Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 86

Wednesday, April 18, 2007
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Twenty-fifth Anniversary

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, yesterday Canadians celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Charter is a treasured document and a source of pride for all Canadians because it is more than words on a piece of paper. It is a living document that has grown over the last 25 years to include groups that might otherwise have fallen through the cracks and to protect our legal and democratic rights and the rights of our minority language communities.

With the help of the Charter, we were able to protect gay and lesbian Canadians from violence and discrimination and win the rights to full spousal benefits in their relationships. Sikh Canadians were able to win their fight to be allowed to serve as members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police without having to abandon their religious dress. French language communities were able to fight for their rights, including winning the fight to keep the Montfort Hospital in Ottawa open to serve their community.

However, even as we reflect on what we have accomplished, this anniversary should be important in reminding us of how much more is left to do. We cannot now take the Charter for granted. Canadians and the Canadian government must stay involved so that we can continue to achieve more and keep our existing rights from eroding.

To ensure that the Charter continues to live and grow, the new Canadian government must continue to provide the resources to protect and maintain it. The Court Challenges Program, which provided resources for Canadians to go to court to defend their constitutional rights, was an important part of this protection until it was cancelled under the new Canadian government.

I urge the new Canadian government to listen to Canadians who want to continue to become an integral part of our community, to help the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to restore these programs immediately. Only in this way can we assure that our rights continue to grow and evolve and that our Charter continues to be more than words on a piece of paper.

Honourable senators, the Charter is a document of hope for all Canadians. After 9/11, Canadians knew that the government and the authorities could not breach their rights. The Charter is not a document of the past to be placed in the archives. It is a beacon of hope for all Canadians to protect their future rights.