Section 2 - Fundamental Freedoms
Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
- freedom of conscience and religion;
- freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
- freedom of peaceful assembly; and
- freedom of association.
The Charter guarantees certain freedoms for everyone in Canada. Canadian traditions and laws have reflected the freedoms set out in section 2 for many years. Since 1982, the Charter has given these freedoms constitutional protection.
Under section 2 of the Charter, Canadians are free to follow the religion of their choice. In addition, they are guaranteed freedom of thought, belief and expression. Since the media are an important means for communicating thoughts and ideas, the Charter also protects the right of the press and other media to speak out. Our right to gather and act in peaceful groups is also protected, as is our right to belong to an association such as a trade union.
These freedoms are set out in the Charter to ensure that Canadians are free to create and to express their ideas, gather to discuss them and communicate them widely to other people. These activities are basic forms of individual liberty. They are also important to the success of a democratic society like Canada. In a democracy, people must be free to discuss matters of public policy, criticize governments and offer their own solutions to social problems.
Even though these freedoms are very important, governments can sometimes limit them. For example, laws against pornography and hate propaganda are reasonable limits on freedom of expression because they prevent harm to individuals and groups.