Old-time patriotism


The Ottawa Citizen reviews Michael Ignatieff’s True Patriot Love.

“America and Canada are both free nations,” Ignatieff writes. “But our freedom is different: There is no right to bear arms north of the 49th parallel and no capital punishment either; we believe in collective rights to language and land, and, in our rights culture, these can trump individual rights. Not so south of the border. Rights that are still being fought for south of the border — public health care, for example — have been ours for a generation. These differences are major and George Grant’s conclusion that they were minor misunderstood Canadian history and our enduringly different political tradition.”

The latest issue of our magazine includes an interview with the Liberal leader and an excerpt.


Old-time patriotism

  1. Public health care is a RIGHT? Weird. I’ll have to go back and read the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. All this time I had it as a federal spending authority intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. Well then, thanks for the political science lesson, mister Canada’s Next Prime Minister.

    • Since when have all of our rights as citizens been limited to a single document like the Charter? Or to put it differently since when are the only rights we have Constitutional rights?

      The Charter sets out that we all have certain “fundamental freedoms” that the state cannot take away except in exceptional circumstances (s.1) or by amending the Constitution.

      But that does not mean that, by passing laws, the state cannot grant other rights and by passing more laws it takes those rights away. The right not to be discriminated against in employment, for example, is not a Constitutional right but a right granted through ordinary statute.

      So, if the law says I as an Ontario citizen am entitled – i.e. have a right – to universal, state-funded, equitable, portable health care, then, until the state passes a law saying otherwise, I have that right and can enforce it in court.

      • That was meant to be Ontario resident, not citizen.

      • Ontario law gives you an ENTITLEMENT to public health insurance, structured in such a way as to earn the Ontario government mucho cash from Ottawa to help pay for this entitlement. See the Canada Health Act. It’s a federal spending law.

        Anyhoo, speaking of health care and human rights: The Supreme Court of Canada established (see Chaoulli, maybe I don’t have the spelling right), that Quebec’s lamentable performance in public health care renders its state-enforced monopoly a THREAT to its residents’ Charter rights, given the suffering it produces. Then, the SCC being the SCC, enforced the fundamental human rights of Quebecers by permitting the Quebec government a year to continue to legally usurp these human rights in order for it to get its act together.

        Anyway, please spend some contemplative time on the distinction between an entitlement (funded by the confiscation from fellow taxpayers) and a human right. Once you’ve figured it out, you might want to share your enlightenment with the author of True Patriot Love quoted above.

        • No, under Ontario law, not federal law, I can go into a hospital, present my Ontario issued health card and demand to be treated. If you can go to court and enforce an obligation from another, you have a “right” to do so, whether that is a Constitutional law, a statute law or even in contract law or general common law. Indeed, any first year law student will be familiar with the concept of “rights and remedies” in common law and especially in contract law.

          Your point about the Chaoulli case is a good one to illustrate that a citizen does have a right to healthcare, and if the government doesn’t provide it, the citizen because of that right may seek out the healthcare in breach of the stated law.

          Anyway, please spend some contemplative time on the distinction between Constitutional rights, human rights and all other kinds of rights given to us under Canadian law, and the lack of distinction between entitlements and rights. Once you’ve figured it out, you might want to read about rights with the author of True Patriot Love quoted above. He’s about to go on a speaking tour this spring for his book and later for an election so you’ll have plenty of opportunity..

          • Your point about the Chaoulli case is a good one to illustrate that a citizen does have a right to healthcare, and if the government doesn’t provide it, the citizen because of that right may seek out the healthcare in breach of the stated law.

            Well, that’s not how I recall the phraseology of the SCC decision. I’ll poke around the decision this weekend. The SCC did not expand on the “right to health care,” rather the human right of the person to take care of his or her own health (“security of the person” or some other term, IIRC). The Quebec government was in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights (and its own human rights legislation) for FORBIDDING Quebecers from buying insurance themselves to cover private health services in the real-world context of waiting lists so long that the monopolistic public system was itself the barrier.

            Quebec was (is!) denying the right of its residents to take care of themselves (private health/medical insurance), while at the same failing to provide the entitlement of taking care of them. That’s why the SCC slammed the Quebec government. Quebec law restricted Quebecers rights, the SCC gave (some partial facsimile of) those rights back to them (eventually, one year exemption, etc.). Not by “letting” Quebecers “breach” a law (what an odd way to describe a court decision: it’s ok to go ahead and break this law, people!), but by declaring the law itself illegal.

            And I will stubbornly keep to calling a “right” that can so easily be repealed by simple legislative amendment what it is: an expensive (and revocable) “entitlement.”

            (Preemptive defence: I by no means imply “simple legislative amendment” to mean “simple politically.” No government survives politically by actively and deliberately removing entitlements; they do survive politically by confiscating as much as required — or by passing the bill forward — to maintain or expand entitlements, or by quietly starving the system so that the legally-existant entitlement dwindles in reality.)

          • MYL,
            Polemics, plain and simple. What exactly are you trying to say? That you are entitled to argue absurdity? If so, you are correct. Carry on, please.

          • MYL:

            No need to go chasing the decision. Your analysis is correct.

            But the point is that, we have gotten so caught up in arguments about Constitutional rights that we think of rights as only those that are enumerated in the Constitution which is false.

            And it is not merely that “entitlement” and “rights” are the same thing – which they are: if you are entitled to something then you have right to that thing – but that in law you have many enforceable rights that are not Constitutionally enumerated rights. Human rights law, contract law, labour law… every area of law will talk about one party’s rights over another party’s rights.

      • MYL states NOTHING that has failed to pass his “confirmation bias” filter. Were he to consult a dictionary, he might discover what “rights” mean — oh, and they ARE entitlements by the way. Might I also suggest an ESL course?

    • Hey, our Charter rights apparently extend to the Zurich based International Olympic Committee.

      A historic Olympic competition will open Monday when 15 female ski jumpers from Canada, Austria, Norway, Slovenia and the U.S. take on the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Games, arguing they have a constitutional right under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms to compete next February. Ski jumping is the only Olympic sport that bars women from participating.


      This was, naturally, the extension of their previous right to file a complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Commission…

  2. Man, if people take him seriously ( no real reason to ) this should bring the conjurers of continentalism out of their lairs. We await the missives from the Institutes.

  3. “I can see how vain and distorted our family myth making could be, but for all that, I cannot disavow it. It is part of me.”

    So distinct from the Americans, and yet not so distinct that Ignatieff won’t try to try for his own version of an Obama line.

  4. I’m not a fatalist or a believer in destiny or entitlement, but that lineage…..you know. Damn. It’s quite a story.

      • the cats left behind at 24 Sussex lol…

      • I’m no expert, but it really looks like Conservative die-hards are very frightened right now. All of these allusions to distant Russian relatives…..it smacks of racism.

        • And it is backfiring.

          I mean, how can you go out into the Canadian demographic landscape and try to woo recent immigrants and decendents of recent immigrants that they have more in common with Conservative policy and should vote for Conservatives (as Harper and Kenney are doing), but then go around saying that you are not really Canadian if your grandfather on one side of your family was a foreigner.

          Conservatives will, perhaps at some point, realize that, as stupid as Canadian voters may be, they are not as stupid as the government thinks they are. It’s something Martin’s government never learned.

  5. I wonder if Ignatieff will beat Harper to the punch and write a hockey book.

  6. Hockey book – ya, like more hockey books are needed. Harper wasn’t even interested, according to Deb Grey, when he worked for her. Harper’s hockey is an image thing, just like Bush’s ranch. Yup, trying to look like the average, he-man Joe. It’s a republican strategy. Now, Bush is running for anythings the ranch is going to be sold.

    • We already have the best hockey book writer on staff: the author of The Game is a Liberal MP, former cabinet minister and, later this year, cabinet minister again.

  7. Hey Iggy should get John Macullum to edit his next book. The problem with the Igsters writing style is the overarching self indulgence of it all … you keep screaming to yourself get to the point …. Blood and whatever was basically impossible to read I feel sorry for the CPC ‘ers tasked to decode what to be honest now seems to me, to be a from of literary masturbation .. a pleasant way to spend a few minutes but ceratinly not fullfilling enough to make time for and enjoy it’s passing.

    • Unlike Harper’s books which are all written so… oh wait. Never mind.

      • precisley my point – if you don’t have anything interesting to say then don’t write a book or god forbid a library of them as it is just a reflection of your own self love.

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