When the names Archibald, Coles and Mowat are mentioned most Canadian might ask who these guys played for. One hundred and forty-five years ago, those three, John A. MacDonald and 29 others finalized the documents that created the confederation of colonies that became Canada. Beyond the 1867 date and the anecdotes of John A. MacDonald’s fondness for good whiskey, the history of our founding is rarely taught in our public schools. When our founding is presented, progressive historians misrepresent the facts to create a revisionist view of our history. Our founders are portrayed as privileged (mostly) English gentleman who gathered in 1867 to “do a deal” and establish a “non-American” federal confederation.
The prevailing and distorted view of our history is one that suggests Canada’s founders celebrated social democracy and collectivist notions that trump individual rights and freedoms. This, we have been taught, is what distinguishes Canadians from our American cousins. Our notions of peace, order and good government is presented as somehow more attractive than the U.S.A.’s legacy of guns, greed and God.
The truth, as documented in the letters, essays and debates of our founders, demonstrates our founding values and principles to be much more in line with those of Americans like James Madison than socialists like Pierre Trudeau.
Direct communications of our Canadian founding fathers reference John Locke, William Blackstone and others who look to the individual and warn of collectivism. Our founders looked for guidance and direction to the Federalist Papers, the pre-cursor documents to the American Constitution, to craft the documents that would form the basis of our confederation. Nowhere in the record is there mention of reliance on the tenets of Fabian socialism or early Bolshevism guiding our founding principles.
Canada and the United States share a history based on British Common Law, that evolved from the Magna Carta, the Act of Settlement and others, all of which seek to protect the rights of the individual from oppression by the Crown or government.
Our Fathers of Confederation were raised in an era of British exceptionalism. They were patriotic and for the most part loyal monarchists and would have been educated in British history. They would have witnessed the development of the U.S. federation and sought to adopt the best attributes of that confederation in our own. It is unlikely, at best, that the social democratic principles of the modern Trudeau Liberals and the NDP existed, much less were considered worthy.
Documentation confirms our Fathers of Confederation held that individuals were endowed inalienable rights by their Creator, the rights to life, liberty and the enjoyment of personal property. Like Locke and Madison, they believed that government ought to be limited, constrained by the people and restricted by clearly enumerated responsibilities. All these concepts are contained in the British North America Act that created Canada in 1867, and in references to historical individual rights of the British people.
Although these are traditional British and Canadian values, they don’t fit the modern Liberal narrative that Canadians are, because of our mythical social democratic roots, morally superior to Americans. Canada’s recognition of individual responsibility and rights has been systematically erased from our “official” history and been replaced with notions of social democracy and community.
Pierre Trudeau moved to significantly limit our individual rights with his ill-conceived Constitution Act of 1982. At the behest of the NDP and with Trudeau’s support, private property rights were expressly omitted from the Charter and the Constitution of 1982. In Trudeau’s Constitution all the basic rights of speech, religion, the press and association, that most Canadians believe we share with the Americans, are severely limited by government. To assume, as an individual Canadian, explicit protection from government as a matter of rights, is not just false, it is dangerous — ask any gun owner, or anyone who has run up against a human rights tribunal.
We are fortunate to have a current federal government that at least mouths the platitudes of personal freedom. This may change, and other political parties have little concern for individual rights, and ironically, through our Charter of Rights, enjoy the means to further oppress individual rights in the name of the common good.
While there is much to celebrate about Canada on July 1, we should also keep in mind that the Canada we think we have, and was envisioned by our freedom-loving Fathers of Confederation, is not the Canada we have become. We can thank Pierre Trudeau for this, but the blame resides with each of us. On July 1, learn about our Fathers of Confederation — perhaps with some education we can reinvigorate their dream of liberty.
Mark Walker is the publisher of the Penticton Western News.