Why “SECTION 1”?  Because liberal constitutional democracy is everywhere under siege.  Because the values that underpin freedom and democracy are being undermined or repudiated outright in so-called democratic societies throughout the world.  Because, as so many outspoken activists and world leaders have loudly declared, “THE WORLD NEEDS MORE CANADA”.   When we say that “the world needs more Canada”, we mean the world needs more SECTION 1 (i.e., as in Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which “. . . guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”  

What is most urgently needed at this moment in history is an eloquent and potent reminder of the particular ways in which we, citizens of liberal democratic societies, hold our governments to account, especially as to the manner in which our governments go about  balancing competing individual and collective rights and interests. It is arguable that nowhere is the formula for that balancing exercise articulated with greater elegance, economy and potency than in Section 1 of the Charter, and forming part of Canada’s Constitution. 

The heroic citizenship to which we allude is the kind of civic engagement that is animated by a commitment to promoting the values expressed in that magnificent constitutional formulation of the balancing of rights and interests and by the practice of defending the institutions and conventions of free and democratic society against the many constant existential threats that present themselves.  Populism, authoritarianism, xenophobia, ideologically driven rather than evidenced-based policy making, the quadropoly of Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, the echo-chamber culture of social media . . . These and other phenomena have contributed to the degradation and decline of constitutional democratic societies where they once seemed to have achieved a state of dialectical perfection and inevitability. We need to re-learn the principles that underpin constitutional democracy so that we will be able to recognize how and when they are under siege and so that we may assume our responsibilities as citizens.

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