The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was signed into law by Queen Elizabeth II April 17, 1982. Often referred to as the Charter, it affirms the rights and freedoms of Canadians in the Constitution of Canada. The Charter encompasses fundamental freedoms, democratic rights, mobility rights, legal rights, language rights and equality rights. The primary function of the Charter is to act as a regulatory check between Federal, Provincial and Territorial governments and the Canadian people. Being a successor of the Canadian Bill of Rights that was a federal statute, amendable by Parliament, the Charter is a more detailed and explicit constitutional document that has empowered the judiciary to render regulations and statutes at both the federal and provincial levels of government unconstitutional. Although the rights and freedoms of Canadians are guaranteed, Sections one and seven of the Charter permit the federal and provincial governments to limit the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Canadians. Section one of the Charter designated ‘Rights and freedoms in Canada’ states “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” This section is frequently referred to and better known as the reasonable limits clause. The second rights and freedoms limiting section of the Charter, known as the ‘notwithstanding clause’ is Section thirty-three entitled ‘Exception where express declaration’ declares
(1) Parliament or the legislature of a province may expressly declare in an Act of Parliament or of the legislature, as the case may be, that the Act or a provision thereof shall operate notwithstanding a provision included in section 2 or sections 7 to 15 of this Charter… (2) An Act or a provision of an Act in respect of which a declaration made under this section is in effect shall have such operation as it would have but for the provision of this Charter referred to in the declaration… (3) An Act or a provision of an Act in respect of which a declaration made under this section is in effect shall have such operation as it would have but for the provision of this Charter referred to in the declaration… (4) Parliament or the legislature of a province may re-enact a declaration made under subsection (1)… (5) Subsection (3) applies in respect of a re-enactment made under subsection (4)
The two aforementioned sections of the Charter allow the federal and provincial governments the fundamental ability to maintain a safe and secure democratic society. The necessity to limit the rights and freedoms of Canadians is illustrated and reinforced through the governments use of reasonable limits, ‘notwithstanding clause’ to limit individual rights and freedoms, and the occasional need for the government to have power extended above and beyond the limits prescribed in the Charter.
The first section of...