First Attempt at a Human Rights Charter:
The Canadian Bill of Rights
August 10, 1960
Ever since its passing, Canadians wanted a Universal Declaration of Human
Rights put into practice. Many called for a bill of rights to be added
to the British North America Act, 1867, but all attempts to agree
on amending the Act end in failure. Complications over jurisdiction concerning
property, language, criminal law, and religion made reaching a consensus
difficult. Frustrated by this squabbling, Prime Minster John Diefenbaker's
government unilaterally adopts the Canadian Bill of Rights.
The Bill recognizes the following freedoms:
"1. It is hereby recognized and declared that in Canada there have
existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason of
race, national origin, colour, religion or sex, the following human rights
and fundamental freedoms, namely:
- the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person
and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof
except by due process of law;
- the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection
of the law;
- freedom of religion;
- freedom of speech;
- freedom of assembly and association;
- freedom of the press."
It also states that no law - unless it expressly says so - shall be interpreted
or applied in a way that violates the rights recognized by the Bill.
The Canadian Bill of Rights did have its shortcomings:
First, it does not apply to provincial laws since it's not in the Constitution.
Secondly, the courts never really take it seriously. Judges find that
it only applies to existing rights, and so they are hesitant to use the
Bill to expand rights or strike down any laws. Again, because it is not
part of the Constitution, it does not necessarily overide other existing
Although the purpose of Canadian Bill of Rights is noble, its
effectiveness proved to be limited.
The Parliament of Canada, affirming that the Canadian Nation is founded
upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, the dignity and
worth of the human person and the position of the family in a society
of free men and free institutions;
Affirming also that men and institutions remain free only when freedom
is founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and the rule of
And being desirous of enshrining these principles and the human rights
and fundamental freedoms derived from them, in a Bill of Rights which
shall reflect the respect of Parliament for its constitutional authority
and which shall ensure the protection of these rights and freedoms in
Therefore Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate
and House of Commons of Canada, enacts [The Canadian Bill of Rights].
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Canadian Bill of Rights