Fundamental Freedoms - The Charter of Rights and Freedoms
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Supreme Court of Canada

What It Means

It is serious for the state to take away a persons freedom. Sections 7 to 14 of the Charter guarantee rights and protections to help make sure people are treated fairly by the state and innocent people are not criminally convicted.

Section 7 - Right to Life, Liberty and Security of the Person
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person. The state cannot take away these rights unless principles of fundamental justice are followed.

The rights under section 7 are not just about criminal law. For example, the right to life might involve health care. The right to liberty can mean the right to act without state interference - such as a woman ending her pregnancy, or a person deciding when to die. Security of the person is about protecting people from serious harm to physical or psychological well-being. This might arise where the state was taking children from parents or deporting someone to a country where he or she faces torture.

The rights under section 7 are directly about the person. They do not include business rights.

If the state takes away rights under section 7, it must follow principles that are fundamental to fairness and justice. For example, if you lose your right to liberty by being sent to jail, there must be proof you did something wrong and you must have the right to defend yourself.

Section 1 can justify limits on Charter rights (see Guarantee of Rights and Freedoms). But section 7 rights are so basic that violating them would rarely be justified.

Section 8 - Protection from Unreasonable Search and Seizure
You have the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy. Section 8 protects this right. It limits how and when police or other officials can search you personally; search your property; or use wiretaps. It also limits the power of the state to take your property.

In most situations, police or other officials must get a search warrant from a judge before they can search you or your property.

Section 9 - Arbitrary detention or imprisonment
You have the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned. This means you cannot be stopped, held for questioning, arrested or put in jail unless the police have a good reason to do so.

Section 10 - Rights when arrested
If you are arrested or detained, you must be given reasons for this right away. The police must tell you of your right to a lawyer. If you say you want a lawyer, police must stop questioning you until you have a chance to speak with a lawyer privately. If your detention is not legal, you must be released.

Section 11 - Rights when charged with an offence
Section 11 rights are basic principles of criminal law - like being presumed innocent, the right to a speedy trial and the independence of the Courts.

If you are charged with a criminal offence you have the right:

  • To be informed of the offence without unreasonable delay
  • To a trial in a reasonable time
  • To be silent (the right not to testify at your own trial)
  • To be presumed innocent until proven guilty
  • To a fair and public hearing by an impartial and independent court.
  • To reasonable bail (unless there is good reason to be refused bail)
  • To trial by jury for serious crimes (except for military offences decided by a military tribunal)
  • Not to be convicted of a crime unless the act was a crime at the time it happened
  • Not to be tried or punished twice for the same crime (the rule against double jeopardy)
If the law has changed between the time an offence happened and time of sentencing, a person has a right to be sentenced under the law where the punishment is less.

Section 12 - Protection from cruel and unusual punishment
People are protected from cruel and unusual punishment such as punishment that degrades human dignity, is out of all proportion to the offence, or shocks the public conscience.

Section 13 - Protection from self-incrimination
If you are a witness, what you say in court cannot be used against you in another court case. But if you are charged with perjury, what you said in court can be used to prove perjury.

Section 14 - Right to an interpreter
You have the right to an interpreter in a courtroom if you are a party or a witness in a case and do not understand or speak the language used in the court. You also have this right if you are hearing impaired.

Pierre E. Trudeau, 1972. Justice to me is a warm spirit, born of tolerance and wisdom, present everywhere, ready to serve the highest purposes of rational man.  To seek to create the just society must be amongst the highest of those human purposes.
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