As Game-Changers go, they don't get much bigger or more controversial. Thirty years ago, with the flourish of signatures we got our Canadian Constitution complete with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Thirty years later, we've got equality rights for women, same-sex marriage rights, free-expression rights and laws from prostitution to Sunday shopping have been struck down.
Pollsters say that as a symbol of Canadian identity. The Charter comes second only to Health Care to citizens here. Then again not everyone sees it through the same prism. The Charter influences our society and clogs our courtrooms, it is considered an international role model, and .. a domestic thorn.
Part One and Two of The Current
It's Tuesday, April 17th.
Anders Breivik has admitted to killing 77 people in Norway, but pleaded not guilty to criminal charges, claiming self defence.
Currently, Breivik apparently has a long history of feeling threatened by the completely innocent and totally sane.
This is The Current.
Tracking The Charter of Rights - Roy McMurtry
PierreTrudeau had plenty of reasons to feel buoyant on this day thirty years ago. He had helped accomplish something no other Prime Minister had done by patriating the Canadian constitution from Britain. And perhaps more important to Mr. Trudeau was the document that would be included in the Constitution: The Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Charter would bring a clearer recognition of human rights and freedoms in Canada, but it would come at a high cost. Quebec refused to sign on and PM Trudeau would be forced to include the Notwithstanding clause -- essentially a legal way to opt out.
The weather that day suggested there might be trouble ahead. Just as the Prime Minister and Queen Elizabeth reached the podium to sign the documents, the sky grew black with clouds blown in from the Quebec side of the Ottawa river. And the Prime Minister spoke in a storm. We aired a clip of Pierre Trudeau, then Prime Minister of Canada on April 17th, 1982.
Over 30 years, the Charter has become the ultimate Game Changer. Roy McMurtry had a front row seat to the events leading up to that day. From 1975 to 1985, he served as Ontario's Progressive Conservative Attorney General. He, along with then Liberal Federal Justice Minister Jean Chrétien and then Saskatchewan Attorney General Roy Romanow NDP, became the architects of what was to be popularly referred to as the "Kitchen Accord". Roy McMurtry went on to serve as the Chief Justice of Ontario. Roy McMurtry joined us in our Toronto studio.
The Charter of Rights and Freedom - Justin Trudeau
Justin Trudeau, now a Liberal MP in Montreal, was 11 years old when his father helped bring in the Charter. He has few memories of the politics surrounding the occasion - but he has very personal memories of the day. We heard from him.
Tracking The Charter of Rights - Ron Graham
The story of Canada's Charter is one of personalities as much as politics. Ron Graham explores it all in his book The Last Act, Pierre Trudeau, the Gang of Eight and the Fight for Canada and he joined us in our Toronto studio.
Tracking The Charter of Rights Part Two - Roy McMurtry (cont'd)
Roy McMurtry was Attorney General of Ontario from 1975 to 1985. He went on to become Chief Justice of Ontario. As the Attorney General, McMurtry was a leading architect of the Charter. We wanted move from the historical to the present day, and pick up again with Roy McMurtry in our Toronto studio
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms Today
Those who study the charter say it is a living breathing document which continues to evolve as our society moves forward. Marilou McPhedran has been nudging it forward from the beginning.
In the early 1980s she was a new lawyer who joined an ad hoc group of women who believed if they didn't fight to entrench women's rights in the Charter, they would miss the one and only opportunity they had. So they organized to amend the constitution and enshrine women's rights he Charter.
Marilou McPhedran is the Dean of the Global College at the University of Winnipeg, and she joined us our Winnipeg studio. And Grant Huscroft is a Professor of constitutional law at Western University in London, Ontario.
This entire segment was produced by The Current's Kathleen Goldhar, Idella Sturino and Ottawa Network Producer, Neil Morrison.
Other segment from today's show: