Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal
Institute for Public Affairs:

A Pledge of Principles
Beryl P.Wajsmann,Esq. Founder and President  

“…to stand with those whose trust in the people is qualified only by prudence and not with those whose mistrust of the people is qualified only by fear…” – Gladstone

We believe in this country. We feel pride in her past, confidence in her present and have faith in her future. We believe in the quality of Canadian life and in the character of Canadian institutions. We believe in an abiding friendship with our nearest neighbour based upon on honest relationship, without subservience, in the confidence of a mutual understanding that civility is not a sign of weakness and sincerity is always subject to proof. We believe in a Canada of an engaged citizenry who seek out what we have in common and in that quest succeed in solidarity. We believe that the courage of our character and the compulsion of our conscience can propel us towards the perfection of our unique social contract and make of this land the most civil society on earth.

We place the highest value on the respect for, and freedom of, the individual. We are not partisans of the status quo. We seek to move our people towards compassion and our institutions towards inclusion to assure the survival and success of liberty. We see society as capable of moral progress but, being by nature neither essentially good nor perverse, requiring the cultivation and support of the more positive inclinations of man. While understanding the limits of legislation and law, we do not hesitate advocacy of the uses of the levers of power for the expansion of equity and equality.

While loyal to the principle that the rights of the individual are paramount to those of the state and that all must be accorded an opportunity to fashion their own lives and grow to the limit of their potential, we believe that responsibilities go with those rights. As citizens we have a duty of public vigilance to insure the preservation and progress of the commonweal through an eloquent and enlightened governance of the nation.

As Canadians we have proud precedents to follow. Over the past century our country has marched forward with advances in national progress and international prestige, through difficult times, that act as beacons to propel us to the fulfillment of our national quest. But we believe that our legacy demands much more than that. We believe that we must guard against the smugness and complacency that are symptoms of a preoccupation with parochial interests alone. We believe the lessons of our legacy are unselfish ones, imbued with an understanding that, with grace and dignity, we must involve ourselves in the struggle of free men the world over, for their fight is ours as well. We cannot hide behind a curtain of self-satisfaction and rest snugly at harbour, for we will assuredly be buffeted by the continuing tides of the challenges of our complex time, and our responses will be muted and impotent rather than prideful and purposeful.

Each one of us has a special link to the dangers of our day. Each one of us has an obligation to fashion a determined perseverance to empathize with an aspect of the public agenda. Each one of us must develop an involvement with the social welfare of our people for the relief of suffering is the responsibility of us all. That is the price of citizenship.

But words are not sufficient. Action is required. We seek to empower and enfranchise elements of our society that have never been accustomed to exercising levers of influence. To that end we engage in representation of cultural communities, social action groups, and unions to create alliances on the major social ills of the day. Not merely to oppose, but to propose. To raise the poor from poverty. To reconcile private interests with public rights. To attack monopoly. To guard against rewarding private enterprise with untrammeled privilege and preference. And above all to exalt the individual rights of each citizen over the corporate demands of the state and extend the reach of democracy to every corner of the world where people are enslaved by tyranny. For what affects one affects all. In this modern age of instant communication, and instant destruction, we have come to the realization that we are truly a family of man. We are all mortal. We all cherish our future. And  pain caused to the least amongst us diminishes us all.

We believe these to be the common threads of the extraordinary social contract we have created in Canada. These are the qualities of our great experiment in civilized nation building. Canadians do not believe in bankrupting families who seek to educate their children or ignore those who need to protect the health of their loved ones. We do not pander to popular bloodlust on the issue of capital punishment. We give succor to the most helpless in the world—the refugees. And when called upon to serve overseas for the defense and dignity of democracy, this good and gentle land has sacrificed more sons and daughters than even the United States as a proportion of  population. And we will continue to vigorously advocate that Canada supports our democratic sister nations in all parts of the globe. We believe that the pride this engenders in us as Canadians gives us the courage for the generosity of character that is required in order to make the sacrifices necessary to advance and accomplish an agenda of compassionate conscience.

We seek to advance these policies of purpose because they are the singular weapons to tear down the cold walls of oppression and neglect that surround so many, and allow the warm rays of hope to thaw the complacencies and compromises that suffocate us all. And this hope will be held together not by the power of the sword but by the solidarity of free will. A free will rising from many races in many tongues to realize a new commonwealth of man.

The call of service that summons us to this work is not due to any notion of secular saintliness or false piety. We do not pursue them for any specious hopes of reward. We simply believe that the highest and best use of our time, treasure and talent is to advocate for a society where, instead of looking over our shoulder at whether the other guy has a knife at our back, we are actually looking out for the other guy. To advance a society where all realize that we can turn this “vale of tears” of a world into a “valley of tenderness”. That we can perfect a society that values co-operation over competition and compassion over contempt. It is a saner way to live.

Jawaharlal Nehru once called the advancement of freedom and justice “…the silken bond of history…” The process of engagement in this advancement has always seemed to us to be the most exhilarating expression of what we are about as educated and enlightened men who, by our refusal, in Dante’s words, to “…place ourselves with those cold and timid souls who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis…”, propel our society to lionize the nobility of courage and conscience and repel the decay of  hatred, jealousy and greed. We struggle not for the sake of philosophical notions of an idealized humanity but for the very pragmatic and immediate relief of the human being.

Even the privileged seek to live in a world where they are judged not by the contents of their pocketbooks but by the quality of their character. Even the powerful are pained by the suffering around them. For we are all human. All of us at one time, in the deepest recesses of our hearts, have felt the dark mists of despair. We have all looked into the abyss and hoped for courage. We have all learned the lesson that justice is not in heaven nor beyond the sea but in our hearts to dream and in our hands to forge. We have all understood, viscerally, the words of the poet Aeschylus who wrote so long ago of,

 “…pain which falls drop by drop upon the heart until through the awful  grace of God we attain wisdom…”

We engage in public life because of the anger we feel at the injustices and inequities that surround us. Because we feel others pain. Because the course we seek to chart is the relief of suffering and the enfranchisement and empowerment of those too weak to fight for themselves. Because we share a common humanity and are repulsed by hypocrisy and mendacity masquerading as diplomacy and objectivity.

We must always remember that the “Just Society” which men of goodwill seek to build is predicated on a recognition of an equal claim on the stock of welfare of the land by all, and that this recognition has not yet found full expression in the social contract between the government and the people.

In our land today there are too many of shrivelled spirit and hostile heart that fear the future, mistrust the present and invoke the security of a comfortable past, which, in fact, never existed. These we shall always oppose.

We stand with those who have faith in the people’s ability,  tempered through the experiences of reason and judgment, to increase for all the amount of justice and freedom and opportunity, which all human life deserves.

We stand with those who believe that our progress as a people is predicated on the notion that we have a sovereignty over our democratically elected government unencumbered by any conditions of special considerations to property or power, privilege or preference.

We stand with those who believe that all people, no matter how unempowered, can, through the exercise of their suffrage, exact their full share from the bounty of society’s wealth to which their labour has so much contributed, so that they will have a flow of well being from the state to allow for their fullest expression as  human beings.

And finally, we stand with those who are committed to the expansion of the freedoms we enjoy as Canadians to all parts of the world and who would readily and courageously support our sister democracies, as we have always done in our history, and not with those who hide as cowards behind diplomatic curtains of moral objectivity. We need to bring pride back to our country. There can be no better vehicle than the strengthening of our international prestige. And no better policy than the pledge of faithful friendship to those allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share and who would join us in active advocacy for, and dedicated defence of, democracy and liberty for all. 

We seek a revival of militancy in our political life. A renewal of the conscience of our nation that will propel a pragmatic populist agenda to give voice to our national culture of compassion thereby assuring the triumphant expansion and entrenchment of the dynamic humanism of our Canadian experiment so that, to paraphrase Harold Laski,

 “…the people will always feel the warm gentle breeze of compassion that is prelude to the renewal of a bright spring,, rather than the cold stinging frost of complacency that signals entry into a long night of winter…”