As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Harper government insists on casting the Canadian Bill of Rights as not only the catalyst for the Charter, but indeed itself as a great instrument of rights protection. This is to misstate history, to minimize the importance of Charter, and to marginalize the revolutionary impact that this document has had not only on our laws, but on our lives.
It was Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, with his 1960 Bill of Rights, who took the first important step to enshrine Canadians' rights in law. If Pierre Trudeau's Charter of Rights is to truly unite Canadians, then it must protect the rights of all Canadians, not just the favoured causes of the left. Until it does, one should not be surprised that some, like Stephen Harper, do not put it up on a pedestal.
When the Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms became the law in 1982, little did we know what a handy teaching tool it would become. Not many children have been introduced to the Charter, but most of them understand questions about freedom and fairness. How can a limit to freedom be reasonable?
On the Charter's 30th anniversary, we find ourselves in a Dickensonian moment -- the best of times for the Charter in global constitutionalism terms, but a worrisome one in Canadian terms. To begin with, the landmark 30th anniversary process has gone without any remark or notice from the Harper government.
When the term "national unity" is brought up, people often think of the Quebec question. Quebeckers' opposition to patriation and to the Charter largely remains a myth. This doesn't change the fact, however, that Quebeckers have been voting for an opposition party at the federal level en masse for two decades.
I want a charter that will protect individual freedoms. And minority rights. Our so-called Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does neither. I am neither proud of such a charter nor of the country to which it belongs. How does this poor excuse for a Bill of Rights limit and restrict our rights and freedoms? Let us count the ways.
The Conservative government has an obligation to do everything in its power to pressure the Charest government to stop appeasing Quebec nationalism and say enough is enough: Either you're committed to Canada and its values or you're not.