The rule of law has been a cornerstone of Western civilization. It protects freedom of the individual from arbitrary state action. Respect for freedom and confidence in the neutral application of law has been a cornerstone of Canadian society. The development of liberal legal principles in the English tradition could be said to have begun with the signing of the Magna Carta by King John on June 15, 1215 at Runnymede. In this document can be found the seeds of equal treatment under the law, independence of the courts, separation of powers, trial by jury, habeas corpus, and due process.
But the legal ground is shifting. Individual autonomy – the crowning achievement of Western legal systems – is now at risk. The law is moving from individualist to collectivist; from blind justice to social justice; from equality of treatment to equality of outcome; from capitalist to statist; from economic competition to political conformity; and from neutral adjudication to judicial activism. The managerial state has become ubiquitous.
Progressive illiberal impulses fuel the regulation of individual behavior and speech. In Canada, courts and academics are transforming the Charter of Rights and Freedoms from a roster of individual rights into a social justice charter that legitimizes curbing civil liberties in the name of common good. Public institutions exercise discretionary authority to pursue social ends they deem desirable. These trends have accelerated in the Covid period of the past two-and-a-half years. In this new era, Canadians have become acutely less free, and the law has not protected them.
What is the state of the law in Canada? From our constitution to basic rights and freedoms to the appointment of judges and legal education, it is more important than ever that Canadians critically reflect on the state of our legal system.
In this important discussion with one of Canada’s most respected legal scholars we carefully examine the state of law in Canada. (1 hour 32 minutes)
Bruce Pardy is executive director of Rights Probe, a Toronto-based law & liberty thinktank, and professor of law at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. Bruce has long argued that Canada is a country in peril, dominated by an expansive managerial state and a legal system distorted by progressive ideology. He warned of dire consequences as soon as COVID lockdowns were imposed in spring 2020, and is one of the authors of the Free North Declaration, a call to arms to protect civil liberties from COVID irrationality and overreach. He has written on a range of subjects at the front lines of the culture war inside the law, including human rights and freedoms, free speech, environmental governance, climate change, energy policy, professional and university governance, property and tort theory, free markets, and the rule of law. He has taught at law schools in Canada, the United States and New Zealand, practiced civil litigation in Toronto, served as adjudicator and mediator on the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal, is a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute, and publishes and comments widely in traditional and online media.