On Canada’s Charter, and reading for the weekend

Today is the anniversary of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

When I was a young teen I was enthralled with flying, so enthralled that I worked late nights as a convenience store cashier to pay for ground school and flying lessons. I was pretty good at them; I finished ground school at age 15. But calamity struck the only flight school in my small town before I was old enough to finish – you had to be 16 to fly solo. So, at the next career fair at my high school, I approached the Air Force and asked about enlisting. “We don’t take women,” they said.

No Amelia Earhart, I grudgingly accepted my curt dismissal — as most of us accepted a lot of things back then. I turned my attention elsewhere. Eventually, the end of my teenage flight of fancy was OK — except that, a lifetime later, the reason rankles a little.

My experience is one of the many reasons, from the small and personal to the global and sublime, that I cheer every Charter birthday.

Canadians raised after the Charter became law, or those who immigrated after the British queen (who doubles as Canada’s queen) signed it on April 17, 1982, can not remember what it was like before then.  Canada was not so very bad, relative to many other places in the world. For many, many Canadians, life was very good indeed. 

But since 1982 it is a far, far better place than most. Since 1982 no Canadian has legally been told “no, you can’t do that just because you’re ____ ” (fill in the blank … female, male, gay, black, disabled, religiously affiliated). And when people have been denied, they’ve had legal recourse, evidenced by daily court decisions peppered with Charter references.

There is still a contingent of Canadians who resent the Charter and how it has changed Canada. But in my books, the Charter is one of the wonders of our human world. 

Reading: Constitution Acts in Canada, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – Canadian Department of Justice http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const/
Wikipedia page on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Charter_of_Rights_and_Freedoms

–Deborah Jones          

Check F&O’s Contents page regularly for new material. This week our Fresh Sheet includes:

Greg Locke’s report in GEO, How to make seal flipper pie — it’s a recipe on the surface, but also amid the global controversies over Canada’s seal hunt, a political statement by a proud Newfoundlander. 

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In Commentary Jonathan Manthorpe follows up last week’s International Affairs reflection on the drowning Maldives, Fighting for possession of deck chairs on the Titanic, with a piece on Burma which, with fall elections looming — has gone from military dictatorship to kleptocracy without drawing breath.

In his SUMMONING ORENDA column, Tom Regan writes about the unbearable lightness of US presidential campaigns.  

Arts columnist Brian Brennan continues his Brief Encounters series with a piece about John Hirsch, Giving a Canadian Accent to the Stratford Festival.

Some of our other recent work, in case you missed it, includes:

Sheldon Fernandez’s essay The Great Riddle: fostering creativity and tenacity;

On graffiti: art, vandalism, and advertising;

Now for Another Debt Crisis, by THOUGHTLINES columnist Jim McNiven;

 

Keeping the Good News Down by Natural Security columnist Chris Wood; 

And last but not least, Brian Brennan’s Giving Her Regards to Broadway: Nicola Cavendish.

Recommended elsewhere:

Kenya Mourns Students From Its Generation of Promise, by Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times

GATUNDU, Kenya — The cars swung out onto Thika Road, one by one.

They moved together, in a line on Friday morning, past miles of apartment buildings, up into the hills, deeper and deeper into rich green farmland. In front, a hearse carried the body of Angela Nyokabi Githakwa, 21, one of the 142 students massacred last week at a Kenyan university.

As one of the first in her family to go to a national university, Ms. Githakwa’s prospects had been swiftly rising — just like Kenya’s.

Her generation witnessed the end of dictatorship, the growth of democracy, an incredible economic expansion, Kenya’s netting gold medals at the Olympics and a recent Oscar. The country even played a hand in producing the first African-American president of the United States.

But her short life also tracked the disaster next door. Just as Ms. Githakwa was taking baby steps, Somalia was imploding. Its government had collapsed. Its economy flatlined. Militant groups flooded the streets.

Then, as Ms. Githakwa was preparing for her high school exams and General Electric and Google were investing millions in operations in Kenya, the Shabab Islamist militant group was bullwhipping women next door, trying to establish a seventh-century caliphate.

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