|Montreal, April 13, 2002 / No 102|
by Harry Valentine
A nation's constitution is the law that is supposed to restrain the government, while clearly identifying the rights and freedoms of all peaceful citizens. Canada's 1992 attempt at constitutional reform, in the form of the Joint Committee for a Renewed Canada, was essentially a failure. The majority of presentations that came forward originated from special interest groups, which tried to have a variety of obligations enshrined in the constitution. They viewed government not as a protector of equal rights for all citizens, but as a provider of services. Such obligations did not restrain the use of governmental coercion in its relationship to peaceful citizens, but rather required government to enact forcible coercion against some citizens for the benefit of other citizens. This was the view of equality in the eyes of the special interest groups.
right to obey the government
Directly and indirectly, their arguments were based on the philosophical viewpoints of the Greek philosopher Plato and the German philosopher Kant. Plato's treatise, Republic, theorized that the government had all the rights while citizens had no rights, except to obey government. Kant's Critique of Pure Reason essentially re-iterated Plato when the purpose of human life was identified as duty, in the form of obedience to authority (government). Throughout recorded history, nations have existed using Plato's Republic as the basis of government. Such nations were often monarchies or dictatorships, with mainly feudal economies. In more contemporary times, the regimes of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union endeavoured to fulfill the central arguments of Plato's and Kant's theories on government.
Plato had a student, Aristotle, who developed a system of philosophy which contradicted that of the teacher. Aristotle's system indicated that peaceful and creative expression of innate talents and abilities was the purpose of human life. To realise this, a society had to accord citizens certain freedoms. Over the centuries, societies and nations have existed that accorded a measure of freedom to their citizens. Trade and commerce evolved in such nations. More art, literature and music as well as advances in the sciences and in technical innovation, came from societies where more citizens had more freedom. When the American constitution was originally planned, Benjamin Franklin has been reported as having met with certain leaders of the Iroquois nation, which had a "great law" that spelled out some basic rights and freedoms.
Contemporary thinkers have identified that the basis of all rights and freedoms is the prohibition or absence of forcible coercion, fraud or intimidation being arbitrarily enacted against any peaceful citizen. A right to the freedom from arbitrary force being enacted against a peaceful citizen allows for only voluntary and peaceful relationships, voluntary associations and voluntary exchanges to prevail amongst people. The Iroquois nation actually proved that people could live and flourish in such a society, over very prolonged periods of time. The Iroquois Great Law provided a methodology for resolving disputes peacefully. As a young nation, America evolved economically for over a century, under a constitution that borrowed ideas from the Great Law. Some basic rights and freedoms for citizens were specifically spelled out and recorded as basic law.
Canada's constitution announces itself as "the supreme law of Canada." One section states that "any law that is not consistent with the statutes in the constitution, is, to the extent of the inconsistency, to be of no force or effect." The rights and freedoms spelled out in the charter of rights and freedoms are a far cry compared to what is spelled out in the American constitution. The notwithstanding clauses in Canada's constitution essentially allow governments to disregard some other statutes in the same constitution. Instead of the constitution restraining government, it actually gives governments certain rights and powers, including committing the federal government to undertake action to ameliorate "regional disparities."
Whereas the American constitution has kept that nation unified for over two centuries, Canada's constitution has the potential to cause disharmony between regions. While the politicians and bureaucrats who repratriated Canada's constitution and ammended it may have intended it to be the document that keeps the nation together, it may follow the theme of most other government schemes and ultimately achieve the exact opposite of what was originally intended.
Equal – to some extent – under the law
Canada's Charter of rights and freedoms states that "all citizens are equal before and under the law." Except some of the governmental marketing tribunals don't recognise that. Some citizens are granted permission (under the law) to enter a certain field of business endeavour, such as owning and operating a passenger transportation service, while other peaceful citizens will be denied access to that same field, by the same market tribunal. The marketing tribunals seem empowered to disregard that the charter of rights and freedoms applies to their rulings as far as citizens' equality before and under the law is concerned. They also disregard that the constitution claims that it is the "supreme law of Canada" and contains a statute which states that any law that is inconsistent with the statutes in the constitution would be, to the extent of the inconsistency, of no force or effect. During the early and mid 1990's, some independent dairy farmers were put out of business for operating outside the scope of the marketing boards. At their trial, the presiding judge was quoted in the news media as stating "that he will hear no (defence) arguments based on the constitution." It is the conclusion of this author that if the courts and government tribunals have been empowered to "hear no arguments based on the constitution," then government agencies themselves have undermined the constitution and what it stands for.
It is evident from this type of behaviour that ordinary Canadian citizens cannot take Canada's constitution at face value. The notwithstanding clauses in some parts of the constitution allow branches of government to disregard the rights, freedoms and statutes written in other parts of the constitution, almost at whim. Governmental behaviour is reducing Canada's supreme law to nothing more that a remnant of the document it was intended to be. One of the reasons marketing boards disregard the Charter of rights and freedoms is the flawed economic theory that the people would be provided with better and more secure service through stringent market regulation. However, practically every western nation has deregulated sectors of their economies, allowing competition to prevail. Wherever deregulation involved both freedom to enter the market as a service provider, as well as market freedom in the way providers offered their services, the quality of service eventually improved while service prices usually dropped. Market regulation ultimately protects inefficient producers from competition. In Canada, political connections have resulted in favoured producers and service providers being politically protected at the expense of the constitutional rights and freedoms of the majority of the citizens.
Politicians and bureaucrats are quick to point out that they're doing this in our own best interests, like ensuring our food supply or our telecommunications services. We, the citizens are being asked to buy excuses such as the one that Canada would allegedly run out of food if there were no food marketing boards regulating food production. Dairy farmers would allegedly go out of business without government market control, yet there is evidence to prove that government action closed down independent dairy producers in British Columbia during the early 1990's. The supply of staple foods such as grains, dairy, poultry, beef and pork are subject to government regulation. Producers are guaranteed an income through price regulation and market entry restriction. This practice has adversely affected a segment of the population at large. Food banks are now quite common in almost all large Canadian cities. A group of people known as the working poor have come to depend on these food banks, just as a similar group known as the working homeless have come to depend on shelters. This is the legacy of government regulatory control in food production and in the rental housing market.
Some domestic food producers do operate in a regulatory-free environment, since their products are deemed to be non-staple foods. A very wide range of foods which are sold to consumers and on supermarket shelves, were produced in a unregulated environment. Unregulated food producers supply most of the vegetarian diet and all of the vegan diet. This vegan and vegetarian sector has always seemed to have had access to sufficient supply of food (some even grow their own). Summer time home gardening and year round indoor gardening enables a sector of the vegan and vegetarian population to help themselves, independently of governmental regulatory stupidity. At least in this sector of food production, the rights and freedoms spelled out in the charter are actually allowed to prevail and without causing harm or detriment to the vegan/vegetarian population.
Despite an abundance of evidence suggesting that market regulation is flawed and unnecessary, federal and provincial governments are reluctant to close down their marketing boards. The practice of market entry restriction is in clear violation of the charter of rights and freedoms, yet no level of government is an any great hurry to correct this, behaving as if Canada's constitution has already become irrelevant. The federal government's own behaviour in this regard merely adds legitimacy and credibility to the independence and secession movements that have sprung up in Quebec and in Alberta.
|<< retour au sommaire||