Canadian Unlicensed Firearms Owners Association
Association canadienne des propriétaires d’armes sans permis

Philosophical Basis
for Civil Disobedience

homebutton contacts button articlesbutton photos linksbutton

Peaceful Civil Disobedience
- A Proud Canadian Heritage –

“Oh, righteous father, wilt thou not pity me,
And aid me on to Canada, where colored men are free.”**

Murray Mandryk seems not to understand what motivated MP Maurice Vellacott to award the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee metals to two women who “are convicted criminals” (PM lets mavericks run astray, StarPhoenix, 27 October 2012). Apparently Mr. Mandryk fails to comprehend, that while perhaps committing “criminal” actions, these two women were participating in peaceful civil disobedience.

Peaceful civil disobedience has a long and honourable heritage.1 In his 1849 treatise “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” Henry David Thoreau explains why he chose to go to jail rather that to pay taxes that supported slavery in the southern United States and that country’s war with Mexico. Thoreau asks two pertinent questions:

“Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then?

Thoreau answers his questions by stating:

“I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward.”2

These two women, who as I understand were arrested while promoting their pro-life position against abortion, were simply following the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi who said:

“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”3

In his fight for civil rights for all citizens Martin Luther King Jr. engaged in peaceful civil disobedience. He was often arrested for illegal activities that were called "unwise and untimely." In his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail” Dr. King declared:

“One who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”1

In his seminal legal text, A Theory of Justice, professor John Rawls considers peaceful, nonviolent civil disobedience a suitable means of public discourse noting that:

“Civil disobedience is a political act not only in the sense that is addressed to the majority that holds political power, but also because it is an act guided and justified by political principles, that is, by the principles of justice which regulates the constitution and social institutions generally.”4

Although civil disobedience “is strictly speaking contrary to law”, Rawls states:

“Civil disobedience (is) a way of setting up, within the limits of fidelity to law, a final device to maintain the stability of a just constitution. … Being an appeal to the moral basis of civic life, civil disobedience is a political and not a religious act. It relies upon common sense principles of justice that man can require one another to follow … the principles of justice, the fundamental terms of social cooperation between free and equal persons, that … is derived from the public conception of justice that characterizes a democratic society.”4

These two women have ‘paid the price’ to be true to their core beliefs. I commend Mr. Vellacott for honouring them.

Edward B. Hudson, DVM, MS
402 Skeena Court, Saskatoon S7K 4H2
(306) 242-2379
Dr. Hudson is a member of the CPC and serves as the secretary for the CPC Saskatoon-Wanuskewin EDA. The opinion expressed is his personal view.


** Song of the Free

1. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
2. Henry David Thoreau, “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience”, 1849

3. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (02 October 1869 30 January 1948)

4. John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Belknap Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1971, pp. 365, 384

See also:

Underground Railroad to Canada

Doukhobors in Canada

National Society for Women's Suffrage; Women’s Right to Vote's_suffrage_in_the_United_Kingdom

Viet Nam War Draft Evaders

Henry Morgentaler

Wheat Board Protesters

PM lets mavericks run astray

OCTOBER 27, 2012

However, the real test will be what, if anything, Harper says about the exploits of Maurice Vellacott after the Saskatoon Meewasin MP handed out of two of his allotted Queen's Diamond Jubilee medals to women convicted (one still imprisoned) for harassing patients at abortion clinics.

Forget that these two women aren't from Vellacott's riding, or even his province. These women are convicted criminals, yet Vellacott had the audacity to compare them to American civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.

Really, sir? Then why not save your Jubilee medals for someone truly deserving, such as the next murderer of an abortion doctor? Or at the very least, save one for Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mour-dock, who recently stated that a pregnancy caused by rape was God's intention.

Yes, Saskatchewan can be a rather conservative place, even socially. But in a place that's also big on decency and sensitive to the perception of being seen as a redneck backwater, one suspects that Vellacott crossed the line. At the very least, it would seem that Vellacott is out of step with the welcoming new Saskatchewan.

It's time for Harper to round up his mavericks before the voters do.