The rule of law.
It’s a phrase we hear a lot in times like these. It’s tossed around like confetti, I think, until it becomes as trivial as confetti.
But those four little words are so, so important. And they, deserve definition — now more than ever.
The four words aren’t new, and nor are the principles that they embody. Aristotle, no less, wrote centuries ago in his Politics that “It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens.”
The law must apply equally to all, prince or pauper. History is full of stories of princes who met unhappy ends — marched to the gallows or the guillotine — because they favoured an unequal form of justice. One that favoured them. One that placed them above the law.
The ancient Greeks, Romans, Chinese. Islam. Christianity. Judaism. All advocated that the law — God’s, or humankind’s — needed to apply to all, without fear or favour.
But the rule of law does not only guarantee the equal application of laws. The rule of law is at the centre of democracy itself.
All of our forms of governance — legislatures, courts, cabinets — derive their legitimacy from the rule of law. When they lose that, the centre will not hold. Governments, and all of the institutions of government, will wash away, like sand on a beach. History has shown us that many times, too.
Without the rule of law, we do not have true equality and true justice. Without equality and justice, we cease to be a democracy.
People always think democracy is durable and eternal, like a rock, but that’s a lie. Democracies like Canada’s are always held together by gossamer and angel’s wings. It doesn’t take much to upend them.
And, now, we are seeing that in so-called real time, even though it doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel much like Canada anymore, either.
Swastikas being waved around, with impunity, at our very church of government, the House of Commons. Thugs and drunks urinating on our War Memorial. Soup kitchens being robbed. Buildings full of sleeping people being set afire, or handcuffed shut. Citizens being threatened for simply wearing a mask. An entire city being occupied and held hostage.
And, down in Windsor, children being used as human shields, which is what is usually done by those who have ceased to be human. In Coutts, Alberta, a group apprehended with body armour and guns and ammunition – and a machete.
Because, you know, nothing says “freedom-loving patriot” like a machete.
Have we lost the rule of law in Canada? Not yet, but it feels close.
So, another definition that is debated, often, is this one: what is terrorism?
The word gets thrown about quite a bit, for the obvious reasons. In debate, it’s a powerful political weapon. But, in its essence, terrorism simply means using force to achieve political ends.
The Ottawa and Windsor and Coutts truckers — and I hesitate always to call them truckers, because most truckers are vaccinated and hard-working and decent — are like terrorists, to me.
Proof of that is found in what the RCMP stopped from getting to the border in Coutts. Proof of that is found in why police haven’t raided the Ottawa blockade yet – because the place is reportedly chock-a-block with weapons.
The rule of law has not yet caught the last train out of Canada for some other place. But it is close — and proof of that, too, is found in the main editorial of no less than the New York Times on Sunday. “Effective leadership,” editorialized the Times about Canada, must never permit anyone to “compromise the rule of law.”
The rule of law is democracy’s soul. Terrorism, unchecked, can kill it.
The government was right to invoke the Emergencies Act.
Too much is at stake, and history is watching what we do next.
Kinsella has been an adjunct professor at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Law