Sunday, January 07, 2007

Canada's New Justice Minister and Attorney-General, Rob Nicholson

The Hon. Robert Douglas Nicholson has been appointed Canada's new Attorney General and Minister of Justice by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Nicholson, a 54 year old lawyer, was first elected to Parliament in 1984 in his hometown of Niagara Falls. He has previously held several cabinet posts, including his most recent stint as Conservative House Leader.

Blogger Cathiefromcanada comments on the Nicholson appointment:

I know the big news of the day was the replacement of Rona Ambrose as Environment minister, but I actually thought the replacement of Vic Toews as Justice Minister could turn out to be pretty significant, too.What's going to happen to all the Conservative "let's send more Canadians to jail" law proposals, like the three-strikes idea (which is, I think, both contrary to natural justice and unnecessary), not to mention "let's staff our courts with more right-wing, ideological judges" and then"'let's tie their hands with more mandatory sentences."

The new Justice Minister outlined his immediate agenda in Cracking Down on Criminals, a report in last Friday's Niagara Falls Review:

Canada's new justice minister, Rob Nicholson, vowed to continue the Conservative party's law-and-order push for tougher sentences for criminals and more protection for law-abiding Canadians. "This effort to make our streets and communities safer is really one of the government's priorities. There won't be any doubt about it," Nicholson said after Thursday's cabinet shuffle.

... Nicholson inherits responsibility for three bills the Conservatives introduced last year - to impose mandatory jail time for criminals who use guns; to raise the age of sexual consent to 16 years old from 14; and to end the use of conditional sentences for people convicted of serious crimes.

"There are a number of bills that have my attention. Certainly, I'll want to do what I can to get those things through," he said, adding he wants to see them become laws before an election is called.

Allan Woods of The Toronto Star indicates that "conservative insiders" view this appointment as a "rebuke" to Toews, and reports:

Parker MacCarthy, president of the Canadian Bar Association, said his group hopes there will be more time and opportunity to provide "meaningful input" on justice bills, which he said was lacking under Toews.

But questions remain about whether Nicholson, who declined an interview request, will have a mandate from the Prime Minister's Office to engage in the necessary negotiations, and submit to legislative amendments, needed to win opposition support – something Toews seemed unwilling or unable to do.

"The Conservatives realized that Toews was not portraying an image that was acceptable to Canadians in the sense that so many of the proposals in the legislation that he's brought before the House were overreaching and, in some cases, just way over the top," said NDP justice critic Joe Comartin.

"Nicholson ... is a person that is prepared to make compromises and help build consensus and I think that is the kind of image that they would prefer to portray."

For more background:
  • Nicholson's home page online is here.
  • Wikipedia's extensive biography is here.
  • A partial history of his voting record in Parliament (to November 2005) is here
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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