believe in rights is to believe in defending difference."
A central premise
underlying democracy is the belief that people are different.
After all, why would democratic states need to make sure
that individuals had rights like freedom of speech or religion
if all people thought and acted in the same way. A well
known Canadian author recently wrote, "To believe in
rights is to believe in defending difference." (View
in Russian) Elections would also be unnecessary as there
would be no political differences to decide among.
states take some steps to ensure that people are allowed,
even encouraged, to be different. In many cases they have
provisions in their constitution or basic law which protect
people's right to believe and act in different ways. Some
governments also provide support to groups and institutions,
like schools, media outlets, and arts organizations, which
help people maintain their distinctive beliefs and practices.
At the same time
that democratic governments recognize and protect people's
right to be different they also recognize that in order
to have a workable society the people in it must adhere
to some common beliefs and practices. The system of law
in a country, for example, is really a statement of what
is and is not acceptable practice. The law is not a fixed
and static thing, however, it changes everyday as legislators
at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels make new
laws or reform old ones. Laws also change when courts rule
they are unconstitutional - that is they violate the principles
set out in the Canadian Constitution.
every democracy debates go on about what the common
values and practices of the society should be and, the
flip side of that, how much difference or diversity
is appropriate. The purpose of this section is to involve
you in the debate about those questions as it applies
to Canadian society. What are common Canadian values?
What should they be? Are there limits to what people
can do to express their political, social or cultural
differences? Who should decide what those limits are?
The scenarios and activities in this section are designed
to provide an opportunity for you to explore these questions
and join the discussion about diversity in Canadian