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The Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The Constitution is the supreme law of Canada. Generally speaking, all other laws must be consistent with the rules set out in the Constitution. If they are not, they may not be valid. Since the Charter of Rights and Freedom is part of the Constitution, laws that breach Charter rights may be invalid. This makes the Charter the most important law we have in Canada.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and
Freedoms forms the first part of the Constitution Act, 1982.

The Charter guarantees certain rights for all Canadians and permanent residents and some for any person who lives in Canada:

  • Some fundamental rights protected by the charter of a Canadian citizen and a permanent resident including the newcomers are:
  • freedom to practice one’s religion
  • freedom of expression, freedom of the press and of peaceful assembly
  • the right to live and to seek employment anywhere in Canada
  • the right to use either of Canada’s official languages (English or French)
  • the protection of Canada’s multicultural heritage
  • democratic rights to vote

The charter protected the rights of every individual in Canada, regardless of their immigration status are:

  • the right to be treated equally before and under the law and the right to 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 or physical disability.
  • legal rights such as the right to life, liberty, and security of the person
  • the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure
  • the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned
  • If a person is arrested or detained by the police, the right:
    • to be informed promptly of the reasons for the arrest
    • to be informed of their right to retain and instruct counsel without delay and assist them with obtaining legal advice
  • The right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

The rights and freedoms in the Charter are not absolute. They can be limited in order to protect other rights or important national values.

The Human Rights Code of Ontario

In the province of Ontario, the Ontario Human Rights Code gives all people equal rights and opportunities without discrimination in specific protected social areas such as housing, employment, education, goods, services, and facilities and membership in unions, trade, or professional associations. The Code’s goal is to prevent discrimination based on the protected grounds including a person’s identity or ability/disability or any ground that differentiate that person from another.

What is Discrimination?

When you apply for a job, rent a place to live, buy groceries, go to a restaurant or obtain any services provided by the government or private entities, there are rules that need to be followed by the service providers. If you were treated differently than others or were refused those services because of your identity, it is called discrimination or discriminatory treatment.

The Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination on the following grounds:

  1. Ancestry/Race/Ethnic origin
  2. Place of origin
  3. Colour
  4. Citizenship
  5. Creed
  6. Sex/pregnancy/breastfeeding
  7. Sexual orientation
  8. Gender identity
  9. Gender expression
  10. Age
  11. Marital status/ Family status
  12. Disability
  13. The receipt of public assistance (housing only)
  14. Record of Offences (employment only)

If you feel discriminated against based on any of the above grounds, you have a right to file an action against such persons at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. If the Tribunal finds that your rights have been violated, you may be awarded a remedy including damages.

The Ontario Human Rights Code gives
all people equal rights and opportunities
without discrimination in specific
protected social areas.