Irwin Cotler, MP for Mount Royal, Toronto Star
“Stephen Harper, a prominent Charter skeptic, and his justice minister, Rob Nicholson, were conspicuously absent from the commemorative festivities.”
Indeed, pre-Charter life and law is often a disturbing narrative of discrimination against, and marginalization, of vulnerable groups, including discrimination against aboriginal people, against racial and religious minorities, against women, against the disabled, against gays and lesbians, against immigrants and refugees, and the like. But, if you go about the country — as I did while minister of justice — and ask Canadians if their rights are better protected now than they were 30 years ago, the answer is invariably yes. This also finds expression in the public opinion polls themselves, where the Charter has emerged as an icon of the Canadian political culture.
Interestingly enough, the Charter earned respect and recognition beyond our borders. In an interview with Egyptian television earlier this year, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg urged Egyptians in their nascent state of democratic reform to look beyond the U.S. Constitution to the constitutions of Canada and South Africa, whose constitution was informed by our very own Charter; while South African courts have been influenced by our Charter, and have cited it more than the constitution of any other jurisdiction.