By Dean Midyette
The constitutional rights guaranteed to all Canadian citizens are under attack by all levels of government.
At the federal level over the last six years, our Conservative government has lost no less than ten cases on constitutional grounds at the Supreme Court of Canada, this after the Harper government has appointed six of the nine sitting Justices. These violations include, according to the rulings of the SCoC, denying Aboriginal land claims and exercising illegal Senate reform. Provincially, here in B.C., our teachers have been subjected to thirteen years of unconstitutional laws, first enacted in 2002, which have twice been found to violate teachers constitutional rights to Freedom of Assembly, which includes the rights to bargain collectively and to bargain workplace conditions. At the local level, the Taber town council enacted a bylaw that violated citizens rights to Freedom of Assembly by forbidding people to congregate in groups of three or more. At the School Board level, our local Board recently enacted a Policy 6200 in which teachers in School District #6 cannot criticize their employer, a direct violation of a 2013 BCSC ruling which was appealed and upheld on the grounds that it violated teachers rights to Freedom of Expression. Yet all of these laws and policies, and many more, have been passed by elected officials.
The problem is threefold. First, knowingly violating the rights of citizens is unconscionable. When it comes to human rights, the ends can never be allowed to justify the means. Second, the cost of pursuing an ultimate decision through the courts is expensive, costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually. The elected officials who stand in favour of these policies are rarely held to account. Finally, and this is the crux of my argument, the process of fighting government enactments through the courts take years. By enacting laws and policy that violate our most closely held values, elected bodies absolve themselves of and ignore social responsibility, then are allowed to plead mea culpa after the verdict is rendered.
When criminals are found guilty in a court of law they pay a personal price. When politicians violate Canadas highest laws, it is its citizens who pay.