top of page

Parliamentary Supremacy & The Charter of Rights

I believe that in 1982, the nation tried to switch over to the American republican form of government where the judiciary limits the legislature's authority. However, the provincial legislatures were not ready to give up their power. Therefore, the nation just lied to the people and pretended it had switched over.

From 1867 to 1982, Canadians would vote for representatives to the provincial legislature, the legislature would enact laws, and the courts would adjudicate cases which violated those laws. Unlike today, the courts had no right to strike down a law unless it was overly vague or contradicted a previous law, in which case, it was merely sent back to the legislature for amending. Although this British parliamentarian system was a form of government, it is important to realize that it also formed a part of our culture.

When the Supreme Court of Canada's role was to be extended to act as a check on the provincial legislatures, the provinces, particularly the 9 Anglo speaking provinces, saw this as too radical a change. They were worried that the power would drift away from the provincial legislatures to the Supreme Court, where justices appointed, not elected to office, would decide what type of nation the citizens would live in. For this reason, the provinces would only agree to sign on to the Charter of Rights & Freedoms under two conditions.

First, they wanted to be guaranteed that given that a Supreme Court justice agreed with the provinces, the Charter could be set aside. This went on to constitute Section 1: the reasonable limits clause. Second, they wanted to be guaranteed that even if a justice disagreed with the provinces, the Charter could still be set aside. This went on to constitute Section 33: the notwithstanding clause. Essentially, the provinces would only sign on to the Charter if it was sandwiched between these two clauses that rendered it nothing short of window dressing.

The state then turned around and sold the Charter to the people as if it was a valuable document which would give them newfound freedoms. For forty years, Canadians deceived themselves into believing that Canada, like the US, was an exceptional nation. Then, in 2022, that illusion was shattered when it became clear that we operate under the principle of parliamentary supremacy, not individual sovereignty. When that happened, the citizens went to Ottawa to petition government for redress of grievances.

bottom of page