I’m sure that many people will recognize this inscription, and know where it may be found, and in which civil liberties loving nation it exists.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
This inscription on Lady Liberty, welcoming the oppressed and the beaten down of the world to a land with gold-paved avenues dripping with opportunity for all…
Maybe we should welcome the Bush Republicans into Canada and show them what freedom and equality is all about. Here’s something that maybe they didn’t know about Canada; we have rights and freedoms laid out in our Constitution in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Within this document are the freedoms of conscience, of religion, of thought, of belief, of expression, of the press and of other media of communication, of peaceful assembly, and of association. Granted are the rights to vote and the right to run for public office. We are guaranteed the rights to enter and leave our nation at will, and to move where ever we wish to within our nations’ bounds. We are assigned many legal rights including the rights to life, liberty, and security of the person. There is also much regarding language rights, as we are a nation with two official languages.
Then there’s the bit in the middle that might not seem so special in section 15: “equal treatment before and under the law, and equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination.”
“Section 15 has also been instrumental in the gradual development, since the early 1990s, of provincial and federal legislation to extend statutory entitlements of heterosexual conjugal couples to same-sex couples. From 1992 through 1999, for example, B.C. legislation amended the definition of ‘spouse’ in numerous statutes to include persons of the same sex living in ‘marriage-like’ relationships.” — From the text of Bill C-38: The Civil Marriage Act
Paul Martin, speaking in Parliament to support this bill did not tell us how he as a citizen felt on this matter; as his personal feelings on the issue aren’t important. As leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and Prime Minister, he was entrusted with a role to defend the Constitution of Canada and its included Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The only way in which he could perform that role was to complete the process, and to lay bare the full intent of Section 15; full, real, unlimited equality in as much as could be guaranteed by the Crown.
I’m including a small sample of the text of his speech to The House of Commons from February 16, 2005, below should you be interested in seeing what other nations know about civil liberties. Paul Martin, for all his other faults, delivered a well considered, moving speech on this issue.
The Charter was enshrined to ensure that the rights of minorities are not subjected, are never subjected, to the will of the majority. The rights of Canadians who belong to a minority group must always be protected by virtue of their status as citizens, regardless of their numbers. These rights must never be left vulnerable to the impulses of the majority.
We embrace freedom and equality in theory, Mr. Speaker. We must also embrace them in fact.
This question does not demand rhetoric. It demands clarity. There are only two legitimate answers – yes or no. Not the demagoguery we have heard, not the dodging, the flawed reasoning, the false options. Just yes or no.
Will you take away a right as guaranteed under the Charter? I, for one, will answer that question, Mr. Speaker. I will answer it clearly. I will say no.
If we do not step forward, then we step back. If we do not protect a right, then we deny it. Mr. Speaker, together as a nation, together as Canadians Let us step forward.
— Paul Martin, Feb 16 2005, quoted in parts from the edited
Hansard, Number 058 (1520)
So, yeah, come on up, Bush Republicans; maybe we’ll be able to teach you a thing or two.