By Nathan Neudorf - Lethbridge East MLA on November 12, 2021.
As another Remembrance Day passes, I hope we have all taken time to thank veterans and recall the sacrifices of Albertans and Canadians who gave up everything, including their very lives, to protect our freedom.Â
Seventy-six years have passed since the last world war, and now, we find ourselves recognizing the true value of the freedoms won for us by those who fought and died for them.Â
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms to each and every one of us. The Charter states that these freedoms areÂ “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”Â They represent each individual’s fundamental right to possess their convictions and live by them. These rights include:
* Freedom of conscience and religion
* Freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
* Freedom of peaceful assembly; and
*Freedom of association.
The power of the words: “freedom of conscience” should not, and cannot, be underestimated.
These words guarantee the right to follow one’s own beliefs in matters of religion, mortality, and personal conviction. The ability of each citizen to make free and informed decisions is the absolute prerequisite for the legitimacy, acceptability, and efficacy of our system of self-government.Â
Conscience can be defined as the inner feeling or voice of each individual acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s conduct.
Freedom of conscience represents the central and dominant freedom upon which all other freedoms find their substance.
In essence, our conscience is who we are. It is our individuality, our thinking, teaching, and observing.
Thought, belief, opinion, and expression are no small things to “reasonably limit.”
The Alberta Bill of Rights recognizes and expresses our fundamental freedoms this way:
“It is hereby recognized and declared that in Alberta there exists without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion, sex, gender identity or gender expression, the following human rights and fundamental freedoms namely:
(a) the right of the individual to liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law;”
It is important to note the phrase “security of the person” and essential to recognize that this entails freedom of the whole person: both the physical and psychological.
In other words, the importance of personal autonomy, self-ownership, and self-determination that every human being possesses over their own body must not be set aside.
Though we continue to look at vaccination as the best way to beat the COVID-19 pandemic, it is up to each of us to make that decision for ourselves or for our children.
That decision and the freedom to make it should never be taken in vain or be politicized.
While I encourage everyone to consider vaccinations, at the end of the day, we live in a democratic society with protected freedoms to make our own informed choices.
On April 12, 2021, we introduced Bill 66 to remove the ability of the government to mandate vaccination from the Health Act. If the Government of Alberta, which was democratically elected, saw fit to remove from itself the ability to infringe upon a person’s fundamental freedoms with respect to mandating vaccinations of its citizens, then we should not now allow other entities to infringe upon them.Â
I believe the government should be limited in scope to serve and protect the citizens of its jurisdiction.
A government that supports the rights of citizens to be free-thinking autonomous individuals is one that creates the best conditions for society to strengthen itself and stand firm through whatever difficulties it may encounter.
We cannot be a free province without free individuals.
As a government, we are at a crossroads. We must now stand by the freedoms written in the Charter of our country, which we as a government were elected to uphold and protect.
We must recognize the true significance of the price paid to secure these freedoms and protect them at all costs.
We should support one another in our inherent right to follow our conscience, as messy or difficult as it may seem at times. This is our common ground; no matter what faith, political stripe, ethnicity, or background, we all become united in the respect and protection of individual freedom.