Constitutions (was: Look out! long hair gun loon!)

Wayne Hayes (
Mon, 22 Dec 1997 20:54:02 -0500

OK, I just spent the past couple hours looking at various constitutions
of the world. I specifically concentrated on the US and Canadian ones,
although I glanced at the French one, too. The *fantastic* web page I
found, that seems to include constitutions for all the nations that
have them, is

Michael Lorrey <> seems to be correct that the
US and France are the only ones that have explicit references to
phrases like "of the people, by the people, for the people". (There
may be other countries, but I only looked at those three mentioned
above.) However...

Michael Lorrey <> wrote:
>and in the fine print, you will always find a clause that
>states that ultimate political power has been granted by God to the
>monarchy, and the monarchy has delegated this to the people.

Not true. Although I acknowledge that the *origin* of the US
constitution is based more on individual rights than the Canadian one,
I can find no mention anywhere of those rights being withdraw-able by
the government, or the monarchy, for any reason. If you take the time
to compare the US Bill of Rights, with the Canadian Charter of Rights
and Freedoms, you'll see that they're very similar. Furthermore, both
of our countries inaugural documents contain references to God-given
rights---Canadian, in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; US, in the
Declaration of Independence.

>Any nation
>that has this Natural Law "divine right of kings" clause is a nation
>where the people are NOT free, they are merely being treated "extra
>special" by the true power. Canada, which peacefully was granted
>independence by the British monarchy, acknowledges that their government
>exists by the grace and good will of the British crown.

We certainly acknowledge that our independence was granted by the British,
but we don't *exist* anymore due to that goodwill. We are independent,
just as you are. We simply got our independence in different ways.

>[In Britain] There is no
>freedom of speech or any other officially recognised rights that belong
>to or originate from the people.

You're right, or so the Web document claims. Canada is different.

>Non-Americans just can't seem to understand how importatant this
>prinicple is, nor do many americans today.

I agree that rights granted "by the people, for the people" is a better
principle to base a set of rights on than granted "by the king". But...

>People think that if the
>government observes a particular political right of the people as a
>matter of form even though it is not legally bound to, that the people
>actually, legally, posess this freedom. Not so.

I disagree. Even though the rights were granted under different
conditions, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is just as
much a legally binding document as the American Bill of Rights.
There are plenty of cases where Canadians take the Canadian
government to court for violations of our Constitution, and the
people often win. I think that's pretty strong evidence that
our Constitution is just as legally binding as yours, even though
they were originally derived in different ways.

However, I'll restate what I've already stated previously: I agree that
if the people are armed then it's more difficult for the government to
install unpopular violations of freedom. (And I'll also re-state that
the cost of the right to bear arms seems to be increased violence in
the society, although others have pointed out other possible cultural
causes of the US's tendency towards violence.) (Randall R Randall) writes:
>Without the right to bear arms, the rest of the rights are temporary, and
>can be withdrawn at any time.

They are not temporary; they are *potentially* temporary. Serious
violations of them would require the co-operation of the police and
the military. In Canada, for example, the military is significantly
more independent from the goverment than in the US. For example, the
Prime Minister of Canada is *not* the Commander-in-Chief of the
military. When I was a cadet, I was taught that, with respect to
internal affairs, one of the main directives of the Canadian military
is to defend the constitution, including possible future violations of
it by the government.

>As long as the citizens of a country are
>militarily more powerful than the government, that government cannot step
>too far out of line.

That would be a good point if it were actually true in the US, but it
isn't. And besides, your Constitutional rights in the US are being
eroded faster than you can keep track of them, despite your citizens
being armed.

>If you are free only with another's permission, then you are not free at

I should mention here an important point: the Canadian Charter of
Rights and Freedoms was produced in 1982, more than a century after our
independence from Britain. As such, it is a purely *Canadian*
document, written by and for Canadians. (I suppose it's a bit
embarassing that it took us that long to create one, but that's a
different story.) Queen Elizabeth did signed it, but then-Prime-
Minister Trudeau made it perfectly clear that it would go into effect
with or without the Queen's signature. Having her sign it was merely
a polite gesture to the crown, nothing more.