Section Thirty-three of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Section Thirty-three of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


Canada’s political culture and history is interesting and strikingly so to me, who went to college and graduate school in the US and who lived in countries where national “independence” means something visceral and motivating–Spain, Australia, Mexico, the US. Canada did not have a bloody war of independence and gain its autonomy on the battlefield. It got it peaceably, in 1867, as a kind of pragmatic solution to economic and governance problems.

The Proclamation of Canadian Confederation by Queen Victoria on 29 March 1867 “gave royal assent to the British North America Act” :

“We do ordain, declare, and command that on and after theFirst day of July, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty-seven, the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, shall form and be One Dominion, under the name of Canada.” (Wikipedia)

July First is celebrated here in Canada as Canada Day. But it’s not the same as “Independence Day” (movie or day). It’s about autonomy, a condition of national control that was probably not realized until the 1930s. 

More interestingly, the Canadian national political character continues to be remarkably concerned with autonomy, and if we agree with Wikipedia, it is one of the most federated modern nations, meaning that the provinces take self-government very seriously. (The example of Québec comes to mind.) 

Hence, Section 33, which assuaged concerns that provincial elected legislatures would, under the new Charter (1982) replacing the original Canadian Bill of Rights, lose power to appointed court justices

According to trusted friend Wikipedia, Section 33 is fairly unique, though there are instances in sub-national governments where something like it exist.

It’s a fascinating provision. It’s also brilliant. As a friend pointed out, imagine if the US had such a provision and that it was called into play in the presidential election of 2000, when the Supreme Court of the US ruled for Bush.

Or imagine of that now much more conservative court were to rule against this or that favourite American personal privilege: with a clause like Section 33 providing for legislative overturning…..? Of course, I’m kind of progressive in my politics–I like justice, peace, equality, community–so I cut my own pattern; but the pattern can make an obverse coat, too. 


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