Commentary by Steve Jalsevac
Special to The Interim

More than 20 years ago, when Pierre Trudeau was busy remaking Canada in his own image, we fought against his efforts to impose upon this country, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

During a Jan. 31 press conference, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler defended his government’s decision to bring forth a bill redefining marriage and praised the role of the courts and the Charter in bringing this country to this point.

As noted, “For Cotler and the Liberal elite, it seems that the history of Canada began, and the nation was created, when their Charter, not asked for and certainly not understood by Canadians, was imposed on the Canadian people.”

Then he expanded: “The profound change took place with the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That was a constitutional revolution of 1982. Without that understanding, nothing else can really be appreciated, and that’s where the transformative change took place; with respect to moving from a parliamentary democracy to a constitutional democracy; from the sovereignty of Parliament to the sovereignty of the Constitution; from the courts as being arbiters of legal federalism to the courts being guarantors of human rights, because we the Parliament, vested them with the authority to do so, and perhaps most important with individuals, groups, minorities now having a panoply of rights and remedies to go before the courts and secure protection for these right and remedies. Now individuals, groups and minorities are rights holders. We are rights claimants. Without that context, without an appreciation of the revolutionary change brought by the Charter, we can’t understand how we have gotten where we are now.”

One has to seriously ask whether Canadians then, and even now, realize what was done to their freedoms and parliamentary government by Pierre Trudeau’s Charter. No one mentioned before that this would be a “revolution.” Canadians are certainly not revolutionary types. All rights, no responsibilities? “Rights” interpreted and defined by judges, and certainly not based on any traditional moral code, least of all on the will of God or natural law? Pure man-made rights?

The Canadian justice minister continued to go even deeper into his presumptuous reverie about the Charter, stating, “The Charter, as I believe, defines us as a people, and what we aspire to be. And what we are and aspire to be is organized around the protection of equality rights, the protection of minority rights.”

He ended, “I look at this legislation as striking a blow for equality, as striking a blow for the protection of minority rights, as striking a blow for who we are as a people, and what we aspire to be.” Cotler was clearly emulating another Liberal from the past, who skillfully convinced Canadians that what he desired was their desire.

Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau stated, “In terms of political tactics, the only real question democratic socialists must answer is: just how much reform can the majority of the people be brought to desire at the present time.”

Steve Jalsevac is managing director of