rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Doug Ford's election meddling proof our constitutional guarantees are merely aspirational

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

By making use of the Canadian Constitution's Notwithstanding Clause to wreak petty vengeance on his old adversaries at Toronto City Hall, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has actually done Canadians a favour.

After 36 years of delusional complacency, we have now had confirmed what anyone who was really paying attention knew from the get-go in 1982.

To wit, the parts of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that really matter aren't worth the yellow paper they are printed on.

Fundamental rights? Legal rights? Equality rights? All meaningless.

Turns out -- as so many of us worried back in 1982 -- that thanks to the Conservative premiers of the day our fundamental constitutional guarantees are merely aspirational, or not even that, just a way to keep the dummies quiet.

As Ford has proved, all that is necessary to eliminate our rights (other than the rights to vote in a gerrymandered provincial or federal election or leave the country) is an autocratic tyrant with a majority of cowed and unprincipled lickspittles making up his or her majority in a Legislature. In other words, exactly the situation that prevails at Queens Park, as Ontario's legislature is quaintly known.

So thank you, Doug Ford, for clarifying that. You have done a service to the nation. Seriously.

In doing so, you have also illuminated the need to do something about it -- and about you and your government.

As for the drafters of this so-called Charter of Rights, those of you who are still drawing breath, you will just have to forgive us if we Canadians conclude you actually don't have that much to contribute at this point.

Three of the Charter's surviving "political architects," we have been informed, have condemned Ford's authoritarianism in a letter.

Former prime minister Jean Chrétien, 84, former Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow, 79, and former Ontario Attorney General Roy McMurtry, 86 -- a Liberal, a New Democrat, and a Conservative, no less -- published a statement Friday explaining to Ford that, notwithstanding what they wrote and agreed upon in 1982, their efforts apparently weren't meant to be taken seriously.

No, you see, the override clause they snuck into our national bill of rights -- which was supposed to clarify and strengthen the traditional unwritten rights we inherited from the British constitution -- was only to be used in "exceptional situations, and only as a last resort after careful consideration."

What cheek! My question for Chrétien , Romanow, and McMurtry: Why the hell didn't you write it that way, then?

No, I don't think we Canadians want to be going back to those gentlemen for their thoughts on how to fix this, and perhaps not to their political heirs either.

"We condemn his actions and call on those in his cabinet and caucus to stand up to him," the Three Amigos said. "History will judge them by their silence."

Well, they're certainly right about that. History will judge Ford's spineless MPPs to be either unprincipled cowards or supporters of their leader's autocratic impulses. But so what? That's pretty symptomatic of the state of conservative politicians worldwide at this point in history, just look at the crumbling Republican Party south of the 49th Parallel.

But Ford has considerably tarnished the architects' political legacy too, just when they thought its lustre would never fade.

The letter of the law is all that matters in such affairs. Someone will always abuse the spirit of the law. The zeitgeist dictates that in the present era the abusers are most likely to be on the neoliberal right. It wasn't always so and won't always be so.

We need to take measures against tyrants of all stripes.

One way or another we Canadians are going to fix this. It may not be pretty, it may take a long time, but we will get it done.

It certainly won't be done with the help of the architects of the Constitution Act, 1982, who it turns out ought to have taken out reputational errors and omissions insurance.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Help make rabble sustainable. Please consider supporting our work with a monthly donation. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.