Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms Won the 2004 Election. We Need to Rally Around it Again

"Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society... It is in fact totalitarianism. I find this is very scary stuff." Stephen Harper

There were many issues that lost the election for the newly formed Conservative Party of Canada in 2004, but the big ticket item ... the thing that caused the most concern for Canadians, was their stand on Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

They promised to ignore it and that frightened us. That charter is the pillar of Canadian society. It's our pride and joy. Our baby.

In the editorial above (June 25, 2004), Frances Russell said:
To the Conservatives, the charter is social engineering, elevating individual rights over personal responsibility and undeserving minorities over the taxpaying majority .... Constitutional experts have warned that the Conservative platform is so anti-charter it is a legal minefield. "A lot of this stuff raises serious constitutional issues." the University of Ottawa's Ed Ratushny told CanWest Global News Service. The experts have identified at least 12 positions that either, violate the charter, are ripe for serious court challenges or would require amendments to the Constitution.
And throughout the campaign, Conservative candidates continued to provide soundbites, that caused a great deal of concern to people of all political stripes. Like this one:
Randy White, Conservative candidate in Abbotsford has promised his party will invoke the notwithstanding clause to get around court decisions it dislikes on social issues such as equal marriage and abortion. White pledged the Conservatives would “not be shy” about overriding Charter protection and would “repeal in a minute” changes to the Criminal Code’s hate propaganda protection that make it an offence to target people because of their sexual orientation. “The heck with the Courts,” said White, who has often been touted as a potential Minister of Justice in a Conservative government. White went on to target common-law heterosexual relationships as the root cause of the recognition of new family forms. (June 25, 2004)
And Stephen Harper himself was not shy about his disdain for the charter:
During the election campaign, Mr. Harper said the Charter of Rights does not apply to lesbian and gay people. He dismissed sexual orientation as a “behaviour” and last Friday said lesbians and gays fighting for human rights have it all wrong: “I reject the idea that this is a matter of rights.” “It is clear that the Conservative Party’s leading voices, including Mr. Harper, see lesbian and gay people as a collection of sexual acts rather than as taxpayers, citizens, neighbours, family members and co-workers.” (May 17, 2004)

Harper maintains that parliamentarians should have the final say on upholding traditional marriage and insists that legislators should refuse “to allow unelected, unaccountable judges to decide major social policies.” He has gone so far as to say that he does not think LGBT people are protected by the Charter.
(June 21, 2004)
And the aboriginal community was also alarmed:
I believe the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, an integral aspect of the Canadian Constitution, is threatened by the Conservative Party of Canada and their mantra of Equal Rights. Their plan is to get rid of affirmative action programs, and multiculturalism programs. Do you think Stephen Harper really doesn't know, that under the heading of Equality Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights specifically protects Affirmative action programs?
Apparently he didn't, or did, and just ignored it. Mind you, he had no trouble invoking the Charter to defend corporate advertising for politicians, but finds rights "scary" when they attempt to protect citizens.

By 2006, the Conservative position had softened somewhat, perhaps because they were all put on a tighter leash. When we were reminded of what this party (Reform-Alliance) stood for and tried to warn others of their agenda, we were accused of fear-mongering.

But after five years, of a man who has used every trick in the book to undermine democracy and Parliamentary procedure; to overstep his boundaries with the courts and legislative committees; refuse to listen to experts and citizens alike, and close down Human Rights offices in major centres, where they're needed the most; how can we possibly be accused of fear mongering now?

Harper himself, has proven his critics right.

This election is not about the budget. It is about stopping this party before it's too late. We need to invoke memories of 2004, when the little hairs on the back of our necks stood up. Remember those nagging little doubts and fears that Stephen Harper would attempt to forever change who we were as Canadians.

Nick Van der Graaf fears that Canadians may sleepwalk through this election. We can't allow that to happen.

In November of 2009, Linda McQuaig wrote in the Toronto Star:
If, as polls suggest, Stephen Harper is poised to win a majority, it's largely due to the media notion that his past reputation for extremism no longer holds. In fact, apart from his reluctant embrace of economic stimulus, Harper has shown little of the "moderation" that supposedly now puts his government comfortably within the Canadian mainstream.
We have to remind everyone that the man who is "made up" to appear moderate, with taxpayer funded image consultants, may look harmless, however, his actions are anything but.

We are at risk of not only losing our democracy, but everything that this country once stood for.

In 2003, Harper wrote a paper: "Rediscovering the Right Agenda", that appeared in the Citizens' Centre Report. In it he said:
"The Reagan-Thatcher revolution was so successful that it permanently underminded the traditional social-democratic/left-liberal consensus in a number of democratic countries ... Conservatives must rediscover social conservatism because the welfare state has damaged important institutions, principally the family ... [part of the agenda] strengthening marriage and providing choice of education [private schools].

And he also speaks of the "accepted tenets of social conservatism – preserving historic values and moral insights on right and wrong" and "to play a key role in the emerging debate on the goals of the U.S. as the sole superpower."
The government can dictate morality but not the courts, and Canadians must do everything in their power to ensure that the U.S. remains "the sole superpower".

There was nothing in the paper speaking to the preservation of Canadian goals or values. In fact he held those in contempt.

After the 2004 election, when Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms won, communications consultant and activist, Gilles Marchildon warned: "This election serves as a wake-up call. Canadians who cherish the value of equality need to guard against complacency. The campaign has shown that nothing can be taken for granted. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are stronger and will continue to hide their full agenda until they can persuade Canadian voters to give them a chance."

We gave them that chance and now they want us to trust them with a majority. What makes anyone believe that this will be better for us, given the enormous damage they have been able to do with a minority? I'm not willing to trust them with either.

As Marchildon says we cannot afford to be complacent, nor, as Van der Graaf warns, can we allow anyone to sleepwalk through this election.

It may be the most important one in our history, because it will determine whether or not we still have one.


    1. Open a new file in your computer.
    2. Name it "Stephen Harper."
    3. Send it to the Recycle Bin.
    4. Empty the Recycle Bin.
    5. Your PC will ask: 'Do you really want to get rid of "Stephen Harper?"
    6. Firmly Click 'Yes'.
    7. Feel better?