Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Happy Charter Day! And the importance of an "s"

Today's the 30th anniversary of the formal adoption of the 1982 Constitution Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A lot of ink has been recently devoted to the Harper government's non-observance of this day. I could add to this, but instead I'd like to draw your attention to the text of the formal statement issued by Heritage Minister James Moore and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson which was originally posted here. I say "originally posted" lest the initial text be changed.

The full statement reads:

Statement by the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, and the Honourable Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, on the 30th Anniversary of the Proclamation of the Constitution Act of 1982

OTTAWA, April 17, 2012 - Today marks the 30th Anniversary of the Proclamation of the Constitution Act of 1982, which was formally signed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on April 17, 1982, in the presence of tens of thousands of Canadians on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

This anniversary marks an important step in the development of Canada’s human rights policy. Building on Diefenbaker’s Canadian Bill of Rights of 1960, the Constitution Act of 1982 enshrined certain rights and freedoms that had historically been at the heart of Canadian society into a constitutional document known as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Constitution Act of 1982 empowered our government to amend every part of Canada’s constitution, for the very first time.

As we look ahead to Canada’s 150th Anniversary in 2017, we encourage all Canadians to commemorate the milestones that have built our nation and made us the great country we are today.

There are all sorts of things that can be critiqued about this statement, starting with the omission of the Prime Minister and architect of the deal, Pierre Trudeau. But because I'm in a peculiar mood, let me instead draw your attention to paragraph 3 of the statement. There's a rather important little "s" that is missing from the end of the word "government". Because as any constitutional expert worth their salt knows, most parts of Canada's constitution cannot be amended by any single government. In some cases, it takes at least two, in most it takes eight (seven provincial governments representing 50% of the population, plus the federal government), and in a few key areas it takes eleven governments to amend the constitution.

So unless there is a super-secret plan by the Harper government to start unilaterally amending the constitution, his ministers' staffers did a terrible job proofing that mediocre statement.

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At 3:15 pm, Anonymous Mark S said...

Harper is only human, maybe he wants a chance "to roll all the dice"


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