Chartered Accountability: “Don’t Blame Us! We’re Only Lawmakers!”
When two children are playing and suddenly find themselves having to explain a broken window, a lamp or a vase, it is classic that they might point the finger and blame each other. In fact, the tendency to look for a scapegoat goes back to our earliest ancestors, Adam and Eve. The attempt to escape personal accountability is as old as human experience.
When wars are fought, the question of “Who started it?” often is asked. Both sides can explain in painstaking detail why the blame lies on the other side. Politicians blame those across the aisle or the previous government for the problems of today or the expected problems of tomorrow. Sometimes—it is rumoured— wars are started or ships are sunk to create a distraction or even to spark an outrage which is calculated to produce an atmosphere likely to result in public demand for (or against) a particular law or tax or public policy.
In Canada today (and in the US and in many countries around the world) politicians increasingly allow a handful of unelected men and women of the bench to make the hard decisions they cannot or will not make for themselves. They may like the decisions, even if they are unpopular, but they need not take the blame. “I didn’t do it; they did!” They may dislike the decisions, even if they are popular but they can profess a clean conscience since “the devil—rather, the courts—made me do it!”
In Canada, Charter Law has become the vehicle of change. Elections are held every few years to allow the people the illusion of democracy but the important decisions—about the sanctity of human life, the importance of the traditional family, a reverence for the Creator and the reality of absolute standards of right and wrong—are made by the men and women of the courts. Want something changed? Wait a while; the courts will eventually tamper with social values and impose its will on the Canadian people through a perverse and distorted reading of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And up until now, a meek and subservient Parliament has acquiesced and rubber-stamped the edicts of the courts.
In 1999, Canada’s Parliament voted overwhelmingly to maintain the traditional definition of marriage as “between one man and one woman.” A few short years and several provincial court cases later and the “reading into the Charter” of the phrase “sexual orientation” and Voila! the “right” of men and women to “marry” a person of the same gender miraculously appeared. In 2005, Parliament passed a bill authorizing same-sex marriage. Politicians checked the wind. Politicians tested the waters. A few politicians even vowed to fight to reverse the decision. But the change had occurred and politicians (whatever their “personal” opinions) could say: “We had no choice; the Charter and the courts have ruled. So forget about it! Join the happy throng!”
In April of 2010, Parliament rejected Francine Lalonde’s effort to legalize assisted suicide (C-384) by a vote of 228-59. This hasn’t stopped the pro-death movement. When all else fails, take it to the courts. In June of this year, a BC judge ruled that laws prohibiting assisted suicide were “unconstitutional” and ordered that they be changed. What will politicians do? What will the Justice Minister do? Will they fight to defend human life from the power of the state and from the pressures of an increasingly selfish society, a society with increasingly difficult decisions to make about taxes and budgets and the allocation of health care dollars? Or will they yield—with mild restraint—to the “wisdom of the bench” and the “demands of the Charter?” God give them courage to fulfil their responsibilities, use the notwithstanding clause and protect the sanctity of human life in all its frailty. Let them not succumb to the temptation to say: “It wasn’t me; they did it.”
When all is said and done, people can shirk responsibility but they cannot avoid accountability. Decisions have consequences. And those who have “elected to seek election” as representatives of the people have a God-granted burden of accountability that they will answer for. May they recognize it while there is still time. When they stand before the Judge of all mankind, their feeble attempts to blame the charter, the courts or public opinion will be frail indeed.