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God and the Charter
On reading John Chambers’ recent letter to the editor (‘Lost on Trudeau’, The NEWS, July 29), one could get the impression that the God clause in the preamble to our Charter of Rights was presented to our founding fathers on stone tablets delivered by a bearded prophet sent from on high.
The truth is that this nod to the Judeo-Christian religion in our Constitution was the result of some stealthy, back-room horse trading between Jake Epp, a Conservative evangelical MP, and Trudeau, the elder. The latter was initially cool to the suggestion as he did not believe there was any place for a deity’s name in a secular government document that ostensibly had equality as its cornerstone. It would also contradict Section 2 of the Charter itself promising freedom of religion. However, when party minions warned him that his “God objection” would be a vote loser, his political instinct took over and he caved. Besides, he figured nobody would notice.
And Pierre Trudeau was right. Hardly anyone did notice, except for the religious zealots who would swing this constitutionally-endorsed God reference like a billy club at anyone who dared to remonstrate that Canada is a secular nation.
Therefore, in 1997, we and some like-minded friends, initiated a petition to remove this religiously-biased and contradictory clause from the preamble to the Charter of Rights, and it was presented to the House of Commons in 1999 by NDP MP Svend Robinson. This resulted in a nation-wide controversy that went as viral as you could get in those days and Robinson was severely reprimanded and sent to the back benches in public disgrace by his NDP leader, Alexa McDonough. He had committed the unthinkable — he had associated himself with a vote loser.
We never expected our petition to be passed, but we were successful in bringing an awareness of this Constitutional bias to thousands of Canadians, many of whom were religious themselves and were in agreement that no true democracy should legislate any god or gods into its supreme law.
A trivial matter, some might say. Maybe not, as more and more courts today are turning to the Constitution for guidance when being called upon to make morality-based judgments. Can we be guaranteed these judgments won’t be based on Biblical morality? Now, there’s a chilling thought.
Fern and Laurence Wayman