Excerpted from The Charter of Rights and Freedoms: A Guide for Canadians. © Minister of Supply and Services Canada 1982
Cat. No. CP 45-24/ 1982-1
ISBN 0-662-51913-2

Government of Canada

Constitution Act, 1982
PART I: Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms

This document has been published to increase understanding of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to heighten awareness of its significance in our daily lives.

This publication is not a legal document. The notes in the booklet are for explanatory purposes only, and are not to be taken as legal interpretations of the provisions of the Charter.

Additional copies of this booket may be obtained by writing to:

  • Publications Canada
    P.O. Box 1986
    Station B
    Ottawa, Canada
    K1P 6G6


[In 1981 Canadians witnessed and participated in a truly historical event. Canada had reached at last the goal of that long journey to full, sovereign independence that began with Confederation in 1867.]

The Parliamentary resolution that sets out the details of our truly Canadian Constitution is important to every citizen, containing as it does many of the long-established provisions that form the foundations of our society and of the laws under which we construct our affairs. …

Most of the rights and freedoms we are enshrining in the Charter are not totally new and different. Indeed, Canadians have tended to take most of them for granted over the years. The difference is that now they will be guaranteed by our Constitution, and people will have the power to appeal to the courts if they feel their constitutional rights have been infringed upon or denied.

Pierre Elliot Trudeau
– Pierre Elliot Trudeau
  Prime Minister of Canada


In a free and democratic society, it is important that citizens know exactly what their rights and freedoms are, and where to turn for help and advice in the event that those freedoms are denied or rights infringed upon. In a country like Canada — vast and diverse, with 11 governments, two official languages and a variety of ethnic origins — the only way to provide equal protection to everyone is to enshrine those basic rights and freedoms in the Constitution. …

If you need further information or if you feel that your rights have been infringed upon, remember that your Member of Parliament or your Member of the provincial Legislative Assembly is available to help you.

Jean Cretien
– Jean Chrétien
  Minister of Justice

PART I: Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

1. Guarantee of Rights and Freedoms

Rights and freedoms in Canada

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.

2. Fundamental Freedoms

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

  1. freedom of conscience and religion;
  2. freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
  3. freedom of peaceful assembly; and
  4. freedom of association.


This part of the Constitution Act, 1982, sets out a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that establishes for all Canadians protection of certain basic rights and freedoms esssential to maintaining our free and democratic society and a united country.

This Charter of Rights applies to all governments — federal, provincial and territorial — and will provide protection of the following:

  • fundamental freedoms
  • democratic rights
  • the right to live and to seek employment anywhere in Canada
  • legal rights
  • equality rights for all individuals
  • official languages of Canada
  • minority language and education rights
  • Canada's multicultural heritage
  • native people's rights

Canadians have enjoyed many of these basic rights and freedoms as a matter of practice for many years. Certain rights were set out in the Canadian Bill of Rights, which was introduced by Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker in 1960, as well as in various provincial laws. However, including them in a Charter of Rights, written into the Constitution, will clarify and strengthen them.

At the same time, though, in a democratic society, rights cannot be absolute; they must be qualified in order to protect the rights of others. For instance, freedom of speech must be qualified by libel and slander laws. Therefore this section will allow that the rights that the Charter guarantees will be subject to a "notwithstanding clause." This means that Parliament or a provincial legislature could pass legislation that conflicts with a specific provision of the Charter in one of those areas. Any such legislation would expire after five years unless specifically renewed. The value of this clause is that it will ensure that legislatures rather than judges have the final say on important matters of public policy. The provision will allow for unforeseen situations to be corrected without the need for constitutional amendment.

The Charter enshrines certain fundamental freedoms for everyone in Canada. They are freedoms that custom and law over the years have made almost universal in our country. Now these freedoms will be protected by the Constitution.

As Canadians, we are guaranteed the right to worship, or not, as we wish, in the place of worship of our choice. Freedom of the press and other media is ensured and our right to gather in peaceful groups as well as our right to freedom of association is protected.

Even though we have, over the years, tended to take our rights for granted, there have been cases in Canada where some fundamental rights have been denied by laws of goverment.

For example, in 1937 the Alberta Legislature passed a law that would have required newspapers to reveal their sources or news and to publish without charge "information" supplied by the goverment. In 1937, the Quebec government's "padlock law" banned the propagation of Communism and Bolshevism by closing up and padlocking any premises used for those purposes. In the early 1950s a Quebec City bylaw, passed under the Charter of the City of Quebec, prohibited the distribution in the streets of any book, pamphlet or tract without permission of the chief of police. To Jehovah's Witnesses, the bylaw was a restriction of their rights as Canadian citizens to freedom of expression and freedom of religious practice.

3. Democratic Rights

Democratic right of citizens

Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in a election of members of House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.

4. Maximum Duration of Leglislative Bodies

  1. No House of Commons and no legislative assembly shall continue for longer than five years from the date fixed for the return of writs at a general election of its members.
  2. Continuation in special circumstances

  3. In time of real or apprehended war, invasion or insurrection, a House of Commons may be continued by Parliament and a legislative assembly may be continued by the legislature beyond five years if such a continuation is not opposed by the votes of more than one-third of the members of the House of Commons or the legislative assembly, as the case may be.

5. Annual Sitting of Legislative Bodies

There shall be a sitting of Parliament and of each legislature at least once every twelve months.

6. Mobility Rights

Mobility of citizens

  1. Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada
  2. Rights to move and gain livelihood

  3. Every citizen of Canada and every person who has the status of a permanent resident of Canada has the right

    1. to move to and take up residence in any province; and
    2. to pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province.

  4. The rights specified in subsection (2) are subject to

    1. any laws or practices of general application in force in a province other than those that discriminate among persons primarily on the basis of province of present or previous residence; and
    2. any laws providing for reasonable residency requirements as a qualification for the receipt of publicly provided social services

  5. Affirmative action programs

  6. Subsections (2) and (3) do not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration in a province of conditions of individuals in that province who are socially or economically disadvantaged if the rate of employment in that province is below the rate of employment in Canada.

7. Legal Rights

Life, liberty and security of person

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

8. Search or Seizure

Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.

9. Detention or imprisonment

Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.

10. Arrest or Detention

Everyone has the right on arrest or detention:

  1. to be informed promptly of the reasons therefor;
  2. to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right; and
  3. to have the validity of the detention determined by way of habeas corpus and to be released if the detention is unlawful.

11. Proceding in Criminal and Penal Matters

Any person charged with an offence has the right:

  1. to be informed without unreasonable delay of the specific offence;
  2. to be tried within a reasonable time;
  3. not to be compelled to be a witness in proceedings against that person in respect of the offence;
  4. to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal;
  5. not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause;
  6. except in the case of an offence under military law tried before a military tribunal, to the benefit of trial by jury where the maximum punishment for the offence is imprisonment for five years or a more severe punishment;
  7. not to be found guilty on account of any act or omission unless, at the time of the act or omission, it constituted an offence under Canadian or international law or was criminal according to the general principles of law recognized by the community of nations;
  8. if finally acquitted of the offence, not to be tried for it again and, if found guilty and punished for the offence, not to be tried or punished for it again; and
  9. if found guilty of the offence and if the punishment of the offence has been varied between the time of commission and the time of sentencing, to the benefit of the lesser punishment.

12. Treatment or punishment

Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

13. Self-Crimination

A witness who testifies in any proceedings has the right not to have any incriminating evidence so given used to incriminate that witness in any other proceedings, except in a prosecution for perjury or for giving contradictory evidence.

14. Interpreter

A party or witness in any proceedings who does not understand or speak the language in which the proceedings are conducted or who is deaf has the right to the assistance of an interpreter.

15. Equality Before and Under Law

Equality before and under law and equal protection and benefit of law

  1. Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimation based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.
  2. Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that as it object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

24. Enforcement

Enforcement of guaranteed rights and freedoms

  1. Anyone whose rights or freedoms, as guaranteed by this Charter, have been infringed or denied may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances.

  2. Exclusion of evidence bringing administration of justice into disrepute

  3. Where, in proceedings under subsection (1), a court concludes that evidence was obtained in a manner that infringed or denied any rights or freedoms guaranteed by this Charter, the evidence shall be excluded if it is established that, having regard to all the circumstances, the admission of it in the proceedings would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

25. General

Aboriginal rights and freedoms not affected by Charter

The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal, treaty or other rights or freedoms that pertain to the aboriginal peoples of Canada including:

  1. any rights or freedoms that have been recognized by the Royal proclamation of October 7, 1763; and
  2. any rights or freedoms that may be acquired by the aboriginal peoples of Canada by way of land claims settlement.

26. Other Rights and Freedoms Not Affected by the Charter

The guarantee in this Charter of certain right and freedoms shall not be construed as denying the existence of any other rights or freedoms that exist in Canada.

For an overview of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms see: Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

[Gov. Reports]

Created: September 21, 2000
Last modified: April 15, 2001

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