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Ian Hunter

Professor emeritus of law, University of Western Ontario, recipient of the Edward G. Pleva Award for Excellence in Teaching (1983), author of The Three Faces of Law (1996) and The Very Best of Malcom Muggeridge (1998)


When truth is dethroned, only power remains.

Mar. 15, 2001 - from "Skepticism as society's 'death knell'", published in the National Post
From Regina v. Morgentaler (Jan. 28, 1988), when at the stroke of a judicial pen Canada had no abortion law, to this day, the Supreme Court has reduced moral issues to consumer choices...

Jan. 01, 1998 - quoted in an interview published in The Interim, an online journal
[The "notwithstanding clause", Section 33, of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms] This myth has grown up that any government that wants to opt-out of a charter ruling must be Nazi or something, but it's just not true.... At some point, the court will do something really stupid, and provoke a crisis of legitimacy. At that point, the provinces will have to find the courage to correct them. Once two or three of them opt out of stupid judgements, the use of the notwithstanding clause will cease to be a big issue.

Jan. 19, 1998 - quoted in "The makings of a counter-revolution", an essay in Alberta Report
... ever since [John Stuart] Mill's essay On Liberty in 1859 we have come to think of liberty almost exclusively in individualistic terms, a view the [Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms] embodies. But the claim to individual liberty may often mask harm to the collectivity. After all, we are not just atomized individuals, we are also members of a community, citizens of a society. The individual's claim to liberty, albeit expressed in the high-minded rhetoric of rights, often conceals selfish, sometimes (as in the British Columbia child pornography case) perverse, interests. The lone, brave individual standing his ground against the menacing omnipotent State was Mill's archetype, and this is a powerful symbol; the sadistic criminal going free and making citizens ever more fearful, even in their own homes, is the more common reality.

Feb. 23, 1999 - from "Democracy and its discontents", published in the National Post newspaper
The chivvying and badgering of citizens by uncivil servants, and by burgeoning government boards, agencies, and commissions (most egregiously by human rights commissions, which not only tell us how to act, but what to say and how to think), ... remains ... a threat to self-government; but at the end of the 20th century what is a more serious threat is judicial usurpation of democracy.

Feb. 23, 1999 - from "Democracy and its discontents", published in the National Post newspaper
Today political correctness imposes a more stifling conformity on the school system that religious fundamentalists ever did. The sad truth about the Scopes trial [the "Monkey Trial" of 1925] is that we learned so little from it.

Jul. 22, 1999 - from "The evolution of PC teaching", published in the National Post newspaper
We've had a public appointment process [for selecting Ontario Court justices] in Ontario for 12 years now, and it's intensified the search for disabled, black lesbian judges. Whether it has been the Liberals, NDP or Conservatives in power, the tendency has been to get more activist judges, rather than less.

Jan. 19, 1998 - quoted in "The makings of a counter-revolution", an essay in Alberta Report
We shrug off the burden of self-government when we let the courts decide fundamental issues of policy.

Feb. 23, 1999 - from "Democracy and its discontents", published in the National Post newspaper
[Allowing courts to decide major issues] Such a puerile approach to deep questions of political philosophy is consistent with what I often think to be the governing dynamic of Canadian life -- the principle of infantile regression -- but it does immeasurable harm to the possibility of mature political discourse. It also inflates judicial hubris.

Feb. 23, 1999 - from "Democracy and its discontents", published in the National Post newspaper
The hiring policy at York University that pons asinorum of Canadian higher education is, alas, fairly typical. In academic units in which 45 per cent or less of the tenure-stream faculty are women, a female candidate must be offered the position unless there is a 'demonstrably superior male candidate.' Every hiring committee, even more every dean, knows that proving 'demonstrable superiority' is a steep hill to climb. How much easier, how much better for one's career prospects, to avoid trouble, to avoid confrontation, to avoid the accusation of chauvinism, and to just go along with the university's stated policy of 'encouraging diversity.' So let us have the 'diversity' candidate, although perhaps not the 'best' candidate. A decade and a half of such hiring decisions have reduced Canadian universities to the intellectual backwaters they now are.

Jul. 1999 - from "Academia's road to ruin", published in The Next City Magazine, Summer 1999
... the judiciary has moved from being the least powerful branch of government to, arguably, the most powerful. Decision-making by the courts is the antithesis of democracy.

Nov. 1998 - from "From Christian Virtues to Judicial Values", his George Goth Memorial Lecture
When Canadians allow fundamental issues of public policy -- such as abortion, euthanasia, or whether possession of child pornography should be a crime -- to be decided by courts, rather than by Parliament, they are shrugging off the perhaps now irksome burden of self-government. At bottom, democracy is anti-authoritarian, not because it arrives at correct, or even principled, conclusions, but because it imposes on everyone the burden of thinking and deciding for oneself. How much easier to allow the nine philosopher-kings on the Supreme Court of Canada to think and decide for us.

Feb. 23, 1999 - from "Democracy and its discontents", published in the National Post newspaper
... the problem is that we look to the [Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms] for that which it cannot give -- the discernment of an appropriate balance between freedom and restraint, between liberty and license, between indulgence and self-discipline. The Charter cannot provide such discernment because that must come from within, not from without, from the heart and mind and soul.

Feb. 23, 1999 - from "Democracy and its discontents", published in the National Post newspaper
... except for "justice", a word used by the courts in a sense very different from the biblical usage, where it really means "righteousness", there is no overlap between Christian virtues and what the Canadian Courts have identified as Charter values. This is the more remarkable when we remember that Canadian common law was shaped by Judeo-Christian precepts.

Nov. 1998 - from "From Christian Virtues to Judicial Values", his George Goth Memorial Lecture
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a by-product of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's 1982 patriation package, fundamentally changed 115 years of Canadian constitutional history. Essentially, the Charter meant a shift from a system of parliamentary supremacy to one of constitutional supremacy. Since April 17, 1982, it is the Charter of Rights, not parliament, which is sovereign, "the supreme law of the land", to use the language of section 52 of the Constitution Act. The Canadian electorate still goes to the polls quadrennially, but it is now judges, not legislators, who decide such important issues of public policy as abortion, euthanasia, and even the legitimacy of Quebec secession.

Nov. 1998 - from "From Christian Virtues to Judicial Values", his George Goth Memorial Lecture
To put my point bluntly: in 1982 Canada ceased to be governed by parliamentary supremacy and instead became a country of constitutional supremacy. Well, constitutional supremacy sounds fine; what's wrong with that? What's wrong is that constitutions are not self-interpreting. They require to be interpreted. The interpretation function falls to an unelected judiciary, finally to the nine judges of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Nov. 1998 - from "From Christian Virtues to Judicial Values", his George Goth Memorial Lecture