Canadians learned during the last years that they are completely and totally at the mercy of government officials and bureaucrats, no matter how ignorant or authoritarian they might be. These government figures demanded obedience of Canadians, or else. The “or else” was wide ranging, from being locked down at home or in a hotel, to not being allowed to travel, to being forbidden to partake in public restaurants, bars, and gyms, among other venues, to being fired from your job, and to being arrested and thrown in jail.
The disobedient were portrayed as anti-social, a threat to the public, and criminal. Disobedience in the form of criticism of government mandatory measures was deemed “misinformation” or “conspiracy theory,” and an offense to be silenced by the government-bought media. Businesses that didn’t conform to the irrational, arbitrary, and ever-changing COVID restrictions were fined and shut down. Worship in congregation was forbidden, no matter what anti-COVID measures were put in place, and religious leaders continuing religious services were arrested and jailed. Demonstrations against abusive rules were broken up by armed police, and participants’ property was confiscated and their businesses closed down by canceling licenses. Both demonstrators and financial contributors had their bank accounts frozen. School children, the people least susceptible to COVID-19, were forced to wear useless and unsanitary face masks. University students were, and still are, required to receive vaccines and wear masks, even now, or else be forbidden to enter campus to continue their education.
What lunatics have been in charge? The measures imposed to “stop COVID” were not only authoritarian and arbitrary, but proved mostly useless. COVID-19 wasn’t stopped, but the cost of the measures was in family conflict, drug abuse, loss of income, and education decline, not to mention serious side effects from the experimental mRNA vaccines and the deadly consequences of refusing to provide early treatment of the ill.
The COVID measures were a complete violation of the most basic norms of health care: (1) do no harm, (2) bodily autonomy, and (3) informed consent to treatment. Apparently, “my body my choice” is honored only when it applies to killing babies, which is now government supported and designated “reproductive health care.” “Public Health” bureaucrats across the country even yet insist on the same policies and are ready to reimpose them as the whim strikes them.
The model of society that the current Canadian government policies reflect is one in which the all-knowing government dictates the rules and Canadian subjects, er, I mean citizens, are ordered to obey upon pain of severe punishment. This model doesn’t seem to be so much the British model of parliamentary government as it does the Chinese model of communist party rule. Perhaps the Canadian government was impressed with the efficient way the Chinese Communist Party brutally locked down entire cities (although allowing residents to fly to other countries)?
The upshot of all this is that the rights and freedoms that Canadians thought were guaranteed for them—freedom to speak, to worship, to assemble, to present their concerns—appear not to exist. But wait, you say, what about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Doesn’t it ensure that Canadians have those rights? The answer is apparently not. It seems that the Charter is aspirational, rather than determining. The reality is that it can be overridden by arbitrary government fiat for any reason. After Canadian governments declared a “public health emergency” and turned governance over to “public health” bureaucrats, the Charter was swept aside.
The aspiration of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is to guarantee basic freedoms, democratic rights, mobility rights, legal rights, equal rights, and more. For example, the fundamental freedoms specified are as follows:
“2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
“(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
“(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
“(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
“(d) freedom of association.”
All of the rights and freedoms are “guaranteed,” except for the many qualifiers in the Charter, qualifiers that governments use to negate every right and freedom. The specified rights and freedoms are, as indicated in the very first clause of the Charter, “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” “Only”? The governments that make the laws get to decide what limits are “reasonable” and “justified.” The rights and freedoms of the chickens are “guaranteed” by the foxes!
A recent example of governments “guaranteeing” citizens’ rights and freedoms is mobility rights. According to the Charter,
“Mobility of citizens
“6. (1) Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.
“Rights to move and gain livelihood
“(2) Every citizen of Canada and every person who has the status of a permanent resident of Canada has the right:
“(a) to move to and take up residence in any province; and
“(b) to pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province.”
But correct me if I’m wrong, wasn’t the COVID “emergency” claimed as justification for restricting travel between provinces and into and out of Canada? Like other arbitrary measures to “stop the virus,” these, while ineffectual, were highly restrictive and destructive. An obvious example was the late imposition of border restrictions on truck transport. And we know what happened next, which might have been viewed, by a more democratically minded government, as “peaceful assembly,” but instead was designated an “insurrection” intended to overthrow the government and answered with a legal nuclear bomb.
The charter is full of rights negated by qualifications, but I shall offer only one more. Equality before the law is a right “guaranteed” by the charter:
“Equality before and under law and equal protection and benefit of law
“15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”
But guess what? This “guarantee” of equality is only good until some government decides that it would be nice to give special privileges and benefits to some allegedly “disadvantaged” census category of individuals:
“Affirmative action programs
“(2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”
So any right or freedom given by the Charter is so qualified that it can be taken away at the whim of the government. Today in Canada, non-whites are privileged over members of the white majority, and females over males, unless the male is gay, trans, or disabled. The result is that straight white males are largely precluded from university and government posts. There is no equality under the law in Canada. What exactly, then, is the point of the Charter?
You will recall that politicians like saying to each other, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” Or, maybe, manufacture a crisis. Crises can be used to stoke fear in the populace and promises of safety can lead most Canadians to submit to every imposed restriction and obey every arbitrary rule. The government and its allies can in this way take all power to itself, nullify all citizen rights and freedoms, and reshape society’s rules and institutions to advantage themselves while still claiming to support “rights and freedoms.”
We have recently seen two of these exercises: the COVID “pandemic” and the climate “existential” crisis. Remember: obey or you will die of disease; and obey or we will all roast, and life will be extinguished. No serious evidence ever supported either of these scare scenarios. But they have transformed and are, unjustifiably, transforming our lives. Our elite is ecstatic; we suffer the consequences.
Philip Carl Salzman is professor emeritus of anthropology at McGill University, senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, fellow at the Middle East Forum, and president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. Appeared originally in the Epoch Times.