The Canadian Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights of Wrong

By Guy Kroft

One noon hour about seven years ago this writer attended a speech in the residence auditorium at Fort Garry. The speaker was one of the few western Conservative members of parliament. The subject of his address was "A Bill of Rights for Canadians." Now, that speaker is Prime Minister of Canada and it would appear that his Bill of Rights will soon be entered into our Statute books.

When this "great charter" becomes part of our written law it will indeed by a great day-a great day for Mr. Diefenbaker that is. To the rest of Canada the "Bill" will mean nothing. Or perhaps we should say that it will mean nothing if we are lucky, for it could conceivably become a weapon of oppression.

If the "Bill added anything to the essential freedoms already enjoyed by Canadians, then it, like other such enactments in British and American history might have some significance. However, we are at a stage in our political evolution where these rights have for any years been recognized and given effect to by our courts. They have been incorporated into much of our legislation. Moreover, all the privileges of the English parliamentary system, with its Magna Carta and its Bill of Rights were explicitely made a part of Canadian law by the documents which gave form to our nation, The British North America Act.

This Prime Minister's "Bill" supposedly recognizes certain human rights and fundamental freedoms and guarantees their continued existence. Mr. Diefenbaker apparently is not aware that the Supreme Court has, with the "Bill," already reached the decision that no government in Canada could abrogate our freedom of speech, assembly, and the likes. In the famous Padlock case, Mr. Justice Abbot stated that since these privileges were inherent in the British system, and since the British system was guaranteed to us by the B.N.A Act, our rights in this regard could not be limited by anything short of a major amendment to the B.N.A Act.

The proposed "Bill" also suffers from the defect of exceeding the jurisdiction of the Federal Government. In so far as it deals with rights and property within a Province it is "ultra vires," for this field of legislation is given exclusively to the province by Section 92 of the British North America Act.

The "Charter for Freedom" is seen as a potential threat to our presently safe liberties when one appreciates the effect of definition. To define our rights is necessarily to limit them. Once limited, the citizen will be at the mercy of the persecutor who can show himself to be outside the bounds of protection. Furthermore, the area on the outside of the defined ground will grow because the nature of our society and the conditions affecting it will always tend to change faster than the rigid written law.

Another fear which has been voiced is that, while no Parliament is likely to restrict rights which exist by tradition and common law, if the rights become nothing more than enactments of Parliament, a future Parliament can easily repeal what its predecessor has done.

In spite of these comments, however, we are of the opinion that no party in Parliament will oppose the "Bill" with much vigor. To do so would be suicide. If anyone attacks it, come the next election, with the issues and details forgotten, the "Great Evangelist" will go forth across this land, once again proclaiming himself the champion of democracy and damning his critics as totalitarians, bent on depriving us of the very rights for which our ancestors fought.

Unfortunately, then the Bill of Rights will in due course be passed by Parliament and Mr. Diefenbaker, with his amazing talent and his crew of hucksters, will no doubt convince millions of Canadians that a pointless piece of legislation is a monumental achievement and a great step forward in our constitutional development.


Download

Copy of the Canadian Bill of Rights
Canadian Bill of Rights
Media and Document Gallery

Images

Canadian Bill of Rights
Creator: Government of Canada

Subject: Canada – Canadian Bill of Rights | Canada – Parliamentary Statutes

Description: Copy of the Canadian Bill of Rights

Date Created: 1960

Identifier: Canadian Bill of Rights

John Diefenbaker in Cornwall, Ontario
Creator: Unknown

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Personalities

Description: : John Diefenbaker in Cornwall, Ontario, surrounded by children in Eastern European costumes

Date Created: [1958?]

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD2899

John and Olive Diefenbaker with a group of Polish children
Creator: Unknown

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Personalities | Traditional Costume

Description: John and Olive Diefenbaker with a group of Polish children in costume in Sarnia, Ontario

Date Created: 18 August 1959

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD6926

John Diefenbaker at a Chinese Youth Services banquet
Creator: Unknown

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Personalities

Description: View of large banquet table at Chinese Youth Services banquet. Large group of unidentified individuals present including John Diefenbaker. Diefenbaker is being instructed on the use of chopsticks.

Date Created: [1958?]

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD2928

John Diefenbaker in House of Commons office
Creator: Unknown

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canadian Bill of Rights

Description: John Diefenbaker working at desk in House of Commons office. Behind him is a plaque of the Canadian Bill of Rights.

Date Created: [1975]

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD3141

John Diefenbaker and a delegate to the Progressive Conservative General Meeting – 16
Creator: Ted Grant – Photo Features

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Personalities

Description: John Diefenbaker and delegate at the Progressive Conservative annual general meeting, holding copy #10 of the Bill of Rights, Ottawa

Date Created: 18 March 1961

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD3299


Audio

Speech by John Diefenbaker at the Young Progressive Conservative Convention, Ottawa

Creator:Progressive Conservative Party of Canada

Subject:Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Human Rights | Canada Bill of Rights

Description:John Diefenbaker affirms his lifelong championing of human rights and calls upon the youth of the party to take on responsibility for leading Canada into the future

Date Created:30November1959

Identifier:MG01/XVIII/T163-PAC23

Speech by John Diefenbaker to the Progressive Conservative Women’s Association, Ottawa

Creator:Progressive Conservative Party of Canada

Subject:Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Human Rights | Canada – Bill of Rights

Description:John Diefenbaker declares his desire to have a Bill of Rights voted on by Parliament in the coming session

Date Created:30November1959

Identifier:MG01/XVIII/T187-PAC39

Speech by John Diefenbaker to a Progressive Conservative banquet, Ottawa

Creator:Progressive Conservative Party of Canada

Subject:Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Human Rights | Canada – Census

Description:John Diefenbaker advocates for a Canadianism which will find expression in the coming census when citizens will, for the first time, be asked whether they are a Canadian

Date Created:17March1961

Identifier:MG01/XVIII/T203-PAC50


Documents

More
< Previous ExhibitNext Exhbit >