The U.S. National Assessment of Educational Progress recently took place, with a standardized test for students around the nation, and it revealed that roughly 33 per cent of American 8th graders believe that Canada, Australia, and France, are dictatorships. When asked what those countries have in common on the test, 23 per cent of the 29,000 teens chose the answer “they have leaders with absolute power,” from the other three options available which were “they are controlled by the military,” “they discourage participation by citizens in public affairs,” and “they have constitutions that limit their power.”
It is said that the correct answer for the test was “they have constitutions that limit their power,” however the very first thing mentioned within the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is the ability of the state to violate those “protected rights” which are supposed to be “guaranteed,” whenever the violation is done so within “reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” They can violate your rights when they see the action to be fitting to their cause.
It could also be argued that they too “discourage participation by citizens in public affairs,” when they pass legislation like bill C-51 that discourages citizens from protesting. Establishing “free speech zones,” and labeling criticism of Israel to be “hate speech” also doesn't encourage participation in public affairs. The citizens in the U.S. supposedly have a Constitution as well which is supposed to limit the powers of its representatives, however its citizens are also finding out that such a promise is trending further from the truth.
Kenneth Holland, a professor at Ball State University, says that American students know very little about Canada and that this is a problem because “Canada is a very important ally of the United States.” We have willingly tarnished our reputation and tossed civil liberties to the side, as we have followed the U.S. into unjust warfare within Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, and other areas. It's surprising, with the two holding such a close relationship, that the students wouldn't know more about the political atmosphere of their neighbors, according to Holland. However, some might say that perhaps the grade 8 students have a pretty clear idea of what is really going on. Within the United States, these students there have seen representatives violate their Constitution on numerous occasion, and so it isn't surprising then that they might assume political leaders do the same thing in other countries.
Legal experts in Canada, like Julius Grey, have also expressed concern that the country is moving in the wrong direction with regard to its violation of civil liberties and worsening overreach of criminal law. He warned that we are “slipping into a form of oppression”, and he stressed that there is nothing more important and valuable in a free society than dissent. “And dissent has to be about things that are important to people, and things with which people disagree. There’s no point getting freedom of expression so you can say ‘I love my mother.’ You don’t need that, you could have said that in any dictatorship. The problem is when you say something which does bother people, or act in a way which does bother people” says Grey.
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