Canadian democracy in 1921

2013-08-20

in Canada, Law, Politics

But what was the state of Canadian democracy in 1921? Women (other than those with relations in the military) were only permitted to vote in federal elections that very year, and in Quebec would not get the vote for another generation. Aboriginal Canadians were only allowed to vote if they legally renounced their Aboriginal status; within a few years, Parliament would make it illegal for “Indians” to raise money or to hire lawyers to pursue legal cases against the Crown. Candidates and parties were free to raise and spend money in any amounts and in any ways they wished, with no public scrutiny and subject only to the legal prohibitions in the Criminal Code of Canada against bribery and corruption. Freedom of information legislation was unknown. The public and organized groups, save the well-heeled and well-connected, had few opportunities to put their views on policy issues before decision makers through mechanisms such as public hearings. The country did have far more newspapers than today and all were independently owned, but many if not most were closely tied to political parties and offered their readers highly partisan and parochial slants on the news. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was scarcely imaginable and no human rights codes existed: factories in Toronto and elsewhere could with impunity post signs saying “Men wanted. No Irish or Jews need apply.” Moreover… well, let us not belabour the point: by current standards, many aspects of Canadian democracy were deeply flawed, making for a huge democratic deficit. (p. 230)

White, Graham. “The ‘Centre’ of the Democratic Deficit: Power and Influence in Canadian Political Executives.” 2008. in Lenard, Patti Tamara and Richard Simeon eds. Imperfect Democracies: The Democratic Deficit in Canada and the United States. 2012.

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