Let us not be naïve. National political leaders who govern from a position of ideological certitude do not wish merely to reimagine their country, but to repurpose it. Shelves of books and endless op-eds were penned to indict Stephen Harper's considerable efforts to bend Canada to his conservative will, for example, much as American progressives are today fretting about what they see as the fork-in-the-road irrevocablity of Donald Trump's assault on U.S. institutions. Occasionally political leaders will rally their own partisan troops by highlighting policy shifts of such enduring import that they will hobble their adversaries even when they take their turn at governing. But seldom do we hear elected officials state publicly that their intent is to handcuff their successors in perpetuity. And the reason is obvious. It is undemocratic, profoundly so.
Enter Justin Trudeau. Speaking yesterday in response to AFN leaders' impatience with the slow pace of reform to indigenous governance, the PM averred that he was proceeding methodically so that he could "make a meaningful difference not just now, but for generations to come." His messaging was as unambiguous as his strategy. "No one is going to be able to back up on this path forward that we're taking. That is the true legacy of this 2½-year relationship. There are things that will never be able to be undone, and that is a good thing."
This is a statement of the purest political hubris, and Canadians of every political stripe, indigenous and otherwise, should be paying close attention. To state the obvious, Canada has a Constitution (and within it a Charter, thanks to the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau) and even it can be amended. As for ordinary legislation, the Westminster system via which Canadians govern themselves still rests in part on the older idea of the Supremacy of Parliament, and thus on the principle that institutionalizing "things that will never be able to be undone" is a species of tyranny.
Let us hope that the prime minister's egregious comment was a lapse born of his passion for indigenous-governance issues and not further evidence of his tendency in recent months to imagine himself as the arbiter of Canadians' rights and freedoms.