Oh Canada!

Rachel Watts reviews
Constitutional Crack-up
Canada and the Coming Showdown with Quebec
by William D. Gairdner. Stoddart: Toronto.


His Pride, Our Fall:
Recovering from the Trudeau Revolution
by Kenneth McDonald. Key Porter: Toronto.

What has happened to leave Canada in such a decaying state of debt, division, and dependence? How did we become subject to such intrusive government control and loss of freedom? What can we do to escape the deep socialist hole in which we find ourselves?

These are the questions that William Gairdner and Kenneth McDonald seek to answer in their respective books Constitutional Crack-Up and His Pride, Our Fall. Both authors recognize that the radical transformation of the political, economic and legal foundations of our society resulted from the policies of Pierre Trudeau. In thirty years, Canada's English-style government, based on a common law system and the inherent freedom of the individual, has been eliminated. In its place today is a French-style, centralized, egalitarian welfare state.

Constitutional Crack-Up

In Constitutional Crack-Up, Gairdner focuses on the relationship between the Constitution and Canada's recent problems. Canada's founding constitutional document was the British North America Act (1867), which established a government protective of freedom, family, free enterprise, and faith. It mentioned no 'human rights' and supported true federalism by dividing power between federal and provincial governments. It established an English-style government based on Statute Law (from the people) and Common Law (from real life precedents). In Canada, personal freedom was a natural right. The Constitutional Act of 1982, Trudeau's 'Charter of Rights and Freedoms,' permanently changed the nature of Canada's government. Building on the welfare state introduced by Lester Pearson in the 1960s, Trudeau succeeded in establishing a French-style government based on Charter Law (law imposed by a ruler through a supreme charter). From this point forward, individual freedoms would depend on government allowance.

Judicial Civil War

Gairdner describes the conflict between these two styles of government as a 'judicial civil war.' The result: A system of parliamentary sovereignty has been defeated by a system of judicial sovereignty. Inherent freedoms, based on the assumption men are born free to act as they please (within the law), have been replaced by conferred freedoms, which assume that citizens have no rights except those given by the government.

Gairdner shows that Trudeau's views stemmed from Rousseau's philosophy that man is born good and should be allowed to express this 'goodness' in the General Will. This General Will is the Public Good - the mould into which society should be forced by its rulers. The entrenchment of this philosophy in Canada's constitution has created an egalitarian State which arbitrarily creates law. Government programs and charters have transformed individual rights into State rights. As a result, self-reliance and incentives to create wealth have been weakened.

His Pride, Our Fall

While Gairdner explains the consequences of Trudeau's policies, McDonald takes a more statistical and historical approach to what he describes as the Trudeau Revolution. He maintains that the division of Canada (chiefly between the French-speaking and English-speaking) is a result of Trudeau's bilingual, multicultural constitutional policies.

Like Gairdner, McDonald sees the beginnings of the Trudeau Revolution in Pearson's leadership. With huge media support and bribes to enforce Medicare, Pearson encouraged people to pass responsibility over to the State and depend on it for unearned benefits. With near dictatorial power, Trudeau furthered the cause, constitutionally locking the nation into a welfare state. By changing the common law system to a French-style government, Trudeau laid the foundation for thirty years of government expansion. Why did Trudeau do this? McDonald believes the key reason was the Federal conflict with Quebec. In his obsession with bilingualism and the Constitution, Trudeau wanted to quench Quebec nationalism, which restricted his goal of a centralized Canada. Utilizing media support, he tried to spread French Canadianism across the country with francophone programs, bilingualism, and subtle discrimination against Anglophones. He also attempted to pacify French Canadians by promoting the Pearsonian myth that Canada was founded by the English and the French and is now an equal (bi-racial) partnership between the two.

Despite permanently entrenching his policies in a radically changed and socialist Constitution, Trudeau failed to accomplish his goal. Canada has become increasingly divided and the interventionist state has only strengthened Quebec's desire to separate.

Towards a Solution

Where do we go from here? Gairdner and McDonald offer their solutions. Gairdner advocates what he describes as a true Constitution: an unwritten set of rules and principles supported by the people. McDonald outlines the legitimate role of government: to serve the ends of justice by securing citizens' inherent, common law rights.

Gairdner proposes to replace Trudeau's Charter and centralized government with common law and true federalism. This would enable Quebec to run her own French-style government within Canada, regardless of other provincial government systems. He also proposes an unwritten Constitution, based on the values and principles of the people. Given a unified belief in 'rock-solid principles,' he believes citizens could speak against and control an interventionist central government. McDonald's solution is to return to the BNA Act and English Common law. He alternatively suggests that a jury of citizens, representing each province, apply a year of private research to writing a simple Constitution that reflects the feelings of Canadians and true federalism. Both Gairdner and McDonald give an excellent diagnosis of Canada's problems. But a biblical solution must go further back than McDonald's appeal to the BNA Act. And Gairdner's desire for a unified belief in 'rock-solid principles' begs the question, 'What is the rock?' A nation built on 'rock-solid principles' cannot stand as could a nation built on the True Rock. Jesus Christ said that those who build their house on the rock are those who hear and do what He says. A state built on abstract, complex regulations will fall, but a people built on God's solid Word cannot be shaken.

This article was originally published in U-TURN

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