André Pratte answers Antoine Robitaille: This is not a film

in the the newspaper On Saturday, Antoine Robitaille honors me with a column dedicated to a short text that I signed The press last week. This text focused on the comments recently made by Justice Secretary Simon Jolin-Barrette. The minister explained that henceforth laws passed by the National Assembly should disregard the Canadian Charter of Rights and Liberties and, when it comes to “living together” and the French language, the Quebec Charter of Rights and Liberties.

• Also read: Horror film by André Pratte

According to Mr. Robitaille, my text would be a “slander”, a “horror film”. I do not have space here to address all of the columnist’s arguments. I will only emphasize three points.

· According to Mr Robitaille, the regular application of the exception clause does not pose a problem since “one can only derogate from Articles 2 and 7 to 15 of the Charter”. I emphasize that the articles concerned protect in particular: freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other means of communication; freedom of assembly; freedom of association; the right to life, liberty and security of person; Protection from unreasonable search, search or seizure; Protection from arbitrary arrest or detention; etc. So the seriousness of the matter does not spring from the imagination of any filmmaker. Furthermore, the columnist does not waste a word about the fact that the Legault government has also used the derogatory clause of the Charter of Human Rights and Liberties of Quebec, which allows to ignore the first 38 articles of this text, which were unanimously approved by the National Assembly 1975

· According to Antoine Robitaille, recourse to the exemption clause is not serious as it is only valid for 5 years. I will reply that the suspension of fundamental rights is always serious, be it for a week, for six months or for five years. In any case, the dissenting clause of the Canadian charter is renewable for perpetuity every five years. Notwithstanding the clause of the Quebec Charter, it is of unlimited duration.

· Mr Robitaille’s basic thesis is that parliaments, not the courts, should have the final say on questions of fundamental rights: ‘Why couldn’t parliamentarians temporarily block an interpretation of rights they rejected? The answer to this question is simple: because in Parliament the majority has power, while the charters aim to protect the rights of minorities. If the protection of minority rights is systematically entrusted to the parliamentary majority, what happens to the rights in question? That is why charters exist.

A final word. Antoine Robitaille wonders if I’m really a federalist or a “Canadian” or a “Statuquoist”. I’ve always found it annoying this way Separatists define who they think is really Federalist and/or Quebecois.

I state loud and clear my federalist beliefs. A federalist is by definition an apostle of change, because it is the nature of federalism to be in constant flux. It is not because the movement in question does not understand the dismantling of the country desired by the separatists that we are any less good Quebecers than Mr. Robitaille.

-Hon. André Pratte, MBA, Director, Navigator. Senior Fellow, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa.

André Pratte answers Antoine Robitaille: This is not a film

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