The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Janet L. Hiebert

in The Oxford Handbook of Canadian Politics

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780195335354
Published online September 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

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The adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 has been the most radical break ever made in the constitution and legal traditions of the nation. The Charter changed the basic governing principle upon which the Canadian political system was founded: the supremacy of Parliament. By including it into the Constitution, the legislations of federal and provincial governments which were then beyond judicial reproach are now under court review to determine the consistency of the legislations to the rule of law and to pinpoint breaches that would render the legislations invalid. However, the Charter also introduced a serious tension with the constitutional pillar of Canada: federalism. This article discusses the Charter's implications on the Canadian political system since its adoption in 1982. The intersection of the Charter with federalism provides a glimpse into the promotion of identities based on “Canadianness” at the expense of “competing regional loyalties,” the defederalization of political culture, and the homogenization of the legislation. The article also discusses the implications of the Charter for the parliamentary character of Canadian politics. Three of the sections of the Charter are examined here: the limitation clause of section 1, the notwithstanding clause of section 33, and the equality rights of section 15. All of these three sections have aided the framing of the kind of rights the Charter would represent and each has revealed the manner in which the Charter had influenced legislation and political behavior.

Keywords: Canadian Charter; Canadian political system; Constitution; defederalization; political culture; politics; limitation clause; notwithstanding clause; equality rights; legislation

Article.  8497 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics

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