Craig Scott was elected in a federal by-election on March 19, 2012, as the Member of Parliament for Toronto-Danforth, the riding previously represented by NDP Leader Jack Layton. He is the Official Opposition Critic for Democratic and Parliamentary Reform, and has been leading the NDP’s campaign for Canada to adopt a proportional-representation electoral system and to abolish the undemocratic Senate. Craig is – proudly – the only openly gay Member of Parliament from Ontario, and works on Parliamentary law-reform initiatives with other MP colleagues in the NDP’s LGBTQ Caucus.
In the House of Commons, he is respected on all sides of the House of Commons for his hard work, ability to sharpen and elevate debate on a wide range of legislation, and capacity to combine firm resistance to the Harper agenda with fair-mindedness, good humour, and a spirit of collegiality. Early on after being elected, Craig developed a reputation for hard-hitting, focused questions in Question Period on the use of fraudulent robocalls during the 2011 federal election as well as on the Conservatives’ effort to purchase Senator Mike Duffy’s silence. Last year, Craig led the NDP’s fierce opposition in the House of Commons to Bill C-23 (the ‘Fair’ Elections Act), a deliberate effort by the Harper government to make future elections unfair in multiple ways. He is now fighting the Conservatives’ latest effort in Bill C-50 (the so-called Citizen Voting Act) to make it extremely difficult for Canadians abroad to vote in federal elections.
Until his election as MP for Toronto-Danforth, Craig was Professor of Law and the inaugural Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University (2000-2012); he started his law-teaching career at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law (1989-2000). As a teacher and scholar, Craig became known for his ability to create productive linkages between his academic work and his work with groups in society fighting for progressive social change. Craig has carried a life devoted to fighting for human rights and equality – and pursuing justice through law – into his Parliamentary work.
A lover of art, Craig also ran the Craig Scott Gallery in Toronto as a parallel career while a law professor, from 2006 to 2012. Craig has lived in Toronto-Danforth for the last 25 years, for many years in East Chinatown and then in Riverdale beside Withrow Park. He now lives in the Pape/Mortimer neighbourhood of East York with his partner, fashion designer Kovit Ratchadasri – and their mini-Schnauzer Joey. Prior to starting his academic career, Professor Scott served as law clerk to the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Brian Dickson. He attended the Universities of Oxford and London as a Rhodes Scholar, and also has degrees from McGill and Dalhousie.
Craig Fights for Justice in Canada and Around the World
As a law professor (U of T, 1989-2000; Osgoode, 2000-2012), Craig concentrated on issues such as constitutional protection of social and economic rights, ending impunity for torture, and accountability in Canada’s courts for human rights violations committed by Canadian companies in other countries. He developed a worldwide reputation as one of the leading scholars in the field of international human rights law and transnational legal studies.
One of the areas Craig was passionate about as a law professor was environmental protection. In 1989, his first year as a law professor, Craig inaugurated the first course of its kind – called The Global Environment – that focused on the role of international legal instruments and transnational non-governmental activism in the fight against global warming. In the lead-up to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, Craig worked with Friends of the Earth Canada to prepare a position paper for delegates on options for transfer of environmental technology from North to South, as an imperative in the fight against climate change. Almost a quarter-century later, he is dismayed at how little progress has been made in bringing humanity back from the brink of catastrophic damage to our planet.
Craig achieved a reputation as an influential and innovative scholar in the field of international human rights law. On the teaching front, he developed what may have been the world’s first “global classroom” law-school course, using Internet and video conferencing to link classrooms in Toronto, Singapore, Hong Kong, Finland so that students could engage in cross-cultural debates around international human rights. In the 1990s, he worked closely with the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation, helping this Toronto-based organization bridge the gap between legal scholarship on housing as a human right and the on-the-ground struggles for affordable housing for all.
He was one of the drafters of the Alternative Social Charter put forward during the Charlottetown constitutional round, which aimed to constitutionally entrench basic rights to social protection (e.g. housing rights) and environmental rights through a creative interplay between Parliament, the courts, and new constitutional Social Council. Craig was closely involved in advising anti-poverty and other equality-seeking groups on in Canadian Charter of Rights litigation and in preparing interventions before various UN human rights bodies on Canada’s record of treaty compliance. As the founding Director of the Jack and Mae Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security, Craig was active within a network of legal academics pushing for accountability on the issue of Canada’s transfer of detainees in Afghanistan to known risk of torture – and has carried this issue forward into his role as MP, having been assigned by NDP Leader Tom Mulcair to continue the search for the truth about this dark chapter in Canada’s participation in the ‘war on terror.’
Craig’s advice is often sought on a wide range of international and transnational law questions. He participated in appeals or interventions in the Supreme Court of Canada in major cases which have dealt with the reception of international law by Canadian law (such as Reference re Secession of Quebec, in which he advised the Government of Saskatchewan). Craig advised lawyers on how to formulate the claim in the civil lawsuit of Maher Arar against the Government of Canada for Canada’s role in his rendition to Syria by the United States and in his torture by Syria; during the settlement process, Craig’s expert report (on the risks to Arar’s security if he were to try to travel outside Canada to continue his career as an engineer) is credited with forcing the government of Canada to agree to compensation much higher than it had previously been willing to discuss. He has given academic opinions on international law to various governments and international organizations on issues ranging from the law of the sea, territorial claims, adjudicative procedures, and the use of military force. He has also given opinions to non-governmental organizations and Aboriginal government representatives on such matters as the effects of economic sanctions on Iraqi children to First Nations’ sovereign fisheries jurisdiction.
Outside Canada, Craig served as a key constitutional advisor to the African National Congress when it was still in exile, and this advisory work and his academic writing are widely recognized as playing a crucial role leading to the inclusion of a distinctive protection for social and economic rights in South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution. He served as co-counsel for the government of Bosnia in a case before the International Court of Justice; Craig had responsibility for the team that developed arguments on the limits of the powers of the UN Security Council to impede Bosnia’s efforts to defend itself against a genocidal war being sponsored by neighbouring Serbia. He co-founded the London-based Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice as the civil war in that country was coming to a conclusion in a massive bloodbath of civilians in spring 2009, and he played a key role on its Advisory Council until stepping down when elected to the House of Commons. Craig was also a commissioner on the Truth Commission in Honduras created by human rights organizations after the 2009 coup d’ état in that country.