This month marks the 32nd anniversary of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a landmark achievement in the promotion and protection of human rights, and which has served as a model for other countries drafting constitutions of their own. While Canadians have occasion and cause to celebrate this transformative constitutional document, silence is to be expected from Canada's Conservative government. The government's consistent refusal to fully acknowledge the Charter's importance is regrettable not only as a matter of symbolism, but as one of substance as well.
There are many differences between the platonic idea of secularism and the secularist statute proposed last week in Quebec. These differences will doubtless count against the Charter of Values, especially in English Canada, where a discrete conception of religious freedom and suspicions of sovereigntist motivations have elicited much scepticism.
The Charter remains a concrete expression of our shared values, the rights we can expect to have respected, and the responsibilities we owe each other. It is a crucial part of what binds us together in our diversity. It is sad that our current government remains unable to rise above petty partisanship in order to celebrate the Charter with all Canadians.
As opposed to viewing the Charter as a hindrance to its legislative agenda, the government should embrace the Charter -- as have lawyers, judges, academics, and even the majority of Canadians according to public opinion polls. We should be promoting and protecting those values the document enshrines.
Section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act used to be little known outside constitutional law circles, but it has recently received significant attention both in Parliament and in the media. This is a welcome development because it is this provision that requires the Government to vet its legislation for consistency with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The House of Commons may have passed Bill C-11, but the constitutional concerns with the copyright bill and its digital lock rules will likely linger for years. Many experts believe that the government's decision to adopt one of the most restrictive digital lock approaches in the world. And guess what? It's vulnerable to constitutional challenge.
Regrettably, the 30th anniversary of any of the events in the landmark process to enshrining Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms has gone without any remark or notice from the government. Indeed, with just five days until the Charter's birthday we have yet to hear of any plans for official commemoration from the government.