Marie Henein’s Take on Kellie Leitch

Last Friday Ms Soapbox attended the 2017 Milvain Lecture at the U of C Law School.

It was given by Marie Henein who recently made headlines by successfully defending CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi on sexual assault charges.

While Ms Soapbox and Ms Henein do not see eye to eye on the Ghomeshi case, they do share the belief that Canadians must push back against populist politicians who want to undermine our democratic institutions.

The politics of fear are alive and well

Ms Henein, like many Canadians, is concerned that election of Donald Trump has implications for those of us who live north of the 49th parallel.

Ms Henein warns that we should not slip into complacency.


Ms Henein

Sure, Canada has enacted good laws like the ones protecting same-sex marriage, a woman’s right to choose, and the right to assisted dying, but the battle is far from over.

We must not forget that less than a year ago Stephen Harper was pushing laws like the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act and the Truth in Sentencing Act.   Did I miss the memo?  Were we 100% tolerant of barbaric cultural practices and supportive of lies in sentencing before that?

Such laws create fear among the majority and marginalize religious and ethnic minorities.  They sacrifice the democratic principle that extends the same rights to everyone in favour of partisan politics.

We thought we were done with all that when Mr Harper’s Conservatives were defeated.  We were wrong.  Mr Harper simply passed the torch to Kellie Leitch.

The Anti-Canadian Values test

Kellie Leitch is the front runner in the federal Conservative leadership race.

A key plank in her platform is the proposal that visitors and immigrants should be screened for anti-Canadian values.  Ms Leitch says this will protect our “unified Canadian identity” from…well, god knows what.

Not only has Ms Leitch been unable (or unwilling) to articulate what she’s protecting our “unified Canadian identity” from, she’s ducked questions asking how her anti-Canadian values test would deal with people, some Roman Catholics perhaps, who oppose same-sex marriage, LBGTQ rights and a woman’s right to abortion.

In the absence of greater clarity, we’re left with the uncomfortable suspicion that Ms Leitch’s anti-Canadian values test would reject Muslims who, surprise, were the intended targets of Mr Harper’s barbaric cultural practices tip line and anti-niqab legislation.


Are Ms Henein and Ms Soapbox overreacting:  Could the election of a buffoon in the US trigger the rise of populist politicians in Canada?

Sadly, the answer is yes.

Robert Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk conducted research into the health of western democracies and found that the public’s trust in political institutions like parliaments and the courts “has precipitously declined.”  Voters are increasingly endorsing single-issue movements (anti-immigration ranks right up there), voting for populist candidates or supporting parties that exist simply as the opposite of the status quo, rather like the Bizarro subplot in the Superman comics series.

Foa and Mounk conclude that citizens who once considered democracy to be the only legitimate form of government are more open to authoritarian rule.


Ms Leitch

They warn against politicians like Donald Trump who are prepared to tear down the existing political system and promote policies that violate the rights of ethnic and religious minorities (“stop and frisk” and racial profiling come to mind) for their own partisan advantage.

Saving liberal democracy

A liberal democracy is founded on free and open elections and a respect for human rights and the rule of law.  The laws protecting rights and civil liberties must be protected.  Ms Henein says that’s why criminal defense lawyers are so important.  This is their bailiwick.  She’s right.

Populist politicians like Kellie Leitch who justify anti-Canadian values screening because her survey says 70% of Canadians are in favour of it are laying the foundation for an illiberal democracy, one that erodes the checks and balances on power and violates human rights.

Ms Henein’s message to the law students was: use your voice, be an advocate for democracy.

Her message to Canadians after the defeat of Hillary Clinton was: “suffering fools quietly means they can become president…or prime minister.”

Ms Henein mentioned Kellie Leitch at least four times in her speech, sometimes with an eye roll and sometimes by noting that her own grandmother would have failed the anti-Canadian values test because she didn’t speak English and wouldn’t have had the faintest idea what Ms Leitch was talking about.

Ms Henein didn’t say this in so many words but I will:  Kellie Leitch is running for the leadership of the federal Conservative party.  If she wins and the Conservatives come back into power, which they will, Kellie Leitch will be our next prime minister.

It’s time for Canadians to stop suffering fools like Ms Leitch quietly.

This entry was posted in Crime and Justice, Lectures, Politics and Government and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Marie Henein’s Take on Kellie Leitch

  1. RJ Pisko says:

    Love your stuff, Susan – but a word to the wise – keep your eye on the Roman Catholic ball – the times they are a changin’ – recall Pope Francis’s POV re: LGBTQ communities ( And those of no religious faith? Etcetera?
    Fred Henry, Bishop of the Diocese of Calgary, has resigned. Health issues, so it’s said. Remember his essay (in a Diocesan newsletter earlier in 2016) decrying the Alberta government’s stance on students’ rights to sexual self identity? His closure of the glorious Lethbridge St. Patrick’s parish about which the vast, vast majority of Southern Alberta RC’s are absolutely outraged? His extreme conservative traditional Catholic views? And poof, all of a sudden he’s resigned?
    Just sayin’ – don’t be painting all RC’s with the same brush – liberalism within the Church has both feet firmly on the ground, and isn’t about to be pushed off balance. Your comments re: Leitch (and I’m sure I could add, but this is your space) are well taken, but I think you must , at least in your own mind, reconsider the generalization re: Roman Catholics – you might have tried the term ‘some’ or ‘many’ or even ‘most’ when identifying RC’s and their specifics of faith. (“she’s ducked questions asking how her anti-Canadian values test would deal with people, say Roman Catholics, who oppose same-sex marriage, LBGTQ rights and a woman’s right to abortion.”). Only one of the three is a Francis traditionally conservative affirmation.
    But it’s a damn good blog, this one, and I am used to your stuff as pretty much bang on – like, well, this one. Thanks. Don’t go anywhere, okay?

    • Bob, you’re absolutely right. I should not have painted all RCs with the same brush. I’ve gone back and changed the reference to make it less absolute. Thank you for taking the time to point this out to me. Your feedback is appreciated!

  2. Douglas Taylor says:

    Interesting exposure of Ms. Leitch in an interview on CBC’s “The House” on Saturday morning.
    Give a listen to her interview:

    Right off the bat, I stopped at her appalling retort to Lisa Raitt’s disagreement with Lietch’s “principles” such that Ms. Raitt has had the “conservative values” scared out of her by the Liberals and “media elites”. Pretty pathetic push back to claim that those who disagree with her are victims of weakness and intellectual flaws by those who would provide other values and philosophies.

    While Leitch did not articulate in any great clarity just what these “values” are, aside from implying that like common sense, they are well known and espoused by all of us, she did give them headings such as ” freedom, hard work, generosity, tolerance and equality of opportunity…” Except for indigenous peoples, we are all immigrants in Canada and to believe that somehow “we” are the standards to which all newcomers should be assessed is absurd, pious and naive in the extreme. I couldn’t help but think that the values she titled were not ones that she and her fellow red necks were demonstrating. It is well known experience that freedom loving, hard working and generosity characteristics are embedded in immigrants. But she continues to imply that it is “us” who have the lock on virtue and must make sure they measure up to our image of ourselves.

    She did spend much of her vocals on some kind of haughty view that face to face interviews was what it was all about. Such operational minutiae discussion by amateurs ( everyone who is not an immigration bureaucrat) is just so much sidewalk quarterbacking by know nothings. But of course if you question her procedure plank, then you are just not with us. Ralph Klein and the PeeCees practiced that the longer their sinecure became.
    And this fixation on her seemingly unique brainwave of interviews comes from a medical practitioner? One who as a profession, relies predominately on external tests and judgements in treating patients at the first contact with the patient, especially one who doesn’t speak the Canadian language of dialogue. As an ESL tutor, I know full well that any verbal dialogue is an extremely hit and miss affair as to specificity of understanding and communication.

    • RJ Pisko says:

      Good one, Douglas, good one. Why isn’t it that the CPC’s can’t see her for what she is – or their “party’ for what it is?

    • Douglas I just listened to the CBC interview you provided at the link. Leitch was all over the map. She started with the attack on Raitt and the “media elites”, then couldn’t answer how she’d test for “generosity” and then tried to argue the real reason for the face-to-face interview was to assess whether the immigrant could “integrate” into Canadian society.
      The Department of Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees has been measuring how well immigrants integrate into Canadian society for years. Its report dated Mar 31, 2016 says the percentage of newcomers who’ve been in Canada for less than a decade have a stronger sense of belonging to Canada than the Canadian-born population–newcomers scored 92.3%; Canadians born here scored 90.8% (see page 48 of the report).
      Leitch is using Trump tactics to make Canadians feel that “Canadian values” are under siege from those people out there. It’s shameful.

  3. RJ Pisko says:

    Hahaha – true, true . . .

  4. Rick Cowburn says:

    O tempora, o mores! When our Tribal Wealth is diminished by forces beyond our tribal space (as for example when oil price drops due to global market events), then it is natural to see those outside forces as evil, and seek to give them a shape and form which we can recognize — “Terrorists”, “Foreigners”, even “Feminists.” Focusing fear on what we can recognize is much easier than, for example, understanding the dynamics of hydrocarbon markets or robotics. The modern world is so Big and Complex that when the Cargo Cult’s gifts diminish, most humans will retreat into feraful magic and demonization rather than seeking the painful uncertainty of knowledge. That fear makes sense, for few humans can see beyond their Tribe. Ave Donald, ave Imperator, dona nobis pacem, give me back my vanished union job on the assembly line in Detroit, for neither I nor my society are prepared for the vast retraining I would otherwise need. But the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our markets, but in our media and education systems, that they have not prepared us for such a depth of continuous learning…

    • Rick you raise a very interesting point when you frame the discussion in terms of Tribal Wealth. The Foa/Mounk research found North Americans who are young and rich are the most open to nondemocratic forms of government. This trend is on the rise. In 1995 only 6 percent of rich young Americans (those born since 1970) thought it would be a “good” thing for the army to take over; today, this view is held by 35 percent of rich young Americans (p. 13). I wonder whether they think their money will protect them for abusive governments.
      It didn’t protect Russia’s richest man, Mikhail Khodorkosvky, from Putin. The Guardian sums the situation up nicely in this article: “While there is no doubt that most of the people who got rich in 1990s Russia committed a multitude of sins, there was also little doubt that the proceedings against Khodorkovsky were political.” Rich people can be a threat to those in power…something young rich Americans (and Canadians) might want to consider.

  5. ronmac says:

    Why does the name Donald Trump keep popping up whenever phrases like “populist politicians who want to undermine our democratic institutions” are tossed around.

    Or politicians who are “prepared to tear down the existing political system.”

    Maybe existing political institutions need to be torn down once in awhile. Has anybody thought of that?

    Especially when you have a system that is dominated by two basically identical political parties. (of course, there will always be minor differences like when one party says it’s ok for a man who feels like he’s a woman to use the women’s washroom while the other party says it’s not ok)

    Or when one of those parties holds a primary (like the Democrats did in California) and two million votes go missing. I don’t know about you but I think it’s time to get out the wrecking ball.

    Anyways, here’s a good analysis of the recent US elections.

    • Ronmac: I use Donald Trump’s name in connection with people like Kellie Leitch and Jason Kenney to illustrate that they like Trump are using fear to divide the population into “us” and “them” and I don’t think a viable new political framework can be founded on fear. Having said that I take your point about the Democrats and the Republicans being two sides of the same coin. Bernie Sanders was prepared to take the US in a different direction but wasn’t given the opportunity to do so because “it was Hillary’s turn”. Consequently the US is stuck with Trump and Pence. Given the comment at the very end of the article you sent (“Most of my fellow Hoosiers would have done almost anything to evict Pence from the governor’s mansion, though inflicting him on the rest of the nation was a rather extreme solution.”) it doesn’t sound like Pence is much better than Trump. As my political scientist friend says, the US is going to be an interesting “lab” for the next four years, hopefully Canadians can learn something by observing it.

  6. jerrymacgp says:

    Ms Henein has taken a lot of flack in social media over her role in the Ghomeshi case, flack which in my view is unjustified. I went back to your post on the matter, and I noted that your critique was more of how the jusfge applied the law to the evidence rather than of Ms Henein’s zealous defence of Mr Ghomeshi; good on you for focusing on the real issues.

    I am not a lawyer. But prosecution of sexual assault of the kind alleged in the Ghomeshi case, in which there is no physical evidence of any kind of assault, sexual or otherwise, and the complaint comes many years after the events alleged, raise troubling questions about our criminal justice system. Sexual assault is such a heinous crime that the precautions inherent in our system must be applied even more rigourously than in the case of more minor offences. The rights of the accused (, to the presumption of innocence, until and unless proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt; to confront witnesses against him (or her), including the alleged victim; to a zealous defence by independent counsel… all of these and more serve to protect all of us from the otherwise untrammelled power of the state. How we square that, with the “we believe her” slogan that is so popular in public discourse around these issues, is a dilemma that as a “feminist” (if men can be considered so, then I consider myself to be one) I wish I had the wisdom to resolve.

    To be accused of so horrible a crime is often enough to so sully a person’s reputation that the ultimate resolution of the case is often beside the point. One step we could take as a society, might be to ban publication of the identities not only of alleged victims, but of the accused, until the matter is resolved by either a conviction or an acquittal (and perhaps, in the case of an acquittal or the withdrawal of charges, even after that). Let the trial go forward in a court of law, not the “court of public opinion”.

    • Jerry, yes I tried to focus on what I thought were the judge’s mistakes, not on how Ms Henein led the defence. Her job was to make the state prove its case, she’s an extremely effective defence counsel and did her job well.

      Ms Henein didn’t say much about this case but it was clear she has little use for social media in the administration of justice. She shared some pretty scary examples where social media has gotten out of hand. In the UK a juror wrote a Facebook post asking her Facebook friends whether she should vote guilty or not guilty. Another juror said the defendant was clearly guilty and he was just waiting for Opening Statements to start (which means the trial hadn’t even started yet but the juror had already made up his mind).

      And now that Trump has taken to running the US via Twitter things are going to get even more difficult.

  7. David Grant says:

    I couldn’t agree with Ms. Henein and Susan more on this issue. Over the holidays, i had many, many, many, conversations with my brothers and others who were trying to rationalize Trump’s win and stating that people like myself and others live in a bubble because we were critical of the choices that these voters have made. In this, I was trying over and over again to emphasize the behavior of Trump’s behavior and his supporters are worrying to not just women but to anyone with a brain and a shread of human decency. The normalization of this behavior is very, very, very, disturbing during and after the election and Trump hasn’t done anything to discourage and disown the segment of his supporters that feel this way. I think people need to wake up and not apologize, excuse of defend this kind of behavior. The most encouraging thing is that while there has been a rise in hate speech motivated by the President, there has been a lot of anti-hate speech as well. On a related note, we should all mourn the passing of Village Voice journalist and author Wayne Barrett who covered New York politics for many decades including the rise and fall of Donald Trump. He wrote many books about the Donald exposing the dangers of the current president. We will need more journalists who don’t worry about carrying favor with the powerful and who exposes their effects of their actions on us all. It is a pity that the Trump supporters didn’t read his work before making the decision that we all have to live with. Hopefully, some of them will have some buyer’s remorse and won’t make the same mistake in 2020.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s