Human Rights in Canada
In Canada, human rights are protected by federal, provincial and territorial laws. Canada’s human rights laws stem from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1948, John Humphrey, a Canadian lawyer and scholar, played a significant role in writing the Declaration. When it was complete, the Declaration provided a list of 30 articles outlining everyone's universal human rights. The first two articles are about equality and freedom from discrimination, the foundation of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
- The Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977 protects people in Canada from discrimination when they are employed by or receive services from the federal government, First Nations governments or private companies that are regulated by the federal government such as banks, trucking companies, broadcasters and telecommunications companies. People can turn to the Canadian Human Rights Act to protect themselves against harassment or discrimination when based on one or more grounds of discrimination such as race, age and sexual orientation.
- The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982 is part of Canada’s Constitution. The Charter protects every Canadian’s right to be treated equally under the law. The Charter guarantees broad equality rights and other fundamental rights such as the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion. It only applies to governments, and not to private individuals, businesses or other organizations. This means that for the most part, a person cannot mount a Charter challenge against a private business, a private organization, or a person who is not acting on behalf of the government. The Charter also protects the rights of all Canadians from infringements by laws, policies or actions of governments, including authorities such as the police.
Human Rights in Our Provinces
Provincial and territorial human rights laws are very similar to the Canadian Human Rights Act and apply many of the same principles. They protect people from discrimination in areas of provincial and territorial jurisdiction, such as restaurants, stores, schools, housing and most workplaces.