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WAGNER: Pierre Trudeau’s Charter won’t defend our liberties this time

“Pierre Trudeau’s Charter was not designed to defend liberties in the way that most people think of them. It was designed to prescribe some of them, and give the state the power to limit them.”

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As reported in the Western Standard, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) has launched a courtchallenge against the government’s COVID-19 restrictions on behalf of two churches and two individuals in Alberta. The JCCF is arguing that the lockdown measures imposed by the Alberta government violate multiple Charter-protected rights.

Fighting for one’s rights is a good thing. However, there is an unfortunate weakness in the legal arguments; namely, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms itself. For decades, Canadians have been led to believe that the Charter is a wonderful document that everyone should celebrate as the basis of individual rights. But there is another perspective that needs to be considered.

Firstly, do we remember who moved heaven and earth to entrench the Charter in the constitution? None other than Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Did Pierre Trudeau make Canada a better and freer country in his time as prime minister? 

Ask yourself this: Did the man who tried to crush Alberta under the National Energy Program, who drove the country into a debt crisis through uncontrolled government spending, and who cozied-up to communist dictators like Fidel Castro, really wanted to improve Canadians’ liberties with his Charter? 

Trudeau had a consistent and deeply-held far-left ideology that propelled all of his political activity, including his insistence on the need for a Charter. The Charter was the centerpiece of his ideological agenda.

Before the Charter was adopted in 1982, Canada was already one of the freest countries in the history of the world. In fact, there was plenty of resistance to Trudeau’s proposed Charter in the early 1980s, mostly from libertarians and conservatives.

When the motion to approve Trudeau’s new constitution – which had been signed by the Queen on April 17, 1982 – was presented in the Alberta Legislature, MLA Gordon Kesler of the Western Canada Concept Party of Alberta said, “I think April 17 will go down in history as one of the saddest days we’ve ever experienced in this country.” 

During the legislative debate about celebrations for Trudeau’s new constitution, Kesler had suggested instead flying the Alberta flag at half-mast. It’s how many Westerners and conservatives felt.

Manitoba Premier Sterling Lyon was among those who offered the strongest opposition to the Charter. He argued that Canada was already one of the best and freest countries in the world and therefore didn’t need Trudeau’s Charter. In short, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Of course, Lyon’s arguments were much more sophisticated than that, but you get the picture. There were other outspoken opponents of the Charter as well. 

So, does Trudeau’s Charter protect our rights better than what we had under Canada’s old system? Well, consider what constitutional experts are saying in the media about the current legal challenges to the lockdowns. 

In an article for the CBC, University of Alberta law professor Eric Adams is quoted as saying, “No amount of pointing to your rights infringements will win a case in a constitutional system which specifically contemplates that rights can be reasonably limited.” 

The constitutional system he’s referring to is the Charter.

Similarly, a Globe and Mail article quotes University of New Brunswick law professor Kerri Froc. 

“The Charter is [not] this magic wand that is going to thwart the government from doing any of these things that put a cramp in our style. The Charter just doesn’t work that way.”

And in an earlier Globe and Mail piece, Max Fawcett argues in favour of a stricter lockdown for Alberta, noting that Charter rights are narrower than many believe. He quotes from a 2004 speech by former Supreme Court of Canada chief justice Beverly McLachlin where she discussed the difference between the Canadian Charter of Rights and the American Bill of Rights. She said that the differences between the two are best seen by how they treat freedom of expression. As she put it, “The words of the Canadian guarantee acknowledge the state’s right to limit free speech; the words of the American guarantee forbid the state from doing so.” 

“The state’s right to limit free speech,” should terrify anyone with an understanding of liberty.

Fawcett goes on to quote McLachlin as saying that, “As a general rule, individual rights in Canada are more circumscribed, and collective or ‘group’ rights, protecting linguistic, religious or aboriginal communities, are more generous than in the United States.” 

The JCCF is the most important civil liberties organization in the country, and Western Standard readers should fully support it. The JCCF lawyers need to base their arguments on the Charter because that’s the only tool available for such challenges. But people shouldn’t get their hopes up. Experience confirms the perspective of libertarians and conservatives from long ago that Trudeau’s Charter would not be an improvement over Canada’s existing constitution. In fact, some – myself included – would see its long-term effects as primarily harmful. 

Libertarian and conservative-minded people view the government restrictions imposed by the lockdowns as violations of their rights. So-called “progressives,” on the other hand, overwhelmingly believe that the lockdowns should be stricter, and that the government must be obeyed without question. 

Pierre Trudeau’s Charter was not designed to defend liberties in the way that most people think of them. It was designed to prescribe some of them, and give the state the power to limit them.

Don’t be surprised when it does just that this time.

Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard

Michael Wagner is a Senior Alberta Columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Alberta. His books include 'Alberta: Separatism Then and Now' and 'True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada.' mwagner@westernstandardonline.com

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Charles Martell III

    December 16, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    How The Communists Took Control
    In 1947, Trudeau was a student at the London School of Economics, founded by the Fabian Socialists to train Marxists and spread Marxism. Professor Harold Laski, then head of the Fabian Society, was publicly advocating violent revolution at the time.

    Almost twenty years later, Trudeau, about to become Prime Minister, reflected on his training and told reporter Norman DePoe that Laski is,

    “the most stimulating and powerful influence he has encountered.”

    For instance, Trudeau was also a student in Paris, where, apparently under the influence, he was arrested with other demonstrators but escaped from the police. Then come a mystifying couple of years, during which, we are told, Lucky Pierre was a vagabond. Money comes in so handy.

    Apparently, he visited Communist Yugoslavia. He was in the Middle East during the first Arab-Israeli war. He was in Shanghai when Mao Tse-tung took over. He had many dangerous adventures. He fought bandits. He fought pirates – all of whom his overwhelming masculinity helped him overwhelm.

    Then the young millionaire came home, dressed like a hippie, sporting a beard. In 1949, he got a job as an economic advisor to the Privy Council in Ottawa. Igor Gouzenko, the Soviet Embassy official who exposed Communist espionage activities in Canada after World War II, says Trudeau got that job with the help of Robert Bryce, who was Clerk of the Privy Council at the time.

    Bryce had earlier served in Washington, says Gouzenko, where he belonged to a Communist study group and was a close friend of Soviet spy Alger Hiss.

    While in Paris, Pierre had spent some time with Canadian Gérard Pelletier, who was then with World University Service, he says,

    “giving American money to countries that were about to go Communist.”
    (Maclean’s, February 24, 72.)

    https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/esp_sociopol_nwo154.htm

    lots more interesting stuff . . . and you NEVER saw any of it in the Canadian Media!

  2. GonadTheRuffian

    December 15, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    All Turdeau The Firsts’ Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees you is the right to have what ever the latest, Leftist fad is; crammed down your throat.

  3. David Elson

    December 15, 2020 at 6:25 am

    Decent article. Sad reality .

    Conclusion: Canada is a legal fiction.

  4. Maple Curtain

    December 14, 2020 at 9:13 pm

    Good. The SCC and Establishment are in a bind on this one. If they don’t find all the Covid tyranny to be unconstitutional, they utterly de-legitimize the Charter.

    Good. The Charter was designed to institute judicial rule and to thoroughly corrupt both the judiciary and legal profession, and it has done that.

    So, a failure here to back the people over the state will, in the long run, destroy the mythology of the high-minded judiciary and not before time.

    • Maple Curtain

      December 14, 2020 at 9:21 pm

      One more thing.

      Did you have to post a photo of that sociopath?

      Nightmare of my youth. At least his get is just a moronic clown act and obvious puppet.

      PET was dangerous, not least of the reasons why being that the rest of Canada’s leaders, like Bill Davis, were such feckless wets, and no match for PET’s middling intellect and sociopathic drive.

  5. Exiled Maritimer

    December 14, 2020 at 6:11 pm

    The free market system, I refuse to use the term capitalism – that is terminology from Marx, stresses the individual over the state. Socialism/communism places the collective over the individual. The question to answer is does the individual serve the state or does the state serve the individual. Trudeau the first was a socialist at the very least so his constitution reflects that approach and the liberal party in its ideology stresses the collective. A major advantage in Wexet is the turfing of Trudeau’s constitution and the reestablishment of the rights of the individual. That will not be possible if the West remains in Canada. So the question is – do you own the state or does the state own you?

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Opinion

MORGAN: It’s time for Kenney to resign

“I say this regretfully, but it’s time for Jason Kenney to resign as premier of Alberta and as the leader of the United Conservative Party. I wish things had ended differently.”

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Premier Jason Kenney gambled and lost.

His move to declare Alberta as being permanently open for business was a hail-Mary pass for a beleaguered government and it has failed in the worst possible way.

Alberta is in the midst of a health care crisis, deaths are on the rise and we are entering a new period of mandatory vaccine passports, lockdowns, and other restrictions.

I say this regretfully, but it’s time for Jason Kenney to resign as premier of Alberta and as the leader of the United Conservative Party.

I had the highest of hopes for Kenney. I was enthusiastic as he won multiple leadership races and merged the previously intransigent Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties. I was thrilled when Rachel Notley’s NDP government was trounced in the general election. I thought we’d be looking forward to some steady, competent, conservative governance for at least a couple of election cycles.

I was wrong. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Love him or hate him, Jason Kenney is undeniably one of the brightest and hardest working politicians in Canada. He worked his way from advocacy into elected office and then became a respected cabinet minister in a number of portfolios. It appears Kenney met his match when it comes to the party and provincial leadership. He has managed to alienate both the left and the right within the province and I don’t see how he can recover from this.

Kenney’s leadership woes were already appearing well before the COVID-19 pandemic appeared on the scene. The shotgun marriage of the Wildrose Party and the Progressive Conservatives was showing cracks as caucus infighting began to smolder. The pandemic crisis exacerbated the issue and Kenney is now heading up a deeply divided caucus with multiple members having been tossed out of the party or disciplined. This inability to manage his own caucus has shaken the confidence Albertans had in Kenney to manage the province.

The Kenney government has been noteworthy for setting high targets and then failing to move toward them. The Fair Deal panel appeared to be an act of deferral, rather than an exercise to build a stronger, more independent province.

Kenney refused to take strong actions against Ottawa despite the open hostility shown to Alberta by the Trudeau government. This has fed the theory Kenney is using Alberta as a stepping stone towards pursuing a federal run. We can safely say Kenney’s federal career is finished at this point.

It seems that everything Kenney has touches turns to scheiße. The energy “war room” has turned into a running joke and with long and constant delays on its launch. The Allen Report examining groups that attack Alberta’s energy sector has been a waste of time. Energy producers seeking a sense of confidence in Alberta have been left disappointed.

In picking a battle with Alberta’s doctors and nurses, Kenney has drawn fire from all sides of the political spectrum. While there certainly is room to reexamine the agreements with health care providers, it has to be done carefully and with strong leadership. The UCP has appeared ham-handed and virtually leaderless on the issue.

The Kenney government has become election fodder used to hammer the O’Toole Conservatives on the federal front. The UCP looks so inept and unpopular that Trudeau is using it to attack O’Toole, and O’Toole hides from any association with Kenney.

Politicians are by nature self-interested beings. Caucus members within the UCP are surely weighing their options as the Kenney government continues to crash and burn in public opinion. With less than two years to go before the next provincial election comes, they know the window for getting rid of Kenney is closing quickly. The only hope the UCP has of winning the next election is to get a new leader and show some sign of new direction, and soon.

Rumblings from caucus are soon going to become a roar.

There are two options for the UCP right now. They can keep Kenney into the next election and most likely hand Rachel Notley a second NDP term, or they can get on with finding a new leader and reconnecting with Albertans. The UCP now is simply too wildly unpopular to regain the trust of the electorate under Kenney’s leadership.

I still respect Jason Kenney and appreciate what he did on the federal front, along with his efforts to unite conservatives in Alberta. I would like to see Kenney retain what dignity he can by resigning for the sake of Alberta and his party. It would hurt his pride, but it still would be a better end to a political career than being kicked out by his own caucus, or by the electorate in a general election. His “best summer ever” strategy failed and it’s time to face the music.

I wish things had ended differently.

Cory Morgan is the Alberta Political Columnist for the Western Standard and Host of the Cory Morgan Show

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Opinion

FILDEBRANDT: In the face of tyranny, freedom demands our defiance

“Our silence is compliance. Our compliance is surrender.”

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has crossed a line.

When and where he crossed it is not easily discerned, but he has most certainly crossed it.

The premier announced at an early evening press conference Wednesday he was putting Alberta back under lockdown, the fourth so far. It didn’t work the first three times, but government is nothing if not a mandatory recurring set of bad ideas.

Yet he went much further than another routine lockdown this time. This time, he imposed a vaccine passport, a policy he and his party had been fundraising in opposition to just days earlier. Will the hapless UCP members who handed over their cash be refunded for these donations?

It is a nakedly authoritarian policy, designed to deprive men and women of free choice over what to do with their own bodies. Kenney’s vaccine passport will create a two-tiered, legalized segregation of society.

As the Hindu caste system did in times of old, society will be divided between the “clean” and the “unclean.” Alberta’s government will create a legally required class of untouchable people lowered to the status of second-class citizen. These Albertans will have vastly fewer rights and freedoms than do their betters.

Political disagreement too often leads to overheated rhetoric, with unjustified labels thrown around too casually. Every conservative is a ‘fascist’, and every liberal is a ‘communist,’ in Twitter political parlance.

Bad government does not always equal tyrannical government, but tyrannical governments do exist.

At what point does a government cease being merely “bad”, and become tyrannical?

Most dictionaries define a tyrant as “a cruel and oppressive ruler.”

It’s a broad definition that can admittedly be applied haphazardly. Not every ruler we strongly disagree with is a tyrant, but we know tyrants do rule.

A single act does not a tyrant make, but at some point, Alberta’s government has become tyrannical.

Was it when they sent police to beat up kids for playing hockey?

Was it when they jailed Christian pastors?

Was it when they raided and barricaded churches?

Was it when they seized small businesses that were going under for staying closed?

Was it when they outlawed rodeos and protests against the government?

Or was it when the rulers were caught on camera enjoying a nice dinner on the rooftop of the Sky Palace—in contravention of their own laws—while the ruled were locked down in the confines of their homes?

If it was not at any of those moments, it certainly must have been when Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced the legalized segregation of Albertans into a new stratified class system.

A keystone marker of an authoritarian government is ‘otherism’, or scapegoating a minority.

It’s true the overwhelming majority of currently infected COVID-19 cases are among the unvaccinated, and the government is not wrong to point this out; but it’s language used to demonize the unvaccinated as a selfish, dirty, untouchable ‘other’ is dark and divisive.

The vaccine passport will have one set of rules for one class of people, and another set of rules for the other.

This is a difficult position for those of us in the minority of the majority – who support and encourage COVID-19 vaccinations – but oppose the authoritarian imposition of mandatory vaccines or vaccine discrimination. Until now, I have always encouraged my friends, family, and colleagues to get vaccinated as a generally safe and largely effective defence against COVID-19. But I only ever encouraged them to do so as a free choice.

Now, getting vaccinated is no longer a free choice, but an act of compliance with an authoritarian government. The ‘decision’ to get vaccinated has ceased to be a matter of making a good choice.

When government legislates personal morality, the act of compliance with the law ceases to be an act of morality.

Giving to the poor through charity is a moral act. Giving to the poor through mandated taxes is an empty fiscal transaction.

Getting vaccinated under threat to one’s liberties from the government ceases to be a selfless act for the good of others when compelled to do so by force.

It’s questionable that a vaccine passport will see more than a moderate increase in vaccination rates, as the vaccine-indifferent give in to forced compliance.

The refuseniks—those who range from anti-vaccination and vaccine-hesitant—now see reason to dig in. The hardcore anti-vaccination crowd will be unchanged regardless, only more entrenched in their beliefs as they are discriminated against by their own government.

The vaccine-hesitant, however, may well see a hardening of their views into a kind of conscientious objectionism.

The wife of a friend—an acclaimed biochemist—has not been vaccinated, but had every intention of doing so once she had enough time to observe the results in the general population. Since Kenney and Shandro’s announcement of a mandated vaccine passport Wednesday, she has made a decision not to be vaccinated. For her, it is no longer a matter of making a good choice, but a matter of refusing compliance with an unjust government order.

As much as I may think she would be better off getting the jab, I have a hard time blaming her.

The “my body, my choice” pro-choices are nowhere to been seen. Most of them have scurried under the rocks of paternalistic authoritarianism with nary a word to say about the sanctity of personal sovereignty.

Free men and free women–vaxxed and unvaxxed alike–have a duty to resist.

An unfree society is not one worth protecting and is deserving of resistance. A free society is worth everything we have to give and sometimes demands it by choice.

Churches should refuse to turn away worshipers. Restaurants should refuse to require discriminatory vaccine passports. Bars should refuse to stop serving beer after 10 pm. Employers should refuse to shut down their offices. Kids should refuse to stop playing hockey. Ordinary men and women should demonstrate openly in the face of oppression.

Our silence is compliance. Our compliance is surrender.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard

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Opinion

FILDEBRANDT: Two years to flatten the curve

“The result of the premier’s weak & indecisive leadership is that Alberta is going to enter its second year to flatten the curve, with no end in sight.”

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“Criminal incompetence” was the term used by one senior UCP member today.

“If these guys were running a business, the whole lot of them would be fired for it,” said conservative continued.

It’s been more than a year and-a-half since COVID-19 started to lap Canada’s shores.

Governments overreacted at the time with draconian lockdowns and other mandatory restrictions. That initial overreaction could arguably have been forgiven. Little was known about the virus, and the Chinese Communist Party was jailing doctors and journalists that tried to speak out. For all we knew, it was the doomsday virus of our worst Hollywood nightmares.

As it turned out, it wasn’t. It was serious, but not the Spanish flu that was feared. It may have been an overabundance of caution, but not entirely unwarranted under the circumstances.

But the actions of the Alberta government since are beyond excusable.

“Two weeks to flatten the curve” was the mantra.

It’s now more than probable that we’ll soon be entering “two years to flatten the curve.”

Premier Jason Kenney admirably recognized some of the errors of the first lockdown, like shutting down most independent retailers while allowing big box stores to continue on with only mild interruption. As summer 2020 approached and cases declined, he ended the lockdown and loosened restrictions to more-or-less tolerable levels.

And then fall 2020 approached. As the regular flu season set it, so too did a surge in COVID-19 cases. NDP Leader Rachel Notley called for a return to lockdowns and a few weeks later, Kenney did just that.

It was Lockdown Number 2.

A majority of Albertans supported it at the time, but some resisted, including one teenager who was attacked by incompetent police officers for the offence of playing hockey.

“I’ll f**king take you!” was heard as the outlaw attempted to skate away from the scene of the crime.

It lasted all the way through Christmas, with the government prohibiting most family members from visiting loved ones over the holidays. That is, unless you travelled to warm sun destinations without restrictions, as did a sizeable number of UCP MLAs, staffers, and a cabinet minister.

If we’re going to mark a moment in which the government lost its moral authority, we can draw a straight line to this event. It is at this moment that Kenney and his government began to lose the plot.

Several refusing congregations declined to shut down their churches or follow other government orders. Their pastors were arrested and jailed, while police raided the churches and took control. Real Free World stuff.

In May, a rebel farmer near Bowden, Alta. held a ‘No More Lockdowns Rodeo’ in defiance of the government.

Soon after, Kenney told his caucus, “If they are our base, I want a new base,” according to several MLAs present.

More than a dozen UCP constituency associations passed a special resolution demanding a leadership review before Kenney headed them off at the pass by having his review scheduled for soon before the 2023 election.

Then, 17 UCP MLAs signed an open letter criticizing Kenney’s handling of COVID-19 and demanded an end to lockdowns and restrictions. MLAs in the caucus told the Western Standard at the time the premier threatened the rebels with an early election if they didn’t fall in line.

It was a clear sign that Kenney was losing his iron grip on caucus.

Then on May 31, MLA Todd Loewen called for Kenney’s resignation, and was joined in his call by fellow MLA Dave Hanson. Kenney responded by having Loewen fired, alongside trouble-maker Drew Barnes. MLAs inside the caucus told us they believed the vote to be razor close, but the actual tally was never revealed. At least to them.

It was a political bloodbath, with a serious revolt against Kenney’s leadership on the move.

The revolt gained steam days later, when photos emerged of Kenney, Environment Minister Jason Nixon, Health Minister Tyler Shandro, and Finance Minister Travis Toews — along with an assortment of staffers — have an illegal dinner on the rooftop patio of the Sky Palace in clear violation of their own rules.

The revolt threatened to spin out of control, until Kenney’s announcement on May 26 that all restrictions will be lifted in stages. By July 1, Alberta would be “Open for Summer™.”

In fact, it would be the “Best Summer Ever™.”

The Tories were so confident in this that they sold merchandise with the jovial slogan plastered across hats.

The rebels in caucus weren’t quite happy campers, but it more-or-less shut them up. The caucus revolt was dead.

At some point in August, a man approached the premier at what appears to be a Stampede gathering, surreptitiously taping their conversation.

“It’s open for good. Open for good,” Kenney tells the man.

“I swear to God,” Kenney said, making the sign of the Cross.

On September 2, Notley called for Kenney to reinstitute forced-masking and impose a mandatory vaccine passport. In short order, Kenney followed the NDP leader’s demand for masking, but not on vaccine passports.

For good measure, the government made it illegal to serve beer or booze after 10 p.m. because well, you’ve got me stumped there.

COVID-19 case counts are on the up this fall, just as they were last fall. They will probably go down again when the weather gets warmer in 2022.

Hospital and ICU capacity are severely strained.

But how is that possible? How is it after one and-a-half-years of COVID-19 as the overwhelming priority of the government and massive sums of money borrowed to pay for increased spending, and 70% of the population now vaccinated, that our healthcare system does not have the capacity to handle a relatively predictable surge in cases?

How is it possible that after the suffering, sacrifice and toil endured by Albertans since March 2020, that Alberta is back under another lockdown, as of Friday.

Oh yeah, that would be Lockdown Number 3.

“Criminal incompetence.”

The UCP Caucus is bitterly divided over whether to return to lockdowns or impose mandatory vaccine passports.

Sources in the caucus tell the Western Standard that three MLAs openly said that they had “no confidence” in Kenney’s continued premiership and leadership during their emergency Tuesday meeting.

Much of the caucus is on the warpath over Kenney breaking his word that Alberta was “Open for Good™.”

Others in the caucus, like Leela Aheer, are openly blasting the premier for botching the whole thing by reopening too early, in their minds.

Kenney has tried to straddle both sides of the fence since the beginning, with predictably inconsistent results.

The mandatory-vaxers and lockdowners are furious at what they perceive as Kenney’s inaction and weak leadership. The refuseniks and anti-lockdowners are equally furious at the premier’s overreaction and weak leadership.

The result is Alberta is going to enter its second year to flatten the curve, with no end in sight.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard

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