In 1776, as the United States headed towards independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote the immortal words: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”
While America has struggled to live up to those words at times, there is no doubt that they have acted as a clarion call, a shining ideal for the nation to live up to.
Regrettably, in Canada, we have no such thing.
While once we would have looked to our British heritage as our source of liberty and equality before the law, today Canada is a country that grants differing levels of rights and freedoms based on who you are, your ethnicity, your religion, your gender or what you think your gender is.
Outside the Supreme Court in Ottawa there is a statue of lady justice. As usual the statue is blindfolded, but inside, where justice is applied, the judges are peeking out with one eye to see who you are and which group you fit into.
A bill before Parliament, which seems likely to pass, would add gender identity and gender expression to the prohibited grounds of discrimination protected under the criminal code and Human Rights Act.
The idea is to give greater protection to transgendered and transsexual citizens.
Whatever happened to the idea that all are equal before the law?
Gender identity and gender expression would, of course, not be the only areas where you are prohibited from discrimination; there is also race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability, or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted.
That’s already in the Human Rights Act.
The criminal code provisions are currently shorter, but opposition parties and several activist groups want to expand them.
In 2008, the Liberals promised in their campaign platform, “an amendment to the Criminal Code to include ‘gender’ in the hate propaganda provisions to help end societal acceptance for those who would incite hatred against women.”
It was revealed this past summer that the federal government was setting aside jobs for certain groups.
Some jobs were only open to aboriginals, some only to visible minorities, and some to women or the disabled. The government reviewed the process and declared while preference could be given to the protected groups no one should be denied the chance to apply for a job based on their race or gender.
Hiring, the government said, should be based on merit.
For some reason, the government has been accused of racism for advocating that everyone should be treated the same.
Maria Barrados, president of the Public Service Commission, chastised the government that employs her for saying hiring should be based on who is best qualified.
While the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Bill of Rights before that say citizens of Canada shall be treated equally “without discrimination” based on issues such as race, religion or sex, the new regime says you will be treated differently based on those very same criteria.
A true equality, one in the best Canadian tradition, would simply state that all people are created equal and should be treated equally before the law.
It would do away with all those special privileges and would re-establish a unique standard for all Canadians.
Somehow, this is a radical idea these days.
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