The Canadian Justice System
The Canadian justice system guarantees every Canadian resident political and legal rights and equality. Every Canadian, whether a citizen or a landed immigrant, has equal access to the justice system.
The laws, or the written rules intended to guide people in our society, are made by our elected government representatives. The police and the courts exist to enforce the law.
Canadians have rights and freedoms that are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms through the justice system. Some of the rights and freedoms protected by the judicial system include:
Fundamental freedoms--like freedom of religion, thought, belief, opinion and expression;
Legal rights--like the right to life, liberty and security of the person; and
Equality under the law--every Canadian has an equal right to the protection and services of the police and the courts.
Getting legal help
Lawyers can help you with your problems and act for you in court. If you cannot pay for a lawyer, there are legal aid services available free of charge or at low cost in most communities.
Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities
All Canadians have certain rights and responsibilities that are based on Canadian laws, traditions and shared values.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the part of the Constitution that legally protects the basic rights and freedoms of all Canadians. Some of these rights and freedoms are:
democratic rights, such as the right to vote;
legal rights, such as the right to a fair trial;
equality rights, such as the right to protection against discrimination;
mobility rights, such as the right to live and work anywhere in Canada;
Aboriginal peoples' rights; and
basic freedoms, such as freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and freedom of peaceful assembly.
Some citizenship rights are defined in Canadian laws, such as the right to be considered first (given preference) for jobs in the federal government.
Many of these rights and freedoms existed in earlier laws. However, with the creation of the Charter in 1982, they became better defined and better protected.
Having these rights brings responsibilities for everyone in Canada. Individual Canadians and Canadian governments have the responsibility to respect the rights and freedoms of all Canadians. However, it is important to realize that the rights of a single Canadian or a group of Canadians cannot interfere with the rights of any other. For this reason, courts must interpret the Charter from time to time to be sure that it is applied fairly in all situations.