Human rights are a central part of Canadian law.
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects human rights in Canada. The Charter is law and is part of the Canadian constitution.
Because the Charter is part of the constitution, the federal government cannot easily make changes to it. It is also stronger than any laws the provinces or territories create.
The Charter guarantees certain freedoms for everyone in Canadian society:
These freedoms are called fundamental freedoms because they are the basic freedoms that people in Canada share.
The Charter does allow for the restriction of these freedoms under certain circumstances. For example, Parliament might temporarily restrict freedom of assembly in a time of war.
The Charter also guarantees the equality of all persons before and under the law. It is against the Charter to discriminate based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
The Charter does allow differential treatment if it helps a disadvantaged group achieve equality.
The Charter also states that it should always be interpreted in a way that helps preserve and enhance the multicultural heritage of Canadians.
People have used the Charter to introduce human rights improvements to provincial laws, most recently in acknowledging the rights of same-sex couples. In this way, the Charter helps other parts of Canadian law evolve and respond to changes in Canadian society.
Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC)
The Canadian Human Rights Commission enforces the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Act protects people from discrimination by the following service providers:
If you suffer discrimination in dealing with any of the federally regulated organizations listed above, you should contact the Canadian Human Rights Commission and they can tell you how to file a complaint.
If the CHRC cannot resolve a complaint, it will refer the case to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT). The CHRT operates as a less formal version of a court and only hears cases related to discrimination. Although the tribunal does have the power to impose fines, the tribunal focuses on restoring whatever was lost by the victim (e.g. a job, financial gain) and ensuring that the discrimination stops.
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