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On the Charter’s 32nd birthday, let’s celebrate our ‘revolution in law’

Posted by Irwin Cotler on April 17, 2014 | No Comments

charterToday, April 17, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms celebrates its 32nd birthday. This great addition to Canada’s Constitution is worth celebrating given its transformative impact not only on our laws, but on our lives – not only on how we litigate, but on how we live.

Indeed, Canadians now enjoy a panoply of rights and remedies that were almost inconceivable prior to the advent of the Charter. Beyond merely marking the day, one should pause to reflect upon the significance of this text, its history, and the proud legacy it has provided Canada.

On the 10th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, then chief justice Antonio Lamer spoke of it being a “revolution in law comparable to the discovery of Pasteur in science.” Madame justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé, after just five years of the Charter being in effect, said in 1987 that Canada had “stretched the cords of liberty” more in five years – in some instances – than the United States had done in 200 years. And even if one wants to say that some of that was enthusiastic rhetoric, it is clear that the Charter was indeed revolutionary.

Under the Charter, Canada moved from being a parliamentary democracy to being a constitutional democracy. Courts moved from being the arbiters of legal federalism – whether the matter is federal or provincial – to being guardians of our constitutional rights, not because the courts usurped Parliament’s authority but because we, Parliament, on behalf of the Canadian people, gave them that power. Individuals moved from being the objects of rights to being subjects of rights, with the full panoply of fundamental rights and remedies that were unavailable in pre-Charter law.

Indeed, pre-Charter life and law is often a disturbing narrative of discrimination against, and marginalization, of vulnerable groups, including discrimination against aboriginal people, against racial and religious minorities, against women, against the disabled, against gays and lesbians, against immigrants and refugees, and the like. But, if you go about the country – as I did while minister of justice – and ask Canadians if their rights are better protected now than they were 30 years ago, the answer is invariably yes. This also finds expression in the public opinion polls themselves, where the Charter has emerged as an icon of the Canadian political culture.

Interestingly enough, the Charter earned respect and recognition beyond our borders. In an interview with Egyptian television several years ago, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg urged Egyptians in their nascent state of democratic reform to look beyond the U.S. Constitution to the constitutions of Canada and South Africa, whose constitution was informed by our very own Charter; while South African courts have been influenced by our Charter, and have cited it more than the constitution of any other jurisdiction.

Simply put, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is promotive and protective of what the pursuit of justice is all about. It is promotive and protective not only of the inherent dignity and worth of every human being, but the equal dignity and worth of all human beings – where one can aspire to a society which celebrates both equality and human dignity – a society which not only speaks to us in terms of who we are – that recognizes the dignity of difference – but also in terms of what we as Canadians, both collectively and individually, can aspire to be.

Whether we look at equality advanced by the Charter – such as in the Court’s determination that same-sex marriage flows from it – or the rights protection it accords, we must also pause to reflect upon its drafting. In particular, it is important to recognize the singular role of the women’s movement in the enactment of the Charter, advocacy which resulted in the present wording of sections 15 and 28, the equality provisions of which we are all beneficiaries.

Section 15 – the equality clause – provided only for the principle “equality before the law” in its original draft form. Women’s groups, mindful of the limited protection this afforded under the predecessor Canadian Bill of Rights – and apprehensive that the courts might continue this line of narrow jurisprudence – fought for and secured the enhancement of this provision to read that all persons are “equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination.”

Similarly, the women’s movement was also responsible for the inclusion of section 28, that “notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.” Again, the women’s movement simply did not trust that even the equality rights protection in section 15, standing alone, would suffice, and sought to guarantee the equality of women and men could not be diminished through any other interpretation of the Charter.

On this Charter anniversary, let us reflect upon all that Canada has gained from the Charter in its short existence, and appreciate the contributions the document has made alongside the role of women and minorities in its crafting. All Canadians should be proud of this monumental constitutional moment, and look forward to having an inspiring reason to celebrate April 17 in years to come.

Irwin Cotler

MP, Mont-Royal
Liberal Critic responsible for Rights and Freedoms and International Justice

As published in the Globe and Mail

The Liberal leadership election: one year later

Posted by Justin Trudeau on April 15, 2014 | No Comments

Justin_firstdayFriends,

One year ago you placed your trust in me and elected me to lead the Liberal Party of Canada. What an exciting year it has been.

Together, we’ve accomplished so much. The Liberal Party of Canada has already surpassed 100,000 members, and we’re on our way to making even greater gains in the months ahead. We’ve reached fundraising records, and unlike the Conservatives, we’re focused on positive politics, not attack ads. In over 131 days on the road, I’ve been fortunate to meet with thousands of you in 105 cities and towns in 111 ridings.

We have accomplished more Senate reform in one day than Mr. Harper has in over eight years. We led the fight to have MPs disclose their expenses and succeeded. We’ve put middle class families’ concerns squarely on the agenda. We’re committed to doing what it takes to win in 2015, without compromising who we are and what we believe in.

Our successes this year are entirely thanks to you. Your hard work and support are both humbling and inspiring, and they remind me why we started this journey together.

I eagerly look forward to the busy months leading up to 2015. The road will not be without its challenges, but I know that together we can share with all Canadians our vision of a country where everyone has a real and fair chance at success.

Thank you.

Justin

Watch my latest speech

Posted by Justin Trudeau on April 14, 2014 | No Comments

Have you seen the video of my recent speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade?

It’s another moment I hope will make you proud.

I spoke about positive, constructive ways we can move this country forward. By focusing on our people, on trade, on the smart management of our natural resources, on innovation and on infrastructure investments.

These are five key issues — not just for Canadians in Vancouver — for all Canadians.

That’s why this fundraising campaign is so important — we need to share with all Canadians our vision of a country where everyone has a real and fair chance at success.

And now there’s less than 24 hours left to reach the 2015-for-2015 campaign’s goal of 2,015 donors in 48 hours to kickstart the next twelve months!

This is important to me so I hereby commit to calling donor number 2,015 to personally thank them for their support.

Watch a clip from my speech – then please give $3 so we can do more to share our positive message of hope and hard work.

(Watch the full speech here.)

Watch my latest speech:

Together, we’re building a Canada that lives up to its full potential.

We can leave a better country — a stronger economy, a fairer, more compassionate society — to our kids.

But lately, I’ve seen a troubling trend.

I’ve listened to Canadians share their worries with me — about retirement, about sending their kids to college or university, and about struggling to pay their mortgages and bills. They wonder if they will leave their kids with a better country than the one they inherited from their parents.

I’m all for people doing well, but here’s the thing: there are far too many people who aren’t sharing in our country’s success.

That’s why we need sustained economic growth to give the middle-class some confidence that their family’s economic future will be bright. For me, a strong economy is pretty simple: it’s one that provides the largest possible number of good jobs to the largest number of Canadians.

This is what I talked about in my speech — in more detail. I offered some ideas and a path that could lead us to realizing our vision of a better Canada.

See for yourself — click below to watch a clip from my speech then please give $3. If you’re donor number 2,015, you’ll be hearing from me very soon.

https://www.liberal.ca/2015-for-2015/

With a little hope and a lot of hard work, there’s no problem that we can’t solve together.

Thank you.

Justin

P.S. We also accept donations by phone at 1-888-542-3725, until midnight ET tonight (if you have trouble getting through, please try again).

You should help

Posted by Katie Telford on April 13, 2014 | No Comments

Last April you started something extraordinary. You elected Justin Trudeau as the Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada — and together we have achieved so much since then. But as much as we have accomplished, we have more to achieve together. Much more. I like numbers, so let me break it down for you.

Who shapes politics? Volunteers! Watch, be inspired, share. #nvw2014

Posted by Liberal Team on April 11, 2014 | No Comments

Rest in peace Jim, our thoughts and prayers are with you

Posted on April 10, 2014 | No Comments

Jim Flaherty, 1949 – 2014. Please share – and join me in offering your condolences.

VIDEO: In 1 minute, Justin Trudeau will inspire you to volunteer

Posted by Liberal Party of Canada on April 9, 2014 | No Comments

How to build a better country

Posted by Liberal Party of Canada on April 9, 2014 | No Comments

The Liberal Party of Canada is built on the hope and hard work of our volunteers. On this National Volunteer Week, we’re paying tribute! Add your […]

RE: No more new bridges, roads, or arenas for your community

Posted by David McGuinty on April 1, 2014 | No Comments

Last week my caucus colleagues and I highlighted some of the pressing infrastructure needs in our communities. Thanks to the more than 500 Canadians who shared their stories of crumbling infrastructure, I was able to talk about them during a press conference last week.

Will you wear your support?

Posted by Justin on March 28, 2014 | No Comments

I know you don’t need to see these ads on Youtube to understand the damage they could do. That’s why with five days left before our first major fundraising deadline of 2014, I’m asking for your help.