Nov. 5, 2021

40 years later, our Charter Of Rights and Freedoms is on life support

On this day 40 years ago I presented a written proposal to all First Ministers that several hours later became the Patriation Agreement which included the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

It began the night before (Nov. 4) as a written proposal from the Newfoundland delegation to three provinces in the Saskatchewan suite (Alberta and British Columbia plus of course Saskatchewan) of the Chateau Laurier Hotel. 

Earlier that day a stalemate existed and I jotted down several ideas that I thought could possibly break the deadlock. My delegation enlarged on that and it became the Newfoundland proposal. The three Provinces saw merit in the proposal and through the night with more provinces attending, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island Premiers, and the Manitoba Minister and I. Further amendments led to an agreement which all agreed I should present next morning to the already- scheduled breakfast of the group of eight Premiers. 

Ontario and New Brunswick had earlier in the 17 months of negotiations sided with the Federal Government and its failed attempt of Pierre Trudeau to unilaterally patriate the Constitution and his version of a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that this Trudeau-led unilateral patriation attempt was unconstitutional; that he needed a majority of provinces for such change. 

Quebec was contacted the night of November 4 as part of the group of eight but neither the Premier or his delegation were in their hotel rooms. 

At the November 5 breakfast meeting all first Ministers of the group of eight were present except Manitoba, but the Attorney General was present with instructions from his Premier. Quebec was present and had an opportunity to review the document. The proposal was accepted by seven Provinces with Quebec objecting. I was asked to present the proposal to full conference of all the First Ministers later that day.

The proposal became the Patriation Agreement later that day and the next year became known as the Constitution Act of 1982. 

It was thought at the time that by putting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Constitution, insulating it from the political machinations of Federal Legislation to which the 1960 Bill of Rights was subjected, that our country would be secure in that its citizens were guaranteed of their rights and freedoms. 

Today, we find that not even Constitutional Protection safeguards our rights and freedoms as governments from St. John’s to Victoria, plus the Territories, run rough shod over our most sacred of documents. 

Governments think some how that Section 1 protects them. But Section 1 says:

“1 The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

Not one government has even attempted to “demonstrably justify” its actions in this covid situation of lock downs, masks, mandates and vaccines, causing death and injury, suicide, depression, job loses and the loss of the most precious of ideas – hope. 

It is somehow as if the Government speaks or acts it is automatically justified. 

That is a road to totalitarianism or as Nobel Prize-winning F. A. Hayek called it in his famous book “The Road To Serfdom.” 

Before the first chapter of that book Professor Hayek placed two quotes:

“It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once” – David Hume 

“I should have loved freedom, I believe, at all times, but in the time in which we live I am ready to worship it.” – A. d’Tocqueville

Hon. A. Brian Peckford P.C. is the only living First Minister, who helped craft The Constitution Act of 1982.