The Significance of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to Canadian Politics

Topics: Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Human rights Pages: 8 (3001 words) Published: October 7, 2013
On April 17th, 1982, Canadian politics as we know it has changed forever. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is now entrenched into the Constitution, and this means that civil and political rights were given to the people living in Canada as protection from the policies of all levels of government. On one hand, this opened many doors to the rights and freedoms being politically overlooked, such as freedom of expression, and freedom of association. This changed the pre-charter era that relied on a futile Canadian Bill of Rights; democracy was no longer questionable now. The Charter essentially gave people the ability to “appeal to the courts” (Mandel 3). However, this also meant that the legislators and representative institutions would hand over the last decision to the Judges, who “not only sa[id] something about the issues… [but] actually decide[d] them” (Mandel 3). Therefore, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been one of the most important changes to the Canadian political system because it has ultimately given power to the appointed judges in court, while taking the power from the elected legislators to some degree, and it is justified by a means of giving more power to the people. This essay begins with an overview of the various rights and freedoms protected. Furthermore, the importance of the Charter and how it has proven to be strength and a weakness to Canadian politics will follow, and how they have benefitted or impaired the greater society using examples directed at specific rights. Interpretations of the courts will also be looked at. The essay will end with a conclusion. The Charter contains many rights and freedoms that are deemed necessary for all people. It begins with section 1 that guarantees all Charter rights and freedoms subject to reasonable limits, thus meaning that they are not “absolute”(Funston, Meehan 156). There are factors which are considered during this process, one being the “Oakes test” which will be expanded on later (Funston, Meehan 158-159). Section 2 covers the fundamental freedoms: religion, opinion, assembly, and association. These fundamental freedoms give people the right to practice what they want, associate with who they want to associate with, believe what they want, and protest peacefully all within reasonable limits, as stated in section 1 (Funston, Meehan 158). Sections 3 to 5 are democratic rights, which include the right to vote, the right to have a change in assembly every 5 years, as well as the sitting of parliament annually. These rights are in place “to guarantee effective representation to all citizens”. (Funston, Meehan 167) Mobility rights are covered in section 6, which basically state that Canadian citizens may live and work as well as leave and enter the country. This right only applies to permanent residents of the country. It simply means one has the chance to move around freely to some degree (Funston, Meehan 168). Legal rights range from section 7 to 14 of the Charter, which mainly address those individuals who face criminal procedures. These rights have originated in other documents such as the Bill of Rights; however they are entrenched now and have significant power over legislation. (Funston, Meehan 169). Sections 16 to 22 cover language rights, which have originated from the Official Languages Act and became a part of the constitution under the charter. These Charter rights apply to the government in New Brunswick as the other provinces remain unbound. They include the two official languages of Canada, and further explain where they can be used to maintain equality. (Funston, Meehan 187). Minority language rights are also protected under section 23 where Anglophone and Francophone minorities want to be educated in their native language. (Funston, Meehan 189). Section 24 declares that the application of Charter rights is in the jurisdiction and responsibility of the courts. This means if one feels that their rights have been infringed, they must...

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