Canada’s charter, 25 years on

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

I didn’t get a chance to post this yesterday (a long work day, watching a prolonged cricket game, and iWork letting me down by crashing and not backing up – a rare failure), but it’s still useful (a day late) to note the birthday of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, celebrating 25 years today (just a few months older than I am!). Especially given that the current Canadian government appears to be refusing to acknowledge the anniversary (presumably Prime Minister Harper is sticking his fingers in his ears and singing la la la la la I can’t hear you, as with so much else). Then again, the current government does not really like judges and judicial activism all that much. The official title of the Prime Minister’s own case (as a private citizen, before election) against the federal government (where he relied upon the Charter, of course) has never been more appropriate: Harper v Canada.

The same government has also abolished the funding scheme that allowed applicants with equality and language cases against the Government to seek support for legal costs (some of the more famous challenges, on things like disability access, same sex relationships and the fairness of juries, were funded this way). (It may be worth noting that the last Tory government in the early 90s tried to cancel it too, but backed down in the face of public outrage, and that the 2006 decision to abolish the Challenges program was accompanied by a frankly bonkers decision to kill the Law Commission too. Apparently it’s all part of a liberal conspiracy (not only that, but the Commission allowed “well-known lesbians” to contribute to the writing of discussion papers. What next?)

In any event, today (well, yesterday) is also a day for celebration, and the University of Ottawa organised a fantastic-looking conference (PDF) on the legal and social history of the Charter to date. Well done. has a beautiful scrapbook page. It’s worth a visit.


3 thoughts on “Canada’s charter, 25 years on

  1. The “United Kingdom”, referred to in the present draft of the “Canada Act, 1982, including the Constitution Act, 1982”, refers to the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”, not the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland”.

    According to the British North America Act, 1867, the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick expressed their desire to be federally united into one Dominion under the Crown of the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland”, not the Crown of the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.

  2. For more material on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms I encourage you and your readers to visit — an unbiased, plain language, and interactive look at the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It also contains relevant case law and precedents. The website is available in English, French, Chinese (traditional), German, and Italian with 6 more languages planned.

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