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BARNES: It’s time for an Alberta Constitution

“Creating an Alberta Constitution gives us a real opportunity to defend our province’s interests, and protect Alberta’s citizens from its own government.”

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This is an interesting time in the history of Canada to be a constitutional scholar. As has been widely reported, on May 13th, the Government of Quebec introduced its controversial Bill 96 in the National Assembly. The Bill seeks to unilaterally amend Quebec’s constitution, as well as Canada’s Constitution. Since that time, both the prime minister and Alberta’s premier have indicated their support for the undertaking, so long as the amendments pertain only to Quebec.

This opens up a whole new avenue for our province to stand up for Albertans and defend Alberta’s interests. It also raises a key argument I have been making for some time: that Alberta needs its own constitution.

As many of you know, I was proud to serve on the government’s Fair Deal Panel. However, as I outlined in a letter to the premier at the time, the panel’s final report did not fully reflect the public’s frustrations, or provide enough in the way of immediate action.

I believe that the most important recommendation left out of the Panel’s final report was the creation of a constitution for the Province of Alberta.

While Alberta certainly does have a constitutional framework – first outlined in the Alberta Act of 1905 – this does not go nearly far enough in describing Albertans’ shared values, or our unique culture and identity.

The creation of a formal Constitution, including the election of an independent constitutional convention, is an opportunity to engage with Albertans from every region and build a forward-looking vision for our province as the strongest and most free jurisdiction in North America.

Done correctly, the creation of an Alberta constitution does not lead directly down a one-way path to independence. However, it would send a strong signal to Ottawa that Alberta’s days of being treated as a colonial offshoot of Eastern Canada are now at an end.

When I first raised this idea, it was entirely disregarded and even ridiculed by Premier Kenney’s team of political insiders. Yet last week, the premier (when he wasn’t responding in my quires in question period with personal attacks) finally came around to the idea.

The premier said as much in an interview with Don Braid in the Calgary Herald. 

“We are plotting out a longer-term strategy to build a stronger, more resilient and more autonomous Alberta within the constitution. One idea could be in the future the codification of an Alberta provincial constitution. Formalizing that might be a way of expressing some of the unique values that unite Albertans.”

Yes, Mr. Premier, it is a good idea. That’s why I raised it to you more than a year ago. Here are a few reasons why it is necessary. 

• Constitutions control and constrain governments: While most legislation and regulation put in place by governments is designed to restrict the freedoms of citizens, constitutions are one of the best ways for citizens to effectively restrict the powers of governments. A year and a half into “two weeks to flatten the curve,” you can see the need to retain the power of governments to do whatever they like. 

Constitutions are durable: Laws passed in a legislature can just as easily be changed or eliminated by a legislature.

Take, for example, the Klein government’s balanced budget law. It was supposed to be a game-changing victory for those who seek to constrain the size of government, but the PC government killed it four years later and went on a spending binge that has still not ended. Alberta has spent most of its savings, and is now exceeding $100 billion in debt.The only way to effectively limit the size and scope of government over the long term is through a constitution.

We can’t trust Ottawa: One of the most important freedoms we (somewhat) enjoy is economic freedom, including property rights. We rightly believe that the individual should be the primary beneficiary of their own labour and skills, and that individuals have the right to own and use their private property. Ottawa’s willingness to cede jurisdiction to international organizations that do not recognize these rights is cause to entrench them in our own constitution. 

No really, we can’t trust Ottawa: Under the Canadian Constitution, provinces have the right to develop natural resources. Clearly, the federal government does not like this arrangement, and over the past 30 years it has looked for ways to alter the deal. If Ottawa is willing to so brazenly flout the Canadian Constitution, are we Albertans not obligated to defend our own rights through our own constitution?

There is no question that Alberta – like Quebec – has many of concerns when it comes to our province’s treatment within confederation. However, unlike Quebec, we have been fighting for a fair deal with one hand tied behind our backs. If Quebec can unilaterally make changes to the Canadian Constitution, then so too can Alberta. Creating an Alberta Constitution gives us a real opportunity to defend our province’s interests, and protect Alberta’s citizens from its own government. 

Isn’t that what fighting for a fair deal is all about?

Drew Barnes is the Independent MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Douglas Hendrickson

    June 9, 2021 at 5:33 pm

    I disagree with Barnes on one point:
    Done correctly, an Alberta Constitution DOES lead directly down the path to Independence.
    That is, it should be the CONSTITUTION FOR A FREE ALBERTA.
    To give the people what they need DIRECTLY AND FULLY to simply sign onto in a referendum and the FEDS would have NOTHING more to say about anything in Alberta.

    Those working to construct a New Constitution could at least try for two versions – one like that proposed by Barnes, and another for a totally free Alberta. Perhaps present TWO ACTUAL CHOICES for the people’s discussion and approval.

  2. Steven Ruthven

    June 8, 2021 at 7:49 pm

    Would send a strong signal to the UCP & other former Wildrose members, if MLA Barnes made an overture to the WIPA.

    I can’t stand the UCP & I voted for Minister Savage, Calgary.

    MLA Savage is as quiet as a mouse on the BS going on. So why would I vote for her again? Sickening how Jason Kenney rules with his totalitarian style of leadership. That’s NOT Alberta – more like an Easterner dictating to Westerners again. Grrrrrr.

  3. Debbie Lawrence

    June 8, 2021 at 3:11 am

    We need to get this done. The door has been opened by Quebec’s demands. Clearly the need has never been greater. Mr. Barnes you are spot on.

  4. Baron Not Baron

    June 7, 2021 at 7:45 pm

    Mr. Barnes,

    Please join WIPA !

  5. John Lankers

    June 7, 2021 at 7:01 pm

    Right, Alberta has been financing Quebec’s surpluses for the last 5 years and counting but equally notable is the fact that Alberta’s government spending is ~30% above the national average. Both factors must be equally addressed and it takes a real leader to do this.

  6. berta baby

    June 7, 2021 at 6:54 pm

    Doesn’t matter , I won’t happen cause the UCP MLA’s like the true minions they are stand quizzering aside and continue to support the blunder we call premier Jason kenney.

    He will lose the party’s government and hand it to the socialists the UCP will be reduced to nothing and kenney will write a book that I will not read but will go to his senior citizen book signing to point and laugh

  7. Seven-Zero-One

    June 7, 2021 at 5:25 pm

    Since Justin won election in 2015.
    Quebec haves Budget surpluses 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020… Albertans are financing it’s our poverty.
    Seriously people look at mirror.Ask yourself.Why Alberta is part of this ?

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Opinion

GIEDE: The legacy of residential schools still haunts us

There is a palpable sense of anger and grief in nearly every quarter, but I am deeply skeptical about the possibility of concrete action and change.

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The 215 children’s bodies uncovered in Kamloops, BC, on the grounds of the Indian Residential School have shocked us all. Calls for action have ensued, Facebook has provided frames, and both church as well as state authorities have expressed their regrets. There is a palpable sense of anger and grief in nearly every quarter, but I am deeply skeptical about the possibility of concrete action and change.

Indeed, the death of innocents in Canada is often used by our political class to double-down on their own agendas. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will continue to not fulfill promises of clean drinking water on reserves. BC Premier John Horgan has twisted this tragic moment of history into a justification for the continued clear-cut logging of our old-growth forests – an impressive non-sequitur even for him.

Policies and initiatives that would end the Third World reality experienced on reserves, help protect indigenous women and girls at home and in transit, or create more economic opportunities for all status, non-status, Metis, and Inuit regardless of location will not be enacted, despite having sat on the desks of our politicians for decades. In short, these solutions would cost money, and talk is far cheaper.

Ironically, no one was counting the cost of building and staffing the residential school system when it was debated and developed in the 19th Century. Every political movement – from child welfare groups to land speculators who wanted First Nations out of the way – viewed the use of education to assimilate aboriginal children as the most progressive method at hand to solve the centuries-old “Indian problem.”

The residential school system was conceived within the Indian Act of 1876, but did not fully mature until 1894, when an amendment made day school attendance mandatory for aboriginal children. There is no denying schools were built far away from the traditional territories of First Nations which helped facilitate assimilation. Yet these locations were also chosen because of the realities of staff and supplies.

Education was almost the exclusive purview of churches at our founding, so it only made sense for churches to extend their role along with the widening borders of Canada. Large government contracts were appreciated by all denominations involved, as these served to fund missions both at home and abroad. Ottawa provided the bricks and mortar – Christianity provided the staff inside these buildings.

Non-aboriginal children were also sent to these schools. Unlike America, using excess capital to enforce segregation was too costly for our leaders, whatever discriminatory attitudes they might have held. For some of my fellow aboriginal agitators it may be distraction from their preferred narrative, but the truth is that the non-indigenous children at residential schools were just as likely to suffer abuse and neglect.

To the point of abuse and neglect, there is no excuse. Those who committed sins willfully or by omission are worthy of the stiffest penalties that our justice system can mete out. There must be transparency as to who attended and staffed the residential schools – if those records are not surrendered willingly, the power of the courts must be utilized. People have a right to their history – even to the darkest parts of it.

But the central fact remains the Canadian political class was willing to expend what must equate to billions of dollars today on assimilating aboriginals for over a century. Why, now we know what would actually help solve the challenges faced by the First Nations, are those in charge unwilling to pay the cost? How much more expensive could it be to build up a new generation with intelligent policies?

Empty apologies and payouts withheld for years will neither undo the damage nor create a better tomorrow. For those who have made Western sovereignty their rallying cry, there is a mutual enemy of the federal government ready in the form of we, the First Peoples of Canada. If Ottawa refuses to fix what their policies broke, then provincial authorities should step in, creating alliances with aboriginals.

Mourning and grief are appropriate responses to the news we’ve received. And while transparency about the past must happen in order for healing to occur in the present, we must not allow more commissions or committees to take the place of real change. Clean drinking water, economic opportunity, education, safe means of travel: let these be the demands First Nations make in honor of the 215 children long lost.

Nathan Giede is the BC Political Columnist and the host of Mountain Standard Time

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Fed up Canadians mobilizing to take our country back

They’re stomped on by a smug woke crowd too dumb to know they’re merely useful idiots in a cunning plan to steal our freedoms and privacy.

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A movement to take Canada back is on solid ground.

It’s fueled by Canadians fed up with being pushed around. 

People are targeted if they attend church or synagogue (not mosques though), question the brain-washing garbage their children learn in school, ask Saint Theresa Tam hard questions about COVID-19, call boys boys and girls girls, keep businesses open, or play in the park.

They’re stomped on by a smug woke crowd too dumb to know they’re merely useful idiots in a cunning plan to steal our freedoms and privacy. 

Even politicians cower at the woke crowd that weaponizes social media. All 12 of them – each with multiple Twitter accounts creating the illusion they are legion – will come at you screeching like a crazed (because they are) herd of banshees.

The time’s ripe for a movement.

Canadians are hungering for a leader who’ll save us from this madness. 

Sadly, the inept have secured top management positions in every federal political party. 

They keep good politicians tethered.

But MPs with all parties, like countless Canadians, abhor late-term abortion, disagree with same-sex marriage not being motivated by hatred but by religious beliefs, are aghast that children undergo sex changes, want to lift COVID-19 lockdowns, wonder why twerking Drag Queens ‘entertain’ kids in libraries, support police, admire how former President Donald Trump strengthened America, and rue globalists running/ruining Canada. 

They obediently lose their moral compasses when told to shush. Not shushing destroys political careers, they’re warned. 

Even worse, the Trudeau CBC Fan Club will hate them. 

Honest, open debate is forbidden.

Just look what happens to one who dares to defy the shush rule! 

Derek Sloan was pummeled and banished for, largely, expressing his moral beliefs, although no one was honest enough to admit that.

But the MP for Hastings-Lennox and Addington had the courage and conviction to carry on. 

He’s still standing.

Sure, he’s not standing in the same place since he was booted out of the Conservative caucus in January – but he’s still fighting for the unwashed Canadians few politicians have the guts to fight for.

Sloan was wrongly portrayed as an LGBTQ hater and a white supremacist sympathizer because someone dug deep to find some nut job made an obscure $131 donation to his campaign. 

The ‘racist’ Sloan was accused of hating every Chinese person on the planet because he dared question public health officer Tam’s ties to the World Health Organization when she parroted COVID-19 lies it fed us. Well, well, don’t recent revelations vindicate Sloan now?

Canadians wonder if there’s hope of salvaging the life we cherish in this good and beautiful country.

Maybe. 

There’s a movement underway that’s building momentum.

Freedom loving Canadians have united to build a viable option, hopefully in time for the next election.

It’s too premature to “expose” the many groups and political parties involved, or provide more details, says Sloan. That’ll come soon though.

“I have been working actively to forge all of those elements together into a credible sort of political movement. That’s still in the formation stages but I want everyone to know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” he says in an interview with the Western Standard.

Sloan says “hundreds of thousands of people” across Canada receive his communications and in the past six months he has gotten “tens of thousands” of emails.

“Many of them are saying: ‘Derek, I can get behind you just tell me what to do,’” says Sloan.

Canadians are “begging” for a party willing to take a strong stand.

The woke mob may screech the loudest, but it’s not the true Canadian voice.

“They are a minority of people that are pushing an agenda. There is a strong groundswell of dissent to that. But there’s also a lot of Canadians kind of in the middle-of-the-road that don’t know what to believe and need a real alternative,” he says. 

The Conservative strategy to play it safe, hoping people will like them, is backfiring.

“The Conservatives have every ability to stand strong on whatever issue they want. If they’re not willing to do it now, we certainly can’t expect that they would do that if given the chance to govern,” he says.

Sloan, a member of the end the lockdown caucus comprised of current and former politicians, says the “biggest elephant in the room” is dealing with the response to COVID-19.

“If COVID went away tomorrow there’s still many issues. We’re dealing with a fanatical embrace of critical theory, whether it’s critical race theory, whether it’s critical gender theory. We’re dealing with a fanatical embrace of climate alarmism,” he says.

“We’re dealing with very aggressive ideologies that don’t believe in free speech, that don’t believe in dissent, that don’t believe in democracy unless it suits their own ends.”

Combined forces are moving quickly to change Canada into a “debt-ridden, freedom-stricken, second-tier country.”

Canada needs an option that shows them the way to go, says Sloan who feels an obligation to serve Canadians.

“I believe personally that one day I’ll have to account to God for how I used my time on this earth. I hope, when that time comes, God looks at me and says as He did to others ‘Well done good and faithful servant.”

Countless Canadians will get this.

Others will cackle and mock, dismissing Sloan as a religious fanatic. 

They foolishly dismiss the movement at their peril.

Slobodian is a Western Standard columnist based in Manitoba
lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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Opinion

CARPAY: Bad ruling against a church’s charter rights begs for an appeal

“Judge Shaigec has gone off the judicial rails, not regarding the facts, but in failing to apply a proper two-step Charter analysis.”

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The dismissal of the Charter freedoms of Pastor James Coates by Alberta Provincial Court Judge Robert Shaigec on June 7, 2021, is crying out to be appealed.

As any first-year law student can tell you, Charter claims are judged in two simple steps.

First, the court rules on whether a government action (law, policy, health order, arrest, charge, fine, prosecution, imprisonment etc.) violates one of more of the Charter freedoms to associate, assemble, worship, express oneself, travel, and move about freely without facing house arrest or prison. For the past 39 years the Charter has been part of Canada’s constitution, courts have ruled that charges, fines, tickets, arrests and prosecutions clearly qualify as “government action.” The moment that a citizen is charged with violating a federal, provincial or municipal law (whether the penalty is jail time or only a fine) is the moment when that citizen’s Charter rights and freedoms are impacted. The existence of a particular law, and being charged with violating that law, are one and the same.

Next, if the answer is ‘yes’ and some form of government action violates one or more Charter rights or freedoms even in a small way, the court must make a separate assessment as to whether the violation of that Charter freedom is “reasonable” and “demonstrably justified” with compelling evidence “in a free and democratic society.” At this second step of the process, the government is obligated to put forward medical and scientific evidence to try to justify its public health orders, or to justify whatever other law, policy, ticket, fine, arrest or prosecution is violating Charter freedoms.

The facts of this case are not disputed, apart from some minor details. 

In early 2020, when Premier Jason Kenney compared COVID-19 to the Spanish Flu of 1918, everyone in Alberta became terrified of the new virus. Governments across the globe believed the dire predictions of Dr. Neil Ferguson of Imperial College of London, who also warned that we were dealing with a virus as deadly as the 1918 Spanish Flu, which killed 50 million people at a time when the world population was barely one fourth of what it is today.

Pastor James Coates and the GraceLife Church congregation initially complied with all public health orders. However, as the “two weeks to flatten the curve” turned into the permanent violation of our human rights and Charter freedoms, the church members (like so many other Canadians) observed the politicians’ ongoing fearmongering was simply not based on facts. 

In our 15th month of lockdowns, the government’s own data and statistics show COVID-19 is harmless to 90% of Canadians, and has a 99.77% survival rate. Death rates in Canada in 2020 were in line with those of 2019, 2018, 2017 and prior years. Statistics show COVID-19 has not had any significant impact on population life expectancy. This isn’t the Spanish Flu of 1918. Not even close. 

To date, politicians have not put forward evidence to back up their repeated claims lockdowns save lives. Lockdowns harm the mental and physical health of millions of children and adults. The Manitoba government’s own expert witness, Dr. Jared Bullard, admitted in court under oath that PCR testing for COVID-19 is not accurate 56% of the time.

Governments and media dishonestly use ‘case’ numbers to keep Canadians in a state of permanent fear. But children are as likely to die of lightning strikes as they are to die of COVID-19. Canadians under 70 should be more afraid of dying in a motor vehicle accident than dying of COVID-19.

After significant research, deliberation and reflection, Coates and his congregation eventually ceased to comply with Kenney’s irrational and unscientific public health orders. Since the fall of 2020, they have held normal, regular church services. The government has not presented any evidence in court that GraceLife’s full church services have caused any harm to anyone.

Judge Robert Shaigec has gone off the judicial rails, not regarding the facts, but in failing to apply a proper two-step Charter analysis.

Public health orders obviously violate Charter freedoms. This is further confirmed by the 35 days Coates spent in jail.

Limiting church attendance to 15% of fire code capacity obviously violates citizens’ freedoms of association, religion and peaceful assembly as guaranteed by the Charter. Public health orders that make it illegal for people to hug each other and sit next to each other obviously violate the Charter-protected freedom of association. A legal requirement to cover one’s face is an obvious violation of the Charter’s rights to liberty and to express oneself freely, and for many individuals this law also violates the Charter-protected security of the person. Whether these limits are reasonable, necessary, and producing more good than harm is an entirely separate legal question, to be answered at the second stage of Charter analysis: is the violation of the Charter freedom “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society?”

Unfortunately, Shaigec ignored the obvious impact of public health orders on the Charter freedoms of religion, association, expression and peaceful assembly. He instead embarked on a hair-splitting exercise that finds no support in 39 years of established Charter jurisprudence. 

Strangely, Shaigec ruled the enforcement of public health orders did not violate the Charter freedoms of Coates. This is a mystifying finding, and entirely misses the point. The Coates case involves a constitutional challenge to the health orders themselves, not their enforcement. If a law is unconstitutional, that law’s enforcement is also unconstitutional.

Shaigec cites seven reasons for his conclusions, none of them supported by case citations from other court rulings: Alberta Health Services and the police were acting under the authority of the Public Health Act; GraceLife Church was not “targeted” by government; similar restrictions applied to “secular” activities and gatherings; health bureaucrat Janine Hanrahan acted reasonably and professionally; the RCMP did their best not to disturb church services; the police acted on reasonable grounds in issuing the ticket; the police did not obstruct a religious service (prohibited by section 176 of the Criminal Code.)

None of these seven reasons shed any light on the judge’s outlandish and bizarre thesis that law enforcement does not qualify as “government action” to which the Charter applies.

Shaigec suggests that citizens’ Charter rights are not violated when they are threatened, intimidated, ticketed, fined and jailed; he seems to believe that as long as the enforcement of a law is carried out in a reasonable manner, there are no Charter violations. Amazing. 

It will be interesting to find out whether the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench agrees upon hearing the appeal that will be filed by the Justice Centre.

John Carpay is a Columnist for the Western Standard. He is also president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (jccf.ca) which represents Pastors James Coates and Tim Stephens, and other Canadian challenging lockdowns in courts across Canada

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