Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984, argued that the rights of Canadians should be given special protection by being included or entrenched in the constitution of the country. This was done when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was made law in 1982. It became the set of rules to which all politicians referred when creating laws and to which all judges referred when deciding what those laws meant.

The Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, and Queen Elizabeth II Sign the Canadian Constitution, Ottawa, Ontario, 17 April 1982.
National Archives of Canada (PA-140705, photo by Robert Cooper).

The Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, and Queen Elizabeth II Sign the Canadian Constitution, Ottawa, Ontario, 17 April 1982.

The rights and freedoms enshrined in the Charter include:

  • Fundamental freedoms such as freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.
  • Democratic rights: generally, the right to participate in political activities and the right to a democratic form of government.
  • Mobility rights: the right to enter and leave Canada, and to move to and take up residence in any province, or to reside outside Canada.
  • Legal rights: rights of people in dealing with the justice system and law enforcement.
  • Equality rights: equal treatment before and under the law, and equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination.
  • Language rights: generally, the right to use either the English or French language in communications with Canada's federal government and certain provincial governments.
  • Minority language education rights: rights for certain citizens belonging to French or English-speaking minority communities to be educated in their own language.
 

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