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Twenty-five years ago, Canadians witnessed a momentous event that would alter the evolution of our country. The adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in two pen strokes by Queen Elizabeth II and then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau on a rainy Saturday afternoon on Parliament Hill would have a profound effect on how we are governed, and on our understanding of Canadian citizenship and national identity.
It is a document that has been loved and detested, lauded and criticized, considered indispensable by some, an insult by others. There is no disagreement, however, on the fact that it has immesurably re-shaped Canada's social and legal landscape.
It is no great surprise that such an important, living piece of legislation continues to generate heated debates and lively discussions.
Such will be the case when the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada marks the 25th anniversary of the Charter at its 2007 annual national conference.
"The Charter @ 25" / "la Charte @ 25 ans," will be held at the Omni Mount-Royal Hotel in Montreal from Feb. 14 to 16.
Keynote participants will include Hon. Justice W. Ian C. Binnie of the Supreme Court of Canada and U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who will discuss "Judging in a Constitutional Democracy," the theme of one of eight plenary panels, including "The Charter and Security" and "The Charter and Equality."
Another theme to be tackled is the intent of the framers of the Charter.
Fortunately, several of the key players who were "in the room" during the historic events leading to the Charter will be participating. The Charter's impact on citizenship and national unity, as well as the changing dynamic between courts and Parliament, are also on the very full agenda.
"We see the 25th anniversary as an occasion for an appraisal of the Charter's impact, and for reflection on the state of democracy in Canada," said MISC director Antonia Maioni.
The conference promises to be the perfect forum for such reflection, and will surely offer those in attendance a glimpse of what to expect over the next 25 years.