“True Strong and Free” is part of our project to reclaim Canada’s heritage. We’re making the film because Canada’s Constitution is an jumbled annoying mess and if we stumble into another crisis over how Parliament works, how we hold elections, Quebec or anything else, its incoherence and lack of legitimate connection with the people could have disastrous results.
In the film we’ll look at the history of government in Canada from the origins of liberty under law in Saxon England to the coming of representative government in the British colonies that later became the Dominion of Canada. And we’ll discuss the genius of the British North America Act, the first genuine parliamentary federation in the world. But we’ll also talk about the defects even in our original Constitution, from excessive centralization to the excessive reliance on unwritten conventions of decency and restraint among politicians.
We’ll look at the gradual erosion of parliamentary government throughout the English-speaking world from the late 19th century on as the executive branch increasingly came to dominate legislators. We’ll talk about the role of 20th century crises in the growth of government, and of executive branch discretion, both in parliamentary systems and for comparative purposes in the United States.
Then we’ll look at the 1982 Constitution, a botched response to the wrong problems that disposed of British parliamentary sovereignty without bringing in American popular sovereignty, leaving us a bizarre self-contradictory document that couldn’t be fixed or even understood.
The Constitution we got in 1867 was generally solid. It gave too much power to Ottawa, and relied too much on restraint by the political class. But it was a system of parliamentary self-government under a constitutional monarch.
The 1982 Constitution is not solid. It mixes up individual and collective rights, makes vague promises, doesn’t address what was going wrong with parliamentary government around the globe and, worst of all, excludes the people.
It wasn’t made by the people, either directly through a referendum or constitutional convention or indirectly by holding elections federally and provincially on the clear understanding that a new Constitution would be their main order of business. It was a backroom deal, kluged together by exhausted politicians whose devotion to principle was tenuous at the best of times. And every attempt to fix it degenerates into a similar distasteful act of unprincipled improvisation, further alienating citizens.
Once we’ve explained this interlocking set of problems, we’ll propose a solution: A constitution that respects our heritage of liberty under law, that preserves parliamentary self-government under a constitutional monarch, that protects individual liberty (including property rights) against the arrogance of politicians and bureaucrats, and restores popular legitimacy because, like Magna Carta, the old British Constitution and the American one, it comes from the people.