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The Rights Movement
Early debates about rights. Canadian rights as “British” rights rather than
human rights until the mid 20th century
Civil rights movement in Canada merges with postcolonial…
Prehistory of Canadian rights: British rights
British political culture is steeped in rights talk dating back to Magna Carta.
No taxation without representation
Habeus corpus (no imprisonment without evidence, trial)
These are among the historically negotiated rights of British subjects
Also abstract and theoretical rights
Liberal political theory suggest that a right is a need: something we
absolutely must have.
17th century: Hobbes’ social contract: we have a right to life because we need
our lives. And so we have a right to resist governments that threaten our
right to life.
Locke adds: and we need property too
Uneasy fit with British rights
Under British rule, British rights are extended to the new subjects:
indigenous peoples, French Canadians.
There’s also some recognition of aboriginal rights, including some sort of
entitlement to the land they live on (however narrowly defined).
Pursuit of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is seen
revolutionary, dangerous, decadent; unBritish and therefore unCanadian.
Canadian is POGG (peace, order, good government).
Middle third of the 19th century, French-Canadian rouge party is fiercely
committed to civil rights but is defeated by the Catholic Church in Quebec
Wilfrid Laurier is a transitional figure: explicitly espouses “British” rather
than “French” rights and so rehabilitates Liberal Party in Quebec.
Two impediments to civil rights in Canada (Along with the Catholic Church,
totally against it)
The British rights upheld in Canada tend to enforce cultural
and political assimilation upon minority groups in Canada. Minorities are
seen to have no “needs” that could possibly trump the benefits of acquiring
a British identity. (Some exception for French Canadian identity achieved
through negotiation – but lots of English Canadians don’t really believe it.)
The people who espouse civil rights tend to be blacked by
association with Communism.
Le debates around 1937 Padlock law in Quebec that
criminalizes even peaceful communist association
John Diefenbaker is a lawyer, an activist, believes in civil rights.
Not only arguing for civil rights, finally gets elected at the end of the 30’s