The Just Society in Canada: an Analysis

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Canada’s Just Society

“And so I based my campaign on the central theme of the Just Society. Achieving such a society would require promoting equality of opportunity and giving the most help to those who were the most disadvantaged”(Trudeau, 87-88). Pierre Elliott Trudeau had a vision for canada in the 1970s. For his nation to become accepting to all and that the government fairly reflect the virtues of the people. This concept was known as the Just Society. Trudeau’s vision of a Just Society was fulfilled to a great extent because of the equal rights and opportunities presented to all, the degree of balance between social justice and liberty, and equity provided by the Canadian Federal Government.

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Within the last term of his leadership in Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau made equality through rights, and fair opportunities presented to all a legal necessity across all of Canada. This was achieved when the Federal Government of Canada, under Trudeau, passed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. The Charter enshrined rights for those most disadvantaged in Canada, including the Aboriginals and Canadian women; “Every individual is equal before and under the and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law... without discrimination based on race, ethnic or cultural origin, colour, religion, sex age or mental or physical disability”(Legislative Services Branch). This section legally bound each and every

Canadian to treat each other without prejudice. The Charter also gave the right to be seen fairly under the law. This means if one were a black Canadian and faced prosecution, one would be treated the same in the court of law as someone of white origin, or the court itself may face prosecution for not fairly abiding to the Charter.

Another reason the just Society was a success was because of the balance that was struck between social justice and liberty. Although there was a lot of prejudice against the LGBTQ community due to religious virtues, most of those in the community were verbally abused and about 25% of gay men were abused physically(Freeman-Shaw et al, 169), Trudeau still strived to abolish this stigma as both Justice Minister and Prime Minister. Often, Trudeau advocated for the rights of those in the LGBT community and found laws against women’s bodily rights were obscene and unnecessary. In an editorial in the Globe and Mail in 1967 he was found saying “It (regarding the state) has no right to creep into the bedrooms of the nation”(Wikiquote). In that same year as Justice Minister, Trudeau reformed laws on abortion and prostitution to decriminalize both. He also decriminalized homosexuality to provide sanction for those in the LGBT community and relieve prejudice against them. By doing this Trudeau was able to foreshadow the coming of a Just Society in Canada by creating an absence of laws that would only cause harm, and not fairly represent Canada’s society.

A major part of the success of the Just Society was the equity provided by the Canadian Federal Government. “Giving help to those who were the most disadvantaged”(Trudeau, 87-88) - this concept was applied significantly with refugees from across the ocean, particularly Ugandan and Vietnamese refugees. In the case of Ugandan refugees in 1972 Canada was one of ten countries willing to accept a portion of the refugees in distress. Canada blindly accepted 5600 Ugandans and began resettlement programs, with twelve help centres funded by the government across the country. Canada also showed their generosity in 1978 with the Hai Hong Vietnamese boat people. At first Trudeau agreed on 600 refugees, but with pressure from Canadian citizens Trudeau raised the initial limit to 8000. Even then Canadians were not satisfied and sympathy groups such as Operation lifeline and Project 400 began to sponsor the Vietnamese. By 1981 Canada had accepted 77 000 refugees and for the society’s generosity Canada was awarded the Nasen Medal from the UNHCR in 1985(Freeman-Shaw 198).

Trude over the 1970s and 80s made giant steps, such as creating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to successfully create the Canada he had envisioned. The success of this vision was due to the equal rights and opportunities presented to all, the degree of balance between social justice and liberty, and the equity provided by the federal government of Canada.

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