Women March on Courthouse, Montreal, Quebec, 12 June 1970.
National Archives of Canada (PA-164027, photo by John Daggett).

Women March on Courthouse, Montreal, Quebec, 12 June 1970.

Canadians have the right to engage in peaceful protest, even when other Canadians disagree strongly with them. During a time when many Canadians supported the law prohibiting abortions, demonstrators protested the arrest of Dr. Henry Mortgenthaler on an abortion charge.

Rights are guaranteed by government laws and regulations. The government seeks to ensure that all Canadian citizens have the same rights. For instance, we have the right to live and work wherever we want in our country. Other Canadians cannot prevent us from doing these things.

Freedoms are privileges so basic that they cannot be restricted by the government. They include freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly, and of religion. These freedoms allow us to meet together and express our opinions openly and without fear that we will be punished or imprisoned.

Duties are the obligations that our government, acting on our behalf, has placed upon us in exchange for our rights. Every Canadian is required to obey the laws passed by the government, even the Prime Minister. A citizen also has to pay taxes on the money earned from a job, on goods and services that are purchased, and on property. The government uses this money to provide services that are intended to benefit our society, including supporting the military, which defends Canada.

Responsibilities go beyond just obeying the laws; Canadians must also respect the rights of others. People can say what they like, for example, but not if they unduly hurt other people. Some of these responsibilities have become duties, supported by the force of the law.

Canadians have always placed a heavy emphasis on individual citizens voluntarily accepting responsibility rather than being told or forced to accept responsibility. For example, during the two world wars, Canadians emphasized voluntary enlistment until military and political circumstances demanded the introduction of conscription (forced enlistment). The introduction of conscription in each of the two wars proved very controversial, in part because of the different attitudes towards participation held by French- and English- speaking Canadians. Canada's emphasis on voluntarism stands in stark contrast with the United States where the draft (conscription) was for so long a foundation of citizenship duty for American males.

National Archives of Canada (C-095730).

 

 
 

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