What is the difference between Constitutional and Human Rights in Canada?
In Canada, every individual possesses a set of essential rights, which encompass both constitutional and human rights. The primary sources for these rights are the Canadian Human Rights Act (or the Ontario Human Rights Code within Ontario) and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These foundational documents bestow a diverse array of rights across various domains to the people of Canada.
Human rights are universal, meaning that every person in the world has them just on the basis of being human. Human rights are also inalienable, meaning you can’t lose any of these rights by doing something. Finally, human rights are indivisible and interdependent, meaning that you cannot be denied them by someone else, and someone cannot decide that some are more important than others.
When the United Nations was formed, it produced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which paved the way for many more human rights treaties, acts, and codes all across the world.
In Ontario, specific categories of discrimination known as “protected grounds” are in place to safeguard individuals from being subjected to bias due to certain traits. These safeguarded attributes are applicable solely within designated safe environments, encompassing areas such as accommodation, contracts, employment, goods, services, facilities, and membership in unions, trade, or professional associations.
In Canada, human rights often represent the right to be who you are and live how you choose without being discriminated against by others.
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Constitutional rights in Canada come from the constitution, which includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter guarantees rights and freedoms to Canadian citizens that ensure that Canada remains democratic and that the government does not interfere with the rights of its citizens.
Unlike human rights, constitutional rights are not automatically given to every human. They are a promise from the government to not infringe the rights and freedoms of its citizens, within reasonable limits. Some of these rights can be alienable, meaning that they can be limited or taken away if the government can justify doing so.
An important part of the Charter is that it offers both rights and freedoms. A right is something that you have the right to do. For example, you have the right to vote in elections as long as you are a Canadian citizen. Freedom is something that you are free to think, believe, or take part in, such as having the freedom of religion, which grants you the freedom to believe whatever you choose.
Some of the rights granted by the Charter include the right to life, liberty, and security of the person, and the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure. There are many rights granted by the Charter, most of which have to do with government interaction with its citizens. These rights can be limited if the government has a strong enough reason to do so.
Why Does it Matter?
Human rights and constitutional rights are both very important to the way that Canada as a country functions. However, these rights have different functions. While human rights in Canada prevent people from being discriminated against by both the government and the people around them, the Charter maintains a set of rights that can’t be interfered with by the government unless it is done with good reason.
If someone finds that their rights have been violated, there are different ways that can be addressed, depending on where the rights come from. For example, if your human rights are violated in a protected social area, you can file a complaint through the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. If your constitutional rights are violated, you will need to use different forums such as the civil court system to have your problem solved.
As a free, democratic country, Canada offers its citizens a variety of rights, which come from a number of sources, including constitutional documents and the Canadian Human Rights Act. These rights represent very different things, from your right not to be discriminated against, to your right not to have the government unnecessarily perform a search and seizure.
If you feel that your rights have been violated in any way, you should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible about potential solutions. Your solutions will vary depending on where your rights come from and what has been done, so it is a good idea to get the best legal advice to guide you through the situation.
If you have questions about your rights, whether they are constitutional rights and freedoms or human rights, our team of experienced human rights lawyers at Achkar Law can help.
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