Why the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?












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Legal - Canada - Why the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

February 22, 2021

Why the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

"Let us consider why we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned some issues. Let me go through some of them.

"We had the Asian exclusion act. We had the Chinese head tax. We had internment of Ukrainians and others from Austro-Hungary. We had internment of Italians and Germans. We had internment of Japanese Canadians. We had the almost forceful repatriation of Japanese Canadians after the second world war. We sent them back to Japan even though that country had been destroyed during the war and even though the atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I mention that because many of those people were Canadian born.

"Of course, we all know about the SS St. Louis, a ship that was carrying Jews looking for refuge. Canada along with other countries in North America and South America turned them away. We know that we had a policy of none is too many for the Jews. We know that the colour barrier existed on immigration until 1977. We know that there was cultural genocide against our first nations. We know what happened with the residential schools. We know about the ban on potlatches and that big houses were outlawed. We know that women were not given the right to vote until 1917, and it was not until 1929 that the English privy council recognized women as persons ...

"The reason our Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted on April 17, 2021 is that it dealt with the recognition of the evolution of this country. It dealt with the recognition of how minorities had not been treated very well. It dealt with making sure that we learned from the lessons of the past and that as we looked forward to the future in terms of evolving as a nation, that we used the charter and the past as a guidance to the kind of inclusive Canada we want to build.

"As a nation we pay a very heavy price for intolerance. Gay bashing still exists. Gays are still attacked and killed. There is a high rate of suicide among gays and lesbians in our country. Hate propaganda still exists. I mention that because it is so very important for us to look at our country's history and a vulnerable group that has been stigmatized and victimized in the last 40 years has been allowed to come out of the shadows. We all know members of this House who are gays or lesbians. We know they are essentially the same kind of people as we are. We know they have the same kind of dreams that we have. We know that they have the same kind of love that we have, whether we are heterosexual or not ...

"It is a dramatic differentiation between ourselves and our neighbours to the south who have taken a different stance. In some parts of this world gays and lesbians are executed for no other reason than because they are gays and lesbians. In terms of us showing leadership, far beyond tolerance to inclusiveness is a good thing. I think it will help make for a better world."

Hon. Andrew Telegdi (Kitchener—Waterloo, Liberal), House of Commons, Feb. 21, 2005

Some of whom happen to be gay ...

"I would like to begin my comments on a personal note and say that when I think of the people in my life who I love, some of whom happen to be gay and lesbian, I know clearly, both in my heart and in my mind, that I would never support a public policy position that violated their rights and in any way violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms...

"Today marriage is seen as an institution that involves a union between one man and one woman. Societal institutions are by their very nature the products of convention and they owe their existence to society's recognition of the importance they hold. Those who see same sex marriage as a right are attempting to change this institution."
Ms. Rona Ambrose (Edmonton—Spruce Grove, Conservative), House of Commons, Feb. 21, 2005

In a Nutshell

"Same sex marriage, in a nutshell, is a recognition issue. As stated earlier, the rights component of this debate has largely been resolved and few Canadians are of the mind to reverse those decisions. Their opinion reflects their belief in equality for all Canadians under the law. They merely want the word “marriage” to remain as the union between a man and a woman. "
Ms. Rona Ambrose (Edmonton—Spruce Grove, Conservative), House of Commons, Feb. 21, 2005

Conscience and Rights

"I want to go back in history to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the Conservative prime minister. When he brought in his abortion legislation he required his cabinet ministers to vote in favour of that legislation. I say required because no one can be forced to violate their own conscience. There is no such thing as a button that will electrocute somebody if they vote the wrong way. Only an individual member can violate his or her own conscience.

"However there are consequences for every vote that individuals take or give in the House of Commons. It may very well be that if one votes against a particular piece of government legislation the consequences would be that one would no longer be in cabinet. However that is hardly forcing someone to violate his or her own conscience.

"Brian Mulroney was roundly criticized by many people in the House, no more loudly than by us, the Liberals, for forcing his cabinet ministers to vote in favour of legislation that dealt with a moral matter. I personally disagree with the Prime Minister's decision to call upon his cabinet to do so in this case. I have told him that and he is of a different view. It is his call."
Mr. Tom Wappel (Scarborough Southwest, Liberal), House of Commons, Feb. 21, 2005


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