[Good Idea but Terrible Results]
In the early 1980’s, then Prime Minister Trudeau began musing about a made in Canada Constitution. Until that period in time human rights in Canada had been determined by way of various British parliamentary acts that had regulated the formation of Canada since 1867.
In so many ways, the Trudeau years in office and power were much like a travelling medicine show permitting Trudeau to showcase to Canada what a “smart” person Trudeau thought he was. Most of Trudeau’s policies were closer to snake oil than things of historical significance.
Trudeau’s National Energy Plan was a great example. In October 1980, Trudeau introduced the National Energy Program (NEP) which tore away provincial government rights to natural resources. Two years later, the Supreme Court of Canada determined that the Federal government of Canada did not possess the authority to pass the NEP. In the mean time, thousands of high paying jobs in Alberta’s oil patch were lost.
Two years later (in 1982) Trudeau managed to convince the British Parliament to enact the Canada Act. Appended to the Canada Act was the infamous Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As wa the case with his NEP, Trudeau simply enacted the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because his majority government gave him that authority.
Neither in the case of the NEP or the Charter was there any need (in Trudeau’s mind) to seek input or consensus from the populace. While it is correct that Trudeau had begun coining a new political terminology around that time when launched the phrase, “multicultural society” onto Canadian consciousness. That subject received scant debate in parliament and (based upon the outcome) the debate itself was of little/no importance to Trudeau – who always felt that he was right on any subject.
Interestingly, the Hansard (debate summaries) of the era yielded an entirely different perspective on the notion of “multiculturalism” than what resulted from Trudeau’s Charter.
There actually is very little unique about the Charter. Any university professor who was handed Trudeau’s Charter and the 1949 Universal Declaration of Human Rights would have assigned Trudeau a mark of “F” because, when laid side by side plagiarism is easily evident. Not that there is anything terrible or immoral about the Universal Declaration except that the United Nations (UN) document has nothing to do with any specific nation nor sovereignty. Indeed the UN document contains many lofty universal concepts – some of which (funding for Aboriginal Health Care and schools) never showed up on Trudeau’s radar.
The Canadian Charter has become the financial playground for any special interest group with an ax to grind. The tragic fault with the Charter is that it could not be brushed aside as was the case with Trudeau’s NEP. A complex amending formula appended to the package was nothing more than pure mischief. In essence, Trudeau had left a very foul smell in the bathroom – a stench that lingers until this day.
Those early debates in Parliament concerning his (Trudeau’s) lofty plan for “multiculturalism” revealed that the initial concept was intended to be little more than an encouragement of tolerance for various ethnic cultures existing inside of Canada.
Indeed, the frame work (or main bones) of the Charter made nary a mention of a “right” to be dealt with officially in Canada in any language except French and English. Section 16 of the Charter made those two languages the “official languages of Canada”. . Minority Language Rights (Section 23) is equally as clear. Minority Rights (Section 23) specifically were meant exclusively to apply to such situations as French language communities in Manitoba (for example) but expecting that one would have court funded translators provided so as to speak in court (or in government offices) in a language other than English or French was neither contemplated nor defined in the Charter.
For the past 30 (+) years, clever legal manipulation by way of “Charter Challenges” have ensnared Canadian taxpayers into an endless funding process wherein one minority ethnic group after another has “challenged” the Charter and snatched perceived rights that have eroded whatever cultural fabric made up Canada.
Subsequent Federal legislation in the 1980’s gradually removed the immigration requirement for language skills in one of Canada’s TWO official languages. The language requirement (points) was replaced by way of family sponsorship undertakings made by Canadian residents on behalf of sponsored family members wishing to enter Canada. “Sponsorships are intended to minimize the impact of family reunification on social assistance and, ultimately, taxpayers.” Those family sponsorship pledges were that the sponsored family member would not be able to avail him/herself of tax funded programs (to wit: health care, education or social assistance.)
Thus began a costly trip down a slippery slope. Chronically ill and infirmed family relatives lacking linguistic skills quickly began arriving. At the end of the day, those sponsorship undertakings were never enforced and Charter challenges began staking out even more rights.
A friend (from Europe) once remarked to me that Canada’s Universal Health Care legislation had taken on an entirely new meaning. He suggested that the new meaning of free health care being universally applied across all parts of Canada now meant “free health care for the universe”.
Political correctness is never a bad thing. However, underlying any amount of correctness must be self-evident truths. Not the least of those “truths” should be an acknowledgment that the better interests of nation (Canada) must supersede the individual interests of persons attempting to exploit and deplete publicly funded programs.
Perhaps a paradigm is past due here. Shall we begin by acknowledging that immigration into Canada is not a right, it is a privilege? By all means, speak your ethnic languages and attend religious institutions (here in Canada) without fear of discrimination. Let us begin to grasp the notion of “tolerance” and not give in to processes that erode the economic viability of Canada. Bringing your aged grandparents into Canada knowing that they will avail themselves of precious health care resources does nothing for Canada. Tolerance means simply that such cultural difference will be “put up with” it does not mean that those differences become rights.
Canada as a country of Canadians does not include hyphenated status beyond what is defined in the Charter: French; English and Aboriginal. If one cannot accept that, perhaps one’s country of origin is a better choice.