Canada

PM's snub of charter anniversary 'shocking': Chrétien

Jean Chrétien said he is shocked that the Harper government has no plans to commemorate Tuesday's 25th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Jean Chrétien says he is shocked that the federal Conservative government has no plans to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Jean Chrétien attends a dinner to honour the 25th anniversary of the Charter of Rights in Ottawa Monday. ((Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press))
"We're celebrating the 25th anniversary this week and they don't want to have anything to do about it. It's just kind of shocking," the former prime minister told CBC News on Monday.

Chrétien helped enshrine the charter into the Constitution on April 17, 1982, as justice minister in prime minister Pierre Trudeau's government. Chretién will be speaking at a conference at the University of Ottawa to mark the anniversary.

Jack Jedwab, one of the conference organizers, told CanWest News last week that Harper, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, Heritage Minister Bev Oda and former justice minister Vic Toews had been invited to address the April 16-17 event, but declined.

"[Former Progressive Conservative prime minister John] Diefenbaker was such a proponent of the Charter of Rights," Chrétien said. "I hope they will not put the flag at half-mast [Tuesday] because it will be the anniversary."

Harper and critics have complained in the pastthat judges have used the charter to undermine the powers of Parliament.

Harper was barely a month into office when he suggested judges should show greater deference to Parliament and "apply the law, not make it."

With files from the Canadian Press

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