This week, political junkies watched a former White House aide describe how US President Donald Trump knew his supporters were armed, with guns, rifles, and spears, and tried to march with them to Capitol Hill. When rioters stormed the building hoping to violently disrupt the peaceful transition of power, Trump refused to condemn the actions, Cassidy Hutchinson, assistant to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified. Even after rioters called for Vice President Mike Pence to be hanged, she recounted hearing Trump think, “Mike deserves this.”
The shocking details revealed by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol showed us how easily someone who chooses not to follow established norms and rules can bring a two-century-old democracy to its knees.
Canadians shouldn’t be boastful. Here at home, this Canada Day weekend, we can reflect on how our own norms and rules are being challenged throughout our federation. Where is our community outrage?
I am not referring to the conservative leadership candidates who abandoned the principles of law and order to heap praise on the so-called “Freedom Convoy” for its political advantage. Much has been written about this and no doubt more ink will be spilled in the coming weeks.
In Alberta, in Quebec, and even in Ontario through the preemptive use of the exception clause, politicians have exploited grievances for personal gain and touched the fabric of our democracy, of our federation.
In Alberta, United Conservative Party leadership candidate Danielle Smith vows to give her province the power to ignore any federal law it doesn’t like. Smith wants to introduce the Alberta Sovereignty Act, an original but unconstitutional law, that would give the province legislative cover to refuse to enforce federal laws or court decisions that it believes run counter to provincial interests or trample on jurisdictions. provincial. For example, federal gun control measures or environmental regulations.
Let that sink in. Smith runs for prime minister by promising to ignore the law.
As scholars Martin Olszynski, Jonnette Watson Hamilton, and Shaun Fluker wrote last week this “fundamentally illegal” bill would be a “damaging blow to the rule of law and the building blocks of democratic governance.”
Without the rule of law, we have arbitrary and unchecked power. Far from peace, order and good government.
In Quebec, where François Legault’s nationalist-populist Coalition Avenir Québec is gearing up for fall elections, the prime minister is continuing with an agenda that excludes certain Quebecers from the nation he wants to build. Many Canadians are familiar with Bill 21, a law that uses the Charter’s notwithstanding clause to legislate discrimination against people who wear religious symbols, such as hijabs, turbans and yarmulkes, by prohibiting them from holding certain positions in the public sector. , such as judges, policemen. and elementary teachers. This May, the Legault government also passed Bill 96, a sweeping piece of legislation that seeks to ensure that French is the dominant language in Quebec. It’s a laudable goal, but here again, the Quebec government used the notwithstanding clause preemptively to create vast Charter-free zones that target Quebec’s Anglophone population, as well as immigrants and asylum seekers. And by not giving newcomers the opportunity to fully participate in society, it excludes them, perhaps that is the unspoken purpose of the law.
Bill 96 modifies 26 laws. There are too many concerns to list here, but a few highlights:
- Unilaterally amends the 1867 Constitution, to establish that “the Quebecers form a nation”, that “French shall be the only official language of Quebec” and that “(French) is also the common language of the nation of Quebec”. Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette is already brandishing their version of the Constitution which Justice Minister David Lametti’s office did not dispute. Last year, under pressure from the Bloc Québécois, all Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green MPs voted in favor of a motion that it recognized Quebec’s right to amend its own constitution and recognized Quebec’s willingness to make these changes.
- House Bill 96 severely limits the use of English by narrowing the scope of when English is allowed. New arrivals can access government services in English for six months, but from then on refugees are expected to have learned French, which language the experts denounce as unrealistic. Public servants who do not obey the law may face reprimands.
- Businesses with more than 25 employees must now operate in French, and the state can enter without a warrant to ensure emails are sent. in French. Healthcare professionals may face professional disciplinary action for speaking to patients in a language other than French.
- People can sue for damages if their right to work or to be served in French is infringed, and the court can “make any order it sees fit”. The courts can also annul the provisions of the contracts that do not comply with the Charter of the French Language.
- English litigants, with constitutionally protected language rights in all Quebec courts, are now required to attach a certified French translation to any pleading written in English, at their expense. Judges only need to know French to be appointed. Any English requirement is approved by the justice minister and the French minister, raising questions about judicial independence.
In June, Jolin-Barrette said VAT It should be up to politicians to decide how Quebecers live together, not the courts. The suggested everybody of Quebec laws should be excluded from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Should a province be allowed to exclude itself from the guaranteed fundamental rights that make up our nation?
Montreal MP Anthony Housefather, whose constituents from English-speaking and minority communities feel particularly “objective and vulnerable,” doesn’t think so. He wants the Supreme Court to re-opinion on the general precautionary use of the clause notwithstanding. Lametti has pondered the matter, but the issue will come before the Quebec Court of Appeals this fall when Bill 21 is reviewed again.
Meanwhile, Legault presses on, portraying asylum seekers, immigrants wanting to reunite with their families, and multiculturalism as a threat to Quebec society, and finding a receptive audience.
Who needs sovereignty, when Legault can achieve his nationalist project by defining who is and who is not part of society, and giving the tools to succeed only to those deemed worthy.
Happy Canada’s day.
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