When Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau famously observed that “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation,” he did not add the caveat, unless, of course, the state suspects there is a pressing national security interest to warrant slipping into bed with you and your partner. No, instead, Trudeau goes on to say, “what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code.”
Pierre Elliott Trudeau understood what his son, his son’s backroom handlers, and every MP who voted for Bill C-51 does not understand. A right — to count as a right — must also protect and defend thought, speech, and behaviours that the state deems or suspects to be threatening. The rule of law must apply equally, even when people are thinking, speaking, and acting in ways that give the state and other citizens the heebie-jeebies. Moreover, if a right can be invaded arbitrarily and in secret by the state because of its own paranoia, it does not, practically-speaking, exist.
And that, among many other things, is exactly what Bill C-51 does. It is so contemptuous of our moral and legal traditions, generally, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically, that it empowers judges to authorize — in advance and in total secrecy — violations of a person’s unqualified Charter rights. Judges, who are normally expected to use the Charter to protect our rights are now being asked to authorize their violation. It’s a pretty cute trick from Harper, who has made no secret of his contempt for the Charter and the judges who have used it legitimately to check his single-minded agenda. It’s exactly the kind of Orwellian perversion of Canadian values Harper seems to take delight in.
And yet, unbelievably, Justin Trudeau and the other Liberal Members of Parliament stood in the House of Commons and voted for C-51 at third reading, despite publicly claiming to oppose it. In doing so, Justin Trudeau, his backroom handlers, and the other Liberal MPs demonstrated that they share Harper’s view that the House of Commons is an inconvenient sideshow that is good for little more than political gamesmanship. They also demonstrated that they share Harper’s perverted visions of democracy where anything can be said and anything done, if it is politically expedient. When the Liberals voted for Bill C-51 — naively or not — they proved that they’re not a genuine alternative to Harper and his shadow puppet MPs. They also proved they aren’t even genuine liberals.
The Liberals have not learned the lesson of their political exile. Let’s leave them there until they do. On October 19th, let’s vote for meaningful change in Ottawa.