'The Charter enshrines our most cherished Canadian values'

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae’s statement on the 30th anniversary of the Charter.

“On the steps of Parliament Hill, 30 years ago today, Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s Liberal government signed the historic Canada Act, 1982, patriating our Constitution and making the Charter of Rights and Freedoms the supreme law of the land.

The Charter enshrines our most cherished Canadian values. It reflects our belief that Canadians have a fundamental right to live free from discrimination, to assemble peacefully and express our opinions, to vote in elections unimpeded, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and fundamentally, that our individual rights take precedence over the rights of government.

Abroad, the Charter is the constitutional document most emulated by other countries, standing as a model for new democracies who share our goals and values, and as a resource to draw from for others. Here at home, the Charter continues to evolve, with court decisions and legal reforms by Parliament and provincial legislatures opening the door to same-sex rights, minority language rights and abortion rights, and shutting the door on capital punishment, torture and gender-based discrimination.
On a personal note, I was honoured to be able to speak in favour of the Charter in the House of Commons debates many years ago, and to vote for the patriation of the constitution with the Charter.

Thirty years later, the impact of the Charter on Canadian society has been significant and lasting. The Charter does not belong to one political party or one group, it belongs to all Canadians. As my colleague Liberal Justice and Human Rights critic Irwin Cotler wrote recently in the Toronto Star, ‘The Charter merits both recognition and respect from the government, reflective of the reverence it is accorded by both Parliament and the judiciary.’

Tonight, Liberals will celebrate this defining moment in our country’s history at a rally with former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien who, as a young Attorney General, participated in that iconic signing ceremony 30 years ago today. Together, we will salute the vision of Prime Minister Trudeau, and stand with Canadians from coast to coast to coast, in commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the Charter, which continues to shape our individual and collective identities.”