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For the Unit 4: Activity 2 assignment, I have decided to create a ‘report card’ and by doing this, I will determine whether or not the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms improves the lives of others, or hinders them. As you will soon see, I have researched information regarding the Charter and this will help decide if we, as a country, are following the expectations that are set forth within the document. 

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Title of the Document and Date of Creation

The document that I have decided to focus on is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  On April 17, 1982, the Charter was created and it was established as the first act in the Canadian Constitution. 

The Goal/Mandate of the Organization which Created the Document

When looking at all of the human rights milestones, Canada is arguably the most significant because of the passing of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Due to its signing, human rights became an intrinsic and irrevocable part of Canada’s identity.

However, in the early 1900’s, human rights were at the mercy of the laws passed by the provincial and federal governments. As a result of this, discrimination was inevitable and justice was difficult to obtain. Yet, the horrors of World War II led to the creation of the United Nations in 1945. In turn, the UN passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and it affirmed that human beings were entitled to fundamental justice.

Later, Canada’s commitment to these human freedoms first manifested in the passing of the Canadian Bill of Rights. Nevertheless, despite its good intentions, the Bill of Rights was a federal law and it was difficult to enforce. Consequently, in 1982, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau brought Canada’s Constitution home, and with it, the new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Overall, the Charter sought to protect individual rights by preventing the law from unfairly discriminating or taking away human equity. The Charter acknowledged that everyone regardless of colour, religion, race, or belief, possesses certain fundamental rights that no government can remove without cause. Essentially, the Charter protects Canadians from the power of the state and this was what the government was trying to achieve when first creating the document.  

Who Does the Document Apply To? Country, Globally?

In the last 10 sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the document discusses its application and who the agreement is directed towards. Under Section 32, the Charter clearly states that the contract applies to Parliament, the government of Canada, and to the legislatures and governments of each province. Hence, the Charter protects individuals from acts performed by the government, but only if those acts prove to be of violation of the rights and freedoms listed in the document. 

Moreover, Section 25 states that nothing in the Charter will affect existing aboriginal, treaty or other rights or freedoms that pertain to the aboriginal peoples of Canada. 

The contract also states under Section 28, that all rights and freedoms protected in the Charter are applied equally to male and female persons.

Generally speaking, any person in Canada, whether a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, or a newcomer, has the rights and freedoms contained in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, the Charter gives some rights only to Canadian citizens – the right to vote (in section 3 of the Charter) and the right “to enter, remain in, and leave Canada” (in section 6 of the Charter).

The Purpose/Goal of the Document

The purpose of the Charter is to protect basic rights and freedoms that are essential to keeping Canada a free and democratic society. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ensures that the government, or anyone acting on its behalf, doesn’t take away or interfere with these rights or freedoms unreasonably. In fact, the Charter is a powerful force for progress, protection, compassion and fairness with the power to influence our society by interpreting laws and policies.

Through this, the Charter allows you to challenge any government action that you believe violates your rights or freedoms. In the past, these challenges have set legal precedents and also inspired significant changes to federal, provincial and territorial laws.

Since 1982, the Charter has been an essential part of Canada’s democracy and will continue to shape our identity as a nation. The Charter affirms that we are a multicultural country and that the Charter must always be read and understood with this in mind. 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.

Report Card
Grade Key
A = Excellent
B = Satisfactory, but improvements can be made
C = Requires Improvement and Additional Effort
D = Immediate action is required
F = Insufficient information or unsatisfactory result

Category: The potential for this document to improve quality of life and encourage social change.

Grade: A

Justification: In order to properly grade the first category on my report card, I have decided to gather reliable information from a CBC News source. According to the article’s writer, Daniel Schwartz, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has improved the quality of life and the document has encouraged positive social change across the nation. 

Firstly, the Canadian Charter has brought changes to laws that discriminate against people because of personal characteristics such as age, colour, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion. Before the Charter was created, the Lord’s Day Act was a mandatory holiday in which it was illegal for businesses to operate on Sundays. In turn, this law upheld the Christian Sabbath (or day of rest) to honour God and His creations. However, in May of 1982, a few months after the Charter was introduced, Calgary’s Big M Drug Mart defied the Lord’s Day Act by opening their store on Sundays. When taken to trial, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned this law after realizing that it broke Canadians’ right to freedom of religion. Understanding that not all people follow the Christian Sabbath, the court recognized that individuals should be free to participate in the religion of their choosing and not everyone should be forced to engage in the same faith. As a result, the Lord’s Day Act was abolished and the law is no longer valid. This is just one example that demonstrates how the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has improved the quality of life and created positive social change. 

Secondly, with the Charter, Canadian society has a clearer recognition of human freedoms and the ways in which these rights should be enforced. In addition to this, the Charter gives us the tools to see that our rights and freedoms are respected by governments and laws. Therefore, if a regulation or state action infringes the Charter, we can ask a court to address this issue and a judge can strike down laws that violate the document. Overall, the Charter protects every Canadian’s right to be treated equally under the law and it guarantees fundamental freedoms such as the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. Some other rights that are provided in the Charter include: 

Right to be free of imprisonment, and search and seizure without reasons backed by law or evidence
Right to a fair trial by an impartial court that assumes you are innocent until proven guilty
The right to vote for a new government at least every five years
The right to move anywhere within Canada and earn a living
The right to enter, stay, or leave Canada 

In the past, Canada was able to undertake disrespectful and racist actions towards fellow citizens. For example, the government could take away Canadians homes, lifestyle, and freedom without good reason. Yet, with the Charter, the state must have a valid reason to perform the actions listed above. In short, the Canadian document gives citizens rights and freedoms so the government cannot take away or imprison people without a strong rationale. 

Based on this information, it is obvious that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has had a major impact on Canadians’ lives. Before the document was put in place, freedoms were protected by the Bill of Rights. Although important, none of these laws were part of the Constitution and therefore, lacked the supremacy and permanence of the Charter. Thus, with the document, citizens of Canada can challenge any state action that they believe to be in breach of their rights or freedoms. In turn, Canada is a democratic country and citizens can be protected from unfair treatment given by the government. For these reasons, I have given the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms an “A” grading for the first category. 

 APA Reference: Schwartz, D. (2012, April17) CBC News. Retrieved from
 
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/6-big-changes-the-charter-of-rights-has-brought-1.1244758 

Category: The practicality of the expectations/suggestions which are set forth within the document or the degree to which these can be put into practice by the average person citizen.

Grade: F

Justification: In order to properly grade the second category on my report card, I have decided to gather reliable information from The Canadian Encyclopedia. According to the article’s writer, Richard Foot, the Charter clearly states that the contract applies to Parliament, the government of Canada, and to the legislatures and governments of each province. Hence, the Charter protects individuals from acts performed by the government, but only if those acts prove to be in violation of the rights and freedoms listed in the contract. 

Based on this research, the data for this category is insufficient because since the Charter is not directed towards the average citizen, people cannot practice the expectations that are set forth within the document. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was created to ensure that governments treat individuals fairly and without unjust actions. Therefore, because the Charter is to be followed by the state, not the average person, I gave this category an “F” grading because there is insufficient information regarding whether or not the document’s expectations are being followed by citizens. 

In short, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not made for average people to follow but rather, for the government. 

APA Reference: Foot, R. (2017, November 23). The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/canadian-charter-of-rights-and-freedoms/ 

Category: The clarity of the document – is it accessible by the average citizen?

Grade: A

Justification: In order to properly grade the third category on my report card, I have decided to gather reliable information from the official Government of Canada website. According to the article, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gets an “A” grading when it comes to the document’s accessibility to citizens. Whether it is for information, research, or curiosity purposes, an individual can locate a free copy of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms via Internet resources, libraries, or bookstores.

Firstly, on the Internet, citizens can find the Canadian Charter on the Government of Canada website. In order to access this document, individuals need to type into their search engine and write “Official Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” After this task, a link to the state’s site will pop up and once here, individuals will find the Charter contract. 

Nevertheless, if people do not have Internet access, there are multiple history books on Canada and most will contain a copy of the Charter. Found in school, local, and communal libraries, individuals can access this document without much hassle or fear of inconvenience. Due to the fact that the Canadian Charter was a major milestone in the nation’s history, there are numerous readings that obtain the document and for this reason, I gave the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms an “A” grading because of its accessibility. 

Not only is the Canadian Charter simple to find, but it is also easy to understand. For instance, the Charter, in detail, describes the rights and freedoms available to Canadians. Moreover, the document explains what citizens are guaranteed and how they can challenge the government if they feel they have been wronged. Overall, the Canadian Charter lays out the regulations that the state must follow and without using complicated terminology, informs citizens of their freedoms. 

APA Reference: Government of Canada. (2017, November 30) Constitution Act. Retrieved from 

http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const/page-15.html 

Category: Our compliance (as a national or global society) with the expectations and/or suggestions contained in this document. Are we putting these into practice or are they generally being ignored?

Grade: A

Justification: In order to properly grade the fourth category on my report card, I have decided to gather reliable information from the official Canadian Human Rights Commission website. According to the article, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is put into practice and it is being followed by Parliament, the government of Canada, and by the legislatures and governments of each province. 

As stated in the document, Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and newcomers in the country, are promised that their rights will be protected and free from unfair treatments that are acted out by the state. Based on my research, the expectations set out in the Charter are being followed because Canada is a democratic county and citizens have the right to challenge the government if they feel they are being treated unjustly. Moreover, if the Charter were not being obeyed, then Canada would not be the free, egalitarian, and balanced country it is today. 

Nevertheless, even though the government respects the Charter and gives Canadians their rights, Section 1 of the document says that governments may limit Charter rights so long as those limits are ones that a free and democratic society would accept as reasonable. Furthermore, it is also possible for governments to pass laws that take away some rights under the Charter. For instance, under section 33 of the Charter (sometimes called the “notwithstanding clause”), Parliament or a legislature can make a particular law exempt from certain sections of the Charter – the fundamental freedoms (in section 2), the legal rights (in sections 7 to 14) and the equality rights (in section 15). However, a law that limits Charter rights under the notwithstanding clause expires after five years. This clause is used very rarely.

In relation to this, governments can also make changes to the Charter to add to, or subtract from, the rights that it contains. Yet, this is very difficult. In order to make a change to the Charter, the federal Parliament and seven of the 10 provincial legislatures must agree to it. The population of those seven provinces must also make up at least 50 per cent of the total population of Canada. The Charter has been amended only twice since 1982.

Thus, if an individual’s rights are being denied due to the sections listed above, the Charter provides for three kinds of actions to persons whose rights have been rejected. These actions are referred to as legal remedies. First, the Charter says that a person can ask a court for a remedy that is appropriate and just in the circumstances. For example, a court may stop proceedings against a person charged with an offence if his or her right to a trial within a reasonable time has been denied. A second remedy is available when persons carrying out investigations for the government (for example, police officers) violate an individual’s Charter rights. This may happen, for example, when they improperly search for evidence on private property and violate a person’s right to privacy. In this situation, the person can ask a court to order that the evidence not be used against the person in a trial. A court will make an order like this if it is clear that using such evidence at trial would bring the administration of justice into disrepute (under section 24 of the Charter). Finally, if a court finds that a law violates Charter rights, it can rule that the law has no force (under section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982).

Therefore, as seen from the information above, the rights and freedoms in the Charter are not absolute. They can be limited in order to protect other rights or important national values. Yet, even though individuals rights are not certain, the Supreme Court of Canada gives citizens a chance to fight for their freedoms if they deem the judge’s ruling unfair. So, it is obvious that governments are following the Charter because on the whole, citizens are granted their rights and there is usually no issue with people’s freedoms being infringed upon. The only time when the state can take away what is promised in the Charter, is when the limit deals with a pressing and substantial social problem, or the government’s response to the problem is reasonable and demonstrably justified. 

Overall, we can see that the state obeys the Canadian Charter because if they didn’t, our nation would not be democratic and the ability to question things as well as make your own choices, expressions, opinions, and beliefs, would not be possible. For these reasons, I gave the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms an “A” grading because the government follows the expectations put forth within the document. 

APA Reference: Canadian Human Rights Commission. (2017, October 24). How Are Human Rights Protected in Canada. Retrieved from

https://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/eng/content/how-are-human-rights-protected-canada

Personal Category 

Category: Explain whether or not society’s view on the document is positive or negative. 

Grade: A

Justification: In order to properly grade the fifth category on my report card, I have decided to gather reliable information from the Toronto Star newspaper. According to the article, 85% of Canadians are grateful for the Charter while 15% of population, want the document to be altered. 

After doing some research, I found that some Canadians are opposed to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it gives the courts new power to review the decisions of Parliament and to declare them invalid when they limit rights. Due to this, individuals claim that they are often frustrated by the decision of judges and people are not okay with the courts making life changing conclusions. Consequently, it is clear that few Canadians wish to have the government making the tough choices, not judges. 

Despite this information, the vast majority of Canadians believe that the Charter has become a symbol of national identity, taking its place alongside the Maple Leaf, hockey, and snow. In poll after poll, most embrace the Charter as a kind of national mission statement, asserting the country’s commitment to tolerance, fairness and equality. For these reasons, I gave the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms an “A” rating because the majority of citizens are happy with the document and you can’t please everyone all the time. 

APA Reference: (n.d.). (2012, April 14). Toronto Star. Retrieved from

https://www.thestar.com/news/2007/04/07/the_charters_challenges.html