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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
Once there was a haunted loop / of your deep fallen tears / a forehead resting / on a record shelf
— A.C. Newman, There are Maybe 10 or 12
April 18, 2007
Life, Death and the Charter of Rights

The Supreme Court of the United States of America today upheld a ban on partial birth abortions and furthered the highly conservative agenda of the Bush government.

A similar conservative agenda supports ownership of hand guns by citizens in the United States of America and funds the National Rifle Association. Two days ago a mentally ill individual put a pair of handguns to their only intended use in Virginia, and hunted and succesfully killed 32 people on the campus of Virgina Tech.

Both of these rights — the right of the government to restrict women’s control over her body, and the right to own a weapon designed to hunt other human beings are drawn from the Bill of Rights in the American constitution.

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a document that transformed our nation at its core and guarantees individual rights to the citizens of Canada, something that most parliamentary democracies do not have. The supremacy of an unelected judiciary over the laws of an elected parliament isn’t uniquely Canadian, but it’s quite rare.

It’s days like today that I’m reminded of why I’m glad to live in a kindler, gentler nation than our neighbours to the south. It’s days like today that I’m glad to live in a just society.

On Partial Birth Abortions

You’ll note that if you follow that link on partial birth abortions the lack of medical information is quite startling: there is no strict definition of the term, according to most of the literature that I’ve read through the years. I’ve never heard a medical doctor admit to having seen one, and certainly never to performing one.

As with so many political arguments are these days, the abortion argument is framed in absolutes and sound bites. This is not an argument that has blacks and whites, or one that should be discussed in thirty second sound bites. The term partial birth aborition is a term used by lobbyists in order to sound provocative. Pro Life is a similarly provocative term: what’s the alternative…Anti Life? In reality these groups are Anti Choice but they would never dare call themselves by that most honest of names.

It’s also not an issue that should be decided either by a legislative body run by grey haired old men who are afraid to lose a single vote, or a court of similarly grey haired (but supposedly learned) old men sitting on a bench.

Put simply, grey haired old men have no business telling women what they can do with their bodies, and it’s offensive to use the Bill of Rights as a ruse to doing so is offensive and appaling to the core.

On Hand Guns and Gun Control

The hand gun has one sole purpose:to hunt and kill humans. An old marketing slogan, apparently, says:

God created men, but Colt made them equal

I once heard a story about one of Samuel Colt’s children (or grand children) who lived in a mansion of some size, paid for by the family fortune. Staircase after staircase was added to the mansion, all leading nowhere. The purpose, apparently, was to mislead the ghosts that haunted the house. She believed the soul of every person killed by a Colt handgun wandered the hallways, and the fake hallways were a way of misdirecting them.

There are a lot of souls in those hallways, and using the language of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America to justify owing these killing machines has no place in a reasonable conversation.

32 people paid the price in one day, in one place. The appalling thing is not that these students died, but that their deaths hardly matter to the total. 30,242 people were killed by guns in the United States in 2002. 82 people on every day.

82 people.

On a day when 32 people were shot in a single day, 50 people were shot somewhere else in the United States.

50 people.

The hand gun has one sole purpose, and it has no business being in the hands of the average person.

A Boeing 737-400 seats 168 people. If a 737-400 fell out of the sky killing everyone on board the Boeing corporation would be out of business. Why handgun manufacturers are allowed to do the same thing remains a mystery to me.

But remember, planes don’t kill people…people kill people.

On the Charter of Rights and Freedoms

I knew a lawyer once who, when I expressed my affection for the Charter and it’s father—Pierre Elliot Trudeau—said “Let me tell you how hard it’s made my job.”

Good, I said. Your job should be hard. The state should have the burden of proof, and every person should be guaranteed certain rights. These rights might be inconvenient, and they might create a financial burden on the state and its taxpayers. This doesn’t make these rights any less important.

There are any number of countries in the world that exist without them: Chile, Cuba, China, Afghanistan…the list goes on. Citizens don’t speak out against their government, and they don’t have any protection against the state. People are arrested without being told what the charges against them are; people disappear without their family even knowing what happened; people are killed in the name of the state.

These things may seem farfeteched to most Canadians, but they happen every day in some part of the world. It may not happen in Toronto or Halifax, but it happens in other places.

Fundamental human rights are violated every day in Guantanamo Bay, under the guise of “national security.”

It happens despite the fact that the United States is a leading signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the rights of every Canadian young or old, male or female, native born or immigrant.

This is an important document, and one whose anniversary deserves to be remembered. This is the foundation of a just society, and it’s a much better document than what the American Bill of Rights has become.

The Charter gives me hope for a future, despite events like this week’s. Like the American bill of rights, it’s a living breathing document subject to the interpretation of the courts. Judicial decisions frame the specifics of the application of the charter, but the core will likely live for some time thanks to an extremely difficult amendment process.

This is as it should be, and it’s my sincere hope that our Charter doesn’t become subject to the kinds of political whims demonstrated by the events of the past few days in America.

It’s my sincere hope that Canada will always remain just, and fair.

Posted by skooter at 11:39 AM This entry is filed under America, Politics.
This entry is tagged: Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Guns, Trudeau

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