Scrapped court challenges program still 5-7 years from winding down: document

It will take between five and seven more years and several million dollars to fully wind down a program — scrapped by the Conservatives nearly nine years ago — that helped finance lawsuits from those seeking to defend their Charter rights.

OTTAWA — It will take between five and seven more years and several million dollars to fully wind down a program — scrapped by the Conservatives nearly nine years ago — that helped finance lawsuits from those seeking to defend their Charter rights.

That’s because a small number of such cases are still working their way through the courts, according to a recently released document.

Officials at the Department of Canadian Heritage — which has been footing the bill for the program during its protracted windup — say the five-to-seven-year window is just a guess, since the remaining cases could drag on even longer.

“Since it is dependent on the progress of the cases in the court system, it is not possible to predict with certainty the time required,” says an August 2014 briefing note to Heritage Minister Shelly Glover.

The Canadian Press obtained the document under the Access to Information Act.

The Conservative government announced in September 2006 that it was eliminating the court challenges program, which helped pay for court cases that mostly dealt with equality and language rights.

The origins of the program date back to 1978. Former prime minister Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government scrapped the program in 1992, but it was re-established two years later by the Chretien Liberals.

Close to 400 cases had already been approved and were at various stages of the court system when the Conservatives cancelled the program. The government promised to fund those remaining cases until their last stage of appeal.

The number of open cases had dropped to 36 by last spring, according to the briefing note.

Canadian Heritage officials told Glover that the current five-year, $5-million funding agreement runs out at the end of this month.

“To continue the wind-down of the (court challenges program) under the current terms and conditions, there will need to be a contribution agreement in place by March 31, 2015,” says the note.

“Currently, approximately $1 million has been committed by the (court challenges program) for ongoing cases and it is anticipated that up to an additional $3.5 million may be required to fund the remaining cases which are at various stages, until they are completed.”

The department is refusing to say if a new contribution agreement is in place, or if the current one will be extended.

The Canadian Press first inquired about the status of the contribution agreement on Tuesday. That afternoon, the department provided a one-line statement that did not answer questions about the agreement.

“The government of Canada continues to honour the commitments that we made under the court challenges program,” said the unsigned email.

Asked if that meant a new contribution agreement was in place, or if the current one is being extended, department spokesman Charles Cardinal responded by simply repeating the statement.

Canadian Heritage has not responded to follow-up questions about why it won’t discuss the agreement.

The department has permanent funding of $1.4 million for the wind-down of the court challenges program. The recent main estimates document shows the department plans to spend that same amount in 2015-16.

But if the briefing note is to be believed, it might not be enough.

“While this can cover the costs associated with funding the (court challenges program) under normal circumstances, there is a low risk that multiple cases would progress through the court system simultaneously,” the document says.

“If this were to happen, more funds would be needed to be disbursed within one fiscal year, which could create a financial pressure on the department.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
All adult Albertans to be offered first dose of vaccine by end of June: Premier

Alberta’s premier says the province will be “back to normal” when 72… Continue reading

Black Press Media file photo
Alberta doctors say trust must be rebuilt after proposed new labour deal rejected

EDMONTON — The head of the Alberta Medical Association says many factors… Continue reading

Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Expert says gathering outside Alberta church attended by many conspiracy theorists

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — An expert investigating hate groups says a weekend… Continue reading

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
Canada set to receive 1M Pfizer-BioNTech doses, Moderna playing catch-up

OTTAWA — The federal government is expecting Moderna to make good on… Continue reading

This satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc. shows Iran's Natanz nuclear facility on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Iran's Natanz nuclear site suffered a problem Sunday, April 11, involving its electrical distribution grid just hours after starting up new advanced centrifuges that more quickly enrich uranium, state TV reported. It was the latest incident to strike one of Tehran's most-secured sites amid negotiations over the tattered atomic accord with world powers. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)
Iran blames Israel for sabotage at Natanz nuclear site

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran blamed Israel on Monday for a… Continue reading

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Patrick Doyle
New regulator to stop sexual exploitation of children online: public safety minister

OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the government will introduce… Continue reading

Gordon Greenwood Elementary Grade 7 students were assigned to write about climate change. The Langley Advance Times is pleased to present a selection of their writings. (Sasha/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

OTTAWA — A new report shows Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he will vote against a… Continue reading

Eugene Kwon of Gratia Bakery and Cafe says the business will be relying on take out orders and a small patio. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

OTTAWA — A group representing thousands of the country’s small businesses says… Continue reading

Ron Howard is photographed at the "Inferno" film premiere on Oct. 25, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Buckner/Rex Shutterstock/Zuma Press/TNS)
Brothers Ron and Clint Howard have memoir coming in October

NEW YORK — Filmmaker-actor Ron Howard and actor Clint Howard, brothers, former… Continue reading

FILE - In this Saturday, March 27, 2021 file photo, Buffalo Sabres’ Taylor Hall plays against the Boston Bruins during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Boston. The Buffalo Sabres could trade 2018 MVP Hall, who signed for just this season and is a pending free agent. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Boston Bruins acquire Taylor Hall to kick off NHL trade deadline day

Trade deadline day in the NHL has started with the Boston Bruins… Continue reading

The Huawei logo displayed at the main office of Chinese tech giant Huawei in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Poland’s Internal Security Agency has charged a Chinese manager at Huawei in Poland and one of its own former officers with espionage against Poland on behalf of China. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Huawei, HSBC agree on document deal for extradition case

HONG KONG — Chinese telecommunications equipment firm Huawei said Monday that it… Continue reading

The Montreal Police logo is seen on a police car in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

MONTREAL — Hundreds of protestors gathered in Montreal on Sunday in defiance… Continue reading

Most Read