In the run up to Canada’s 150th birthday party, it was fashionable to say that Canadians had absolutely nothing to celebrate. That the country was founded on only the subjugation of its Indigenous people and the ongoing oppression of minority people.
While it’s important to recognize the significant gaps inside our struggle for equality, that perspective makes a massive mistake by diminishing Canada’s management on establishing the human rights of its citizens.
Though as activists we’re often loathe to admit it, queer people in Canada have it very good. And not merely as compared to notorious anti-gay says like Saudi Arabia and Iran, or our perpetually pearl-clutching neighbour south.
Our legal rights as enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are the envy of LGBT people abroad, even in some of our nearest historical relatives like the uk and Australia.
Canada’s legal tradition descends from the English system, where Parliament is supreme and gets the broad power to enact whatever laws it wants – the only real constraints being the necessity to hold regular elections and the politicians’ concern with looking bad. While the People in america founded their country with a Bill of Privileges that guaranteed fundamental freedoms of speech, conscience, assembly (and, um, gun ownership), Canada’s founders preferred to stick with the British model.
The 1867 Uk THE UNITED STATES Act that founded Canada contained no enumerated rights for Canadians – who have been then still British subjects.
Nearly one hundred years later, then-prime minister John Diefenbaker known that deficiency exposed Canadians – especially minority groups – to injustice as a result of their government, and he introduced the mainly ineffective Canadian Bill of Rights as a remedy. But as a straightforward federal statute, courts were reluctant to rely onto it to overrule acts of Parliament.
It wouldn’t be until the 1982 Constitution Take action included the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that Canadians had an effective legal treatment to protect their privileges and values from authorities overreach. Since that time, almost every major success of Canada’s LGBT movement has relied on a charm to the ideals enshrined in the Charter.
Appealing to the Charter has been a particularly strong strategy, because so many Canadians see the Charter, and our judiciary, as nonpartisan. We are remarkable for how quickly we assimilate Charter rulings on controversial issues as key elements of our identity. Opposition to same-sex marriage was still strong when the first provincial courts ruled in 2003, but support for same-sex marriage is now recognized as mandatory for anybody seriously considering a run for perfect minister.
This is all very appropriate, since a charter of rights is eventually a statement of the values of the nation. Our beliefs of freedom, equality, and democracy are fundamental to who we are and should be beyond the energy of our government to abrogate.
Compare this to Australia, another federation shaped by Uk settlers on the continent taken from its original inhabitants simply a few decades after Canada. The Australian Constitution is silent on the essential rights and values of the Australian people, who, based on the record, are just 25 million roughly people that all go on a huge island in the South Pacific and also have decided to allow 226 people in a building in Canberra to have total control over their lives.
At this time, those 226 people are deep into their second decade of trying to decide whether to permit gay people to get married. There is some wish that they may decide in favour this year (and perhaps even this week), but honestly, the twists and transforms in this politics saga have been limitless and repetitive.
Unlike Canadians, queer Australians have had no legal recourse to assert their marriage legal rights through the courts; however, the Star Observer reported on Aug 1, 2017, that South Australian same-sex lovers is now able to at least lawfully register their romantic relationships.
Every victory of the LGBT movement in Australia has been hard fought through often awful electoral fights. Bigoted politicians can resort to the basest, ugliest statements about queer people in part because there is no basic agreement on the ideals and decency of the Australian people.
A similar dynamic reaches play in the United Kingdom, where the lack of a written code of rights that circumscribes Parliament’s power has played a part in hampering the LGBT motion. Queers in Northern Ireland, for example, still can’t get wedded. True, Brits have recourse to the Western european Court of Human being Rights, but even that institution has limited power to push Parliament’s hands, and the existing government is wanting to get out from under it anyhow.
It was not inevitable or natural that Canada became a country whose supreme concept is respect for the rights of our fellow people. It arose from the initial circumstances and the leadership of key players inside our history. These things should be appreciated and celebrated even though, and especially because, we are not yet a country of true equality.
As soon as we take these achievements for granted, we risk losing them, as any casual observer of the chaos south of the border can attest.