Perhaps it’s because I was born without constitutional rights and that I was 32 before I even had the RIGHT to vote but when Premier Christy Clark declared my Charter Rights invalid with regards to my working conditions, something in me rose up in fierce objection.
I came to Canada because of its democracy, its constitution, its civil rights. I am stunned to note the complacency of citizens as those rights unravel right before our eyes.
It took Canadians over 150 years before we gained all the political structures that underpin a democracy but it has taken the BC Liberals just 12 years to undermine the very foundations of democracy in this province.
Are we citizens going to watch the unravelling of all the work that was done so that future generations (that would be us) would benefit from having a representative, responsible government? Are we going to simply forget that our autonomy from Britain was hastened by the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers at Vimy Ridge?
Are our memories so fragile that we have forgotten that it was just 32 years ago that we got the Charter of Rights and Freedoms after a long struggle to repatriate the constitution? Do we take those fundamental rights for granted and just allow the current government to do as it will, regardless of what the Charter guarantees?
Twelve years ago Christy Clark, then Minister of Education, used the Legislature to strip teachers of their Charter Rights. It took 12 years of legal struggles before teachers’ rights were confirmed by the Supreme Court of BC. Twice.
And now the government is essentially blackmailing teachers to give up their Supreme Court wins in exchange for a promise of better learning conditions for students in classrooms. It is behaving as though it is above the law.
Remember that the very cornerstone of a true democracy is the rule of law, that the law applies to all citizens equally. Can you imagine if all criminals in BC had a “get out of jail” card like the E80 clause Christy Clark is insisting the teachers agree to?
Today the BC government holds 500 000 students hostage while it waits for teachers to capitulate to its blackmail. MLAs, the representatives of the people, have closed their doors and have been instructed to not meet with their constituents.
Yes, BC is where representative government has come to die.
This death could have been foretold given the fact that MLAs meet only 36 days a year to discuss what can be done about the needs of BC citizens.
It seems though that the only “needs” that the representatives are concerned about are those of taxpayers, a strange new creature in BC that is everyone who is not a parent, not a lawyer, not a ferry user, is not concerned about the environment/climate change, does not want subsidized daycare, does not care about poverty, does not mind the oil pipelines, is not worried about the loss of agricultural land, is not a trucker or a midwife or a nurse or a paramedic or a teacher. Not sure how many citizens are left after that. Perhaps 1%?
These taxpayers, the ones represented by this government also seem to be okay with the millions being spent on an intense public relations campaign aimed at discrediting teachers who are in the invidious position of having their union dues used for paying for the lawyers fighting to protect their Charter Rights and their taxes being used by the government to attack those Charter Rights.
Are we so easily distracted by false claims of $3000 massages that we don’t notice what actually is at stake in the dispute between the teachers and the government?
Do the citizens of British Columbia know that if the government gets away with undermining all that was fought for to build a strong democracy then no citizen is safe. No contract is safe if the government can get away with ripping up a contract with teachers.
If we don’t honour the rule of law, then what will we honour instead?