The Canadian Charter turns 30 next month and as senior editor at National Magazine, I had the opportunity to invite a number of contributors from around the country to discuss its impact. As Rainer Knopff points out, these are still early days for a constitutional document of its importance. And yet the Charter has kept Canadian courts plenty busy for the last three decades. I wrote in the intro to this special Charter issue for National magazine that constitutions are built to last. That they are expected to withstand the test of time is quite a daunting idea when we remind ourselves that the world in which we live in today bears little resemblance to the one that inspired a generation of national leaders to give us a bill of rights. I had a chance to ask our former PM Jean Chrétien whether he feels the Charter is robust enough to deal with the more pressing issues of today, many which could not be anticipated in the early 1980s: online privacy, workers’ rights in a globalized world, the conflict of rights among Canadians of different stripes. He was, let’s say, characteristically dismissive of inquiries on this front. As he sees it, the Charter was Trudeau’s dream and Chrétien was tasked with the job of getting everyone on board to sign it. The Charter may not be perfect, as he says, but we have to live by it and Canadians are better off because of it. Say this about Jean Chrétien: Regret is certainly not his motivation for discussing to past. Quite the contrary.
More on the Charter issue here.