This poem was lauded when it was first published and is taught in first-year Constitutional Law classes across Canada. Upon first hearing it, I was inspired. Later on I was awed by F.R. Scott’s ability to poignantly describe the frustration of a public-rights lawyer without violating any Law Society’s code of conduct. It is emotionally effective while it logically and persuasively lays out its points. Given the current political/legal climate, I’m copying it and posting it here.
Some Privy Counsel
“Emergency, emergency,” I cried “give us emergency,
This shall be the doctrine of our salvation.
Are we not surrounded by emergencies?
The rent of a house, the cost of food, pensions and
health, the unemployed,
These are lasting emergencies, tragic for me.
Yet ever the answer was property and civil rights,
and my peace-time troubles were counted as nothing.
“At least you have an unoccupied field,” I urged,
“Or something ancillary for a man with four children?
Surely my insecurity and want affect the body politic?”
But back came the echo of property and civil rights.
I was told to wrap my sorrow in water-tight
“Please, please,” I entreated, “look at my problem
I and my brothers, regardless of race, are afflicted.
Our welfare hangs on remote policies, distant
Planning of trade, guaranteed prices, high
Can provincial fractions deal with this complex whole?
Surely such questions are now supra-national!”
But the judges fidgeted over their digests
And blew me away with the cannons of construction.
“This is intolerable”, I shouted, “this is one country;
Two flourishing cultures, but joined in one nation.
I demand peace, order and good government.
This you must admit is the aim on Confederation!
But firmly and sternly I was pushed to a corner
And covered with the wet blanket of provincial
Stifling under the burden I raided my hands to Heaven
And called out with my last expiring breath
“At least you cannot deny I have a new aspect?
I cite in my aid the fresh approach of Lord Simon!”
But all I could hear was the old sing-song,
This time in Latin, muttering stare decisis.
by F.R. Scott