The Magna Carta, one of the most influential and iconic documents, has always caught the attention of many intellects around the world. As such, we thought we would share some of our favourite quotes:
"Magna Carta has lived in the hearts and minds of our people. It is an incantation of the spirit of liberty. Whatever its text or meaning, it has become the talisman of a society in which tolerance and democracy reside, a society in which each man and woman has and is accorded his or her unique dignity, a society in which power and privilege do not produce tyranny and oppression". -The Honourable Sir Gerard Brennan, Former Chief Justice of Australia
"The greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot"- Lord Denning
"The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase in human history. It is human history. It permeated the ancient life of early peoples. It blazed anew in the Middle Ages. It was written in Magna Charta"- Franklin D. Roosevelt
This summer, while visiting Oxford to attend her 50th class reunion at Oxford University, Vice-Dean Yahya's mother Hafizah Yahya visited the Salisbury Cathedral. The Cathedral is home to one of the four original 1215 copies of Magna Carta. Ms. Magna Carta was jealous of her opportunity, but thrilled receive souvenirs from her trip! Thank you Dr. Yahya for all of the wonderful gifts!
In springtime this year we posted about fishing – at a time when the lakes in Alberta close for a brief time frame to allow for healthy regrowth of a valuable natural resource. Currently the flowing waters in all three regions of the province are also closed for similar purposes, but lakes are open to pleasure fishing. Take a read back to see how fisheries are related to the Magna Carta, and to get some general information on the guiding legislation for fishing in Alberta!
Next week, the Magna Carta will be finishing its tour of Canada. Its final stop will be here in Edmonton at the renewed Legislative Assembly Visitor Centre, and Ms. Magna Carta is excited to announce that this is where we will be hosting our last Ms. Magna Carta event!
The new Visitor Centre is on the main floor of the Edmonton Federal building and along with The Borealis Gallery’s inaugural exhibition, Magna Carta: Law, Liberty & Legacy, it features the Pehonan Theatre, the Agora Interpretive Centre and the Alberta Branded retail store.
The Agora Interpretive Centre has many interactive and dynamic activities, which aim to entertain and immerse Albertans of all ages in our province’s vibrant parliamentary history and culture. The retail store, showcases fine works and unique products created by Alberta artisans.
One of the most impressive features of the Visitor Centre is the Pehonan Theatre. This theatre is a state-of-the art 4-D theatre that is currently showing an 11-minute educational film about the history of Alberta. You may wonder what the fourth dimension is…well…you will just have to go there and find out!
* For those interested in attending our event at the Visitor Centre please send us an email at email@example.com
Ms. Magna Carta is thrilled to be holding two events this month featuring Dr. Carolyn Harris. On November 26th, Dr. Harris will be providing a lecture on her book. This lecture is sponsored by the Centre for Constitutional Studies. Dr. Harris will also be the feature speaker at an event at the Legislative Assembly of Alberta Visitor Centre. In anticipation of Dr. Harris' trip to Edmonton, check out the interview below to find out her view on Magna Carta, its impacts over the ages, and villainous monarchs!
Why did you choose Magna Carta as the topic for your first book?
My PhD research examined the English Civil Wars and French Revolution, two events informed by the principles of Magna Carta. I had the pleasure of meeting Suzy Rodness, co-chair of Magna Carta Canada at a lecture I gave at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. I began writing articles about a diverse range of topics related to King John and Magna Carta for the Magna Carta Canada website in 2013. In 2014, I was asked to write Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada, the book that complements the 2015 Magna Carta, Law, Liberty and Legacy exhibition.
King John placed his seal on Magna Carta in 1215. From a historian's perspective, what was the impact of this on those he ruled over?
The immediate impact of Magna Carta was the outbreak of the 1st Barons' War as King John refused to honour the terms of Magna Carta and his rebel barons sought an alternate claimant to the throne to replace him. King John's death in 1216 and the long minority of his son Henry III allowed for the reissue of Magna Carta and the development of The Charter of the Forest. In the thirteenth century, the legal rights of Magna Carta applied only to free men but the Six Statutes of the mid-fourteenth century expanded Magna Carta's provisions to men of all social backgrounds. Women were explicitly covered by the legal provisions of Magna Carta in the mid-fifteenth century.
King John is remembered in a very negative light. In your opinion, is he the most villainous monarch? If not, who is?
King John's grandson, King Edward I was a better general and statesman than John and he reissued Magna Carta over the course of his reign, including the 1300 Magna Carta, which is on display in the exhibition. However, Edward I behaved in an extremely ruthless manner over the course of his reign and harshly punished those who opposed him. Edward I conquered Wales, invaded Scotland and expelled England's Jewish community. Edward I was the first English monarch to have his adversaries - such as Scottish War of Independence leader William Wallace - executed by hanging, drawing and quartering. Robert the Bruce's sister Mary and supporter Isabella MacDuff, Countess of Buchan were captured by the English forces and imprisoned in outdoor cages at the King's command. Edward I's tomb bears the inscription "Here is Edward I, Hammer of the Scots."
It is fair to say that human rights have evolved greatly since the inception of Magna Carta. The Barons who forced King John to place his seal on the Magna Carta in 1215 were attempting to secure certain rights and protections, in areas such as taxation and access to the courts, by enacting law which would apply to all “free men”. However, equality by today’s standards was not achieved , as the Magna Carta only applied to selective rights and selective groups of people.
Today, a constitutional supremacy exists in Canada, meaning that the protections afforded to all people by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms cannot be disregarded by the State or its actors. The Charter is analogized to a living tree which grows and changes over time. As suggested by John Robson, trees have roots, and the roots of the Charter are the Magna Carta.
Section 15(1) of the Charter guarantees “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.” Additionally, provincial and federal human rights legislation allows individuals who perceive their rights to have been infringed by actors in the private sector to make claims of discrimination, which will then be heard by a human rights tribunal. The courts continue to recognize and develop the concept of equality in light of the Charter and human rights legislation. Specifically, what it means to have equality of opportunity in our society has been addressed by the courts in countless cases.
In Eldridge v British Columbia (Attorney General), the claimants, who were deaf persons, argued that they were not receiving medical services equivalent to those received by hearing persons. The alleged inequality was that the medical plan set out by the province at that time did not provide paid sign language interpreters for medical services. Although both hearing and deaf persons received the exact same health care services under the legislation, deaf persons were disadvantaged by not being able to effectively communicate. The Court found that the government was obligated to ensure effective communication in the delivery of medical services so that all individuals could take advantage of the health care benefits. The Court held that section 15(1) sometimes requires special measures to be taken in order to ensure that disadvantaged groups are able to benefit equally from government services. In this case, equal benefit required provision of sign language interpreters to persons who are deaf.
Eldridge demonstrates that even if a law is compliant with the Charter, any impacts of it which deprive certain groups of equal treatment under it will still infringe the Charter. This is an excellent example of the evolution of our society’s understanding of equality. Back in 1215, no remedy would be afforded to a person who was deaf even if it rendered him unable to access education, the court system, or other services. Equality of opportunity to access services was not on the minds of the Barons when drafting the Magna Carta.
Human rights legislation continues to develop alongside notions of equality. The Alberta Human Rights Act protects individuals from unequal treatment on the grounds of race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation. In British Columbia, protections against discrimination in employment extend to prior criminal convictions. In 1982 when the Charter came into force, it is doubtful that society understood the importance of protecting equal access to employment for an individual with a criminal record. Contemplating this evolution reminds us that as a society grows and changes, new rights will need to be protected. We must be open to embracing opportunities to ensure equal treatment of new subsets of society.
 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11 [Charter].
Although, if you have a touch of triskaidekaphobia (a fear of the number thirteen) today’s date may leave you feeling a little uneasy. If it’s any consolation, there won’t be another Friday the 13th until May of 2016.
Ms Magna Carta is very excited to announce that Dr. Carolyn Harris will be coming to the University of Alberta Faculty of Law on Thursday November 26th. She will be providing a public lecture, “Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights.” The lecture will take place in room 231/237 in the law building at noon, and Dr. Harris will stay for a question and answer period as well as a book signing following the lecture.
We hope that you join us on the 26th for this informative lecture and to enjoy some FREE PIZZA!
Stay tuned next week for a brief biography and interview with Dr. Carolyn Harris.
In June of this year the Magna Carta started its tour around Canada. It has since received the attention of many prominent members of Canada’s legal community. Shown below are pictures of guests who attended a Magna Carta reception at the Canadian Museum of History. Among those in attendance was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, The Right Honourable Beverly McLachlin.
Picture are courtesy of Art Linton of Magna Carta Canada
Yesterday we directed you to the Centre for Constitutional Studies' website to read the article "Part I: What is the Magna Carta". This article is one of the pieces written on Democratic Governance by CCS.
Part II: Magna Carta and Canada’s Constitution, is the complimentary article. It discusses the role that Magna Carta has played in developing Canada's constitution, and how it has been incorporated into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Click the link above to learn about this interesting and important topic!
Thank you to CCS for sharing these articles with Ms. Magna Carta and our readers!
There are many fantastic articles on the Centre for Constitutional Studies website. Today for our TBT post, we are doing a throwback to a CCS article written by Mark Moore earlier this year.
Mark discusses the Magna Carta's origin, the idea of Magna Carta as a series of charters rather than a single document, and its influence on legislators over the past eight centuries. Click here to check out this great article.
Make sure to stop by tomorrow for part II of the Centre for Constitutional Studies' tribute to Magna Carta!
The Centre for Constitutional Studies is an academic research centre based at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law. The Centre focuses its research on constitutional issues through a variety of lenses, such as historical, legal, and political. It engages Albertans, Canadians, and international publics in discussing the nature and importance of constitutions and constitutional matters.
Established in 1987 through collaboration between the University of Alberta’s Departments of History, Political Science, and the Faculty of Law, the Centre emphasizes public legal education and engagement alongside its research activities. It does this through public lectures, conferences, and publications.
The Centre for Constitutional Studies is looking forward to co-sponsoring (with Ms. Magna Carta) Carolyn Harris’ visit to discuss Magna Carta in November.
The Centre provides excellent articles and lectures to students and interested members of the public year round. Third year law student Mark Moore authored the text above, and has made some wonderful contributions to the works of the Centre. He has written two pieces on our favorite subject, the Magna Carta!
The two articles which will be posted tomorrow and Friday were originally written for and appear on the Centre for Constitutional Studies website. Thank you to Mark Moore for these great articles!
Last semester, we discussed the relationship between property rights and the Magna Carta. We are grateful to have recently had the opportunity to interview Mr. Lee Cutforth, Q.C., Alberta’s first Property Rights Advocate. Please see below for Mr. Cutforth’s responses to our questions about property rights in Alberta and their relation to the Magna Carta.
Do you consider the Magna Carta to be one of the foundational documents for modern day property rights? If not, where do our property rights originate?
There is no doubt that the Magna Carta is a foundational document in establishing the Rule of Law, the idea of limitations on the power of government and, by implication, the recognition of individual property rights. However, I hesitate saying that our property rights originated with the Great Charter.
The Americans have a marvelous phrase in their Declaration of Independence, referring to “…the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God…”. This is not to press a theological point, but more to illustrate the belief that some ideas – some rights – are inherently true and good by their very nature, and do not depend for their validity upon legislative edict. These intrinsically true and good rights are recognised, adopted and followed not because they were granted by a king or a legislature or even approved by a majority vote, but rather because of their inherent truth and their value to society as a whole.
The Magna Carta is important, because it articulated and recorded fundamental rights and responsibilities that were discovered and adopted through the evolution of the ancient Saxon society out of which they grew. It was foundational, as point-in-time evidence of the existence of those rights and their timeless legitimacy.
Which piece of legislation is the strongest in terms of promoting property rights in Alberta? Which is the weakest and in your opinion requires revision?
I think that it is problematic to point to a single piece of legislation as the strongest or the weakest in promoting property rights in Alberta.
With respect to laws that require revision, issues can arise across a number of statutes, and I have addressed some of those in my 2012, 2013 and 2014 Annual Reports. One example is the law of adverse possession, which I recommended be abolished in Alberta. Adverse possession, known in the vernacular as “squatters’ rights”, allows registered land ownership to be defeated by an unregistered claim. Although its use is not common, for the affected parties it is a significant flaw in the integrity of the land registry – one that I hope will be remedied.
Similarly, it must be said that a number of laws contribute to the strength of property rights in Alberta, although none do so to a singular degree. The Alberta Bill of Rights articulates a general principle of a right to the enjoyment of property. The Property Rights Advocate Act provides a way for improvements to property rights to be recommended to the Legislative Assembly. Also, case law should not be overlooked in protecting property rights – the Court of Appeal decision in Love v. Flagstaff (County of) Subdivision and Development Appeal Board 2002 ABCA 292, provides a great summary of property rights principles that describe the essence of property rights in Alberta.
Yesterday Ms Magna Carta hosted a special performance by the Magna Carta Minstrels. The Minstrels performed an original song written by Professor Ziff called “The Accidental Charter”. The song contemplated the unintended and far-reaching legal legacy of the Magna Carta. We were so excited that so many of you came out to show your support for the event. Below we have some stills and unofficial footage from the event. Check back soon for the extended official footage of the event which will be submitted to the Magna Carta Time Capsule.
Last semester, we had the opportunity and privilege to interview Dr. Paul Paton, Dean of the University of Alberta Faculty of Law. For today’s TBT post, please take a look back at the below video to hear what Dean Paton had to say about the continued importance of the Magna Carta and the Faculty's unique Law & Social Media course.
Looking for a fun way to take a quick study break tomorrow? Meet the Magna Carta Minstrels at noon in front of the John A Weir Memorial Law Library! We will be performing Professor Ziff’s original song, an English ballad called “The Accidental Charter”. The performance will be recorded for submission to the Magna Carta time capsule. There will also be a draw for tickets to our final event at the Legislative Assembly of Alberta Visitor Centre where guests will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view the Magna Carta. Come out and show your support! Popcorn will be served!
Last semester we wrote on the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark decision in Carter v Canada. In Carter the Court declared that two Criminal Code provisions related to physician-assisted dying were invalid. We also interviewed one of our facultymembers, Professor Nelson, and a well-respected Edmonton Physician on this topic! Please see below to watch our interview with Dr. Bell.
With respect to this topic, the Federal government has released a questionnaire to allow Canadians to participate in an online consultation. The deadline to complete this questionnaire is November 1st, 2015. The following is a direct link to the online survey: Your Voice is Needed