By John Orth
It is a sad truth that most Canadians would regard the title of this essay as an inanity. Of course Canada is a free country, they would reply. The United Nations ranks us number one. Jean Chretien says Canada is the best country in the world. Anyone who seriously suggested we were teetering on the brink of tyranny would be considered a bit of an eccentric.

But the question is not inane. There are numerous reasons why Canadians should be very concerned about the state of freedom in their country.

1. Excessive concentration of power in the hands of one man.
The Canadian system of government is not a true democracy. It might best be described as a sham democracy.[1] While it maintains the trappings of a participatory system, its inner workings resemble more closely those of a Central American, tin pot dictatorship.

In theory, power at the federal level is shared by three distinct structures: Parliament, the Senate and the Supreme Court. This division of power should act as a system of checks and balances, preventing any person or group of people from arrogating themselves excessive authority. The reality is just the opposite. All three of these supposedly independent bodies fall under the effective control of one man.

The Prime Minister fills all Senate vacancies, appoints all Supreme Court Judges and selects all Cabinet Ministers. Not surprisingly, he tends to choose those whose primary attribute is either unquestioning loyalty or a pronounced left wing bias. The Senate has become nothing more than a bleating herd of sycophants, bootlickers and bagmen. It exists no longer as an independent agency, but as a mere extension of the Prime Minister's will.[2]

The problem with the Supreme Court is not so much that its members are toadies, but that they are clustered entirely on the left side of the political spectrum. In a recent case involving a female fire fighter in B.C. they ruled, in a lopsided 9-0 decision, that women should not be required to take the same endurance tests as men. In fact, any Supreme Court decision involving radical feminist issues, native fishing rights, or other left wing causes will show a similar bias. A lawyer arguing an SCC case from a conservative or libertarian perspective has a better chance of winning the Lotto 6-49.

The third branch of government is Parliament, which the Prime Minister dominates as completely as Stalin did the politburo. Dissident MPs are threatened with loss of committee privileges or with expulsion from the caucus. Mr. Chretien intimated he would refuse to sign nomination papers for MPs who would not vote as he ordered. This is a threat they must take seriously. Only five people have successfully run as independents in the last twenty five years.[3] Witness the shameful treatment of Liberal MP John Nunziata. Not content with simply tossing him from caucus, the Liberal Party hatchet men stepped in and disbanded his riding association. Despite promising more free votes in the House of Commons, Mr. Chretien has allowed just one since taking power.

As if this near dictatorial authority was not enough, we must remember that the Prime Minister also appoints all Federal Court judges, the heads of crown corporations, all ambassadors, the members of Parliamentary Committees, privy councillors, lieutenant governors, and the Governor General. (Technically, the Governor General is recommended by the Prime Minister but appointed by the Queen. Realistically, it is the Prime Minister who selects the G.G.) Finally, unlike more mature democracies which hold elections at fixed intervals, the Prime Minister can call an election at any time. This will of course, be a time which he feels will maximize his re-election prospects.

2. Use of Orders in Council to bypass even the rubber stamp Parliament.
"This is one of the legacies of Pierre Trudeau," explains David Somerville, former president of the National Citizens Coalition. "He studied under Harold Laski at the London School of Economics, and one of Laski's famous observations is that parliamentary government is really incompatible with socialism. Parliament is unsuited to carrying out detailed intervention in people's lives because of the time consuming process of subjecting laws to debate and committee scrutiny. What Laski proposed, and Trudeau adopted, was the use of large amounts of enabling legislation: a bill is passed into law as a kind of skeleton, delegating powers of regulation to the Governor in Council (the cabinet), and the government can then change the law whatever way it pleases without putting it before the MP's."[4]

When one of these pieces of 'enabling legislation' is passed, Parliament effectively surrenders its jurisdiction over that area to the Cabinet. C-68 is a particularly appalling example of this tactic. Virtually every clause of this Bill is subject to later modification by regulation. Canadian gun prohibitionists will need no further gun control legislation. C-68 gives the Justice Minister the power to ban every single gun in Canada by regulation and Order in Council.

An Order in Council, it should be noted, differs in no substantial way from a Royal Proclamation. Such instruments are better suited to a medieval fiefdom than a modern, democratic society. If Canadians ever succeed in taking back control of our government, one of our first priorities must be to abolish this archaic practice.

3. Use of closure and time allocation to stifle Parliamentary debate.
As of December 6, 1996 the 35th Parliament had passed 123 bills. The government used either closure or time allocation to cut short debate on 28 of them.[5] Needless to say, these include some of the most contentious issues the government has dealt with. The Liberals used this tactic to limit debate on C-68. They used it again to ram through their poorly conceived national unity package, and once again to pass a two hundred and fifty million dollar Indian land claim settlement in the Yukon.

4. Police lobbying for police state authority.
Ideally, each component of our justice system has its own function: Parliament creates laws, courts interpret them, and the police enforce them. Ominously, certain police organizations have started moving out of their traditional role as enforcers and into the legislative arena. When the Chiefs of Police form a veiled partnership with the Minister of Justice, who subsequently adopts their gun control platform in its entirety, something is clearly amiss.

5. Scapegoating of law abiding minority groups.
German Nazis blamed Jews for everything from Germany's loss in WWI to the unemployment of the thirties. Canadian gun owners are blamed for murders we did not commit, for suicides, for spousal abuse, and for the accidental deaths of children.

6. Loss of the right to be presumed innocent.
Section 117.11 of C-68 states "The onus is on the accused to prove that the person is the holder of the authorization, license or registration certificate." This reverse onus places gun owners in the absurd position of being required to prove their innocence when such proof may sometimes be impossible to produce.

Consider the case of Constable Mark Smith of the St. John, New Brunswick Police Department. In 1991, Constable Smith bought a Browning Hi Power from a gun store. During 1992 he got several 'permits to transport' for competitions outside New Brunswick. In 1993 he traded the gun in to a different store. The following year, the RCMP noticed there was no registration certificate number on one of the 1992 transport permits. They checked with FRAS, (the RCMP's restricted weapons database) which erroneously reported the gun had never been registered. Constable Smith was charged with possession of an unregistered restricted weapon, and suspended from his job.

During his trial, Constable Smith fortunately had a change of luck. A reference to his registration was discovered in a file ledger at the local police station, and he was acquitted. This case has a happy ending, but it serves to illustrate the impossible position a gun owner might find himself in. What would have happened had this ledger record not been uncovered? In all likelihood, Constable Smith would have been convicted, the same as any gun owner who is unable to prove his innocence.

6. Loss of the right to be immune from arbitrary search and seizure.
The Liberals have repeatedly attempted to soothe gun owners by pointing out that police may not perform a 'firearms inspection' without permission unless they obtain a search warrant. This is disingenuous and deceptive.

In any other area, police who desire a warrant will be required to prove to a judge they have reason to believe there is evidence relating to a crime. In the case of firearms they must prove only they have reason to believe "there is a gun collection or a record in relation to a gun collection" or "there is a prohibited firearm or more then 10 firearms". Needless to say, once all guns are registered, the registration records themselves will form the reasonable basis for belief that the police need to ask for a warrant. No evidence of a crime is required. Under C-68 Canadian gun owners have fewer rights than sex murderers and pedophiles. Police cannot search their homes without evidence of a crime.

7. Loss of the right to remain silent.
Loss of the right to consult with an attorney.
Loss of the right not to incriminate oneself.

These three rights have been abrogated by section 103 of C-68, which requires homeowners to "give the inspectors all reasonable assistance" and to "provide the inspector with any information relevant to the enforcement of this Act or the regulations that he or she may reasonably require." Those who refuse to comply can be jailed for up to two years.

8. Loss of the right to own private property.
This right disappeared not under C-68 but under C-17, the previous gun control legislation. Owners of firearms prohibited under this Bill were required to turn them in, destroy them, or mutilate them. Many of the .50 calibre long range rifles (which were placed on the prohibited list) had retail values of over $5,000. Owners received not one cent in compensation.

The right to own property is one of the most important rights we possess. It is this right that marks the boundary between freedom and communism. (Communism, after all, is simply a term describing a system where all property is held communally.) A government that has the right to confiscate property is a government that exercises total control over its citizens. Here is what Canadian author William Gairdner has to say about property rights:
"Finally, private property, often criticized as the advantage of the rich over the poor, is really the last bastion of protection for everyone from the long arm of the State. If even the poorest citizen has the right to own property and this right is protected by the Rule of Law, then even the State will have difficulty wresting this property from him. If the State cannot easily take property from individuals, then it cannot easily make them do its will. But once your home, land, money and goods are confiscated by the State, what else is left with which to protect yourself from such power? Nothing. You are bereft of all defense. A mere plaything of the State."[6]

The confiscation of firearms which took place under C-17 was one of the few times a Canadian government has seized outright privately held property. Governments will avoid blatant seizures if possible, since this action exposes them for what they are: thieving tyrants. A more common tactic is to allow the 'owner' to retain title, while it is the government which actually has control, and which skims off most of the proceeds in taxes of one form or another.

Business owners will be told what type of building they may place on their property. They will be told how much parking they must provide. They will be told what type of sign is acceptable. They will be forced to make their buildings wheelchair accessible even though no one in a wheelchair goes there. Apartment owners are told how much rent they may charge. Anyone unfortunate enough to have a heritage designation slapped on his property will find the government dictates virtually every alteration which may or may not be made. An owner could even be denied permission to finish the exterior in vinyl siding. Toronto City council recently passed a bylaw which penalizes someone who cuts down a tree on his own property with a fine of up to $10,000. Restaurant owners are told what portion of their establishment must be 'smoke free'. Drug stores are prohibited from selling cigarettes. A Manitoba farmer recently spent six months in jail for the unpardonable crime of selling his own wheat without Wheat Board approval. Owners of restricted or prohibited firearms must get prior permission before they are allowed to transport them anywhere. The government dictates who they may be sold to, or if they may be sold at all. The government also determines whether they may be used, and if so, where it is acceptable to use them.

Ownership of property means more than simply having your name on the deed. The true owner is the person or agency that exercises control of that property. In Canada, more and more, that agency is the government.

9. Loss of the right of self defense.
Hair splitters might argue that Canadians still have the right of self defense, and technically they would be correct. Realistically, this right is gone. The right of self defense is useless if we are denied the means of self defense. Canadians have been told we may be permitted to defend ourselves, we are just not allowed to use guns, mace, stun guns, or any number of other weapons to do it. This is a ridiculous contradiction, akin to the situation that would arise if the government were to tell us we had freedom of the press, but no one was allowed to own computers, fax machines, photocopiers, or printing presses.

10. Draconian penalties for crimes against the State.
Trivial penalties for crimes against citizens.

Recently in St. Catharines there was a case where a 17 year old 'young offender' shot and killed a 14 year old girl with a stolen .45 calibre handgun. He was sentenced to two years in jail. A gun owner could receive a five year sentence for simply forgetting to notify the police of a change of address. He would be liable for a sentence of up to ten years for refusing to register a firearm. This focus on crimes against the State is a characteristic of all dictatorships. They reserve their harshest punishments not for criminals, but for those who refuse to submit to their social engineering.

11. Lack of constitutional protection.
Many of our most important rights, such as the right to own property, and the right to bear arms, are not included in our Constitution. Even those rights which are present are subject to judicial interpretation and to nullification by the 'notwithstanding' clause. English speaking Quebeckers can testify to the fact that a Constitution is meaningless if it can be overruled by the very agency it was intended to protect us from.

12. Provincial governments are even more autocratic than the federal.
The federal government at least maintains the facade of a balanced system. The provinces do not. There is no provincial equivalent of the Senate. Thus, the provincial premiers, within their own domains, exercise more authority than the PM. Here in Ontario it is easy to forget this, when we have a provincial government which thus far has been sympathetic to gun owners. This may not always be the case. Prior to the last election the Ontario Liberals were talking about city wide 'gun free zones'.

13. Expanded authority for quasi-judicial bodies.
I believe there has been a conscious decision made by the Federal government to hand more and more authority to this type of organization. It is a clever ruse which allows politicians to avoid taking flak for making unpopular decisions. Instead of making the decision themselves, they pass authority over a certain area to a quasi-judicial body, then staff this body with frothing at the mouth socialist lunatics. When these zealots then make rulings that are hugely unpopular with the public, the politicians can shrug their shoulders and say "Sorry, there is nothing we can do about it. We have no jurisdiction over that matter." This is precisely what we have seen when Immigration Review Boards flood the country with phoney refugees, when Parole Boards release murderers who immediately kill again, and when Human Rights Commissions fine cities for refusing to proclaim 'Gay Pride Day'. The Liberals are presently investigating the possibility of turning Revenue Canada into a similar type of arms length organization. Beware.

14. Loss of the right of free speech.
Restrictions on the right of Canadians to read what we want are becoming too numerous to catalogue fully. There are restrictions on sexually oriented material (and I am not referring to child pornography). Anyone who has purchased a Penthouse or Hustler magazine in the past eight years will testify there is more material blacked out than there is remaining visible. Police have used 'anti-hate' legislation to shut down telephone hot lines. There was the now famous publication ban on the details of the Karla Homolka trial. New tobacco legislation will severely restrict cigarette company advertising. It is illegal in Canada to mention the name of a young offender, or even to mention the name of anyone that is connected with him. Had the Arkansas School Yard murders occurred in Canada we would not be permitted to know the names or background of the killers, or to see interviews of their parents or grandparents.[7]

The most dangerous restrictions however, are those that attempt to stifle political discussion. Bill C-114 imposes a spending limit on any individual or organization during a federal election. This legislation has been successfully challenged by the National Citizens Coalition in the Alberta Court of Appeal, but is not yet dead. The federal government is said to be contemplating a Supreme Court Challenge. [8] Not to be outdone, the B.C. NDP enacted similar legislation prior to the last provincial election. In addition, we now have a 'gag law' which prohibits the publication of polling data for the last few days preceding a federal election.

15. An effective one party system.
As David Frum pointed out in the January 18, 1997 Toronto Sun "The Liberals have governed Canada for 74 of the past 100 years, besting the 73 year record of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union...Like Italy, Japan, and India, Canada has become for all practical purposes a one party state."

Any party that rules for substantially more than half the time will become arrogant, paternalistic, conceited and corrupt. More important, it will also tend to become dictatorial. Japan, India, and Mexico are nominal democracies which have been ruled by the same party for decades. Civil liberties in these countries are at a state of development not much beyond those of some communist nations.

16. Loss of the right to bear arms.
Some regard the right to bear arms as the most important right individuals possess, since it is this right that ultimately safeguards all others. Canadians never did have constitutional protection for the right to bear arms as Americans do. Instead, we possessed what might be described as a de facto right to bear arms, since the government lacked both the means and the authority to deny citizens firearms ownership. This tenuous right will soon be gone. Registration will give them the means to deny firearms ownership, and C-68 gives them the authority. The Liberals have told us repeatedly that "owning a gun in Canada is a privilege". We may soon find it is a privilege reserved for agents of the state.

17. Brutal use of force by police.
There has been a disturbing trend of late for some police forces to resort to brutal use of force for the arrest of individuals who are guilty of nothing more than regulatory offenses. Perhaps the best example of this is the Marstar raid, where police employed a full SWAT team armed with sub-machine guns, and assisted by a helicopter backup, all to arrest business owners for some arcane matter relating to improper paperwork for the importation of firearm select levers.

There was a similar occurrence on the farm of Manitoba resident Norm Desrochers. On an early April morning in 1995, he and his wife were stunned as a dozen RCMP and Canada Customs vehicles stormed onto his property. Without a warrant, officers forced their way into his house and dragged Norm and his son outside to a police car. What heinous crime had precipitated this extravagant show of force? Mr. Desrochers had sold barley to a customer in the United States without a permit from the Canadian Wheat Board.

18. An elaborate network of internal spies (undercover police), paid informants, and snitches.
Our justice system has become obsessed with consensual crimes. Offences such as prostitution, possession of pornography, drug possession, illegal gambling, bootlegging, and the illegal gun trade all involve 'crimes' where both parties involved consent to the activity. Consequently, there is no victim to run screaming to the police, as there would be with a true crime such as robbery, rape, or assault. This forces police to resort to the use of undercover agents, wire taps, informants, snitches, and stings to weed out offenders.

A society where internal spies are widespread, where those who have been arrested are pressured to turn in all of the associates to avoid punishment, where neighbours spy on neighbours, and where police indulge in frequent electronic monitoring of private conversations, is uncomfortably similar to Orwell's depiction of Great Britain in "1984".

19. A Justice System so complex no one understands it.
Our legal system has become so complicated, so convoluted, and so all encompassing that it is likely every person in the country is guilty of some infraction, often without even being aware of it. How many people can honestly say the police could perform a top to bottom search of their property without finding something of questionable legality? - Some pictures downloaded from the Internet perhaps? Pirated computer software? Cigarettes or alcohol lacking an excise sticker? A thirteen round mag for a Browning Hi-Power? Dad's old single shot shotgun, stored in your bedroom closet without a trigger lock? A little bit of Marijuana maybe? An American satellite system, or a half box of .22 ammo loose in your bedroom dresser?

Dictatorships like to keep their citizens in a constant state of fear. If everyone knows they are subject to arbitrary arrest at any time, they will be less likely to cause trouble.

20. A government shrouded in secrecy.
Several years ago, during the debate over the Conservative gun control legislation, Bill C-17, I recall seeing a reprint of a Justice Department document that had been released to the NFA. The only words that had not been blacked out were prepositions, the, it, of, and, to, etc. Reading what remained visible, it was almost impossible even to tell the document dealt with something relating to gun control.

Not to be outdone by the Tories, the Liberals subsequently drafted a piece of legislation they innocuously named the "Regulations Act". It would have allowed the Cabinet to pass regulations without publicizing them. They could have, for example, added firearms to the prohibited list without making this list public, then swooped down and arrested people who owned these guns for possession of prohibited weapons. If you think this is too bizarre to be true, I sympathize with you. It is, unfortunately, very true. The only thing that prevented this Bill from becoming law was the prorogue of Parliament for the June 1997 election. (Nothing has been said since then, so hopefully the Liberal majority is too thin for them to ram similar legislation through - for now.)

The Liberals have also made extensive use of something they call 'cabinet secrecy' to conceal information from the public. Consider this quote from Canadian Alliance MP Garry Breitkreuz: "Mr. Speaker, in June 1999 the government used the provision for total exclusion of cabinet confidences under section 69 of the Access to Information Act to keep 172 pages of gun registry budget information a state secret. In September the government used the cabinet confidences exclusion again to hide from the public a 115 page report on the economic impact of the gun registry..."

Finally, according to an article in the October 17, 2000 Toronto Star, (It's got to be bad if the Star attacks the Liberals) federal Information Commissioner John Reid stated that the federal government was attempting to torpedo his commission. Mr. Reid said senior government officials had done their utmost to make his job as difficult as possible. "The future careers in the public service of the commissioner's staff have, in not so subltle terms, been threatened," he said. In addition, he complained that:

21. Progressively higher and higher levels of taxation.
One barometer of the degree of freedom extant in a country is the level of taxation. Free nations (of which there are very few remaining) tend to confiscate only small amounts of wealth from their citizens. Socialist counties take large amounts, typically more than fifty percent. Sixty years ago, tax freedom day in Canada was in the middle of February. It now comes in the early part of July.[9]

22. A myriad of laws designed to protect us from ourselves.
It is illegal in Ontario to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, drive a car without a seatbelt, let your children bicycle without a helmet, live in a house without a smoke detector (in most municipalities), buy a new car without an airbag, or ride in a boat without life jackets. Socialists can't understand why some people complain about being forced to take precautions most of them would take anyway. Well, there is a difference between doing something because you choose to, and doing something because you are forced to. If anyone doubts the importance of this distinction, they should talk to a woman who has been raped.

23. Near complete public apathy.
"Canada's demise is certain. There is so little love of individual freedom among the majority of her citizens that her destruction is unavoidable now. Freedom is never debated here. It is taken as a given. That assumption alone will destroy the country."[10]

It is this last point which is perhaps the most important. Even if all other signs were pointing towards despotism, there would still be hope if Canadian citizens were resisting fiercely. If there were demonstrations in the streets, if newspapers were being flooded with angry letters to the editor, if hundreds of thousands of people were marching on Parliament Hill, if the Liberal party's popularity was in single digits, then at least the spark of freedom would still be alight. Instead we find the majority of Canadians are completely oblivious to these goings on. How can this be? The warning signs are everywhere. Why can so few see them? Alarm bells are ringing. Why can so few hear?

Perhaps despotism is like cancer. In its early stages, when it might be easily corrected, few recognize the symptoms. In its later stages, when the signs have become obvious, it is usually too late.


[1]Some prefer the term "elected dictatorship". See for example "The elected dictatorship. Can Parliament be made an adequate instrument of democracy?", the Western Report, December 16, 1996.

[2]The only time the Senate approximately fulfills its role as an independent body is immediately following a federal election in which a change of power has occurred. For a short while the Senate will be stacked with toadies who owe their allegiance to the previous regime. Even in this case however, the Senate will rarely oppose Parliament on issues of policy, since the Liberals and Conservatives are nearly identical in this area. Most disputes will arise over issues of petty partisan self interest. For example, the Conservative Senate squashed the Bill to limit liability in the Toronto Airport deal, because many of those involved in the deal were prominent Tory supporters. Yet the same Conservative Senate passed Bill C-68 by a wide margin.

[3]The Western Report, December 16, 1996. The actual figure given was four. This article was published prior to the re-election of Mr. Nunziata in June 1997.



[6]The Trouble with Canada, by William Gairdner, Stoddart publishers. Page 58.

[7] As an interesting aside here, we would not even be able to charge the younger of the two boys, since he is under the age of 12. Had this happened in Canada, the police would be forced to place this psychopathic young sadist back into society without even allowing people the benefit of knowing who he was.

[8] In June 1999 the Liberals introduced yet another Bill which attempts to limit the amount third parties will be allowed to spend on election advertising. This is the third example of this type of legislation we have seen since 1984. Since the first two were struck down as unconstitutional by lower courts, one might wonder why the Liberals are going at it again. According to a Lorne Gunter article in the June 19, 1999 St. Catharines Standard, the reason is that the Supreme Court, in their 1997 decision on the Quebec referendum spending limits, stated it would uphold such a law. As Mr. Gunter says, the Liberals "don't need an engraved invitation."

[9] The Trouble with Canada, Page 166.

[10] Farewell the Peaceful Kingdom, by Joe C.W. Armstrong, Stoddart publishers. Page 4.