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    Wednesday, January 11, 2006

    Rights and Freedoms, Notwithstanding

    Stardate 5149.2

    Imagine a world where the courts stood up for our personal rights and freedoms. It would be a really nice place to live. Take the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and uphold it so that nothing can infringe on those rights. This is basically what we have in Canada. However, the Notwithstanding Clause is included in the Charter as a means for politicians to reverse the decision of the courts, and generally, you would think an extra check like this is a good thing in order to avoid giving to much power to one arm of the government. That is why it is there, though as Cathie from Canada suggests, perhaps it was thought that it would never actually be used. Paul Martin's surprise proposal may seem to be somewhat hurried, reactionary, and maybe even hypocritical when he himself threatened it's use once, but I have to agree with the sentiment behind it.

    What happens if the politicians in power are not trustworthy? I know, we live in a free democratic Nation, just like the Americans. This sort of thing doesn't happen right?

    Oh wait a minute... it does! As Cathie does, I could probably list a dozen ways that the US administration has taken away the rights of it's citizens over the last few years, both using due process and also illegally with the realization of the NSA's illegal wiretapping scandal. So what happens if this ocurred in the Canadian Government? Of course many Canadians will jump up and say "we are Canadian, not American" or "Our Government is not like theirs". This simply put, may not be true.

    Diplomacy and trade with our neighbours to the South are integral parts of our relationship, but sometimes, politicians can take these relationships too far.

    Stephen Harper is a pretty scary guy when it comes to his relationship with the Bush administration, and some of his proposed plans for Canadian defense. He has said that the US Conservative movement is a "light and inspiration" to people in our country, and touted "Continental economic and security integration" with the US in various speeches. He would place American Nukes on our soil and though now he opposes Military intervention anywhere without great international support, he and the Conservatives were the only party to vote FOR invading Iraq alongside the US and Britain. As if having one spy agency isn't enough, Harper proposes to form a second Intelligence agency in Canada, similar in many respects to the CIA. We already know his plans to remove the rights of same-sex couples to get legally "married", and realistically, the only way he can do this is by using the Notwithstanding Clause. What is next I ask?

    If this guy had a majority government and the means to veto court decisions on Freedoms and Rights by using the Notwithstanding Clause, Canada could become a very ugly place to live. He may have a friendly smile, but really, some aspects of the Harper's Conservative platform scare the hell out of me, especially with the Clause in effect.

    *** Addendum ***

    Keep in mind here that the Conservative Justice Critic Vic Toews has called for the use of the NWC to revoke the right of equal marriage in Canada... There is more on this on the Liberal Party web site.

    "...remember, in Canada, Parliament has the ultimate tool. It’s called the notwithstanding clause, section 33, so that when the courts make a fundamental error in jurisdiction, Parliament can overrule it for a period of five years by an Act of Parliament."
    This was taken from an interview Toews did with a far-right American organization. It is an "ultimate tool" for overturning the courts decision. I think that the Judicial appointment process should be scrutinized, but I don't like folks considering something like the NWC as an "ultimate tool".

    *** Correction ***

    In haste I erroneously state that Harper's government "would place American Nukes on our soil" in reference to the BMD program. The actual BMD program consists of conventional weaponry. However, if the door is opened to such a program, I suspect it could easily be widened to include offensive capabilities of varying sorts...

    All opinions shared on this site are strictly my own. Some people may disagree and that is fine, but rude comments or overzealous debate will be curtailed. I enjoy civil discourse, and encourage independent thought. I oppose George W. Bush and his Wars based on lies.

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