Our View: Charter deserves to be cherished

It’s just three decades old, but Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms has done a remarkable job.

It’s just three decades old, but Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms has done a remarkable job of elucidating the noble ideas that form the framework of this country.

By failing to celebrate the charter this week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has shown a pettiness that belies his attempts to serve as a statesman.

Harper shrugged off Tuesday’s milestone by trying to tactically draw attention to previous Conservative  efforts at enshrining Canadians’ rights.

The fact it was the Liberals – and Pierre Trudeau, to boot – who succeeded in repatriating the constitution must truly irritate the governing Conservatives.

For sure, the charter isn’t loved by everyone. Some say it allows people to “work the system,” either by dragging out court cases or challenging those in positions of authority. They might be right, but the critics are also pointing out one of the strengths of having a legal document that enshrines our rights.

Freedom and democracy can only truly exist in a somewhat messy state. The very nature of rights means that their definition must be open for challenge. If the courts struggle with interpreting those definitions, it probably means there is room for clarification. The government also has a built-in mechanism for dealing with any difference in opinion. However, there is also a price to pay for enacting the notwithstanding clause. Governments, so far, have realized they need to be judicious or else risk the wrath of the electorate.

The charter is not convenient for a government that wants to do what it pleases. It’s also not necessarily a pleasant document for the nation’s judges, who can find themselves put on the spot by charter challenges.

The people who have truly benefited from the charter are those most in need of its protection. Canada has made huge strides as a tolerant society because minorities have been allowed to step into the mainstream.

Our evolution hasn’t gone unnoticed, either, as the charter is used by countries around the world as a model constitution.

That’s not to say the charter is perfect. One outstanding issue remains: getting Quebec to sign on. But, for 30 years, the majority of Canadians have benefited from having an insightful declaration of the freedoms we cherish.

As more decades pass, the advantages that come with our Charter of Rights will only become more cherished.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATED: Young deckhands backed out of fatal Arctic Fox II trip just before fishboat departed

Inexperienced twin brothers had ‘gut feeling’ and bailed before going to open ocean

Police investigating alleged assault on Oak Bay Avenue

Staff at Oak Bay Home Hardware say one person was taken to hospital

Oak Bay neighbourhoods rocked by blasting activity

Oak Bay seeks new rock blasting bylaw regarding ‘continuous’ noise

Roadside barriers, amphibian fencing to be installed along Prospect Lake Road

Crews on-site 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., traffic impacts expected through September

Greater Victoria hardly making a dent in greenhouse gas emissions target

One-per-cent drop from 2007 to 2018 a far cry from the 33-per-cent goal for 2020

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

Horvat scores 2 as Vancouver Canucks beat Blues 5-2 in NHL playoff opener

Game 2 in best-of-seven series goes Friday night

Old-growth forest defenders in Campbell River call for B.C. forest minister’s resignation

Protestors outside North Island MLA’s office ask government to stop old-growth logging

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

High-volume littering at Cape Scott draws ire from hiking groups

Popular Vancouver Island hiking spot not closing, but frustration about crowding grows

SFU to drop ‘Clan’ varsity team name

The ‘Clan’ name is shortened from ‘Clansmen,’ and was introduced roughly 55 years ago

New Tory leader must build a strong team in Commons and for the campaign: Scheer

Scheer marked his final day in the House of Commons today as leader of the Opposition

B.C. to hire 500 more COVID-19 contact tracers ahead of fall

Contract tracers add an ‘extra layer’ in the fight against the novel coronavirus

Feds commit $305M in additional funds for Indigenous communities during COVID-19

Money can be used to battle food insecurity and support children and mental health

Most Read