Back in elementary and high school, our parents had the choice to send us in either religion or what we called morale, “morality”. The goal of both courses was to teach us ethical behaviour. As you can imagine, one of them was based on the Bible. The other, secular, needed a non-religious document: it was the Chart of Rights and Freedoms (okay, in my case, the Québec version, but still, they are very similar).
Here are the fundamental rights of all Canadians:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.
In a short interview clip on The Current this morning, Justin Trudeau explained that with this charter, his father wanted to find the right balance between individual rights and a harmonious, open and fair society.
The Charter is not perfect. I’m not naïve; I know there is still a lot of discrimation in Canada, whether against ethnicities, women, disabled people or the LGBT community. However, the Charter has been used as a constitutional basis to fight against this kind of discrimination for the last 30 years.
I’m not trained in political science or in law and so this is only a personal impression, but as a Canadian I feel I can trust the Charter to protect my rights not only as a Canadian citizen, but also as a French-speaking Canadian and as a woman. Nobody ever wants to go to court to protect their rights, but I have a fundamental belief that if I ever have to, the Charter will be on my side. It has protected gay marriage, women’s right to perform abortions and many other sensitive issues.
Despite the increasing impression that Canada is not the plus meilleur pays du monde anymore, I hope that we will continue to cherish, celebrate and adapt the Charter to promote increased equality and acceptance in this country.
What do you think the Charter has brought to Canadian society in the last 30 years? Do you believe it protects you? Share your thoughts in the comments!