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 Whistleblowers Need Protection



By Jack Watson, Q.C.

The following article was published in the Spring 1999 issue (vol. 3, issue 2) of the Edmonton Bar Association Bulletin.

One cannot define a "Canadian" by reference to any single factor or feature of personal attitude or loyalty. One cannot define a Canadian solely by reference to rituals, traditions, geography or history, though rituals, traditions, geography and history have significant influence. Being a Canadian involves a composition of characteristics, learnings, beliefs and values -- though not all Canadians balance such things identically in their personal makeup and conduct.

Nonetheless, some persons provide singular examples of those balances which shed light on Canadianism. The Bulletin thought it timely to draw from those examples following upon the release of the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Secession Reference [August 20, 1998] 25CR. 217, 161 D.L.R.(4th) 385, (1998) 228 N.R. 203 (S.C.C. No. 25506)]. As the learned judges said at paragraph 32 of their decision, the Constitution of Canada includes the global system of rules and principles which govern the exercise of constitutional authority in the whole and in every part of the Canadian state.

These supporting principles and rules, which include constitutional conventions and the workings of Parliament, are a necessary part of our Constitution because problems or situations may arise which are not expressly dealt with by the text of the Constitution. In order to endure over time, a constitution must contain a comprehensive set of rules and principles which are capable of providing an exhaustive legal framework for our system of government. Such principles and rules emerge from an understanding of the constitutional text itself, the historical context, and previous judicial interpretations of constitutional meaning. In our view, there are four fundamental and organizing principles of the Constitution which are relevant to addressing the question before us (although this enumeration is by no means exhaustive): federalism; democracy; constitutionalism and the rule of law; and respect for minorities …"

In this regard, the Constitution of Canada speaks not only to what it is to be Canada, it also speaks to what it is to be a Canadian. Those four "fundamental and organizing" principles are also, in one form or another, features of the common belief structures of Canadians as individuals.

One of our Edmonton lawyer colleagues has, in a sense, made writing about Canadianism an avocation. His writings and those of many others may be in part the product of the under-

estimated influence upon our country of John Diefenbaker. Diefenbaker was a Prime Minister from our West, whose political career was meteoric and controversial, but whose patriotism and devotion to those important values that made our country Good was profound.

The Honourable David Kilgour, P.C., M.P., has also written on various aspects of what makes Canada good. The like can be said about those concerning whom he has written. The efforts of two of his subject Canadians reveal Canada as a precious demonstration of how a comparatively young nation may be a great nation when governed under such fundamental beliefs and values.

"One baby boomer was heard to say recently that she had never heard of George Grant; an MP from southern Ontario thinks he was a car dealer. [A recently published] reader, which makes 46 of Grant’s essays accessible to contemporary readers, should help his reputation as one of our major national philosophers...."

The writings represent Grant’s major intellectual interests: politics, ethics, philosophy education, technology, faith and love. Above all, he was fascinated by the mystery of existence and how human beings should live their lives.

One chapter contains excerpts from his bestselling Lament for a Nation (1965), which he at first doubted would attract a publisher because it attacked the orthodoxies of many prominent Canadians. His conclusion -- that real independence had become impossible for Canadians -- inspired a generation from all parts of the political spectrum to "save Canada".

In a piece on national unity, written a year after René Lévesque formed his first Government in 1976, Grant called for moderation in reaching a new agreement with Quebeckers. His worry:

"The 20th century has not been exactly a moderate century and there are many people around, including important ones, who may find that they have much to gain personally and immediately by being immoderate."

Grant was convinced that philosophy must remain central to education, presumably for the same reason some Eastern European nations began to teach it again after the events of 1989."

Grant’s conception was that, as shown by the scale of loss of values and caring in America, technology without humanity could be barren and dissociative. Canada’s signal contribution to the world may well be to demonstrate how an emancipated democracy may have both ethics

and wealth, both science and soul, both law and freedom, and both tolerance and morality. Kilgour noted that there was much to learn from this significant Canadian.

Canada’s achievements make a strong case for the contention that the twentieth century has been, indeed, Canada’s century. Canadians bravely contributed more than our country’s share to support the older and more powerful nations of the world in the great wars of the past 100 years. Canada at the same time maintained its position throughout that time as a model nation of peace, democracy, the rule of law, toleration and freedom.

The life of another great Western Canadian, Grant MacEwan, corresponds in those ways to the Canadian century. Kilgour described MacEwan as:

"Author of 56 books, master livestock judge, lieutenant governor of Alberta, historian of Western Canada, mayor of Calgary, agricultural scientist and husbandry professor, broadcaster and public speaker extraordinaire, conservationist, leader of the Alberta Liberal Party, outdoorsman and hiker — Grant MacEwan remains an institution in his adopted province of Alberta. The list of his accomplishments, moreover, is incomplete without mention of his almost 3,000 newspaper columns, and more than 5,000 speeches and 1,000 broadcasts, as well as uncounted magazine articles and contributions to scholarly, technical and popular publications."

MacEwan was the sort of moderate man Grant would have commended. A man of large contribution and low pretension, MacEwan’s life philosophy was, as Kilgour noted, manifested thus:

"In late 1965, while speaking to young students about Western Canada at the school where his daughter taught, MacEwan got word that he was Alberta’s new lieutenant governor. From the start, he stubbornly insisted that his private and public personalities must remain the same. He continued to rise early to jog a mile or two, to breakfast on porridge, and to refuse to ride in the back seat of the vice-regal car. On one occasion, he asked his chauffeur, Henry Weber,

to stop while he helped two teenagers push a minibus out of a ditch. When the MacEwans hosted parties, no liquor was served. When he spoke to someone, that person had his total attention, with no attempt to look over a shoulder to see who else was present. When a cleaning woman arrived with her equipment at his office late one night ill, he asked Henry to drive her home and cleaned the office himself. He led numerous walkathons across the province to raise money for charity."

MacEwan’ s considered religious views had one classic Canadian tenet, namely, that one should, when called ultimately to account for one’s life, have tried to leave things better than when they were found. While some propose -- as if it were philosophy -- a fixation on individual self-fulfilment, personal progress, or enhanced subjective entitlements, Canadianism contemplates different but not conflicting accomplishments. A Canadian can succeed in a manner which accords with MacEwan’s philosophy and Grant’s vision. What else should be done?

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