Constitutions in transition
Constitutions in transition

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Constitutions in transition

4.3 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

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Figure 14 The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The real substance of the Canada Act 1982 can be found in Schedule B, also known as the Constitution Act 1982; this is where the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms can be found. Canadians take their Charter no less seriously than other countries and the Charter has been appraised by Jennifer Cantwell and Erin Mitchell (2003) as possibly being more important than any other legislative initiative in Canada, particularly as it has impacted Canadian law in ways unimagined by its drafters. They point out that:

It has facilitated the legal recognition of same sex relationships, and has guaranteed the rights of Canadian citizens to think, believe and say what they wish, within reasonable limits. It protects victims and criminals alike, pledging that all individuals are equal before and under the law, regardless of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. The Charter enshrines values that are fundamentally Canadian, and [its] legal system is better for it.

(Cantwell and Mitchell, 2003, pp. 181–2)

The question is how these rights come to be construed using the Charter when it seems – certainly when compared to, for instance, the South African Bill of Rights – fairly rudimentary. The answer lies in the Supreme Court of Canada.


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