On December 15, 2011 the Senate passed legislation ending the Canadian Wheat Board in spite of the fact a Federal court judge had ruled it illegal.  This demonstrates the very limited value of the Senate as a chamber of sober second thought when it has been stacked with partisan appointees. The Harper appointed Governor General gave it Royal Assent the same day.

Our democracy rests on a system of checks and balances between the Parliament, the executive branch and the Courts.  The Conservative Senators demonstrated they do not respect the rule of law by supporting the authoritarian approach to government being pursued by the Harper regime. This is really an old story of the conflict between the democratic rule of law and the dictatorial.

However, this story is not over yet.  On December 14th in an act of courage and integrity, the farmer-elected directors of the Canadian Wheat Board held a news conference in Winnipeg, announcing they will be challenging Harper’s arbitrary and unlawful use of executive power and will be asking the courts to make the Harper regime follow the law.

This reminded me of another historic news conference held decades ago in Alberta.  In 1929 a group of women, prominent among them a farm woman from Didsbury, Alberta named Irene Parlby announced they had successfully used the courts to establish that women were persons under the law.  This established the basis for our modern system of individual rights.

Once again it is the farmers of western Canada, first through their support of the Persons case, and now with their challenge of the Harper Conservatives, who are the ones standing up for democracy and the rule of law.

Like the Persons case, the results of this challenge will set the course for the future of our democracy.  Prime Minister Harper and his government have shown by their actions they believe the rule of law is optional for them.  Chief Justice Fraser wrote about the consequences of such an attitude:

“The detrimental consequences of the executive branch of government defining for itself – and by itself – the scope of its lawful power have been revealed, often bloodily, in the tumult of history.”

The Directors will be in a Winnipeg court room December 16th.  Once again all Canadians owe a debt of gratitude to a group of farmers from western Canada who have the courage of their convictions and are fighting a battle for us all.

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