GRAPHIC GUIDE TO THE CANADIAN CONSTITUTION
CANADIAN CONSTITUTION FOUNDATION The Canadian Constitution Foundation defends the constitutional freedoms of Canadians through education, communication and litigation. We are a registered charity, independent and non-partisan. We depend on the generous and voluntary contributions of hundreds of Canadians who value their constitutional freedoms.
PUBLISHED IN 2012
Think of a game of hockey.
Now imagine there weren’t any rules. Or that the rules could be changed on a whim.
What if the richest players could bribe referees? And the strongest players could use brute force to do as they wished…or else?
The game would get out of control pretty fast.
Some countries – unfortunately – are the same way.
What about Canada?
Why do people from around the world want to live here?
What makes Canadaâ€ŚCanada?
Certainly not our weather.
The Rockies? Maple syrup? I donâ€™t think so.
Canada is attractive because it is stable, prosperous and free.
Why is that?
Our Constitution plays a big part.
The rules of hockey...
...are like the laws passed by the politicians we elect to Parliament.
A referee decides if a player
... like our judges determine whether
has broken the rules...
someone has broken the law.
If someone wants to change a
... like when our Supreme Court
particular hockey rule, it must be
decides whether a law respects the
approved by the hockey leagueâ€™s
Constitution or not.
The Constitution is like a rulebook for making rules.
2. Someone claims law does not
1. Politicians pass law
respect the Constitution
Law is struck down or sent back to Parliament for re-writing
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ...
3. Case may go all the way to the Supreme Court
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
4. Is the law constitutional?
... ... .. NO Do nothing
But the Constitution is more than just a rulebook. It represents Canada’s values. Some have called it our country’s “soul”.
Now, other countries have nice-looking pieces of paper too, but still don’t function well.
Canada’s Constitution works because it is backed by judges, politicians, police, and media. All these need to function well, or else the piece of paper is worth nothing.
Dr. Norman Bethune was a Canadian Communist who died while serving the Chinese Revolution. He famously wrote that he wished to be â€œa screw in the machine of socialismâ€?.
Indeed, Communism is based on the idea that personal goals and desires are meaningless. Canadaâ€™s Constitution, on the other hand, says that we are free to live the lives that we want.
Much of the Constitution is based on the idea that government power needs to be contained, and the rights of individuals protected. In fact, the Constitution includes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which applies to government laws and actions (either federal, provincial, or municipal) not to private activity.
Here are some of the rights the Constitution guarantees:
1. RULE OF LAW Limits power of officials
2. FREEDOM Protects people with unpopular beliefs
3. DEMOCRACY Prevents governments from staying in power forever
4. MINORITY RIGHTS Prevents discrimination and gives special rights to certain minorities
However, some rights and freedoms can be overridden by the â€œnotwithstanding clauseâ€? if Parliament or provincial legislatures vote to do so.
RULE OF LAW
RULE OF LAW Canada was very much influenced by Britain. So is our Constitution.
In 1215, the King of England at the time was forced to agree to the very first constitution: the Magna Carta. It stated that, even though he was king, he couldn’t do anything he wanted. i.e. kill a peasant for fun.
This is called the Rule of Law. In other words, it says that nobody is “above the law”. For Canadians today, this also means that there are limits on police powers. If you are arrested, you have the right to: -Be told the reason of your arrest -To speak to a lawyer -To have your day in court within a reasonable time -Not to be tried twice for the same offence
FREEDOM Every time you post a comment on Youtube or read a news story, you are exercising freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution:
Freedom of thought
Freedom of expression
Freedom of the press
Freedom of religion
Freedom of association
Economic liberty & property rights Even though the Constitution guarantees Canadians "life, liberty and security of the person," this right does not include economic liberty (freedom to pursue one's own trade or business) nor the use and enjoyment of private property.
DEMOCRACY Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously said that democracy is the “worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” Whenever you see political campaign signs pop up, you are seeing people exercising their democratic rights:
Right to vote
Right to run for office
Government must call an election at least every five years
Government must hand over power if they are defeated
VOTE FOR ME
VOTE FOR US
VOTE FOR US
VOTE FOR US
MINORITY RIGHTS The Constitution says that governments must treat everyone equally, no matter what their race, religion or gender is.
However, the Constitution also provides special rights to certain minorities:
Canadaâ€™s government, as well as courts, must provide services in French. Certain provinces must offer education in the minority language (French outside Quebec, English in Quebec).
Aboriginals also have special rights â€“ for example the right not to pay income tax if they live on a reserve.
WWW.THECCF.CA This material has been made possible thanks to a generous grant from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation.