The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was incorporated
into the constitution in 1982. Certain provinces opposed the
Charter on the grounds that they already had laws which
guaranteed the rights and freedoms of their citizens. However,
Prime Minister Trudeau insisted that the Charter be accepted so
as to prevent governments from ever mistreating their citizens.
A compromise was adopted between the provinces and the federal
government, allowing the provinces to create law contrary to the
Charter, in spite of it; this became know as the
"notwithstanding clause." It is the most controversial element
of the Charter. Some Canadians believe the clause renders the
Charter null and void, while others take the view that the
Charter would never have been ratified without it.
The Charter gives Canadians fundamental rights, the freedom
of expression and of religion. It guarantees democratic rights,
such as the right to vote and to hold regular elections.
Citizens are guaranteed the right to move and work anywhere in
the country. They have a right to a fair trial and may not be
arrested or punished without legal proof. There is freedom from
discrimination, be it of the sexes or on the basis of race; both
official languages are protected and individuals are allowed to
use their language of choice under certain circumstances.
Canada’s multicultural rights are also protected as are the
rights of women and Aboriginal peoples.