Politics, Society

An Open Letter to His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston

Your Excellency,

I don’t need to tell you that as the Queen’s representative in Canada you are essentially our Head of State. Regardless of the massive changes that have occurred since the position of Governor General was created, you remain in a position of actual authority even if the weight of the office has diminished over the years. As the de facto Head of State of Canada, you have a responsibility to the country as a whole and individual Canadians to safeguard the nation’s customs and laws. This responsibility should be above that of any allegiance you think you owe the man who made you Governor General. If you take your role seriously, and I believe you do, you understand that the Head of State, even an appointed one, has a fundamental role to play in a constitutional democracy. Namely, you represent and protect Canada as a whole from factions, partisanship and abuses of authority and power. You are able to do these things in your position, provided you are willing to act.

And I call on you to act in the near future when the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 (Bill C-51) comes across your desk. I call on you to refuse to sign it, come hell or high water. I call on you to do so even if it means your job. You have a role to play in our parliamentary democracy and this is your biggest test. Will you stand up for Canada or will you bow to an autocratic would-be tyrant who thinks he is the Head of State?

Your Excellency, Canada is behind you. As you are well aware, there have been numerous protests against this bill since it passed Second Reading. Polls show a majority of Canadians are against the Bill. Legal Experts are against the Bill. Business Leaders are against the Bill. Traditional supporters of the Conservative Party are against the Bill. Everyone is against the Bill. Can you remember a time in our country’s history when so many disparate groups were united in a cause as these groups are against C-51? I’m not sure I can.

Now, if all that mattered in a liberal democracy was majority rule, I would stop there. I would say “Look, most Canadians are opposed to this legislation. The only people are for the legislation are Harper true believers, people who don’t think about consequences of legislation, and people who are scared of terrorist attacks which literally never actually happen in this country.” And I would think that would be enough. But it’s not.

Because a key part of liberal democracy is ‘liberal’ and a majority doesn’t always have liberty in mind. But in this case, we do. Not only are a majority of Canadians opposed to this legislation, but the legislation threatens to remove the ‘liberal’ in our liberal democracy. It directly overrides Charter Rights or gives the State the power to do so when they see fit, sometimes without consulting a judge and sometimes by consulting a judge in a secret hearing, which amounts to the same thing. This power will be abused. Power always is abused. You know it. I know it. It doesn’t matter who is in power, they will try to abuse it. That’s why we have institutional checks, such as a Head of State separate from a Head of Government. And that’s why we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

There is little doubt in my mind that the Supreme Court of Canada will overturn all or at least every part of the Act that is challenged in their court – provided, of course, that the “Harper Government” hasn’t lost the next election because of this horrible legislation and the Act is rescinded – but why waste our time and money? Can’t you save us the trouble? And anyway, as you are Head of State, you should act before the court has to. You know as well as I do this Bill is unconstitutional. You represent the traditions of Canada: majority rule, rule of law, parliamentary procedure, and so on. You should use the power granted you by our laws to kill this Bill. It isn’t just something you should do. It is your duty to stop it in its tracks.

I hope you do just that.



Riley Haas

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