|L'ASSOCIATION DES MUSULMANS PROGRESSITES DU CANADA
ASSOCIATION OF PROGRESSIVE MUSLIMS OF CANADA
Keynote Address by Hon. R. Roy McMurtry, Chief Justice of Ontario
Delivered at the 6th Annual Eid-ul-Fitr Celebrations at Queen's Park on December13, 2002.
am indeed honoured to be with you this evening and to receive this award from
the Association of Progressive Muslims of Ontario.
It is a recognition that I shall always cherish.
has been a pleasure for me to have come to know officers and members of your
Association since its incorporation in 1998.
I am, of course, familiar with some of your work and particularly the
mandate of building bridges of Understanding between Muslims and other faith
groups and communicating an accurate image of Islam and its values.
would like to congratulate your founder and President, Mr. Mobeen Khaja, and to
wish all of the members of the Association every continuing success in pursuing
your mandate. In reviewing your
mandate, I noted that it included the improvement of relations between the
Muslim community and what you refer to as “mainstream Canadians from all
faiths and backgrounds”. I should
like, therefore, to make a personal observation that all members of the Muslim
community in Canada
should regard themselves
as A mainstream communitY.
best estimate that I have encountered of the number of Muslim Canadians in our
nation is approximately 650,000 AND THEY are contributing in immense ways to the
strengthening of our country as they pursue Professional, business, political
and other careers.
reality of the Muslim Canadian community being paRt of the mainstream is
reflected by the fact of the many people here tonight who are not Muslims, led
of course by Minister of Finance, Janet Ecker and former Chief Justice Charles
Dubin. Former Premier Bill Davis
was here earlier at the reception.
pluralistic character of Ontario
and of Canada
is INDEED a fundamental
fact of our nationhood. Canadians
should take much pride in the fact that so many people of diverse racial,
ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds have chosen and will choose Canada
as their home. I have often stated
that there are really two broad categories of Canadians, namely people like
myself whom you might describe as Canadians by chance or accident, in that we
were born here, and those Canadians who made the conscious and deliberate
decision to choose Canada as their home. This
choice HAS often demanded great courage in facing the challenges of a different
culture, language, and a sometimes hostile climate.
I think THAT Canadians should RECOGNIZE the respect that is due to those
who made that choice and who, in so doing, have helped make ours a truly
remarkable country, despite our ongoing challenges.
THE SAME TIME, I RECOGNIZE THAT The tragic events of 9/11 of last year have
regrettably placed a very unfair burden on the Muslim Canadian community as some
Canadians irrationally AND UNFAIRLY equate the Islam religion with terrorism.
There APPEARS SOMETIMES to HAVE been an attempt to impose a collective
guilt on the Islamic community, which risks CREATING a defence mentality.
Any such OCCURRENCE WOULD could obviously be very damaging to our OFTEN
FRAGILE social fabric.
ARE also no shortageS of voices internationally who would characterize unfolding
events as a clash of civilizations. Any
such rhetoric, of course, plays into the hands of terrorists and extremists.
Indeed, it wOULD make it very difficult to root out the terrorists if we
allow a whole religion and an entire community to be demonized.
would hope that the lessons of history would alert us to the extreme dangers of
demonizing any single minority group. In
fact there has been no major world religion of which I am aware that has not
been exploited BY SOME to perpetrate atrocities on the perceived non-believers.
One only need remember the Christian Crusades in the Middle
a much more positive note, I was AT THE SAME TIME pleased to read a recent
column in Maclean’s Magazine entitled “Thanks to My Country.
On Thanksgiving Day, I as a Muslim Celebrated the Generosity of
me begin this way; recently my mother was chosen to sit on a jury in
ManJi also referred to HER RECENT meeting OF a young woman wearing a head
covering, hijaB, who worked as a lawyer at the federal justice department.
She emigrated to Canada
in part to practice her
faith meaningfully which she could not do in TUNISIA.
There were other similar stories.
She also pointed out “that what never gets audited, quantified and publicized in this country is the opposite of backlash – and that’s unsolicited eruptions of decency towards Muslims. Let’s recall that immediately after Sept. 11 last year, Christian and Jewish clerics scrambled to get in touch with Muslim leaders. They organized multi-faith services and held press conferences to make the point that it’s individual terrorists who ought to be held accountable, not any religious or cultural community”.
any event, it is required that eVERY citizen commit himself or herself to
strengthening the relatively fragile fabric of our pluralistic society.
This is particularly important in AN ERA where there IS uncertainty and
fears of attacks from unexpected QUARTERS AS there are inevitably malevolent
forces simply looking for scapegoats.
has also been acknowledged that in times of fear, the majority of people place
security above all else and are quite willing to cede government extraordinary
authority. As one U.S. law
professor recently expressed it “We love security more than we love liberty
This was dramatically and I think tragically illustrated for example by
the jailing of Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadian citizens during the
Second World War and, IN MY VIEW AT LEAST, the imposition of The
War Measures Act in
Canadian security proposals to date have raised COncerns as Canadians debate how
to defend the Canadian model of a diverse and A tolerant society in the facE of
debate taking place in Canada is taking place at a critical time in the history
of the world AND there can be no doubt that ANY Canadian government WOULD HAVE a
duty to take measures to protect Canadians against international terrorism.
would, of course, be entirely improper for me to state my personal views with
respect to any legislation unless it is related to a matter before me in court.
However, the legislation may well be tested in our courtrooms and as a
result the role of judgeS could be subjected to closer scrutiny than at any time
before in our nation’s history. While
the accountability of any important institution is essential in a democratic
society, it is appropriate that it occur with an understanding of the basic
principles of our Constitution.
Constitution Act, 1982
provided that the Constitution which, of course, includes the Charter
of Rights “is the supreme law of Canada
and any law that is
inconsistent with the Constitution is invalid”.
the past decade, some Canadian commentators have argued that the Charter
has given the courts too much power to enforce the rights of minorities and
criminals. They state the courts
have generally become too ACTIVIST AND GIVE TOO LIBERAL A MEANING TO THE
EXPRESSED RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS OF THE cHARTER.
task of the Legislature and The courts will be to balance concern around
terrorism against the reasonableness and rationality of the means selected to
combat it. This test of
proportionality and balance includes a consideration of whether there is a
rational connection between the threat and the response AND whether the response
impairs Constitutional freedoms as little as possible.
are not representative bodies in that they do not represent specific or special
interests. They are impartial
bodies that must reflect the basic values oF our society.
Courts are not necessarily democratic institutions as they are not bound
by the majority of public opinion. However,
I believe that when the majority takes away the rights of a minority that is not
democracy. Democracy is, therefore,
a delicate balance between majority rule and individual rights.
values which should direct a judge are basic and fundamental values rather than
the outcomes of public opinion surveys. They
cannot be the transient and revolving fashions of the day.
They are not headlines. They
reflect history rather than hysteria. A
judge is not to express the changing winds of the day but again is to express
the basic values of our society and when a society is not faithful to its basic
values, a judge may be required to intervene.
history of our legal system has been gradual development and evolution not
revolution. While a judge should
often be guided by public consensus, there are times when a court should lead
and be the crusader for a new consensus such as in Brown
v. Board of Education where the Supreme Court of the U.S. held segregation
in schools to be unconstitutional.
speaking, a judge’s decision should reflect the deep values of society not
merely his personal values. It
means that the judge just free herself or himself from personal biases.
The interpretation of the Charter
requires balancing and judicial neutrality.
a judge must be impartial, neutral and objective, the goal of objectivity is not
to cut a judge off from his surroundings. Furthermore,
the goal of objectivity is not to liberate a judge from life experiences but to
make use of these experiences in attempting to reflect the fundamental values of
so far as the role of the courts are concerned, I am confident that they will
continue to re-examine and re-evaluate our laws, institutions and procedures
thROUGH the new LENS of multicultural fairness as illustrated by this passage
from a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada:
is not an insular, homogeneous society.
It is enriched by the presence and contributions of citizens of many different
races, nationalities and ethnic origins. The multicultural nature of
Canadian society has been recognized in s. 27 of the Charter.
Section 27 provides that the Charter
itself is to be interpreted in a manner that is consistent with the preservation
and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians. Yet our judges
must be particularly sensitive to the need not only to be fair but also to
appear to all reasonable observers to be fair to all Canadians of every race,
religion, nationality and ethnic origin.
the same time, we must recognize that all the laws in the world and all the
human rights codes, count for little if individual citizens are not prepared to
make a personal commitment to tolerance, to understanding, and above all to
fighting intolerance and bigotry at every opportunity.
many years as a lawyer, Attorney General, and as Chief Justice of Ontario, have
made plain for me this palpable truth: the
law alone is not enough to protect those who are a different colour, or those
who profess a different religion. The
law will never be enough, by itself, because there is no legislature in the
world capable of legislating ultimate principles.
You cannot legislate to what degree a man must love his neighbour, nor
even that he must not hate him. It
is, I think, true of tolerance as it is of liberty, that, in the words of
Justice Learned Hand: “…It lies
in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no court,
no law can save it; no constitution, no court, no law can even do much to help
it; but while it is alive, it needs no constitution, no court and no law to save
merely because no law can stamp out discrimination, it is equally true that it
will flourish the more for lack of any laws against its flourishing.
And so I come to what I perceive to be the responsibility and challenge
of the law – Namely, to ensure that whatever prejudices may lie in the hearts
of men and women, they are not translated into actions that offend the basic
principle, that except in self-defence, it is wrong to hurt another person.
also should be pretty obvious that our courts alone will never be able to
produce a social order based on caring, compassion and social justice.
While our courts are a vital cornerstone of our free and democratic
society, they can only deal with the results of social disorder and not its
OF THE REASONS That we have gathered together this evening IS because we all
share a concern for social justice. We
believe that while the poor and friendless may often be out of political
fashion, we know that they are never without human needs.
We also know that the poor and vulnerable may live in a free country but
that it is often difficult for them to feEl free.
conclusion, I thank the Muslim community for the contributions that you have
made AND CONTINUE TO MAKE to the rich diversity of our country.
It is the pluralistic and largely tolerant nature of Canadian society
that gives Canada
such a special place in
very unity of our country requires a determined effort by all of us to
strengthen our social fabric by continuing to the strengthening of tolerance and
the respect of all our minorities as a cornerstone of our democracy.
continuing challenge for Canadians is to accommodate diversity in unity.
conclusion, I am confident that Canada
will continue to show the
world new ways of achieving this goal. The
drama is still continuing to unfold, and we cannot guess at its conclusion.
is a drama of law, and of politics, and of commitment too.
A commitment to something intangible – a spirit – something called
me end with the words of Professor Jacques Monet, a distinguished Canadian
historian and a Quebecois:
challenge of brotherhood, of an experiment that bursts through the limits of
nationalism to embrace men of diverse ways and diverse tongues, is what it means
to be a Canadian. You see, it is
not a question of economics or common sense; it is a question of the heart.