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The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the supreme law of Canada, and it checks

the power of the state. Before the Charter, Canada did not have its rights and freedoms integrated into
the Constitution. Instead, the rights of Canadians were held in other laws such as the Bill of Rights
passed on August 10, 1960 which guarantees the basic rights and freedoms of Canadians, and the
Human Rights Act which was passed in 1977 and protects the human rights of Canadians (“The History
of the Charter”). However, these laws were just like any other law and had little power when it came to
preventing the government from violating them. The court was unable to shoot down laws
contradicting those in the Bill of Rights or Human Rights Acts. However, when the BNA Act (British
North America Act) came home as the Constitution Act on April 17 1982(“The History of the Charter,”)
the Charter came with it. Unlike the Bill of Rights, the Charter was and is the supreme law of Canada
and applies to all levels of government. Pierre Trudeau, who was the PM at the time, had wanted a
Charter in the Constitution, and the Charter was also greatly inspired by the 1966 International
Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights.“The
Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of Canada, and any law that is inconsistent with the
provisions of the Constitution is, to the extent of the inconsistency, of no force or effect.” (Constitution
Act, section 52) This proves the supreme power of the Charter. For this reason, the equality rights in
section 15 of the Charter were delayed for three years so that the government could update their laws
to line up with those in that section. The Charter, however, does permit violating laws to pass if they
are “reasonable and demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”(Charter, section 1) This,
however, still means that the Charter has a great deal of power when preventing many discriminatory
laws from being passed. Before the Charter, abusive laws such as the War Measures Act were passed
without much conflict. The government used the War Measures Act to send Japanese Canadians to
internment camps during the Second World War in 1942 and used it to detain 450 people during the
October Crisis in 1970. On April 24 1928, the Supreme Court ruled that women were not ‘persons’
under the law (Forster M.). All of these may have been prevented if the Charter had existed during
those times. “We have no absolute rights among us. The rights of each man, in our state of society, end
precisely at the point where they encroach upon the rights of others.”(Sir Wilfred Laurier) That is what
Sir Wilfred Laurier said in 1877 before the Charter was established. Now the rights and freedoms of
Canadians have been written in plain language, and Canadians have access to the Charter and ways to
enforce the rights within it. If the rights of Canadians are violated, they have a right to take it to court
and they have a right to a lawyer. Canadians also cannot be arrested without being told why, and
police are not above the law. “No House of Commons and no legislative assembly shall continue for
longer than five years from the date fixed for the return of the writs at a general election of its
members.”(Charter, section 4) This point shows how certain statements within the Charter limit the
power of the government as well, and that the authority is not above the law. Therefore, the Charter
has been efficient in checking the power of the state, and it has secured the rights and freedoms of
individuals, especially minorities, living in Canada.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides secure fundamental rights and freedoms to
minorities. Before the charter was established, there was no guarantee of security for the rights of
minorities living in Canada. The Charter secured the fundamental rights and freedoms of minorities by
becoming the supreme law of Canada. Before the Charter, there were many discriminatory laws
passed by the government that belittled certain groups in Canada. Some of these laws included the
1876 Indian Act that banned aboriginals from voting, the Chinese head tax which was in effect from
1885-1923, and the communist party being outlawed under the war measures act in 1940(“Impact”).
Since the charter applies to everyone in Canada, minorities are no longer prone to discrimination.
“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 discrimination based on race,
national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or mental and physical disability.”(Charter, section 15)
This clearly states that every individual is equal under the law, and it proves that the Charter applies to
everyone living within Canada. Freedoms and rights within the charter include aboriginal rights, such as
aboriginal fisherman being granted the right for access to fisheries for ceremonial reasons, freedom of
thought, freedom of belief, minority language and education rights, mobility rights, and the freedom of
conscious and religion. Some say that section 27 of the Charter, which states, “This charter shall be
interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural
heritage of Canadians” (Charter, section 27) reinforces the freedom of religion in section 2 because
culture, which is at the root of multiculturalism, is based religiously. The above quote also shows that
Canadians respect multiculturalism and that it is a national value. It emphasizes the importance of
minorities from different ethnic backgrounds specifically in this section of the charter. Because of the
Charter, every citizen of Canada now has the right to vote. Previously, until 1948, Japanese Canadians
were denied the right to vote. The Indian act passed in 1876 did not allow aboriginals to vote either. In
fact, they were not given the right to vote without giving up any treaty rights until 1960 when
President John Diefenbaker was in power (A brief history of Canada). The Charter also includes the
freedom of expression, which allows people to express their views without being subject to
discrimination. At the same time, there are laws in place which limit this freedom to prevent hate
speech. An example is the Criminal Code, which contains hate speech laws. This allows minorities to
express themselves peacefully without being discriminated. In the past, people have been arrested or
removed from their homes without good cause. For example, on February 25 1942, British Columbia
politicians used the War Measures Act to remove all Japanese Canadians within 160 kilometers of the
Pacific Coast (“Japanese Canadians”). Now, because of the legal rights within the Charter such as the
right for everyone to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure, such a thing is less likely to
happen in the future. Before the Charter, minorities had little security of their rights and freedoms.
However, because of the Charter the security of these rights and freedoms has greatly increased, and it
has been a step further into defining Canada as an independent, free and democratic society.

The Charter was a huge leap in defining Canada as an independent nation and a free and
democratic society. The Charter gave every citizen in Canada a right to vote in elections, which is an
essential part of a democratic society. The Charter also states that “There shall be a sitting of
Parliament and of each legislature at least once every twelve months.” (Charter, section 5) This
provides the public with a chance to question what the government does on a regular basis. On April
17 1982, Canada was brought on the same field as other liberal democracies around the world,
because like them Canada now too had rights and freedoms as the supreme law in the land. Some say
that the charter has replaced the Bill of Rights in the American constitution, which was established in
1787, to become the constitutional document that is most matched or surpassed by other countries.
“Some countries may be especially prone to borrow from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
because they perceive themselves as sharing the same goals and values as Canadian society,” (Law, D)
The American Bill of Rights has values that leave democracies today in question. For example, it
emphasizes the right to bear arms in the second amendment, which is a value not shared by all other
nations. The American Bill of Rights also fails to adequately protect individuals from discrimination
based on race or sex, and other rights and freedoms. The Charter prevents discrimination based on
race and gender in section 15, and it also gives the government limited power to reject court decisions,
which is something favored by other nations. The Charter is widely admired by other common-law
countries. All this emphasizes Canada’s independence and the influence of the Canadian democracy
across the world. Because of the Charter, Canadians are now educated of their rights, and they know
what can be done if these rights are violated. The Charter makes every Canadian equal, and does not
give people power above the law. The Charter does not belong to the government; rather, it belongs to
all Canadians. Thus, the Charter further defined Canada as an independent, free and democratic
society.