Last week, parliamentarians voted 266 to 16 in favour of a motion recognizing "Quebecois as a nation within a united Canada." That motion, which was introduced by the Harper administration, made more than a few Conservatives uncomfortable. And one wonders whether John Weston, who is running for the party nomination in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, is among them. The reason: in a letter published in the North Shore News back in October, Mr. Weston slammed then federal Liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff's stance that recognizing "Quebec - and Aboriginal peoples - as nations within the fabric of Canada is not to make some new concession. It is simply to acknowledge a fact."
Referring specifically to the aboriginal portion of that proposal, Mr. Weston wrote it represents a "complete absence of vision, a stance that would gut our country, leaving it without coherence or direction." Indeed, it is a "vision of Canada that would set us back 500 years to the British feudal system of castles and moats with a weak central government, special powers for special groups, and laws that apply unequally as they relate to the constitution, fisheries and immigration." Instead, Mr. Weston explained he believes in "believe in one Canada, united under a single, supreme Constitution, with equal protections for all, as well as equal responsibilities."
So what does he thinks about the prime minister'x slightly more nuanced view of our nation? Well, we'd love to know. But Mr. Weston hasn't yet returned two phone calls from Public Eye inquiring about the matter. The following is a complete copy of that letter.
On September 18, 2006, a three-judge panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal recognized the national significance of the court challenge to the Nisga'a Treaty.
Madam Justice Southin declared that the federal and provincial governments' "procedural machinations" should not be allowed to frustrate the hearing of a case that potentially "affects all Canadians."
The plaintiffs, including hereditary Chief Mountain and Matriarch Mercy Thomas, are ancestral leaders of the Nisga'a people who oppose the treaty.
The challengers affirm self-government, but self-government that is subject to federal and provincial law, and the Canadian Constitution.
The court acknowledged that the "action raises potentially significant constitutional issues affecting interests beyond those of the immediate parties to the action."
This is especially true since new draft treaties are rapidly moving towards completion.
The plaintiffs say the Nisga'a Treaty is unconstitutional. It has increased the authority of their band government, but taken away or diminished the rights of the Nisga'a people as Canadians: diminishing their recourse to Canadian courts; reducing protections of the Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights; and undermining other protections considered normal by Canadians.
In the words of the former Supreme Court of Canada Justice William McIntyre, Q.C., and other former senior judges, the treaty is unconstitutional. It creates an "independent nation state," with its own land, boundaries, government, citizens, police force, judiciary, and powers over Nisga'a citizenship.
As Chief Mountain in court confirms his commitment to a united Canada, Liberal Leadership Candidate Michael Ignatieff pursues a very different view of Canada: a nation of nations.
Andrew Coyne describes Ignatieff's disastrous ideas in a Sept. 17 National Post story, Ignatieff Has Disqualified Himself:
"For it isn't only Quebec that Michael Ignatieff proposes should be constitutionally recognized as a 'nation,' but also aboriginal groups -- sorry, 'the indigenous nations of Canada' -- at last count some 600 in all. If Mr. Ignatieff gets his way, the historically invalid, politically unworkable theory of Canada as a "multinational" federation, long the private vice of political science departments, would be enshrined in law for all time."
Our M.P., Blair Wilson, is one of those who has endorsed Ignatieff's bid to become the Liberal leader. Wilson should ask himself if he really wants to be the advocate for a vision of Canada that would set us back 500 years to the British feudal system of castles and moats with a weak central government, special powers for special groups, and laws that apply unequally as they relate to the constitution, fisheries and immigration.
I oppose the Nisga'a Treaty vision and Ignatieff's vision because both in fact represent a complete absence of vision, a stance that would gut our country, leaving it without coherence or direction.
I believe in one Canada, united under a single, supreme Constitution, with equal protections for all, as well as equal responsibilities.
I can only hope that our courts will continue to pay heed to the voices of courageous Canadians such as Chief Mountain and Mercy Thomas, who dare to face down governments which threaten to bully them into silence.