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Charter rights: fundamental or just important

The weekend Citizen carried Nigel Hannaford’s piece The gay marriage vote: a pox on gutless turncoats, which was published last week in the Calgary Herald.  Hannaford makes the statement that some beliefs are foundational while others are merely important. He concludes, near the end, that:

The charter has been around for 21 years in a country of 30 million people. It’s important, for sure.

Marriage has been embraced by billions of people for thousands of years as an exclusively heterosexual institution. It’s fundamental.

It is also true that the idea that all should be equal before the law and benefit equally from the law is a very old idea.  Our Canadian Charter of Rights is merely a recent expression of that idea.  For example, the Magna Carta, from 1215 AD, states:

(39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

(40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

(60) All these customs and liberties that we have granted shall be observed in our kingdom in so far as concerns our own relations with our subjects. Let all men of our kingdom, whether clergy or laymen, observe them similarly in their relations with their own men.

Hammurabi’s code, from the 6th century BC is also a set of laws intended to apply equally to all people. 

Are Charter rights fundamental rights or just important?  Do they apply to everyone, or just straight people?


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