Section 1 - Guarantee of Rights and Freedoms - Canadian Heritage

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Section 1 - Guarantee of Rights and Freedoms

This Part of the Guide sets out the actual text of each section of the Charter, along with a discussion of its meaning and purpose.

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.

The Charter of Rights protects those basic rights and freedoms of all Canadians that are considered essential to preserving Canada as a free and democratic country. It applies to all governments – federal, provincial and territorial – and includes protection of the following:

  • fundamental freedoms, democratic rights
  • the right to live and seek employment anywhere in Canada
  • legal rights: the right to life, liberty and personal security
  • equality rights for all
  • the official languages of Canada
  • minority language education rights
  • Canada's multicultural heritage, and
  • Aboriginal peoples' rights.

The rights and freedoms in the Charter are not absolute. They can be limited in order to protect other rights or important national values. For example, freedom of expression may be limited by laws against hate propaganda or pornography.

Section 1 of the Charter says that Charter rights can be limited by other laws so long as those limits can be shown to be reasonable in a free and democratic society.

The Supreme Court of Canada has stated that a limit on Charter rights is acceptable if:

  • the limit deals with a pressing and substantial social problem, and
  • the government's response to the problem is reasonable and demonstrably justified.

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