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|Written by Jerome Bastien|
|Tuesday, 27 May 2008 19:00|
A phrase which is often bandied around without a complete understanding of what it means is "the rule of law". If I had my way – and before you start panicking, I won’t – nobody would graduate from high school in this country without being able to write a proper essay on the subject. The reason is simple: without the rule of law, democracy loses all its meaning.
Generally, the rule of law is understood to mean that no one is above the law, and just as importantly, no one is beneath the law. These principles have wide implications which happen to be necessary ingredients for a free, fair and prosperous society. One such implication is that the government may only act in accordance with written, publicly accessible law. Another implication is that the law is to be applied equally to everybody, without regards to a person's race. This principle was deemed so important in Canada that it was even enshrined in our constitution, as section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It would therefore be highly unlikely that in an enlightened, modern, and wealthy democracy like Canada, certain people get to flout the rule of law because of their ethnicity, especially, in the full knowledge of our politicians and members of the judiciary. Such a violation would run against nearly a thousand years of British common law tradition, not to mention that it would make a mockery of our multiculturalism, which as Canadians we are told to worship. Yet, such a violation has been occurring for over two years.
What I am referring to is the land dispute in Caledonia, Ontario. Essentially, members of the Six Nations of the Grand River started occupying a site which was to be developed into a residential neighbourhood, but which was also the subject of a land claim by the native group. When apprised of the situation, the courts ordered the occupiers off the contested land. That was in February 2006. More than two years later, the protesters are still there. Both the Ontario Provincial Police and the government of Dalton McGuinty have, quite unusually, acted in strict defiance of a court order from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, as they feared a deterioration of relations between natives and non-natives. As worthy as that objective is, violating the rule of law is not a proper means of achieving it.