By Lee Harding, The Epoch Times
Canadian judges have not struck down vaccine mandates as have their U.S. counterparts, a contrast that highlights differences between the two countries’ constitutions, their interpretation by judges, and the speed with which judges reach decisions.
Queen’s University law professor Bruce Pardy says that law and politics work differently south of the border.
“The legal and political cultures in the two countries and the way the documents are constructed is different. So for example, in the Canadian charter, Section 1 explicitly allows for the infringement of the rights if the government can justify that infringement has a reasonable limit,” Pardy said in an interview.
“It’s very important. It’s the first section of the charter, and it really does set the agenda.”
Section 1 says, “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”
Pardy says the U.S. Bill of Rights does not have an equivalent.
“That doesn’t mean the rights in the U.S. Bill of Rights are absolute, because rights are never absolute, but the existence of Section 1, I think, is actually a signal to Canadian courts that infringement of these liberty rights is more explicit in the Canadian context,” he says.
Pardy believes the pandemic has brought about a role reversal in Canada. The political left, who normally insists on minority protections against perceived government oppression, wants no exceptions for the unvaccinated. By contrast, conservatives who normally chafe at intervening judges now want them to block government mandates.
“The charter reads to me as though it was intended to be a roster of (classical) liberal freedoms whose intent was to keep the government from interfering in your life,” Pardy said in an email. “But what has gradually happened over time is that the Supreme Court has reframed it as a progressive document that mandates or justifies collective action, especially with respect to Section 15.”
Section 15 bans discrimination on the basis of sex, race, or religion, but in 1995, the Supreme Court added sexual orientation as an analogous ground for protection. Pardy said those who are unvaccinated are being denied services and subjected to ridicule, but he doubts judges will ever designate them as a protected group.
Bruce Pardy is executive director of Rights Probe (RightsProbe.org) and professor of law at Queen’s University.