act, often near the beginning, where they state the purpose of the legislation such as in The Competition Act and The Contraventions Act. Usually this kind of statement is terser than the preamble I just read to you and form part of the actual legislation. Of course, there is an important
exception: the Constitution Act, 1867 founding our Dominion of Canada comes with a preamble and so does Part 1 of that Act being the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter’s “preamble” is short and to the point and reads: “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:” I will pause here as I am sure many of you are a little surprised to hear that God has been invoked as a preamble to our Charter. Hmm. I wonder if the Charter breaches s.2(a) of the Charter – the fundamental freedom conscience and religion – in which we protect a person’s right to not believe in a supreme being.
Well, on that note, I leave you to consider the short title section of the Criminal Code. Next week we will consider section 2 – the unwieldy interpretation section.
Thank you for listening to the Ideablawg Podcast – where ideas and law connect!