Amici Curiae: The Speeding Ferrari, Gendered Will and Testament, and “Cablegate” Edition

A Most Expensive ticket

A speeding ticket might not be collected through just a monetary fine anymore—instead, a speeding vehicle may actually be seized and resold on the market. This scenario might seem unbelievable to the public, but remains enforceable under British Columbia’s beefed-up Civil Forfeiture Act, which was amended in 2008.

On Sept 27th, two men in their early twenties were caught street racing in North Vancouver, BC. They were accelerating up to speeds of 200 km/h in a 60km/h zone. Just prior to being stopped by the police, complaints were called-in by other motorists about an “active” dangerous street racing event and its potential of harm to pedestrians.

“When a vehicle has killed or injured someone, it’s too late,” said Solicitor General Rich Coleman. “Our laws now work to take vehicles away from reckless drivers before they hurt someone, because they are demonstrating no regard for the safety of themselves or others on our roads.”

Upon apprehension, both drivers were handed 15-day driving bans and their vehicles were impounded on location – a $235,000 Ferrari Scuderia and a $75,000 BMW M6. The justifications that RCMP’s Federal Integrated Proceeds of Crime (IPOC) and the province’s Civil Forfeiture Office (CFO) used for the forfeiture can be found in this article.

Two months after being stripped from its driver, the Ferrari was sold to a local dealership at a set price of $235,000. The proceeds would be distributed as follows: 20% to the government, 50% to the part owner who was not involved in the accident, and 30% to the driver. This translates into a speeding ticket costing a minimum of $47,000. This is the first time that the law was strictly enforced at this level, and represents — to put it lightly — a most expensive speeding ticket indeed.

New Citizenship Test

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney spent a significant amount of time this week defending the government’s new, more onerous citizenship test. The new test, which requires would-be citizens to get 15 out of 20 multiple choice questions correct (as compared to 12 before), and randomizes the order of questions (to prevent the previously common practice of simply memorizing the order of letters), has resulted in a spike in fails.

In defense, Mr. Kenney, a rising star in the Conservative Party, has defended the choice to make the test more difficult as necessary to ensure that new citizens have an adequate knowledge of Canadian history, politics, culture and values while also maintaining that the test is fair, given that all the answers are contained within the government’s new guide.

Critics have argued that while the test is a step in the right direction, it does not do enough to ensure that new Canadians have the requisite French or English language skills.

B.C. Supreme Court Overrules Male-Only Inheritance

The British Columbia Supreme Court has overturned the will of William Werbenuk after he left all his assets to his son, while leaving nothing for his four daughters. While Werbenuk justified his decision in the will as a result of the significant role his son had played looking after him, the Court also heard substantial evidence to the effect that Mr. Werbenuk held extremely conservative views as regards gender equality.

In overturning the will, the Court held that a testator has to base his or her will on “contemporary moral standards.” This result, while perhaps just in the circumstances, nonetheless gives rise to some cause for concern.

The case raises a very interesting issue. On the one hand, a will is, naturally, an expression of a person’s last aspirations determining how their property should be partitioned following death. Should this alone, however, allow a person to escape society’s normative standards? Conversely, if we are willing to allow a legal document such as a will to be overturned because of its divergence from societal norms, do we run the risk of not only violating that individual’s liberty interests, but also enforcing a set morality on individual actions? In this regard, such a concern is, of course, not unique to wills. The case thus appears to stand as an instance in which the decision was acceptable on the particular facts, but potentially troublesome as precedent.

A Rare Bit of Bipartisanship: Conservatives, Liberals Team Up to Defeat Bloc Motion on Afghanistan

The governing Conservatives and official opposition Liberals found themselves in strange territory this week as they teamed up to defeat a Bloc Quebecois motion which would have condemned the government for not putting its decision to extend Canada’s mission in Afghanistan past the 2011 Kandahar withdrawal date to a Parliamentary vote. The Conservative-Liberal cooperation served to easily defeat the NDP-Bloc motion, despite earlier concerns that the Liberal Party was divided on the issue. In explaining the Liberal Party’s opposition to the motion, Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae provided an eloquent defense of the government and Liberal Party’s support for the Afghanistan mission generally.

While it may well be worthwhile noting that, technically, the 2008 resolution only pledged Canada to withdraw from Kandahar by 2011, leaving our commitment to the overall mission open ended, the real story regards the political effect such a decision may have in Quebec, where Canada’s participation in the Afghanistan mission is widely held to be the least popular in the country.

Julian Assange: International Public Enemy No. 1

Sweden had requested Interpol to post a “Red Notice” on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, an Australian born computer hacker who has become an international celebrity. “Red Notice”, an international wanted persons alert, is an advisory and request to 188 member countries to assist the national police forces in identifying or locating Assange with a view to his arrest and extradition. Assange tried to apply for permanent residence and work permit in Sweden back in October. Sweden, where WikiLeaks maintains some of its servers, has a tradition of press freedom that could have become a safe haven for Assange.

Besides potential allegations of leaking classified U.S. documents on the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, the Swedish prosecutor’s office is also investigating allegations of sexual misconducts against Assange for recent incidents happening in Enkoping and Stockholm, Sweden. According to CBS news, Assange’s London-based lawyer, Mark Stephens, has complained that his client did not receive formal notice of the allegations he faces – something Stephens described as a legal requirement under European law.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that WikiLeaks’s most recent “Cablegate” disclosures are an attack on the U.S. and international community. Many people have offered different views on this issue, thinking that the leaks are mere gossip and should be protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that establishes press freedom. Comments may be read herehere, and here.

Considering the tense situation that WikiLeaks’s disclosures have created in international diplomacy and the war on terrorism, the potential consequences could, or already have, negatively impacted Assange’s life. Court documents stated that he might be facing at least two years of imprisonment and then some. After being accused, Assange was quoted by a Swedish tabloid stating that he was warned about “dirty tricks” that the Pentagon might use against WikiLeaks. Only time will tell what the aftermath might become…

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