Civil Liberties 101: The Canadian Constitution

Pandemic Ethics Scholar Dr. Julie Ponesse reads The Constitution Act 1982, Part 1: Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and explains why it is the essence of our democracy.

The Canadian Constitution doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. It seems to be often overlooked and with PM Justin Trudeau invoking The Emergencies Act on Feb. 14, 2022, some Canadians may not be aware of what their rights are.

In the video below, Dr. Julie Ponesse reads a section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and she explains why the Canadian Constitution is so important.

Written in 1982, The Constitution Act, which enshrines the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is the highest law in Canada.

It outlines our system of government, but also crucially the civil and human rights of those who are citizens of Canada.

This is the document that defines who and what we are as a people, and the nature of our obligations to one another.

It is the essence of our democracy.

Though Charter rights are not absolute, even in times of crisis governments cannot act without constraint.

The executive can only do, for example, what the legislature has empowered it to do.

The PM, the cabinet and individual ministers may have broad statutory authority but the Charter requires governments to impose only reasonable limits on Canadians’ constitutional rights, and only in limited circumstances and for a limited period of time.

Our constitution literally constitutes — makes us — who we are as a people, as a country.

It weaves us together in a way that cannot be undone by one person’s edict or the actions of one government at one moment in history.

But it is the job of we, the people, to stand up for the reasonable limitation of these rights and to hold our government accountable on pain of losing our rights, our freedoms, our identity forever.

Dr. Julie Ponesse

Dr. Julie Ponesse

Dr. Julie Ponesse is the Pandemic Ethics Scholar for The Democracy Fund and author of the new book: My Choice: The Ethical Case Against Covid19 Vaccine Mandates. Dr. Ponesse's focus is on educating Canadians about civil liberties.

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