Magna Carta: Our Shared Legacy of Liberty (2015)



We like to say we bring history to life but we dust it off, first.

We have made a career bringing all kinds of topics to life in ways that are often irreverent, sometimes controversial, funny or even infuriating. But we pride ourselves on never being boring.

We will bring this trademark treatment to the story of Magna Carta, the 800-year-old document that confirmed the foundations of our rights and liberties.

In this country you have rights. You can’t be thrown in jail without due process. You are presumed innocent until proven otherwise. You elect the people who tax you and make the rules you must follow. Your home is your castle. You have the right to speak your mind and associate with whoever you want.

All these rights are enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But they are much, much older than Pierre Trudeau. June 15, 2015 marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the most important document in the history of liberty. At Runnymede King John was forced to grant such rights, and to admit they had existed from time immemorial, belonged to citizens and always would be the birthright of free people. John was also forced to acknowledge that government derived its power and authority from the consent of the governed, and that a government that violated citizens’ rights was no government at all.

The reason we still enjoy those rights today is that generation after generation of free people took Magna Carta seriously and fought those who would break King John’s reluctant promise.

Magna Carta was the foundation of the British form of government Canadians inherited in 1867. It was the touchstone of statesmen and defenders of freedom through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the founding of British North America to the creation of Canada and our cause in both World Wars. Its clauses were familiar to, and were cited by, Edward Coke, John Adams, William Pitt and Winston Churchill.

The rights we are used to enjoying were not given to us by today’s politicians. They derive from the charter sealed 800 years ago. It is incumbent upon us to tell the story of Magna Carta to the next generation, to ensure that it, too, is able and willing to fight anyone who would take those liberties away.