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With rights comes responsibilities


January 14, 2013
By Robert Lunney

by Bob Lunney

Towards the conclusion of my memoir, I attempted to sum up some beliefs about sustaining a civil society, a goal related to community policing. The concept that rights are earned through responsibilities is fundamental to maintaining a peaceful and well-ordered society. The following excerpt is taken from pages 306-307.

A democratic society has decisions to make in maintaining the balance between freedom and order, an evolving process of adjustment and revision. Rights are one part of that equation, but rights are earned through responsibilities.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms establishes constitutional rights in our society, but the principle of responsibility is more difficult to pin down. While people are increasingly aware of their rights and eager to demand them, there is no countervailing array of values to inform individuals of their responsibilities to society.

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Perhaps we need a as a core value to remind people that the inalienable rights and inherent dignity of everyone requires that they accept certain responsibilities. Both the rule of law and human rights depend on the readiness of everyone to act justly.

Every citizen has the duty to refrain from any behaviour that would infringe on the full exercise of rights by others. It should be a responsibility of all to respect every other individual and to accept the authority of the law. In acknowledging the law everyone should assist the police and authorities in the lawful execution of their duties; everyone should recognize and respect the rights associated with other people’s property as well as community property.

It’s best if a is not coercive. Like the original , it should be an affirmative statute to encourage awareness of the responsibilities of people in their relationship towards each other, beginning with the education of children at an early age.

The power of moral suasion is too often depreciated by those disposed to over-govern. It could be held that although all people have an equal entitlement to human rights, their responsibilities to society are proportional to the possibilities open to them.

The expression “noblesse oblige” was once exclusively associated with class distinction and implied that with wealth, power and prestige come responsibilities. More broadly interpreted in a pluralistic society, the term also implies an obligation for those who are capable of simple acts to help the less fortunate.

The strengthening of Canadian society through endorsement of a non-coercive in statute form would balance the emphasis on rights that typified the 20th Century. It would also provide the equilibrium and spirit of self-discipline that will be needed to nurture and sustain democratic nations in the competitive global community of the 21st century.

Competition is not limited to economies, but also applies to the strength and vitality of societies. Building the spirit of self-efficacy and personal responsibility should be a national goal.