The last living premier who helped craft the 1982 Constitution says COVID-19 is no justification for denying Canadians the rights and freedoms laid out in the Charter.
Former Newfoundland premier Brian Peckford says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is exceeding his authority as his father did. During a December 16 interview with video logger Laura Lynn Thompson, Peckford recalled constitutional negotiations with Pierre Trudeau.
“[He] left the table and said, ‘You are too difficult to deal with. And therefore I’m going to do this on my own,’” recalled Peckford.
However, the Supreme Court ruled in 1981 that Trudeau could not patriate the constitution without approval from a majority of the provinces.
“The judges were friends of the law first, and friends of the prime minister or the system second. We have to wonder today whether that’s still true,” Peckford said.
“So he had to come back to the table again and deal with us [premiers] who had taken them to court because he wasn’t an emperor. He wasn’t a king. He couldn’t do whatever he liked.”
Peckford who was premier from 1979 to 1989, lives with his wife in Parksville, BC. His interview suggested he was unvaccinated for COVID-19.
“I don’t have equality before the law right now, because there’s some places I’m not allowed to go, whereas other people are allowed to go in. So how is that equality before the law? It’s not. It’s been violated.”
The former premier, first elected by Green Bay constituents in 1972, said Canadian governments were “abusing” the constitution and ignoring Sections 2, 6, 7, and 15 during the pandemic.
According to Section 1, Charter provisions are “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” Peckford said COVID-19, “a virus, where you have 99% recovery,” doesn’t fit the criteria.
“It’s not a war. It’s not insurrection. It’s not a threat to the state. And that’s the only circumstances under which Section One applied. I remember.”
The death of former Ontario premier Bill Davis in August left Peckford the final living premier to bear witness to their shared intentions.
“I accept carrying this cudgel as the last one left. I want to defend the people who were at that meeting, I want to defend those other seven premiers who stood tall until we brought Mr. Trudeau back to the table and negotiated those things. I have an obligation to discharge my responsibility for them as well as for myself and I can say unequivocally, this section [one] was not meant to apply in this kind of circumstances.”
Peckford shook his head as Thompson played a clip of the press conference where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced federally-regulated travel would be banned for the unvaccinated.
“This is a travesty of justice for this man to sit down there and order Canadians not to be able to travel,” Peckford said.
“That is completely unconstitutional and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The medical research that he should know, that Dr Tam should know [says] the people who are vaccinated have just as heavy a viral load as those who are unvaccinated.”
Like father, like son, Peckford said.
“It is unbelievably tragically ironic that here’s a second Trudeau doing some things the same way that his father did. So, no wonder they were friends of Castro … obviously, they had this totalitarian bent in them that follows from father to son because why would they be doing these kinds of things?”
Newfoundland’s third premier had no praise for those currently in office.
“Every Premier is guilty because they’re going along and putting in under their own provincial laws,” Peckford said.
“So we’re talking about 14 governments: three territories, 10 provinces, and the central government all initiating actions which are unconstitutional and violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that I helped write.”
Peckford maintains a popular blog called Peckford42. He told Thompson he also wrote current premiers with his concerns but received only standard replies.
“I think there’s a virus of fear more than anything else,” Peckford said. “Our democracy is failing and failing very fast.”
Three unnamed groups preparing legal actions have approached him to sign an affidavit and Peckford said he has agreed to do so.
“I can’t wait for the day when I will appear in court and look at a judge straight in the eye and say that what we have here from the governments of Canada is unconstitutional.”
Lee Harding is a freelance contributor living in Saskatchewan.