04 September 2003

Rights talk, again

A few weeks ago I wrote critically of the tendency to turn every claim on the public realm into a right. Here is an article by Ted Morton, one of the fiercest critics of the judicial politics that has arisen under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms: "The new game of Charter politics." Morton writes:

This is the new game of Charter politics: Take your favourite policy issue, dress it up as a human right, and take it to court -- preferably with taxpayers' money from the federal Court Challenges Program. Not only has this trivialized the whole notion of rights (is there anything left that isn't a right?), but it has also dealt a severe blow to democracy. The moment something is declared a fundamental human right, any opposition to it is stigmatized.

As Mary Ann Glendon rightly observes, "rights talk" is a poor substitute for genuine political deliberation.

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