Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

… a core concept in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100

Click for pdf of Charter

Concept description

The Government of Canada (reference below, see also pdf on right) describes:

“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is one part of the Canadian Constitution. The Constitution is a set of laws containing the basic rules about how our country operates. For example, it contains the powers of the federal government and those of the provincial governments in Canada.

“The Charter sets out those rights and freedoms that Canadians believe are necessary in a free and democratic society. Some of the rights and freedoms contained in the Charter are:

  • freedom of expression
  • the right to a democratic government
  • the right to live and to seek employment anywhere in Canada
  • legal rights of persons accused of crimes
  • Aboriginal peoples’ rights
  • the right to equality, including the equality of men and women
  • the right to use either of Canada’s official languages
  • the right of French and English linguistic minorities to an education in their language
  • the protection of Canada’s multicultural heritage.

“The way the Charter protects these rights and freedoms is explained in Part II of this Guide [see]”.

Writing in the Canadian Encyclopedia, Richard Foot (2013, reference below) says:

“Since its enactment in 1982, the Charter has created a social and legal revolution in Canada, expanding the rights of minorities, transforming the nature of criminal investigations and prosecutions, and subjecting the will of Parliament and the legislatures to judicial scrutiny – an ongoing source of controversy. …

“The Charter has elevated the role of the courts by allowing judges to make sweeping social and legal changes through their interpretation of the Charter’s meaning. Critics say this has diminished the supremacy of elected bodies such as Parliament and the legislatures, by giving courts the power to dismiss their decisions.

“Others argue the Charter has initiated a “dialogue” between Parliament and the courts, with judges striking down laws where necessary, allowing Parliament and legislatures to rewrite those laws in ways that are compliant with the Charter. Others have accused judges of being social activists by “reading in” rights and freedoms into the Charter that aren’t specified in the document. In his book Friends of the Court, political scientist Ian Brodie (a former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper) says the Charter has also inspired “business groups, unions, native groups, language minorities, gay and lesbian groups and others” to import American-style public-interest litigation techniques into Canada, pursuing policy-making through the courts rather than through the political system.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Courts, Tribunals, and Commissions (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


Government of Canada (2017), Your Guide to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, at, accessed 19 May 2018.

Richard Foot (2013), Canadian Encyclopedia, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, at, accessed 19 May 2018.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 19 May 2018.

Image: Canadian Encyclopedia, at, accessed 19 May 2018.