Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Canadian Charter of Rights vs Freedom

Post 47--:

New Arrangements

Hi! Yes, I’m back with considerable embarrassment. I just cannot seem to muster the necessary pace to keep up with three blogs on a part time basis, while also working on my current major project, namely the writing of our memoirs, the “our” here referring to my wife and myself. So, I have decided that for the next few months I will write only one post per blog and quit pushing myself beyond reasonable limits. Heh, I am in my 70s. Though I may now have the time, I no longer have the energy with which I was brimming not so long ago. If somehow here and there an extra bit of unexpected time should become available, well, I may just try to squeeze in an extra read for you. But don’t forget, there are three blogs for you to peruse, not just one. Three a month does not sound so bad, does it? Almost weekly! You think I should simply join them together?

Need for Citizen-Friendly Legal Environment

Today I present you with some musings on the Canadian Charter of Rights. Again, remember, I write as an ordinary citizen for ordinary citizens. Of course, the professionals are free to join us and even to comment. I would be happy with that, very happy. My lay status means I will not get bogged down in technicalities that so often derail court decisions and, hence, justice, causing delays reasonable only to the professional, but irking the citizen to no end. Justice is not a matter of technicalities. It is something that must be experienced by the citizen. Go ahead, professionals, and tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. Do you?

Introducing Selick and Smith

Karen Selick of the Canadian Constitution Foundation had an interesting article in the Vancouver Sun recently (“Courts Milking Their Power,”Oct 17, 2011) about Farmer Michael Smith. Smith was told by an Ontario Court of Justice that he had no right to sell raw or unpasteurized milk via a system best described as “cow-sharing.” Initially he was acquitted by a justice of the peace, only to have the judgement reversed at the next level. Well, what do you know. Ever heard of such a thing before, a judgement reversed, overruled or denied by a higher court? Smith and his customers were once again subjected to that mixture of a mismash of conflicting laws that pass for our legal system and the personal worldviews and values of judges that constantly lead to contradictions and overrulings. A citizen never knows where he’s at, not even when a judgement has already been handed down. Someone higher up will overrule and undo it. Let’s not even talk about the money the system and the wolves called lawyers suck out of the hapless citizen’s pocket.

The Right to Brush My Teeth

The issue as Selick explains it is whether I have the right to brush my teeth in the morning. After all, it is not listed among my human right and is therefore not a protected right. The same is true for everything we do routinely and on a daily basis. Do I have the right to go to the bathroom? Do I have the right to choose between an apple or a pear? And does Smith have the right to sell his raw milk? None of these daily activities are listed in the Canadian Charter of Rights. Are they therefore unprotected and illegal?

Who Needs to Be Reined in?

If that is how our rights and freedoms are to be protected, then, Selic argues, the Charter would be “a zillion pages long.” Everything people do would have to be stipulated to be protected and legal. This is nonsense, of course. Actually all these mundane activities in our lives are all bundled together under “the right to liberty.” And then Selick declares what I would consider a very profound and important principle, namely that the Charter does not aim to “rein in individuals” so much as “to rein in governments.” It does not “grant us our rights,” so much as to recognize “that those freedoms already existed.”

Need for Citizen Plain Legal Understanding

There are more revelations in the Selick article, but I will let it go at this today. Possibly I will discuss her article further in the next post, but this is enough to chew on for the average citizen. I hope you will chew on it, for I, frankly, like her arguments and believe citizens will profit from a sharper awareness of these issues. We need to be freed from the lawyer regime and start developing an independent understanding of law, rights, freedom and responsibility. At one time the Catholic church prevented people from reading the Bible. Muslims on the whole cannot read the Qur’an, except perhaps to recite it in a language few of them understand. Similarly, citizens are largely prevented from understanding or even reading the law by the obscurantist jargon in which everything is expressed. It is time we make everything plain. Perhaps we need an “Occupy the Courts” movement. Game anyone?


  1. If you put Martin Luther King in a prophetic role, then Mahatma Gandhi must also be there. They were both admirers and practitioners of that promoted by Henry David Thoreau (who wrote and practiced his "Civil Disobedience"; 1848).