This last year has seen surprising developments throughout the Western world. Probably none is more surprising than the changes that have been the consequences of the election of American President Donald Trump. His daily Tweets (his preferred means of communicating White House policy it would seem) are often confusing, contradictory, and,…, well…, frankly concerning. Like many, I have found many of President Trump’s pronouncements troubling. They demonstrate to any who have the most basic comprehension of the proper functioning of western democracies that he does not understand or appreciate the importance of basic constitutional norms. Like freedom of the press. Or worse, like rule of law.
Yesterday, I did two things of note. First, I listened with interest to a webinar sponsored by our Constitutional and Human Rights Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association entitled “Access to Information at a Crossroads: Implications of the Long-gun Registry Case”. Second, I watched the televised returns of the American election.
Notwithstanding its title, the webinar was about rule of law and how access to information is inextricably interwoven with that concept. Its speakers were Suzanne Legault, Information Commissioner of Canada, and Dr. Vincent Kazmierski, Department of Law and Legal Studies of Carleton University. Using the Long-gun Registry case as an example, the speakers illustrated how the rule of law was involved and perhaps even imperilled from various perspectives. Dr. Kazmierski presented a thesis that postulated that the government of the day abused its powers to overwhelm legitimate rights to access to information and that, in so doing, disrespected essential elements of the principle of rule of law. (You can probably still listen to the excellent webinar by contacting the CBA Professional Development at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Today, the people of Scotland are voting in a referendum to decide whether or not Scotland should be an independent country. Canadians have experienced this twice before – once in 1980 and another time in 1995. The parallels between the 1995 Quebec vote and today’s referendum are uncanny: in both cases, the “No” campaign was expected to win. In both cases, the “No” campaign was left to a less than inspiring leadership. In both cases, near the end of the referendum, there was a surge of popular support for the “Yes” campaign. In both cases, the leadership at the national level severely underestimated the potential for the “Yes” vote. And in both cases, there were last minute desperate rallies on the part of the “No” campaigners, with national prime ministers and national opposition leaders alike coming together to plead for the future of the greater country. Whether the 11th hour pleas will succeed in moving enough Scots over to the “No” side we do not know. We will find out tomorrow.
Eva Peron – October 17, 1951 – Wikipedia
My wife and I have just returned from a trip to Argentina. It was a way for us to celebrate a milestone anniversary and we thought that we would choose somewhere in the world that would be different from the normal choices. Argentina sounded exotic and distant and so we booked our trip, not really knowing what to expect. Well, it has been an experience.
What has struck me is how many similarities there are between Canada and Argentina and yet, how many profound differences there are. Canada has about 35 million people. Argentina has about 40 million. Canada is a vast country – 4500 km wide. Argentina is the 6th largest country in the world, about 5000 km long. Canada has a northern identity (read Arctic). Argentina shoulders the Antarctic. Canada is blessed with natural resources. So is Argentina. Both are New World countries. Both were the subject of heavy European immigration. Both have strong indigenous populations. Both are federations. Argentina’s written constitution dates from 1853. Canada’s from 1867. With all these shared attributes, one might think that Argentina and Canada might be enjoying a similar fate in the world. But they clearly are not.