Thursday, January 05, 2006

On the Metroblog: Swingers, smokers, and perhaps, a solution

[I thought this one was worth a cross-post... V.]

While we were all gearing up for the holidays, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a landmark ruling on the legality of two Montreal-based swingers’ clubs, L’Orage and Couer a Corps. In essence, the court ruled that consensual sexual activity which takes place on the premises of a private club does not harm the greater society, and therefore should not be criminalized. In the words of Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin, “Consensual conduct behind code-locked doors can hardly be supposed to jeopardize a society as vigorous and tolerant as Canadian society.”

In an article in today’s Montreal Gazette, the president of Citizens Against Government Encroachment (CAGE), Daniel Romano, suggests that the Supreme Court ruling may also provide a legal alternative to Quebec’s Bill 112, which will ban smoking in virtually all commercial establishments including private clubs. As the article notes:

Bill 112, which kicks down the closed doors of private clubs to make them smoke-free as well, seems to be a legal contradiction in the making. On one hand, consensual group sex is considered none of the government's business, while consensual group smoking is not. Arguments over the health risks inherent in both pursuits can and probably will be made before the year ends.

In fact, Bill 112 already contains the seeds of this contradiction, since it allows one exemption to the province-wide ban: namely, cigar rooms, in which the smoking of cigars and pipe tobacco (but, curiously, not cigarettes) is expressly permitted. Leaving aside the obviously class-based distinction the Quebec government makes between different forms of tobacco use (though you’ll permit me to wonder what Jean Charest smokes after a rough day at the office), the bill leaves itself wide open to the court challenge that CAGE and the Corporation des Bars, Brasseries et Tavernes du Qu├ębec have already launched.

If the Quebec government has any sense at all--and I’m not sure that it does-- it will quietly amend Bill 112 to permit smoking in private clubs; else, it runs the very real risk that the law will eventually be struck down. The move would also lessen the possibility of mass non-compliance, which, given the abysmal lack of government inspectors currently employed by the province (cutbacks, remember?), is not unlikely.

Think of it as a word to the wise—but you didn’t hear it from me.


Iso G. said...

Hey, late on this, but I spotted this last night:

Vila H. said...

(Laughs.) Perfect! Thanks, G...