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Posted Jun. 14: 

Regarding your item on judicial activism in Canada and the court's striking down of the "spouse in the house" welfare rule (May 31-Jun. 2), which cites a column by Christina Blizzard: First off, Christina Blizzard is one of the most partisan pro-right writers in Ontario in the mainstream media, and heavily favors the current provincial government. Typically, it's not what she says, but what she omits. I admit to not having the time to read her article, however, for a good alternate opinion, it would be worth reading another column from the Toronto Sun written perhaps a week earlier by Marianne Meed Ward on the same topic. I wish I could find a link for it... 

This "central plank" of welfare reform is actually a very old rule which was originally abolished in the late 1980s.  Everyone knew that it would not stand up to constitutional scrutiny. Why? Because the law is applied unevenly: 

 1. Same-sex spouses are not included; 
 2. The classification of same-as-married does not agree with other statutes; 
 3. The classification of being a "spouse-in-the-house" is highly arbitrary. 

Co-tenants found themselves being classified as spouses, yet were unable to claim their sudden spouse as a dependent under other laws. 

What was the most silly of all this was that a progressive ruling which allowed a welfare recipient to sublet part of their apartment without having to declare the income (unless the welfare rent supplement amount + the rental income amount exceed the total rent on the unit, I believe), easily led to single mothers suddenly having a new spouse if they sublet a room to a male. They don't even have to have intimate relations to get classified as spouses. If the tenant so much as babysits, or picks the kids up from daycare here or there, suddenly he's a spouse-in-the-house, and all of his financial details are the government's business. 

The rule is really an excellent example of assumed guilt, which plagues welfare recipients everywhere.  I agree that people can and do abuse the system, but this rule as defined and applied is unfair.  I am not a lawyer, or a welfare advocate. But the amount of mis- and disinformation on this issue has astounded me. If only my government was as zealous tracking down tax-dodgers. 

As for judicial activism in Canada - often its presence is in the eyes of the beholder. Anyway, in Canada, the judiciary does not have the final say on constitutional issues.  The various legislatures and the federal Parliament do as they can enact the constitution's notwithstanding clause.  -- Mark Francis, Orillia, Ont.

After having read your April 2002 Archive page, I was prompted to write. The story (Apr. 19-21) about Daniel Hannant suing the - guess who - bat company sounds so simple. I wonder what your spin would be on this story if your child (or one close to you) was in that position. Maybe you could have a little more compassion for a family who agonized for days, waiting to find out if their son would live or die, and has now been humiliated (thanks to several news columns) on top of dealing with Daniel's injury. They don't use these bats in the major leagues, why should they be used in school? It amazes me that writers are so quick to type up a newsy tidbit without searching for the facts. If you had done so, you might have realized that this lawsuit was not about money, nor about warning labels, but about the safety of the next pitcher who has no reaction time due to a specific type of bat. When all is said and done, you might also consider that you are slamming a teenager with your columns, a young man who was a good baseball player, who worked hard to get over a serious head injury, and who does not deserve the harsh criticism that he is receiving. -- Cathy Ervin

You discuss the slogan of a drunk driving defense lawyer, "Friends don't let friends plead guilty" (May 13).  It probably came from this website. -- Cole Thompson, Senior News Producer, Court TV, N.Y.C.

I have read with interest your recent report (May 10-12) on the Audubon Quartet dispute.  You seem to have obtained most of your information from defendant Clyde Shaw or persons close to him.  For a broader perspective on the facts of this case including facts you may not have been told, I invite you to look at my web site.  I think some of its highlights regarding the defendants' conduct are very much in tune with the general theme of your website.  -- Michael Renardy, Blacksburg, Va.

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