Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Happy Birthday Charter!

Thirty years ago today, on a wet and blustery morning in Ottawa, Betty Windsor sat at a table flanked by a nattily dressed Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Justice Minister Jean Chrétien, and signed into law Canada's new Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

While the event is not being marked in any significant way owing to the churlishness of the current Conservative government, two articles in yesterday's Globe point to the Charter's immense significance, not just in terms of Canadian law, but also in terms of its global significance. In an op-ed piece, former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour looks at three aspects of the Charter initially derided--including the notwithstanding clause--that in retrospect have become key elements of the successful work that it does. And another article cites a forthcoming study by two American law professors examining how Canada's Charter has now superseded the American Bill of Rights as the go-to document for emerging democracies seeking a model on which to base their own legal statutes.

That's definitely worth celebrating. And so while Prime Minister Harper pursues oil contracts in South America and dodges the question of why no official marking of the Charter by hiding behind the lack of consensus on the accompanying repatriation of the Constitution (in fact, the above Globe article also cites the fact that the majority of Quebeckers overwhelmingly support the Charter), I will quietly be raising a glass to what, along with a Supreme Court tasked with interpreting it, might be the last defense against a government wishing to undo much of what it has accomplished.


1 comment:

hoksze said...

That's a great piece, Peter. Very well said! You'd like Chantal Hebert's piece in the Star today, which distinguishes very insightfully between the Cons' and Quebecer's respective position regarding the Charter. Helen