Voices on the charter's 30th anniversary

Today is the 30th anniversary of the signing of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Here's some of what was said to mark the occasion.

Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms signed 30 years ago, on April 17, 1982

"In terms of this as an anniversary, I think it's an interesting and important step, but I would point out that the charter remains inextricably linked to the patriation of the Constitution and the divisions around that matter, which as you know are still very real in some parts of the country."

- Prime Minister Stephen Harper, speaking to reporters in Chile on Monday afternoon.

"The prime minister is wrong. It's true there's some debate about it, but its divisiveness I think has greatly disipated, and I think he's on the wrong side of history. Thirty years now has a new generation of Canadians who are imbued with the principles and the values in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and are proud in the Act of patriation, because it was our last act to achieve independence... I'm saddened a bit that the prime minister would not recognize it as an important contribution to Canada's nation-building, an articulation of our values and our responsibilities. However, he's entitled to his view."

- former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, speaking to Power & Politics Tuesday

"I was in the Department of Justice at the time when the charter came into effect in 1982. We did not expect it to have the impact it did... the [Supreme Court] was extremely concerned that that Diefenbaker Bill of Rights had proven such a failure.  I think they were determined that given the second opportunity, they would make the rights meaningful."

- Retired Supreme Court justice Ian Binnie, speaking to CBC News Network on Tuesday morning.

"This anniversary marks an important step in the development of Canada's human rights policy. Building on Diefenbaker's Canadian Bill of Rights of 1960, the Constitution Act of 1982 enshrined certain rights and freedoms that had historically been at the heart of Canadian society into a constitutional document known as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Constitution Act of 1982 empowered our government to amend every part of Canada's Constitution, for the very first time."

- Statement from Heritage Minister James Moore, issued Tuesday. 

"I was honoured to be able to speak in favour of the charter in the House of Commons debates many years ago, and to vote for the patriation of the constitution with the charter. Thirty years later, the impact of the charter on Canadian society has been significant and lasting. The charter does not belong to one political party or one group, it belongs to all Canadians."

- Statement from interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, also issued Tuesday.

"New Democrats are proud of the role we played in shaping the Charter of Rights and Freedoms ... At the same time, the anniversary of the Charter also serves to remind us that, 30 years after the repatriation of the Constitution, Quebec is still not a signatory to the most fundamental compact of our democracy... The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a document that reflects our most fundamental common values. New Democrats will continue to work to ensure that one day it becomes part of a Constitution that includes us all."

- Statement from NDP Leader Thomas Mulcairissued Tuesday.

"It is a Canadian accomplishment. The government of the day was a Liberal government. The negotiations with the provinces [were] long and we had to debate that in the committees of the House of Commons and the Senate, and we had to go to London. It was a lot of work."

- Former prime minister Jean Chrétien, speaking to Evan Solomon on Power & Politics Monday.

"I don't think [Lévesque] was as truly angry [about the "night of the long knives"] as he appeared to be. He had to be, for his troops...It was a privilege to be part of it [with Roy Romanow and Jean Chrétien]... We represented three different political parties, three different regions, and three different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.... It wouldn't happen today. I don't think you'd have an all-party agreement like that, negotiated the way it was, in today's political climate, and I regret that very much."

- Former Ontario attorney general Roy McMurtry, speaking on CBC Radio's The Current Tuesday.

"René Lévesque was Quebec's premier, was speaking on behalf of Quebec, and the end result was that Quebec was excluded as René Lévesque was. I would have expected the federal government to celebrate more the 1982 Constitution in a Canadian perspective. But at the same time it's very much associated with M. Trudeau, in Quebec it's associated with the defeat of the Meech Lake Accord and of the Charlottetown Agreement...I understand the federal government being sensitive to the reactions that could have come from Quebec if it had decided to celebrate more the patriation of 1982."

- Former Quebec intergovernmental affairs minister Benoît Pelletier

"Judges are not...Don Quixotes... Judges take that job [of interpreting the law] very seriously. But the charter and the Constitution is not written like an income tax code, which is very precise, it has to be. The charter is written in general language... I believe it's necessary. I don't know any Constitution... which doesn't have this general language and so the judges have to – and the lawyers have to, and the governments have to – interpret the legislation... I've never regretted a decision."

- Former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, speaking to CBC News Network on Tuesday.

"Hope all who are celebrating the bday of the charter will also defend freedom of speech by eliminating Section 13 of the CHRA" [Canadian Human Rights Act provision that gives the Canadian Human Rights Commission the power to investigate complaints about cases of alleged hate speech by telephone or over the Internet].

- Conservative Senator Doug Finley, on Twitter.