Monday, April 16, 2012

Five Things About the Charter, 3: not going overboard

The Charter matters (see The Oakes Test below).  But we can carry Charter-worship too far.

Haroon Siddiqui, columnist for the Toronto Star, wrote on Sunday
Canadians revel in the right and the luxury of constantly complaining about politics and politicians. Yet we also know how fortunate we are to live in a land where all citizens are equal — far more so than almost any other people on earth. We owe this, in large measure, to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 
Well. yes, sort of. The Charter is good for rights.  But Canadians had rights before 1982, even court-enforceable rights. The Charter defined and strengthened and entrenched them, and that's a good thing, but it's not like they didn't exist.

Siddiqui, in his enthusiasm, seem to equate the Charter with national independence too.
Canada, a dominion of Great Britain, had been governed under the 1867 British North America Act until 1931 when it won de facto independence. 
... and then came 1982.  But Canada continued to be governed under the British North America Act after 1931 -- after 1982 as well, in fact, though someone tried to rewrite history by changing its name to "The Constitution Act, 1867."  Canada has been a free country and an independent one for a long time, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, fine achievement though it was, did not actually change that.  Just saying.