With the prospect of a “North American Union” becoming a subject of conversation, most Americans are worrying about the effect an open border with Mexico would have.
But what about Canada?
Most Americans know very little about their big neighbor to the north. Is it feasible to have an economic and/or political union between the U.S. and Canada? Americans may realize that there is a large number of Canadians who despise American foreign policy. Furthermore, most Canadians would have nothing to do with American-style health care and are proud of their country’s liberal values. The education system in Canada is almost completely public (even “separate” education is paid by taxpayers) and has become an instrument for government indoctrination of “Canadian values.”
Americans know that Canada’s institutions are a residue of the old British loyalist powers the U.S. patriots fought 200 years ago. Has Canada changed? Isn’t Canada now a democracy?
The distribution of powers
The essence of the U.S. Declaration of Independence is that it provides a philosophical basis for a government that exercises its legitimate power by the “consent of the governed.” It defines the condition of a free people, whose rights and liberty are derived from their Creator. The U.S. Constitution then was developed consistently with the creed of human liberty proclaimed in the Declaration.
On the contrary, Canadians never fought for independence. While a “Charter of Rights and Freedoms” was enacted in 1982, the Canadian Constitution is essentially the same as written by the British in 1867.
The Canadian Constitution Act assigns all “powers” to the federal and provincial governments, from the “legitimate authority of parliament over public property” to raising taxes by “any mode or system of taxation,” from the “establishment and management of hospitals” to the “solemnization of marriage.” In addition, just to make sure it covers everything, the last clause of paragraph 92 (VI-92-16) states that provincial governments can “exclusively make laws in relation to … generally all matters of merely local or private nature in the province.”
This opposite understanding of “the hierarchy of power” is probably the main cause of the difference in attitude between Americans and Canadians with respect to government. But there are more fundamental rights and freedoms that Canada should be required to address before it can be part of a North American Union.
The independence of the judiciary
Canada’s judicial power, at all levels up to the Supreme Court, is not independent from the legislative power. The Canadian Supreme Court judges, for example, are appointed for life by the prime minister. In the U.S., judges are either elected or, at the highest level, have to undergo confirmation hearings.
The principle of separation of power is an essential element of representative democracy. The independence of the judiciary is a criterion for judging whether a country is a dictatorship or not. The separation of powers is an essential element of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The direct appointment of judges by the legislators would make any student of democracy cringe! The “quid pro quo” exercised by recent Canadian prime ministers to obtain support of their legislation by the courts (the re-definition of marriage) is a symptom of such democratic deficit.
In addition, on the basis of the Canadian “Charter of Rights,” judges of the Supreme Court have in practice acquired the power to “legislate,” instead of being guarantors of the law against injustice.
Freedom of the press
The Canadian Radio Television Commission, or CRTC, regulates the “content” of Canadian media by imposing “Canadian culture” and thus excluding from the free airwaves American TV stations, conservative TV programs (such as Fox News) and religious TV and radio stations (such as EWTN). It has consistently refused broadcasting licenses to “single religion” broadcasting (such as Radio Maria), because of a requirement for multi-faith programming content.
The independence of the media
Important concepts, such that the media should be free, independent and be a watchdog of government, are understood by most Americans.
These ideas are lost in the mind of Canadians. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is a media conglomerate, paid with taxpayers’ money, whose top positions are appointed by the government.
All other national media are owned by either Canwest Global or CTV Globalmedia. The first conglomerate, owned by the liberal Asper family, includes Canwest Global Communications (owners of the Global Television Network, the Toronto Star, the National Post, the Southam Newspaper chain and the largest Canadian internet portal: Canada.com). The second conglomerate includes the other national newspaper (The Globe & Mail) and national television networks, including CTV and the A Channel.
There are no major independent or conservative papers, magazines (the Western Standard closed down recently), television stations or radio stations. This is mostly because regulations (e.g. CRTC) and laws (e.g. hate legislation) discourage entrepreneurs from establishing dissident, independent or conservative media.
Freedom of religion
Most U.S. citizens understand the independence between state and religion. In Canada this is interpreted to mean that government officials should leave their conscience at home. Some “scholars” even questioned whether a religious person should be allowed to run for public office.
Churches in Canada have been “granted” by the government “charitable status,” which allows them to issue official tax receipts and allows them to pay no property taxes. Both of these “privileges” have been used recently to threaten members of the church who dare to have a different opinion from the government in social matters. For example, Calgary Bishop Fred Henry was told to stop speaking out on matters of social policy or his church would lose charitable status, and churches in Brampton, Ontario, are currently in a battle against the imposition of property taxes. In addition, justices of the peace had to quit or were fired for refusing to “marry” homosexual couples.
Freedom of speech
Very similarly, the right to free speech is limited by a federal quasi-judicial commission for “human rights” and similarly named commissions in every province across the country. These commissions have the mandate of limiting free speech across the country. Individuals and organizations now forced into silence are closing sections of their websites and refrain from writing opinions on homosexuality, in light of the increasing number of cases of prosecution of individuals and organizations by such commissions.
These cases include prosecutions of teachers (Chris Kempling), businessmen (Scott Brokie), writers (Mark Steyn), organizations (The Knights of Columbus), city councilors (John Di Cecco), Christian pastors (Steven Boissoin), newspapers (The Star Phoenix), secular and religious magazines (MacLeans, Catholic Insight) and political party leaders (Ron Gray).
Right of self-determination
The Canadian electoral system, contrary to the U.S., uses a simple plurality system to elect members of parliament which determines indirectly who sits as prime minister, the most powerful position in the country. There are no direct elections for the prime minister, the premier of each province, the senators or the judiciary.
The frustration of electors is reflected in turnouts at election time that barely exceed 50 percent of the eligible voters.
A recent referendum on electoral reform in Ontario was opposed by the parties in power and was badly advertised and mishandled by the government. As a result, the reformers promoting change obtained less than 40 percent support.
In addition, the electoral system is biased in favor of the establishment by including monetary rewards, paid by taxpayers, for the candidates and parties in power5. Because of these privileges, candidates for established parties can pay for campaign workers, obtain loans from banks, spend more on advertising and receive more popular support.
Concentration of powers by the prime minister
The Canadian prime minister (an unelected position) appoints the governor general, the cabinet, the Canadian senators (yes, and these are life appointments), the Supreme Court judges (also life appointments) and appoints more than 5,000 other positions in government agencies, boards and commissions.
A Canadian prime minister, holding such concentration of power, can govern the country for multiple terms (there are no limits).
Because of the Canadian restricted freedoms and appalling state of democracy, it seems that a union of the U.S. and Canada would be more difficult than expected.