Madam Speaker, I stand here proudly to speak to this motion in support of the pivotal role that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has played in the forging of this modern nation we call Canada, a nation that was, as recently as 2000, repeatedly acclaimed by the global community as the best country in the world in which to live.
I stand here unabashedly and proudly to affirm that the Liberal Party is the party of the charter, which fully brought to Canada its ability to be a sovereign nation, where we could have full control of our ability to amend the fundamental laws of our land without seeking permission from the parliament of Great Britain.
As Mr. Trudeau said in his speech on the proclamation of the charter:
After fifty years of discussion we have finally decided to retrieve what is properly ours. It is with happy hearts, and with gratitude for the patience displayed by Great Britain, that we are preparing to acquire today our complete national sovereignty. It is my deepest hope that Canada will match its new legal maturity with that degree of political maturity which will allow us all to make a total commitment to the Canadian ideal.
The charter was born from that. It set out for us to develop a Canadian ideal.
The charter is about change. It is about ideals. It is also about a vision of a global nation growing, maturing, learning to accommodate to differences, whether regional or demographic and, by this very act, learning to negotiate, to find resolution to different opinions, cultures and beliefs and eventually learning mutual respect. It has made Canadians a people who have learned to be negotiators, who have learned to accommodate, who have learned to live together and understand each other. Mr. Trudeau also spoke to that goal. He said:
I speak of a Canada where men and women of aboriginal ancestry, of French and British heritage, of the diverse cultures of the world, demonstrate the will to share this land in peace, in justice, and with mutual respect. I speak of a Canada which is proud of, and strengthened by its essential bilingual destiny, a Canada whose people believe in sharing and in mutual support, and not in building regional barriers. I speak of a country where every person is free to fulfill himself or herself to the utmost, unhindered by the arbitrary actions of governments.
This is key, arbitrary action of governments, governments that live within different ideologies, governments that change their ideals readily.
The whole concept of the charter was that it would be a living thing. It would be the road map for Canada's passage and navigation through turbulent and rapidly changing times.
Every politician in every society has to adjust to change. As Otto von Bismarck said “Leaders of states travel in a stream of time which they can neither create or direct but upon which they can steer with more or less skill and experience”. The charter is that navigational guide. It is the tool that allows the state to adjust, to adapt, while keeping its eyes firmly on the shore, firmly on the ideals, goals, values and objectives of the state. Over 82% of Canadians support that vision, those ideals and those goals, values and objectives that are embodied in our charter.
“The Charter was grounded in the supreme importance which was attached to the dignity and the rights of individuals”, as Tom Axworthy and Pierre Trudeau explained in the preface to their book Towards A Just Society. This has to be the mission statement of any society, where people are equal and share fundamental values based on freedom.
We must remember that the charter sought to create those ideals that Canadians are proud of, which are peace, order and good government. The concept of peace, order and good government is spelled out in section 15 of the charter where we speak to minority rights, where the authors of the charter believed that if people were second-class citizens, and if small groups in society were not going to be equal, then, by the very nature of the human spirit, they will strive for that equality, insurrection will occur and people will rise up against the state in order to find that equal access and that access to justice.
The charter understood this and said that in a nation of a diversity of peoples, of regions and provinces, we need to ensure there is that balance, that there is an ability for everyone across the land to have full access to justice and to the equal rights as other people.
What bothers me is that we sat here yesterday in this House recognizing a group of people that are transgendered, which is, as we well know, in the DSM of psychiatry an actual medical condition. The government, however, stood and voted against allowing those people the right to have access, not only to medical care but to justice. This is a group that is defined in our society by poverty, by high suicide rates, by illness, by discrimination, by hate and by violence, which is unheard of among other groups in our society.
To understand the charter is to understand why we needed to have voted for that, so those people can play a full role in this nation and do so knowing that they are equal to all and actually respected by society.
If we are going to pick and chose who will be the preferred ones and who will not be the preferred ones, we will never have a peaceful society. We see the history of the world. The history of the world tell us, even now, that the source of war in every nation is civil strife: people who are struggling to be given equality, to have access to justice and to freedom, very fundamental human rights. All human beings have the right to realize their potential, to participate fully in society and to truly belong in their nation and in their society. The idea of belonging allows people to be free, to build a nation, to join society, to participate and to make society a better place because they would not need to worry about their place in society. They want to live in a society where everyone has opportunity and where everyone has compassion.
One of the vital pieces of the charter has not only taught us compassion, but it has also taught us a huge number of things. The charter also talks to us about the rights of the provinces. It has defined a country in which, while provinces have linguistic rights and all other rights, we must remember that the federal government, through its charter, is the glue that allows us to ensure that every Canadian, no matter where they live, will have access to equality, freedom and justice that we believe are the rights of every individual in our society.
Our society is a peaceful society. Throughout our society, we have looked at how countries have emulated us. South Africa built its constitution based on our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Australia borrowed much of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Those were diverse societies. South Africa had a society that was torn apart by strife and by inequality between people based on colour and race and it did not want that to continue. The great Nelson Mandela knew full well that if he looked at our charter and emulated the essence of our charter, he could begin to create a peaceful society. He could do away with all the tragedy of apartheid and no longer seek retribution. A new society could be built based on equality and equal rights, a society where all groups, no matter how small, can have the ability to succeed and to build.
What we see today, by that very act of not only borrowing the Canadian charter but by building on it and strengthening it, is a South Africa that is forging ahead and doing away with the hate, the anger and the violence that typified much of its growth over the last 100 years. It is becoming a society in which people are indeed equal and in which people are able to build a new nation full of hope, dreams and vision.
The charter is all about the aspirations of all peoples in this society to create a place that would become the global nation. Today, as we see barriers being broken down across the world, we can show how it is done. We can show that this country can be a leader. We can show that people can--