A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
Contact us at democracyunderfire@gmail.com

Sunday, April 22, 2012

One Tyrant & Three Amigos

With last week being the 30th anniversary of the patriation of our Constitution and the adoption of the CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS it seems that it is appropriate for a blog concerned with Democracy to give some attention to this momentous occasion. Perhaps one of the most important moments on Canadian history since Confederation it deserves to be celebrated for it has on numerous occasions served as a tool of last resort for individuals who have been left with no other recourse in protecting their individual freedoms and rights. It serves as a check upon both the courts and our government in that when these institutions get a little too full of themselves and interpret or pass laws such that they impinge upon our basic democratic rights and freedoms there is, for those with sufficient resources at least, this is a final avenue of appeal.
Given the impact that this document has had upon our courts, the government and our interpretation of our laws is is surprising that very little is being said about it by 'our government'. The Harper regime is making a big deal of the 200th anniversary of the 1812 war between the Brit's and the Yank's but the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is good for a simple press release. Said statements seems to highlight the desire of the Harper regime to change said document by including this bit in the very brief text - “The Constitution Act of 1982 empowered our government to amend every part of Canada’s constitution”. We cant help but wonder if this is because it was adopted on former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s watch or because it places restrictions upon some of the authoritarian laws that said regime seems to want to place upon us. Harper says its too divisive! Whilst most Canadians are probably aware of the Charter I doubt that many have actual read it so without further comment I will post here a few of the more important bits as a reminder of the rights that we all have.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; freedom of peaceful assembly; and freedom of association.
Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.

Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.
Every citizen of Canada and every person who has the status of a permanent resident of Canada has the right to move to and take up residence in any province; and to pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.
Detention or imprisonment Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.
Arrest or detention

Everyone has the right on arrest or detention to be informed promptly of the reasons therefor; to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right; and to have the validity of the detention determined by way of habeas corpus and to be released if the detention is not lawful.
Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
There is of course much more detail contained in the document including a number of exceptions and much upon our dual language rights and obligations. You may read the whole thing at http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Charter/

Being a blog about Democracy and Parliamentary Process I cannot leave without highlighting this little bit which gives the various legislatures some wiggle room.

No House of Commons and no legislative assembly shall continue for longer than five years from the date fixed for the return of the writs of a general election of its members.
In time of real or apprehended war, invasion or insurrection, a House of Commons may be continued by Parliament and a legislative assembly may be continued by the legislature beyond five years if such continuation is not opposed by the votes of more than one-third of the members of the House of Commons or the legislative assembly, as the case may be.
There shall be a sitting of Parliament and of each legislature at least once every twelve months. (No length of sitting is specified!)


This Charter applies to the Parliament and government of Canada in respect of all matters within the authority of Parliament including all matters relating to the Yukon Territory and Northwest
Territories; and to the legislature and government of each province in respect of all matters within the authority of the legislature of each province.
Parliament or the legislature of a province may expressly declare in an Act of Parliament or of the legislature, as the case may be, that the Act or a provision thereof shall operate notwithstanding a provision included in section 2 or sections 7 to 15 of this Charter.
A declaration made under (this) subsection shall cease to have effect five years after it comes into force or on such earlier date as may be specified in the declaration. Parliament or the legislature of a province may re-enact a declaration made under (this) subsection.

We are most grateful that the Charter CANNOT be changed unilaterally by this or any other government but requires varying degrees of consensus from federal and provincial governments depending upon the particular section under consideration.

This week Steve Pakin of TVO's The Agenda sat down with The Three Amigos - Jean Chretien, Roy McMurtry and Roy Romanow – and talked about how the deal that created the Constitution came about and why it is as it is. For the podcast of the fascinating hour long show go to http://theagenda.tvo.org/bcid/1569918740001 of particular interest is their take upon why the current PM is less than enthusiastic about this anniversary in the last few minutes of the show.

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