Justice for all

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The Article

Watchdog looks out for Canadians whose rights have been snatched

My friend John Carpay speaks and writes fluent English, French and Dutch and has a smattering of Greek and Latin, which is quite an achievement by any measure.

Carpay, 38, has quite a few other achievements under his belt, too, aside from, with his wife Barbra, producing son Victor, now 21 months old, and daughter Anastasia, who has just notched up two months in this world.

Professionally, Carpay achieved considerable success as the Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, one of his campaigns being pushing the inequity of our cash-rich province still billing even low-paid workers for health-care premiums.

Spurred by Carpay’s campaign, Premier Ralph Klein’s cabinet is now actively consider abolishing this tax.

Carpay is now taking on a new challenge—daunting to some—as executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation (www.canadianconstitutionfoundation.ca).

Its role is to be a “voice of freedom” and a “voice of equality” in and before the courts for all Canadians regardless of race, gender, religion, political ideology and station in life.

It is modelled somewhat on the highly respected Institute for Justice in the U.S.

Until 1982, Canada was a Parliamentary democracy, but with Pierre Trudeau’s constitution gambit and his Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we are now a constitutional democracy.

With that change came a major shift of power from elected and accountable MPs and MLAs to unelected and unaccountable judges.

Before 1982, if you didn’t like a certain law, you could vote for an MP or MLA and a new government to get that law overturned.

Today, unelected judges decide what the law is and what laws Parliament can enact.

Carpay notes there are some rather frightening flaws in the Charter that can actually restrict our rights and freedoms.

For instance, although Section Two of the Charter guarantees freedom of speech, Section One allows a judge to decide what constitutes freedom of speech.

Indeed, Section One allows a judge to water down every other freedom supposedly guaranteed us in the constitution.

“People don’t understand how democracy has changed under Trudeau’s Constitution,” Carpay says.

“The courts, not Parliament, now decide what rights we have and how far those rights can go.”

“Governments can effectively bully Canadians’ constitutional rights and because litigation is so expensive, few Canadians are rich enough to defend themselves,” he says.

“Our role will be to defend those individuals who feel their rights have been taken away from them or abused in any way.”

One glaring example of inequality—giving one group of Canadians rights and privileges no other group has—was the Nisga’a Agreement negotiated in the 1990s by Jean Chretien’s government and the B.C. New Democratic government of Glen Clark, in which a quasi-sovereign Aboriginal country was created with the powers to overrule both provincial and federal laws within its borders and even ignore the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“This just wasn’t fair or right,” says Carpay, and the foundation, along with others, fought the agreement, with the battle still going on in the courts.

Yet while the Nisga’a issue was a huge and complex case involving thousands of aboriginal residents and indirectly millions of disenfranchised Canadians, Carpay expects many of the cases his organization will champion will involve either individuals or just a handful of men and women.

“The ban on private health is an obvious abuse of an individual’s rights,” he says.

“Here we have a ridiculous situation in that someone can spend tens of thousands of dollars for the best medical medical treatment for their pet dog or cat, but a tearful father and mother couldn’t do the same within Canada for their chronically sick son or daughter.”

Coincidentally, in a rare departure from Liberal government policy, the Supreme Court of Canada recently opened the door somewhat to the possibility of private health care.

But how can Carpay fight politically-stacked courts and win?

“There’s a loophole in that in many areas the Constitution is vague,” he says. “Much is left to an individual judge’s interpretation, discretion—or political philosophy.

“We intend to do exhaustive research, but forward our stand passionately and elicit both the public’s sympathy to our case and the court’s sympathy.”

In that way, Carpay’s foundation hopes to sway the court towards fairness and common sense and justice for all.

Paul Jackson
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