Stephen Harper’s Spite of Charter, 30th-anniversary edition

The prime minister is hardly trash-talking the constitution here

Adrian Wyld/CP Images

There was very little interesting about Stephen Harper’s decision not to fête the 30th anniversary of the Charter of Rights until he spoke about it.

Simply declining to celebrate an anniversary is no sin. Every day is an anniversary of something, and it’s a handy rule of thumb that quarter-centuries are best for festivity, or mourning, or any kind of acknowledgment. It’s true that Harper conspicuously didn’t celebrate the quarter-century of the Charter in 2006, but he was two months into office then and his government wasn’t exactly breathtaking in its agility. [UPDATE: Well, that's wrong. It was 2007. Insert some other mitigating rhetorical dance here. -pw ] Plus it’s a bit weird to use coverage of failure-to-commemorate-the-30th as a pretext to remind everyone of failure-to-commemorate-the-25th.

So, silence would have done little to placate people, including certain of my colleagues, who are pacing back and forth looking for something to be furious about. But it would have been essentially uninteresting. His motives would have been a matter of conjecture, and conjecture’s no fun in the absence of evidence.

But now he’s spoken and things are more interesting. From CP reporter Jennifer Ditchburn’s account of the PM’s remarks in Chile:

“‘In terms of the anniversary, the Charter was an important step forward in the development of Canadian rights policy, a process that began in earnest with (Conservative prime minister) John Diefenbaker’s Bill of Rights in 1960, so it’s a little over 50 years old,’ Harper said.

“Diefenbaker’s Bill of Rights was not entrenched in the Constitution and did not carry the same weight in the courts as the Charter eventually did.

“Harper alluded to the fact that Quebec did not sign on to the Constitution Act of 1982, of which the Charter was a part. Two other attempts to bring Quebec into the constitutional fold — the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords — failed.

“‘In terms of this as an anniversary, I think it’s an interesting and important step, but I would point out that the Charter remains inextricably linked to the patriation of the Constitution and the divisions around that matter, which as you know are still very real in some parts of the country,’ Harper said.

Well. The prime minister is hardly trash-talking the constitution here. He calls the 1982 amendments “important” and “interesting” and “important.” He does sound a bit wary and forlorn about the lack of consensus. Already, on the ravenous global Twitter chatterbox, colleagues are upset that he is parrotting Quebec nationalists’ rhetoric about “divisions…which are still very real” around patriation.

I’m afraid my feelings are mixed. I believe the Charter is a good thing. It gives citizens power no government can take: its effect is often profoundly libertarian. I believe repatriation was a bit of a schmozzle, but when you have an embittered defeated Péquiste at the table, an already inelegant process is likely to become even more of a mess, and that’s life. (Harper was speaking in Chile. Take a look at their constitutional gong show.) I was supposed to speak at a conference on repatriation last week in Montreal, and I begged off because of time constraints, but I didn’t mind begging off because I didn’t really feel like challenging the local sooky consensus. “Woe is us!” “Humiliation and woe!” “Pain and suffering!” “And now, Paul Wells.”

 

 

 

 

But there is no necessary or even frequent connection between emotions and evidence, and emotions are real. And it’s hardly just in Outremont’s more self-indulgent salons that the Charter is seen as a bad show. When the newish Conservative party had its first convention in Montreal, the foundering Western Standard magazine distributed lapel pins with “It’s the stupid Charter!” on them. I’ll leave it to the magazine’s then-editor, Kevin Libin, to explain what the point of that was, because as the linked article shows, Kevin was pretty good at finding everyone else’s explanations wrong.

But my point, or part of it, is that there’s no consensus in the country around even as mildly rah-rah a conception of the Charter as mine. Harper’s first chief of staff, Ian Brodie, will by now be getting tired of my pointing out that his PhD thesis asserted a Liberal-judicial racket to make sure the Charter gets interpreted a certain way.  Harper’s fellow firewall theorist, Ted Morton, wrote a book with Rainer Knopff, who in 2010 helped Harper find a new governor general, that says all kinds of un-celebratory things about the Charter. The Court Party of the book’s title is, more or less, Brodie’s “Friends of the Court:” “a well orchestrated network of state-funded interest groups that use litigation and the media to achieve what they can’t win through democratic elections.”

Morton is currently having a bad few weeks on the campaign trail, but at one point in his academic career he was using “Reform Party” as a direct antonym for “Court Party.” Morton’s “Reform Party” wasn’t perfectly synonymous with, you know, the Reform Party, but the differences were slight.

Anyway, no consensus. Some people think the repatriation, or the Charter, was problematic. What’s striking here is that Harper chooses to honour and reinforce the lack of consensus. That’s a choice he made. It’s hardly unusual for a prime minister to reinforce a consensus, or to assert there’s one where there wasn’t before. In 2004 he abandoned his earlier opposition to (one could say “Trudeau-style”) official bilingualism, and when his friend and colleague, the MP Scott Reid, didn’t zig when Harper zigged, the Conservative leader essentially cut Reid off from further significant party roles.

Then in 2006 he appointed the journalist Graham Fraser as languages commissioner. Fraser’s language politics are Trudeau’s when they aren’t tinged with a greater sympathy for Quebec nationalism than Trudeau could muster. It would have been profoundly out of character for Harper (“as a religion, bilingualism is the god that failed”) to put that guy in charge of official languages as late as two years before he did. But Harper didn’t want a fight on those grounds, so he not only changed his stance, he enforced the change, to the chagrin of once-valued colleagues like Reid.

He’s done the same on smaller files — supply management, certain Elections Act provisions he used to find draconian, and so on. The most striking example of Harper’s embracing formerly alien symbols is the flag, adopted by Pearson while Diefenbaker wept, now a central part of Conservative iconography.

He could have done the same with the Charter. No, the Charter is not “the Constitution,” as people who accuse Harper of snubbing “the Constitution” claim. It’s part of the complex and evolving Canadian Constitution, which otherwise includes longstanding treaties with the First Nations, inherited British constitutional convention, large unamended sections of the 1867 British North America Act, and every week’s new jurisprudence at the Supreme Court. But for that reason, it would not have been hard or costly for Harper to embrace Trudeau’s Charter as easily as he has embraced Pearson’s flag.

He’s chosen not to. Decide for yourself whether to celebrate or mourn. I’m left with one nagging worry. In about a year Quebec will probably have a Parti Québécois premier, Pauline Marois. This is probably not a big problem: she’s likely to bump along, pushed by her party base to hold a secession referendum but unable to do so because of lousy polls. It’s always good for Canada when the PQ tears itself apart. But things could get weird, and another secession referendum can’t be ruled out. In that environment, a Harper charm offensive wouldn’t get far, because few Quebecers find Harper charming. He’d have to fall back on the law, including the Supreme Court’s opinion in the Secession Reference. Given the potential stakes, I’d rather he didn’t use the constitution to fight political battles.




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Stephen Harper’s Spite of Charter, 30th-anniversary edition

  1. Harper is all for taking away rights under the charter of rights and freedoms because he is too close to Mulroney who prevented me from getting to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1989… the next level of court, judge ordered support and custody into the courtroom in 1990 but they did not show, immigration erred 20 years later…. what a sham…..

  2. Excellent use of the word sooky.

  3. Good column, except for the math.

    25th anniversary was in 2007.

  4. To compare the Bill of Rights, a half-arsed attempt at self-aggrandizement that only has use in Federal admin law, to the broad project that was the Charter is ridiculous.  It’s comparing a guy sitting on his coach watching hockey to Daniel Sedin.   I say this as someone in the “Parliamentary Sovereignity” camp.

    One of the things I liked about Harper originally was his glee at cutting loose the old Tories, especially the failures, and actually starting something new.  What a disappointment.

  5. I don’t think the secession reference would be part of the fight during a referendum, so much as setting out the process AFTER a referendum. 

    Also interesting that Harper chose his harshest criticism of the repatriation for the parts that don’t matter.  We have a constitution and Charter whether Quebec signed on for it or not, but there’s a lot of stuff – like treating gays equally, for instance – that still raises the hackles of the worst aspects of the Canadian right.

    • Whatever else can be said about the man, Harper chooses his battles very well. He will turn a blind eye if some backbencher spout off whatever the anti gay-rights crowd needs to hear to think that the government cares about them, but would never say anything publicly about it himself, because he knows that battle is long since lost.

  6. All I can say if the PQ comes to power and wants to do a referendum I would rather have Harper talking on behalf of the rest of Canada than Bob Rae or the bearded dual citizen.

    •   Ahhh here it comes…..

      Pssst….you forgot the kitchen sink

    • The separatists will sure be glad Harper’s in charge if they bring about another referendum. Just think how columnists were saying separatism was dead in Canada — that is, before Harper got his fake 40% majority. Harper is the prime minister of Alberta. We need a voting system that ensures a majority of voters is represented in government. It’s called democracy.

      • I guess that means Chretien was the prime minister of Ontario.

        And so on.

        • If you’re talking about the decade-long manufacturing boom the Chretien government created that has since turned to a bust under Harper, I would agree. But any economist will tell you value-added exports create a lot more jobs, wealth and prosperity than resources, which Harper is focusing our entire economy on.

          Chretien created 300,000 full-time manufacturing jobs and a $20B trade surplus. Now those 300,000 jobs have vanished and we have a record $50B trade deficit. Canadians want real jobs close to home, they don’t want to be shipped off to the middle of nowhere to work in an open-pit mine living off the avails of resource welfare.

          G&M: ECONOMY LAB: Is ‘Dutch Disease’ getting a bad rap?
          “The effect on manufacturing employment was consistent with what you would expect: an increase of about 300,000 jobs during the 1990s, and a decrease of a roughly similar amount in the 2000’s”
          http://bit.ly/kGttX2

          Globe and Mail: Canada’s current account (trade) deficit is a huge drain
          http://bit.ly/Ih8WZy

          • Your initial point was about the electoral unfairness of first-past-the-post, and Orson was indulging the ridiculousness of that argument. Now I’m going to point out why your analysis of Chretien = Economic Success is one of those cases where correlation =/= causation.
            The strong manufacturing sector of the late 90′s was entirely due the poor exchange rate on the Canadian dollar, which was floating between .62 and .74 cents per USD from around 1996 to 2003 (remember shopping in the US back then…. painful!). Harper’s been dealing with parity to the USD, which makes manufacturer’s either indifferent to operating here, or see it as a lost opportunity for cost savings.
            Any economist will also tell you that value added exports only create more wealth and prosperity if there’s actually a better profit margin. If natural crude costs 35$/bbl to produce, and upgraded crude sells at 55$/bbl, there’s 20$ of value added. So if we can refine the crude into fuel, and the value added is greater than simply upgrading, then that value added process should be done locally.
            Any economist will also tell you that a private company would have done this years before the government even started thinking about it if the economic rents that you speak of actually exist at present.

        • So what? If everyone keeps on bashing the one that came before, we’ll never expect, or get, anyone better. 

          • I wasn’t bashing Chretien at all.   I quite liked him.  I was bashing the idiotic premise that says that because Harper won an election under our first-past-the-post system, with nearly 40% of the popular vote, that somehow makes him “illegitimate”, when these same people making this argument tended to have no problem at all with Chretien doing exactly the same thing.

            I was also merely pointing out that if you’re going to say Harper is the “PM of Alberta” because he happens to have a lot of support in that province, well guess what — Chretien at one point had some 100 seats out of Ontario alone.  Turnabout is fair play, don’t you think?

    • Why? Do you want to see Canada broken up faster?

      Besides, Quebec separation is a red herring. I’m more concerned about Alberta separation. 

    • One conclusion that could be drawn from that comment is that, like many commenters of CPC bent on these boards, you would like to see Quebec out of Canada.

        • Doesn’t change the fact that a substantial portion of CPC supporters would be happy to see Quebec leave.  With that base I am not convinced Harper would very strenuously defend Canada-with-Quebec.

          •  ”a substantial portion of CPC supporters would be happy to see Quebec leave.”

            Have you got any reliable evidence to back that statement up?

          • Read the boards here, the various Sun papers and National Post, there’s plenty of examples to choose from.

            Also, from back in my days out west, it was a common sentiment expressed by people who professed to support the Conservatives.

          •  @mtl_bcer:disqus “from back in my days out west”? That’s about as ridiculous as me saying that half of Quebec is still separatist because I obvserved that in “my days out in Quebec”.
            I’m an Albertan, have been for the past 25 years, et je suis fiere aussi d’etre Quebecois.
            I’m also a Conservative supporter and I can tell you that’s not a common sentiment. CPC supporters hate equalization payments, not the people receiving them. (We’d hate BC if they got the lion’s share too) It’s easy to conflate those two ideas.

          • juridiculous:  Any time I heard the sentiment, it was not about equalization payments, usually what was expressed was a bit more ethnically-directed, complete with referring to Quebecers as a type of amphibian, so you are erring in assuming I am conflating the two ideas.

            Not to say that Quebecers can’t be similarly obnoxious, witness events in recent years regarding “reasonable accommodation” and recent articles detailing attitudes towards minorities.  Its disgusting wherever it is.

          • to mtl_bcer:

            In other words, the actual answer to my question is no.  You have no reliable, objective evidence to back up your statement.  Nothing measureable, nothing empirical, no actual polling data, nada.  Just your subjective supposition.

            Thanks for coming out.

          • Well there’s this from 2010:

            http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Politics/2010/04/06/13489146-qmi.html 

            The most substantial support for Quebec sparating (outside of Quebec of course) is from Alberta at 26%, well in excess of any of the other provinces. In 2011, Alberta voted 67% for CPC, so its a fair inference that a big portion of that 26% were in the 67% of CPC voters.

            SK and MB are not very far behind, with 22% supporting Quebec separation; their popuar vote in 2011 was over 50% for the CPC.

            It might also bear adding that the conservative beacon Ezra Levant has expressed support for Quebec separating.  When one reads poll results from Sun News, the results supporting positions Levant supports are overwhelmingly (80 – 90%) in his favour.  It is well known that Levant’s positions most closely align with the CPC relative to other federal parties.  While I could not locate any Sun News poll results pertaining to this specific issue, the consistently massive support for Ezra’s various positions strongly suggests that the support for Quebec separating would also find favour from his viewership  . ..  which according to Sun News, must be massive.

          •  @mtl_bcer:disqus that’s great, but I live in Alberta right now, and the current opinions from people I know is that we hate making equalization payments, not Quebecers or Quebec. It just so happens they suck on the teat of equalization harder than anybody else. I know you’d love to assert that 20 year old anecdotal evidence counts toward validating your assumption that Albertans are rFrench haters, but anecdotal evidence is shoddy at best, and yours is outdated. Heck, mine’s not even very reliable, but at least it’s current.

          • 26%.

            Impressive.

          • Orson:

            Before you sneer at the 26%:

            Would you agree that supporters of NDP, Liberal and Green would be predominantly less disposed toward wanting Quebec to leave Canada?  They account for 31% of the AB vote, so that 26% of the total AB population would be predominantly part of the 67% supporting the CPC.  If we allow for, say, 4% of the 26% (in favour of Quebec leaving) to belong to non-CPC voters, that still leaves 22% of Alberta voters that would be drawn from the 67% of voters who support the CPC, that is, a third of CPC voters.  What I said was *substantial* portion of CPC voters, and I think most would consider 1/3 to be substantial.

            juridiculous:

            If equalization is the problem that grinds the gears of Albertans, why are they not calling for other net recipients of equalization to leave?  As for anecdotal evidence, what leads you to assume I am talking about 20 years ago, or only about Alberta?  And I never in fact said Albertans are french haters, only that a substantial portion of CPC supporters would like to see Quebec leave Canada.  A portion of those I have heard, in the west in general, expressed those views using bigoted terms, and that can be seen in many discussion boards.  Somehow, if equalization is the problem, why do many of these people need to refer to Quebecers as frogs and cowards?

          •  @mtl_bcer:disqus In case you missed it, the reason I typed up earlier as to why Albertans dislike Quebec qua recipient of equalization is because they take the most from that system. Year-in, year-out. If it was PEI taking $7B of Albertan taxes annually to pay for luxuries Albertans themselves don’t get (7$ daycare, practically free tuition, etc), then I suppose you’d see a lot of Albertan resentment for PEI. Let’s also not forget that Quebec is the only province that has tried to separate since the inception of the equalization system.

            And I don’t know why these people you speak of refer to them in bigoted terms. I certainly don’t hear it these days. Perhaps if you found a time machine you could go ask these people what was motivating their hatred.

    •  I assume you hate Canada as it is presently formed and want Quebec to leave, then.

    • Because you’d prefer the seperatist side to win a referendum? 

    •  Why, when it is impossible for him to tell the truth?

  7. “It’s part of the complex and evolving Canadian Constitution, which
    otherwise includes longstanding treaties with the First Nations,
    inherited British constitutional convention, large unamended sections of
    the 1867 British North America Act, and every week’s new jurisprudence
    at the Supreme Court.”

    Why not note the Newfoundland Act? It has been amended a few times since the repatriation in 1982, most notably the termination of Denominational Education Funding. They’re also still relevant because they establish and prop up a small, but parallel, patent system; guarantee the existence of Marine Atlantic; and explicitly prohibits us from doing a hail-Mary around the Clarity Act by prohibiting Newfoundland & Labrador from signing onto the Statute of Westminster.

    • I’m glad you noted the Newfoundland Act. I should read more about it. Others should feel free to list other documents and conventions which our constitution “includes” — my inclusive verb. 

      • That was me, signing in with my volunteer non-profit arts Twitter account. D’oh. Do check out our excellent April 27 all-Handel concert. 

    • Why not the Manitoba Act or the Saskatchewan Act or the Alberta Act or the BC Terms of Union or the PEI Terms of Union, either? They are all in the Office Consolidation.

      • Well, aside from those three major differences?

        Let’s see – it also sets up/establishes a parallel Trade Marks system, explicitly cedes Fishery and offshore rights to the Federal Government (which was relevant in the establishment of the Atlantic Accords), lists off reams of real property which was given to the federal government (Newfoundland Hotel, Gander Airport, and all military bases/outposts), two sub-terms ceding broadcasting rights and properties of the BCN to Radio-Canada (now the CBC), allows for the creation of a secondary legislative branch in the House of Assembly (Legislative Council) if we so desire one, and finally it helped remove the dairy industry’s stranglehold on Canadian Parliament – margarine production was finally allowed in one part of Canada – with the Supreme Court passing down the “Margarine Reference” (which determines if a law is within the authority of the federal government under Parliament’s powers to legislate criminal law).

        Add in the fact that none have really been modified outside of the Newfoundland Terms of Union and you’ve got a fairly unique situation. Now I’m not sure if PEI had the Confederation Bridge included/ferry services excluded in their termsonce it was completed, but that would be the biggest change to non-NL Terms of Union since the dissolution of Manitoba’s Legislative Council (which I assume they could ressurect if they so wish, much like Newfoundland).

        This is not to put down those parts of the Constitution, they serve a relevant and important role in their respective provinces. It was just that Mr. Wells appeared to be delineating unique (but still relevant) sub-sections of the Constitution and of all the scheduled Acts, the Newfoundland one is the most extensive, has seen the most revision and was the only one to receive popular consent of the population via referendum.

        I’m actually curious about why Newfoundland’s entrance into Canada isn’t mentioned by The Clarity Act, since it calls for “a clear majority” upon secession but apparently it only takes a 52% majority to be integrated. Why pequistes haven’t picked up that ball and tried to run with it I’ll never know!

  8. Without the Charter we would have no rights! I’m glad I was born after the charter, because based on pure speculation, Canada must have been a tyrannical police state prior to 1982. I hope that we can soon engage in military action to liberate Britain from its similarly constitution-less state.

    •  Magna Carta

      • Leaves one nagging question:  Has Scotland repatriated the Magna Carta?

        •  Fascinating historical fact: the Magna Carta has no actual effect except as between King John  and the dozen or so lords who signed it.  Although many swear by it’s after-invented meaning (mostly by Sir Edward Coke) the original document is very circumscribed.

          •  Agreed.  The king and a few lords. Very skimpy by present day standards

            However, it was the first well-known attempt in Europe to have any kind of agreement to limit the power of the monarch and to give others rights.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magna_Carta

        •  LOL the act of union occurred after the Magna Carta.

  9. Given the potential stakes, I’d rather he didn’t use the constitution to fight political battles.

    Your not kidding. Dion gave Harper some good advise on the eve of the nation within a nation resolution fiasco – don’t play symbolic poitics; he didn’t listen then, he may not be listening now.
    But just what does Harper think is to be gained by evincing some sympathy for the nationalist’s pet gripe, that the constitution was repatriated without Quebec’s consent and Quebec feeling left out of the process. Ron Graham’s recent book, The Last Act brilliantly undercuts this notion by asking, among other questions: if this was the case why did Levesque immediately make copious use of the notwithstanding clause while continuing to ludicrously claim Quebec’s interests had received no consideration at all? Graham’s last and most telling reminicense of Trudeau’s frame of mind after the signing was the remarkable assertion that if he had to do it all again he would have risked repatriating without the consent of any of the provinces, rather than leave the impression that Quebec was isolated. But i wouldn’t expect a man like SH to acknowledge such resolution and a commitment to the unity of this country when their are cheap political points to be scored. 

    So are Harper’s remarks aimed at his base as much as currying sympathy with Q’ nationallists? I think you don’t give enough weight to Harper’s penchant for pettiness PW..’.they didn’t celebrate or recognize our charter, so why should we theirs?’  
    If a referendum should ever come around again will this stance really help him, or much more importantly serve Canadian unity well?
    Thank goodnesss he doesn’t really need Quebec to sustain his majority or i see little real reason for Harper’s innate sense of political opportunisim to not rival Mulroneys; both of them have a demonstrated record of hatred for Trudeau’s legacies. But he didn’t try to cripple bilingualism you say; well, neither did Mulroney, that didn’t stop him trying to roll the dice on this country a couple of times when he felt the urge for legacy envy and neither will it Harper, should the political necessity arise.

  10. Plus it’s a bit weird to use coverage of failure-to-commemorate-the-30th as a pretext to remind everyone of failure-to-commemorate-the-25th.
     
    I’m probably context/comprehension deficient but i’ve read this sentence a couple of times now, both before the update and afterward. I still can’t shake the impression you’re guaging your weirdness scale on a presumption that fans of the charter should have complained more loudly and effectively in 2007. Please tell me you didn’t mean that, cuz that would be really kind of weird in and of itself.
    Many liberals did indeed register their disappointment vigorously at the time…i certainly did. Most of us were just gobsmacked that a PM of any political stripe would ignore such an anniversary. Indeed as i recall that blithering idiot of a justice minister followed up by speaking at the memorial of one of the charters principle adherents – Lama???[ going on faulty memory here] and insulting the man’s memory by not mentioning his role in developing the charter; out of narrow idealogical spite one presumes.

    edit: Justice Antonia Lamer was the guy i was thinking of…i think.

    •  If you are of a Liberal bent, you will interpret this as “ideological spite.”  In reality, it is simply indifference.  Also the Charter is divisive in the view of many, so the anniversary does not provide an occasion for unifying cross-Canada celebration in the same way that Canada Day does. 

      • Try googling some facts before you make unsupported claims. Polls at the time show Canadians were overwhelmingly in favour of a national people’s charter – they still are. ince when does minority opinion like yours [and Harpers] get to trump the law of the land?

  11. There’s often very little interesting about harper’s decisions until he speaks about them – they would just sort of slide under the radar of most journalists and pundits if he didn’t fan the flames with his engaging rhetoric.  In his defense tho, it is tough to talk out of both sides of your mouth at once as he is so often forced to do to sound like he’s on both sides of an issue at the same time.

    •  I do not think it is fair to call it “fanning the flames” — when he is asked a question by the media and he responds with his reasoning.  This is another media sponsored non-issue.

  12. “Constitutional ‘divisions’ keep Harper from celebrating charter”

    Sorry Paul but for once i think the cbc has out done ya  as far as framing the issue goes…at least the folks responsible for the tittles/headlines.That’s the way i read it. It’s typical of Harper, catches him precisely. Pick and choose from any number of specious, dishonest, disingenuous excuses why he just can’t support a Canadian institution that has been tainted by liberals. The man has little or no difficulty getting behind contentious issues that have no national consensus when it suits his purpose ie., Gateway pipeline or putting his thumb on the scales when environmental concerns threaten  so called national priorities. But support an institution, a part of our constitution that has met the highest and most rigourous standards our Parliamentary institutions can throw at it in terms of legitimacy…no siree, there’s a small matter of a lack of national constitutional consensus and ancient divisions holding up the national celebration.
    Perhaps someone could remind him that the deal was hammered out by all the Premiers of this confederation and not merely imposed by one head strong Liberal PM. 
    SH, a man for whom nothing is ever truly written or settled it would seem, unless it merits his personal idealogical stamp of approval.

    •  ” Gateway pipeline or putting his thumb on the scales when environmental concerns threaten”  — Oh come on, each of these things has real implications re jobs, the economy.  What consequences are there for failing to “celebrate” what is in fact a politically controversial document?  Mostly attacks by the media; Harper haters.

      • So what you’re really saying is what your group/party/ideaology/tribe think superceeds both the settled law of the land and the environmental, regional and sustainable development concerns of Canadians other than Albertans?

  13. I don.t remember the charter being celebrated ever! so why start now.

    •  Because Liberals need this bit of attention.  It is a reminder that Liberals made us what we are.

      • Yes, if it weren’t for Liberals, none of us would have ever been born.

  14. In about a year Quebec will probably have a Parti Québécois premier, Pauline Marois.

    Just a few months ago weren’t we probably going to have a CAQ premier Legault?

  15. “ It gives citizens power no government can take: its effect is often profoundly libertarian.”

    Wells you have been living in Ottawa far too long if you believe that Charter is libertarian. Trudeau admired mass murderers around the world – Hitler, Mao, Lenin, Castro – and he didn’t introduce any document that granted people freedom. 

    Canada murders tens of thousands of babies annually, drug addicts are given tea and cookies so they can inject poison into themselves in comfort, pedophiles roam free to continue their evil behaviour while talking to witless social scientists as therapy, Natives suffer appalling conditions and our public debates are all about how we can mess them up even more… and I have to pay for all of it through my taxes, which limits my freedom greatly.

    The Charter has made Canada much more libertine, not Libertarian.

    • Let’s just say you know nothing of the Charter and leave it at that.

    • As an older woman I can assure you that I and others had libertine moments way before the Charter became law.  The Charter has not made people more libertine. 

      Legalization of the sale of oral contraceptives in 1968 did encourage a more libertine society. I would imagine you oppose the legal sale of contraception and have never used it yourself on moral grounds.

    • You really give Trudeau too much credit, Tony.  He would have made Canada more libertine.  I suppose he would have made the US more libertine, as well as most industrialized nations. Without Trudeau, we’d all still be watching Father Knows Best.  Libertine US TV?  Trudeau’s fault. Libertine British TV?  Trudeau’s fault too.  OPEC crisis?  Trudeau’s fault, etc., etc.

  16. The Charter is not only divisive, it will be seen as a turning point for Canadians as they realize that they as individuals are more important than the Crown that governs them.  We don’t really know it yet – but the Charter is far more about We, the people than about Peace, Order and Good Government. And that means that maybe just maybe we can start having a rational discussion about why Canadian provinces should join the US. Our identity is more powerful than our federation.

  17. The Charter is controversial. I think too much is being made about “non-celebrating”.  Canada is our official celebration of all things Canadian. 

  18. Not to love the Charter is a great disgrace.

  19. It is hilarious to see Bob Rae rail against Harper for not celebrating the Charter when Bob Rae permitted the defeat of his gay rights legislation in Ontario when he was premier of a majority government, and he allowed members of his party to vote against gay rights.

    Bob Rae, defender of fundamental rights NOT!!!.

    •  For the time, Rae was extremely brave for bringing that vote.  I, too, wish he had whipped the vote, of course. 

  20. What a constitution? What a Charter of Rights? What a Country? What a Supreme Court?We have  a province in this country where the use of the English language ( an official language of Canada) is illegal and people have been prosecuted for the use of it.
    Canadian citizens in Quebec continue to be harassed every day in the province because they dare to use the English language in their every day lives.
    And we have the temerity to point fingers at third world countries, their justice system and their democracy.

    • Are you speaking from direct experience? While I am no fan of the tongue troopers and the don’t like the general attitude against anglos in Quebec popular culture, I rarely have had any problem being served in my language by Quebec government agencies, so its a bit of a stretch to say English is illegal.

      • The fact there are tongue troopers tells it all – they re there to enforce laws against the use of the English language  - thereby making use of English illegal under certain laws. Don’t try and sugar coat it – just because it hasn’t happened to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Also the simple fact is that most people will not break the law and curtail themselves of the use of the English language which should not happen when English is an official language and we have a Charter or Rights. Did you or any of your friends have  a problem sending your children to an English school? I can’t believe there are some people who would publicly state an obvious lie that there is no problem with the use of the English language in Quebec and there are laws that forbid or curtail its’ use.

        • Again, do you have direct experience of this?

          Not sugar coating anything, yes, there is l’office de la langue francaise, but it actually does not impinge much on day-to-day life.  Go shopping at Fairview or downtown, or any resto or bars most places on the island, and you will usually get service in english if you want.  (Don’t know where you are from, but there seems to be a sixth sense here that people use to determine on sight alone which language another speaks)

          Most people I know who are anglos have no problem with english schooling (if a parent was educated in english in Canada, then the children have that right).  Francophones unfortunately do not have that right, but I believe we are discussing here the oppression of English speakers.

          One thing that does come to mind is bus drivers; I have to say that they can be a surly lot, many insistent on not speaking english.

  21. “it would not have been hard or costly for Harper to embrace Trudeau’s Charter as easily as he has embraced Pearson’s flag.”

    True. It’s worth noting that Harper once challenged a law on the basis that it violated the Charter. Of course, the outcome would reinforce the Morton/Brodie view that the Charter protects only certain groups and interests, but still, it is unique that Harper has been in that role, and could provide the frame he needs to celebrate the Charter.

  22. The charter takes away from individual rights, and allows the supreme court the power to influence canadian social policy in ways never intended. The supreme court runs this country now through their unaccountable and secret decision making that dictates to the government what they can and cannot do. We already had all the rights before in different forms, but it took a little socialist with a napoleon complex to fool the nation with his charm and utter disrgard for what the inplications might be of an action that was nothing but lieberal socialism. This charter will be shown to be nothing more than an exercise in socialism that time will prove to be wrong.

    •  After the Charter the law did effect political policy in certain new narrow ways, especially as regards rights.  Everything else you said was completely erroneous.

  23. If you loved Trudeau, then you love the constitution. It was Pierre’s way to distract from his disastrous leftist tax and spend policies which in 82 had left our economy in shambles. Smoke and mirrors so to speak. We had more rights under the BNA act which was esentially British common law aka a document based on common sense. We now have a dog’s breakfast constitution that reflects whatever our activist supreme court judges deem it should reflect. So pardon me for not toasting the constitution. The country didn’t need it, but we are now stuck with it and I’m surprised that so many people define themselves by a 30 year old document that was cooked up by a bunch of politicians…all with agendas, AND HUGE EGOS.   

  24. Harper is such a poor excuse for a human bieng.  How petty and small he is.  He cannot get over his hatred for anything Liberal – so much so that he can no longer see the forest for the trees.  It’s really very sad to see a Canadian Prime Minister shrink to such a small person.

  25. Wasn’t Chretien in the PM’s seat when the 20th Anniv of the Charter came and went? Funny, I don’t remember any celebrations then…  this is a tempest in even less than a teacup, and just political mudslinging at its finest.

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