Blast from the Past: Pro-torture edition

Nick Papageorge (1L)

February 10, 2004 – “Let’s not be naïve: the case for torture warrants” by Keir Wilmut

This bold law student took to the Opinion pages to argue that we should rethink absolute prohibitions on torture. For example, the UN Convention Against Torture states: “no exceptional circumstances, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture.”

The argument was that torture may be justified in situations of imminent threat. For example, trying to extract the location of a ticking time bomb in a major city. The writer’s stance was that, while torture may not necessarily produce results, “[t]he temporary pain of would-be murderers should not be elevated over even the possibility of saving innocent lives.” Judicial oversight would be an “accountable and transparent” way to assuage all fears about the abuse of such an extraordinary power.

January 20, 2004 – “Fifteen years later and still ‘blue-balled’: Disaffected await consummation of Canadian Alliance and Tory Union with bated breath” by Steve Penner

A Progressive Conservative supporter, and former summer student staffer, laments the amount of time it took right-wing Canada to end its infighting, and vows to “take a pass” on the newly-formed Conservative party.

But first, some insider advice: “you go to PC conventions to get drunk, Liberal conventions to get laid, and New Democratic Party conventions to lick envelopes.” And then, some prescience: “the PCs had traditionally been a party for radicals of the right […] That all changed with the advance of the Reformers […] Will this new party cede enough power to the old PC to allow them to keep the wing-nuts in line? I doubt it.”

November 18, 2003 – “Social habits at the law school mirror chimp behaviour” by Health Enables Legal Minds at the University of Toronto (HELMUT)

In a bygone advice column from a bygone university group, HELMUT responds to the anonymous concerns of the student populace.

The first response addresses the concerns of one budding misanthrope about dislike for other law students, and their ostensible reciprocation. The response: “Law school is a bit like an advanced experiment in social Darwinism […] It’s rather like chimpanzee social arrangements. Members often attach themselves to groups for strength and security.”

The solution for those on the outside of those chimp groups looking in will seem somewhat familiar: “You have (or will eventually receive) a ‘stalker guide.’ Use it constructively. Look up people you’ve talked with or like the look of, and send a group email asking if they’re interested in some activity […]” Little did the author know, such a stalker guide would be available to everyone, everywhere, all of the time just a couple short years from then.

October 21, 2003 – “In praise of public legal education” from remarks by Professor Hudson Janisch on 17 September 2003

In remarks delivered to students in front of Flavelle House peacefully rallying against rising tuition fees, Professor Janisch offered the following in support of their cause:

“I [believe] that a university should serve the best interests of the entire, community, not an already fortunate few […] Law schools should reflect and enhance the values of the society they serve. The most disturbing feature of the incremental privatization of legal education is that its proponents seek to judge success, not according to distinctly Canadian communitarian ideals, but by the bitter individualism and devil-take-the-hindmost competitive values which prevail in the American private educational sector. Supporters of higher tuition and privatization are determined that we should play according to someone else’s definition of excellence […] Excellence is not to be found in flashy and extravagant peripherals and high faculty salaries, but in the quality and commitment of students and the dedication of the faculty to their education.”

September 10, 2002 – “Students challenge online Headnotes: Move to electronic version raises concerns over lack of consultation, accessibility” by Graham Mayeda

While the roll-out of the first ever online version of Headnotes brought several advantages, e.g. paper saved, students raised some concerns. The move was made by the Faculty of Law administration without consulting student groups. Some students believed the move was premature as many lacked computers, and the computers in the library were borderline useless.

Then came the more quotidian concerns. One student said: “I’m already cross-eyed from staring at my computer screen all day. I’m not going to spend further time clicking and surfing through endless layers of passwords and screens and titles every week to find something that may be of interest to me when I don’t even know what I’m looking for.”