The New York Times praised Canada’s constitution, the misnamed and redundant Charter of Rights and Freedoms earlier this week and Mark Steyn has responded, noting that the Charter is junk:

If that’s insufficiently legalistic, I’ve also described it as “a worthless piece of junk.” By design, it excludes property rights, which Locke, Montesquieu, and other irrelevant dead guys all saw as an indispensable condition for liberty. It embeds identity-group preferences as a constitutional principle. And it empowers hack bureaucrats to determine the appropriate balance between genuine rights such as free speech and the pseudo-“rights” doled out by the state’s social engineers. It represents, as do many of the more fashionable constitutions admired in the Times piece, a precise inversion of the definition of “rights.”

Over the years we have covered the Charter and how it fails to protect rights and freedoms. Some notable articles:

John von Heyking on the Big M case and religious freedom in the Charter era.

We had a number of articles in our April 2007 issue looking at the Charter when it turned 25, including Rory Leishman on “Charter of Rights is a national calamity,” Gwen Landolt on “Abortion and the Charter of Rights,” Ian Hunter on religious beliefs and religious actions in the Charter era,  and Gerry Nicholls on “free speech” rights — or the lack thereof — under the Charter.

My review of Ted Morton and Rainer Knopff’s The Charter Revolution and the Court Party. In the review, I note how the Charter has led to issues being decided by undemocratic means, removing important elements of politics from the elected sphere and thus accountability:

The over-riding goal of Charter politics has often been to sacrifice individual liberty for group equality, and to overturn what is tried and true to promote libertine social experiments. This has turned the idea of rights and freedoms on its head, from its classical presumption of “negative liberty” – or rights that protected one from the government – to a new “positive liberty,” in which rights are characterized by government services. Furthermore, the authors note that certain groups (feminists, homosexuals) can use the Charter to force the hand of not only the federal government but other levels of government and private organizations… The effect of the Charter Revolution and the dominance in society of the Court Party has been nothing short of an undemocratic, and sometimes anti-democratic, revolution – the replacement of the legislature from its prominence in creating laws by the jurocracy. The courts have become the arbitrator of all social debates…

This is ultimately why liberals like the Canadian constitution: it allows those who lose policy debates among the general public to redirect their efforts and focus on convincing a handful of (usually sympathetic liberal) judges to decide policy. (See overturning Prop 8 in California.)