Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Definition & Overview

Instructor: Tisha Collins Batis

Tisha is a licensed real estate agent in Texas. She holds bachelor's in legal studies and a master's degree in criminal justice.

In this lesson, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will be defined. Additionally, an overview of this constitution will be provided so the reader will be provided with a firm grasp of this Canadian constitution.

Brief History

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is, simply put, the Canadian Constitution. It is found in the Constitution Act, 1982. Before this, the British North America Act was in place, which was enacted in 1867. That Act founded Canada as a nation and was passed by British Parliament. The Canadian federal government passed a Canadian Bill of Rights in 1960. In 1982, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain approved the Charter, which is found in the Constitution Act, 1982. Both are found in the Canada Act, 1982. Canada finally had control of its constitution. The only part missing was the equality section, which came about in April of 1985.


The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is similar to the U.S. Constitution. It addresses the basic freedoms and rights of Canadians, and gives them an avenue to challenge abuses of their rights and freedoms in the court system. Additionally, it defines the official languages of the country. There are several specific sections in the Charter to be discussed below.

Fundamental Freedoms

Canadians have fundamental freedoms such as the freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of peaceful assembly, association, and also freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression. This includes freedom of the press.

Democratic Rights

Democratic rights for Canadians include the right to vote to elect House of Commons members or legislative assembly. This section of the constitution also limits the terms of House of Commons and legislative members. It does allow for longer terms in case of war, under certain circumstances. Finally, it requires that Parliament and each legislature must sit at least once in every twelve month period.

Mobility Rights

This section of the Charter addresses the rights of Canadians to move about and take up resident in different provinces in the country. Canadian citizens have the right to enter, leave, and remain in Canada. They also have the right to take up residence in any providence and pursue a livelihood there. If there are laws for residency requirements to receive public social services, citizens must adhere to those.

Legal Rights

All Canadian citizens have the right to life, liberty, and security of person. Additionally, they have protection from unreasonable search or seizure. There are protections as well from being arbitrarily detained or imprisoned. If they are arrested they have the right to know why as well as a right to counsel. If they are subject to criminal and penal proceedings, they have rights to bail, will be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and will be tried in a reasonable time. Cruel and unusual punishment is not allowed in Canada, and defendants are protected from self-incrimination. Finally, defendants have a right to an interpreter if they do not understand the language used in the proceedings or if they are deaf.

Equality Rights

Everyone is protected from discrimination and will have equal protection under the law. They cannot be discriminated against due to race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability. The equality rights also include an Affirmative action programs section protecting disadvantaged individuals.

Official Languages of Canada

The official languages of Canada are English and French. They are equal in status, rights, and privileges in their use in Parliament and the Canadian government. These languages are used in Parliament proceedings, New Brunswick legislative proceedings, statutes and records for both Parliament and New Brunswick, and court proceedings both established by Parliament and in New Brunswick.

Sign in English

Minority Language Educational Rights

Canadians can have their own children educated in French if any of the following apply: their first language is French, the child is already receiving his education in French, or the parents received their own primary language in French.

Sign in French

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