The federal Liberals often have been critiqued as people who love to wave around the Charter of Rights, but who won't hesitate to show disrespect to certain parts of it they don't like -- that tricky little "notwithstanding" clause, for example, or the parts that guarantee individual liberties against the regulation of religion and opinion.
Usually the criticism is meant to suggest that they are merely cynical, but Justin Trudeau's Friday outburst at a meeting of New Brunswick academics raises a more bizarre possibility: that even a child of the Charter's chief architect may not know what is actually in the document.
How else can one explain the incredible timing of Mr. Trudeau's rumination? If you had to choose a venue in which to suggest that the existence of separate anglophone and francophone school systems was obsolete, divisive and costly, you'd be halfcrazy to even put New Brunswick on the list. It's a place where the surviving linguistic minority was not only conquered, but terrorized and dispersed. It's the only province where linguistic equality and linguistically separate school systems are guaranteed explicitly in the Charter -- a document that devotes more of its length to language rights than it does to due process or voting.
The remark, for which Trudeau has apologized after being upbraided by Liberal leader Stephane Dion, is not likely to dissuade anyone from the view that he is just a good-looking mediocrity with an attractive pedigree. But we can't say we weren't warned: He did mention, when embarking formally on his political career in February, that Canadians "will soon discover I am not my father, for better or worse." If that is what he was trying to establish by uttering a comment that would have made his father yelp with indignation, he can consider the mission accomplished.