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Anti-Democratic Referendum Canada

Head over to Referendum Canada where an unscientific internet poll on whether Parliament should pass bill C-38 (Same Sex Marriage) is being run.  It’s about 60,000 against to 8,000 for at the moment.  Normally I don’t bother with these things, but it would really bug me if some anti-democratic demagogue went around waving these results in the air and claiming that it was somehow scientific.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Brent June 16, 2005, 5:28 am

    You know, I was watching CityTV (Toronto) a while back (maybe a year ago now) and they had a phone-in-type poll of their viewers. The ratio of 'no' to 'yes' voting was (as I recall) approximately the same as you've reported here.

    Though personally I do believe in the rights of gays to wed, I also believe that the majority of Canadians do not want gay marriage — at least in the "redefinition of marriage" sense.

    It seems (to me) at first glance that endorsing gay marriage is the only fair, equal and just decision. Gays and lesbians are people, they have feelings, they have rights. It appears that most of the arguments against gay marriage are weak and rooted in bigotry and fear.

    I was talking with a friend the other day that made it clear that he felt that too many people were ignorant and that the courts should decide, as common people were incapable (in their ignorance) to chart their own country's course.

    What does it mean to live in a democracy? If the support of the majority of Canadians is _truly_ behind "no" — and I believe it is — then do we not have our answer? Granted, the polls cited here _are_ unscientific, but should we not have a referendum (or something "scientific") to find out what the people really want? For one, I do not believe that our representatives are accurately, objectively (and scientifically, for that matter) representing the wishes of the people they are directed to represent.

  • Alec June 16, 2005, 10:58 am

    Good question — what does it mean to live in a democracy? I refer you to the excellent Wikipedia article on this topic at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy. Read the section on Liberal Democracy, which is the what modern democracies are.

    Their simplified definition of democracy is: "majority rule with minority rights".

  • Brent June 20, 2005, 4:45 am

    Interesting article. I guess it begs the question: what is a right? …furthermore, who is charged with determining which things are rights?

  • Alec June 20, 2005, 4:34 pm

    Indeed, these are interesting questions. Note that the article points out that two qualities of most liberal democracies are an independent judiciary, and a balance of power between the various branches of government. In Canada, the power to grant rights falls to the legislative branch (Parliament), while the power to interpret rights falls to the judicial branch (the courts).

    However, in this particular case what gay people are arguing for is the right to equal treatment before the law. Certainly our Charter enshrines this right. No new rights are being created. The idea itself is a very very very old idea.

    I refer you to The Magna Carta, from 1215 AD.

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

    In other words, the law was intended to be incorruptible, everyone was entitled to due process, and rights set out in the Magna Carta applied to everyone.

    You can find similar ideas set out in the Codex Hammurabi, from 6000 BC.

    So, if you accept the idea that our liberal democracy has inherited these fundamental ideas (which I do), then how can you legitimately deny gay people the right to marry?

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