Sunday, April 15, 2012
Canada's Greatest Cultural Achievement: The Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Thirty years ago, the Canadian government repatriated its constitution, thereby officially ending our colonial status, and added what is our greatest cultural achievement to date, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
No other document, song, poem, novel, film, or play has had such a profound influence on how Canadians are allowed to live their lives.
It represents the triumph of reasoned principle over the moral sentiments of those who would rule over us.
In short, it supplants the supremacy of Parliament with the notion of citizens holding inalienable rights subject to reasonable limits.
After it was adopted and as each landmark case made its way to the Supreme Court, slowly the face of the nation changed. Most visibly, the state was forced to withdraw from the bedrooms of the nation. It could no longer limit access to abortion and outlaw the civil union of same sex couples and, in the near future, will most probably lose its capacity to prevent sex workers from plying their trade in a safe and secure manner.
Moreover, the Charter prevents those who perceive themselves as being morally superior from violating the rights of those who are less fortunate. For instance, prisoners have had their voting rights restored and drug addicts can gain access to safe injection sites.
With the Charter in place, those who believe themselves to be "saved" can no longer discriminate against those they believe to be "dammed".
Let us not be mistaken. The adoption of the Charter represents the triumph of civic humanism over the sanctity of religious belief as it applies to the public sphere. It represents the triumph of the Age of Reason over the Age of Absolutism. It is the cornerstone of peace, order, and good government.
With the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in place, Canada is a far better place to live.