Charter Challenge: Civil Liberties And The Erosion Of Canadian Culture

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Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, founded by former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, is the most transformative piece of legislation in modern Canadian history.

Entrenched into our constitution in 1982, the Charter’s transformative nature is found not in its declaration of personal liberty and equality, but rather in how the legislation is utilized, and by whom. Surely, few Canadians oppose laws which guarantee individual rights such as freedom of speech, or freedom of assembly. The extension of these rights to all Canadians, regardless of race or religion, is very likely acceptable to the average Canadian— whether a recent arrival to our shores, or a descendent of those who farmed our prairie lands at the turn of the 20th century.

One of the most conspicuous elements of the Charter resides in its empowerment of Canada’s judicial system— namely, our courts, judges, lawyers, and civil liberties advocates. Conversely, the establishment of the Charter also resulted in the relative disempowerment of Parliament, and obviously, of the Cabinet itself.

Central to this development is the fact that while Members of Parliament are elected, our judges are not. From our provincial courts of appeal through to the Supreme Court of Canada, all judges are appointed—not elected.

Since the Charter’s inception thirty-three years ago, our nation has changed dramatically. Due to maintaining the highest per-capita immigration rates in the world, Canada has undergone dramatic demographic changes during the past several decades. As a result, Canadians of European heritage will assume minority status within our largest cities by the year 2031, according to Statistics Canada. Even at present, to label ethnic communities in our urban centres as “disadvantaged” is a misnomer—considering, for example, that homelessness most greatly affects “long-term” Canadians.

One would, however, never know this based on the behaviour of our multicultural leaders, religious minorities, and the human rights societies who support their agendas.

In fact, human rights has become big business since the Charter became the holy grail of Canada’s civil rights industry. Organizations such as the B.C. Civil Rights Association take great solace in defending the so-called “oppressed”— for example, a handful of Sri Lankan refugees who were convicted of human smuggling in the U.S., and thereby wished to gain entry into Canada. They were refused— that is, until the BCCRA decided the refugees human rights were being violated, citing the mighty Charter in their defence. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Arne Silverman agreed, finding it in violation of Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

What about the Muslim lady who wanted to hide her identity during her citizenship ceremony? The Prime Minister disagreed. His cabinet disagreed. According to public feedback, the majority of Canada disagreed. Nonetheless, our civil rights champions came to her rescue. Forget public opinion or the will of the majority—our human rights champions have no concern for minor details— rather, they sided with the tiniest sliver of the Canadian demographic- Islamic fundamentalists.

Recently, the issue of foreign language signage has been causing a stir in some communities— so much so that Richmond Hill, Ontario, recently implemented a by-law whereby 50% of public signs must contain our official language of English. As it happened, so much Chinese-only signage was being erected that city council decided they needed to take action. The by-law, the first of its kind in Canada, has thus far been effective. At the very least, no one is bickering about the issue.

Not so in another Richmond— Richmond B.C. After decades of discussion regarding the inordinate amount of Chinese signage within the municipality, nothing concrete is in place to deal with an issue that has transformed a community. Chinese signage is everywhere— malls, retail businesses, restaurants, grocery stores, banks— basically, the signage is ubiquitous within the municipality.

Much debate on the signage issue has taken place. Petitions have been submitted. Public meetings have been held. Polls have been completed— and all results indicate the residents of Richmond want action taken—including a significant percentage of the Chinese community.

So what’s preventing a by-law from being passed? Once again, it’s civil rights lawyers and related advocates. Rather than administer the will of the majority, or recognize an obvious cultural infringement, the BCCLA are putting their foot down, stating a by-law may be a violation of the Charter. Long-term Mayor Malcolm Brodie agrees— regardless of the fact that the Richmond Hill, Ontario by-law has yet to be challenged.

What can one conclude from this curious events? One idea is that Canada’s human rights industry doesn’t give a fig about public opinion, or the concept of maintaining our nation’s traditional cultural identity. These types care not about Canada’s official languages— even though Canada’s Official Languages Act contains verbiage which explicitly states that our official languages of English and French are to be “promoted throughout Canadian society.”

No— their business is defending the rights of fundamentalist new arrivals, those convicted of human smuggling, and of course, those who disregard our official languages and cultural heritage. As for the rest of us— as in the remaining 98% of Canadians— our wants and wishes are all but meaningless. 

Just this past month, Prime Minister Harper appointed Justice Russell Brown to the Supreme Court of Canada. The promising news is that Judge Brown is not your typical Canadian judge. In fact, after decades of Charter-oriented judicial appointments, Mr. Brown is something of an anomaly— he is of the opinion that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is being misused by our legal industry.

Is it possible that after years of political and ideological imbalance, a semblance of sanity will return to our society? Canadians should hope so, as the best interests of our nation have for decades been undermined by a civil liberties industry fixated on the rights of non-Canadians, new arrivals, refugees and religious fundamentalists — meaning everyone except the descendants of those who established these rights and freedoms in the first place.

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