Amici Curiae: The Cigarette Packaging, Asian Students, and Canadian Sopranos Edition

Corpse to Appear on Cigarette Packages in the U.S.

In 2008, Canada became the first country in the world to adopt mandatory warning images on cigarette packages. With the passing of The Tobacco Act, bold graphical warnings demonstrating the harmful effects of smoking were placed on cigarette packaging. Although Canada’s warning labels have inspired many other countries to adopt similar legislation, Health Canada has abruptly abandoned plans to beef up graphic warning labels on tobacco packaging in late September of this year.

In comparison, the U.S. FDA is working on “the most significant” change in American tobacco labeling in a quarter century — requiring graphic warning labels that cover half the package on both sides and the top 20% of all cigarette ads. The FDA gained the power to regulate tobacco products through new tobacco legislation passed last year by Congress and signed by President Obama.

The 36 proposed images, including photos of a corpse and a man smoking through a tracheotomy tube, are available here. After comprehensive review, the FDA will select the final nine images by June 2011, and the new labels will take effect in September 2012.

Can the warning of frightful images on cigarette packages achieve the goal of anti-smoking? According to the Toronto Star, “Health Canada study shows that 90% of youth have been discouraged from smoking because of the labels.” However, the warning labels have not been updated in 10 years, and are often ignored by most smokers as wallpaper. “That’s why an update is necessary,” argues David Hammond in the Toronto Star.

DOMA Under Attack

Two lawsuits, one in Connecticut and one in New York, have been filed to challenge the constitutionality of the US Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage. The Act defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman, and specifies that one state need not to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state.

As the NYT explains, the two challenges stem from Joanne Pedersen and Ann Meitzen, who are legally married under Connecticut law, but unable to get health insurance because their marriage status is not recognized under federal law. The New York lawsuit involves Edith Windsor, who married Thea Spyer in Toronto after being together for 44 years. Although New York state law approves their marriage, the federal government does not – and their federal estate taxes are thus calculated as though they were strangers rather than spouses.

Remaining hopeful, Ashby Jones of the WSJ Law Blog notes that, “The filing of multiple lawsuits will likely result in rulings in different federal court districts. That could increase the likelihood that the Supreme Court will eventually consider the issue.”

Parent Gender Bias in US Immigration Law

Do fathers deserve the same rights as mothers under immigration law? Flores-Villar v. United States is forcing the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to decide whether gender discrimination in the Immigration and Nationality Act is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause, which protects gender equality.

This case involves the citizenship of Ruben Flores-Villar, a 36-year old man who was born in Mexico but raised by his unwed father in San Diego, who was recently denied U.S. citizenship because his father did not achieve the standard set by the law. The Immigration and Nationality Actrequires unwed American fathers to live in the U.S. for at least ten years, with five of those years being after the age of 14, in order to confer citizenship to their child. Comparatively, unmarried American mothers only need to live in the U.S. for one year before the child is born.

During the hearing on Wednesday, the SCOTUS told Mr. Flores-Villar that the court does not have the power to grant citizenships to someone born outside the US, or else it would be ahighly intrusive exercise of the congressional power”. Furthermore, Justice Kneedler commented that in the context of citizenship, Congress had good reasons for differentiating between mothers and fathers. The Washington Post noted that because only eight justices are hearing the case, it is possible that the resulr may be a tie.

While the issue focuses on whether the Court will adhere to the Equal Protection Clause, or give justifications for gender discrimination in the provision, it is equally important to consider Mr. Ruben Flores-Villar’s “right to a nationality.” Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, wrote in the Huffington Post: “There’s no question that Ruben Flores-Villar’s father was aware of him and acknowledged him as his son — in fact, he raised him from birth. It does a disservice to us all for our country to base such important consequences as the right to reside in the U.S. on unfair sex stereotypes. All families will be stronger if the Court recognizes that simple fact.”

A Touchy Subject

Two articles regarding the alleged disproportionate academic success of Asian-Canadian students have created quite a buzz this week. The controversy began as a result of a Maclean’s article describing the segregation of Asian-Canadian students and Canadians of other ethnic backgrounds, especially those of European decent, in choosing post-secondary institutions supposedly resulting from Asian-Canadians’ greater desire to succeed academically. Next came a report in The Star arguing that not only was the phenomenon detailed in Maclean’s article accurate, but also that Asian-Canadian students, pushed academically by their demanding parents, lack self-confidence and inter-personal skills.

As would be expected, the articles have drawn a response. The Chinese Canadian Council was quick to condemn the articles as divisive and overly simplistic generalizations. An editorial on the National Post’s website went further, claiming that children of other ethnicities should view the phenomenon as a wake up call of sorts and focus more on academics and less on socializing, particularly “binge drinking.”

Given that it touches on issues of culture, race, immigration and parenting, the subject is inherently sensitive, if not outright inflammatory. And yet, given demographic and immigration trends, related questions are likely to only become more prevalent rather then less as time passes. As the Maclean’s article notes, for example, Canadian universities are beginning to face a real quandary: impose quotas to maintain a culturally diverse student body, exposing themselves to claims of profiling and injustice in the process (an option favoured by a number of American universities), or maintain the ‘merit-based’ system currently used, likely resulting in a student body which falls short of representing the cultural mosaic they aim for.

Let us know what you think.

The Sopranos, Canadian Edition

Notorious Montreal mob boss Nicolo Rizzuto was found murdered in his home this week following months of attacks against his family and the Montreal Italian Mafia. Police continue to search for evidence, but say they have no suspects at this time. The Rizzuto crime family was considered one of the most dominant in the world in the 1970s, but analysts believe the family’s power has been slowing waning ever since. The death is being understood as the culmination of a series of backlashes against the Rizzutto’s power in Montreal.

In a completely unrelated story, Quebec Premier Jean Charest has refused to call an inquiry into allegations of corruption in the province’s construction industry. In an equally unrelated story, Rogers Publishing, responsible for publishing the recent “Quebec is the most corrupt province in the country” edition of Maclean’s magazine, has apologized for its decision to run the article.

While no doubt the Maclean’s article’s treatment of Quebec was somewhat insensitive given its unique place in Canada, something about this situation just doesn’t add up…

Lest We Forget: Canadians Celebrate Remembrance Day

As is customary, Canadians across the country took a moment yesterday to honour those who have fallen in the protection of our freedom. While the Prime Minister took part in a ceremony honouring Canada’s participation in the Korean War, an elaborate ceremony was conducted at the National War Memorial in Ottawa attended by veterans, politicians, the Governor General and thousands of other Canadians, including, amongst others, the Vancouver Canucks (who went on to defeat the hometown Senators by a score of 6-2 later that night).

While the commemoration is typically connoted with the moment of silence observed in respect of the fallen, there was no shortage of hype in the press. Jane Taber of The Globe and Mail penned an interesting article on the lack of veterans in the House of Commons. The most attention, however, was paid to the increased likelihood that Canada will continue to play some sort of role in Afghanistan following our current mission in Kandahar which is scheduled to end in 2011.

Canadians have served proudly in the Boer War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, peace keeping operations around the world, and, most recently, Afghanistan, earning a reputation for bravery, determination, discipline, and selflesslessness.

You may also like...

Join the conversation

Loading Facebook Comments ...