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Meet Senator

Dennis Dawson

The Hon. Dennis  Dawson, B.A., M.B.A. Senator Dennis Dawson was elected as one of the youngest members of Parliament in Canadian history where he served his constituents of Louis-Hébert for three consecutive terms. He was appointed to the Senate on August 2, 2005, and represents the province of Quebec and the Senatorial Division of Lauzon.

Statements & Hansard

Charter of Rights and Freedoms—Inquiry

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Statement made on 10 May 2012 by Senator Marie-P. Charette-Poulin

Hon. Marie-P. Charette-Poulin:

Honourable senators will recall that Senator Cowan called the attention of the Senate, on April 24, 2012, to the thirtieth anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which has done so much to build pride in our country and in our national identity.

Honourable senators, with your permission and that of the author, I would like to read to you the text of an opinion piece that appeared in La Presse on April 12, 2012, and in The Globe and Mail on April 17, 2012.

The author is Bernard Amyot, a lawyer from Montreal and former president of the Canadian Bar Association in 2007 and 2008. I quote:

Canadians have reason to celebrate Tuesday's 30th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Entrenched in the wake of our Constitution's patriation, as a result of a bill passed by the British Parliament, the Charter is one of the most significant milestones in our country's history, along with the adoption of federalism in 1867.

This watershed moment meant Canadians could henceforth amend their own Constitution without having to go begging to London to do so. Besides consecrating Canada's legal sovereignty, this move enshrined the rights and freedoms of Canadians. It also consecrated the rule of law, which makes all citizens equal before the law and protects them from discrimination and arbitrary state actions.

Since the Charter was ushered in, our courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, have sanctioned all acts of public authority that violate the rights and freedoms of citizens beyond the constraints allowed within the realm of a free and democratic society. Furthermore, Canadians respect the role of courts in this area, viewing them as impartial guardians of their rights. On occasion, citizens even accept that courts defend "unpopular" causes, so long as the Charter's principles are maintained.

The advent of the Charter has also encouraged Parliament to pass legislation that takes into account the principles of fairness and equality. If, at times, legislators perceived the need to uphold a violation of those principles, they would be duty bound to pass such a law, notwithstanding the Charter, with the political repercussions that would entail.

Given that so few people take to the streets to protest against the decisions of our courts in that regard, I would argue that the public sees the balance achieved, albeit imperfect, as healthy and equitable.

It's thanks to the vision and efforts of Pierre Trudeau and his justice minister, Jean Chrétien, that the Charter has become the central pillar of our constitutional system. Today, it's the envy of millions of people around the world who dream of having their democratic rights and civil liberties similarly protected.

More important still: Canadians, including most French-speaking Quebeckers, now see these founding events as positive and useful. Besides, this is what polls confirmed at the time. It's noteworthy to underline that Francophone Quebeckers adhere to the Charter to the same degree they adhere to the Charter of the French Language.

No doubt, this can be explained by their deep attachment to the principles of freedom and individual responsibility. From their origins as coureurs de bois, they've understood that innovation and creativity arise mainly from the individuality of each person and that the prosperity thereby created generally benefits the entire community.

Besides being the cornerstone of our values and national identity, the Charter also protects minorities and language rights. Indeed, as a result of this 1982 constitutional amendment, Francophone minorities across the country, as well as the Anglophone minority in Quebec, have been able to demand services in their language, as well as schools for their children.

Finally, Canadians cherish the Charter and adhere to it. They know about it, understand that it protects their rights and trust that impartial courts will uphold them. All of which gives us much reason to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

I thank Bernard Amyot for this thoughtful reminder to all Canadians, including members of the chamber of sober second thought.

Recent Statements from Liberal Senators

Business of the Senate

19 Jun, 2014 | By Senator Joan Fraser | Colleagues, I'm rising to speak on behalf of my leader, the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Cowan, who had to be in Halifax tonight on public business. I must tell you that when I called him to say we were going to be adjourning for the summer tonight, he was, I could tell, quite irritated, not because he wanted us all to go on working like galley slaves but because he had already written a speech that he wanted to give tomorrow morning.

Lighthouses as Irreplaceable Symbols of Maritime Heritage—Inquiry

19 Jun, 2014 | By Senator Jim Munson | Thank you, Your Honour, and my apologies to Senator Champagne.

Unequal Access to Justice—Inquiry

19 Jun, 2014 | By Senator Joan Fraser | Colleagues, I know that Senator Jaffer was preparing to close this debate but, before she did that, I just had to say how terribly important the subject she has raised is.

The Senate—Promoting and Defending Causes that Concern the Public Interest—Inquiry

19 Jun, 2014 | By Senator Jim Munson | Honourable senators, I am looking for a bit of love and empathy at this late hour because I do have a speech, but you have to understand that, in the interest of having dignified departures for our five senators this week, I gave up my time to make sure that we were able to celebrate the departures of Senator Buth, Senator Segal, Senator Callbeck, Senator Dallaire and Senator Champagne.

Study on Status of Canada's International Security and Defence Relations

19 Jun, 2014 | By Senator Grant Mitchell | So, you thought you weren't going to hear from me? Well, I fooled you! So there! I rise in support of this report by the Defence Committee recommending that Canada become involved in ballistic missile defence with NORAD. I congratulate Senator Lang and other members of the committee for what I think was great collaborative work, completely non-partisan, very extensive and detailed with intense research.
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