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Oh Canada, I hope we are okay.

Happy Canada Day!

In a week that included a not-quite coup in Russia, riots in France and politically motivated Supreme Court decisions in the United States, I am feeling blessed to have been born in Canada. We should all take a moment today to think about just how lucky we are.

However, we should also think about just how fragile democracy can be. Our American cousins are an excellent example of how things can fairly quickly go terribly wrong. In recent years we saw a President refuse to recognize the outcome of an election and help motivate an actual uprising attempt at the Capital.

More recently, the US Supreme Court released a series of decisions that take a huge bite out of progress and freedom in America. The outcome of those decisions are already being felt by women who have reduced freedom of choice over their own bodies and the ripple effects of this weeks' decisions on LGBTQ+ and racial minorities will soon follow.

We would be ignorant to think that those things would never happen in Canada.

Our politics have never been more divided. The leader of the official opposition is frequently flirting with, if not in bed with, individuals and groups who foster hate. There is frequent and ongoing discussion in the media that attempt to politicize our Supreme Court. Unlike in the US, our court has a tradition of being truly independent and not split along political lines. I am very proud of the strength and independence of our highest court. However, legal and other community associations (and perhaps some politicians) are using the US playbook in an effort to influence things like judicial appointments, municipal politics, school boards and other important institutions. We can end up where the US is. And we must not.

In addition, having healthy and independent news media that is widely followed and respected is a key component to any democracy. Journalists hold government to account and inform the public so that we have some collective notion of facts and are able to spot fiction.

Canadian news media is in big trouble.

The country is divided in where it gets its news. Those who choose to pay, and who can afford to pay, for top notch journalism and those who get their media from questionable online blogs and from social media "influencers". The CBC remains widely available without cost but it is under attack by the official opposition while also struggling to remain relevant to Canadians. I fear for the future of our journalists and our collective knowledge of the truth.

So, on this Canada Day, definitely take the time to celebrate how lucky we are but also think about what we need to do to maintain it.

Erin Durant

Durant Barristers

July 1, 2023

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Erin Durant
Erin Durant
Jul 01, 2023

When Canada adopted the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the politicians on the day agreed to include the notwithstanding clause on the theory it would be political suicide to enact it. Enacting that clause is an up front acknowledgment that the law in question violates the rights and freedoms of Canadians. And yet, in recent years, governments have been quick to enact it and have not seen any serious consequences for doing so. We really do need to be vigilant.

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