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Celebrating 35 Years of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Last week, Canadians celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One of our country’s most important documents, the Charter guarantees the fundamental rights of all Canadians and Canadian residents.

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Among the freedoms included in the Charter are the freedom of expression, assembly, and equality. Anybody legally residing in Canada is protected by the Charter – including Canadian citizens, permanent residents, temporary residents, and refugees.

Canada was not always as welcoming to migrants as it is today. But the Charter’s creation in 1982 was an important step forward in transforming the country into what is now one of the best places in the world for newcomers. Statutes eliminating discrimination, promoting minority rights (including minority language rights), enshrining multiculturalism, and guaranteeing mobility rights are some of the most important for non-citizens residing in Canada.

More than three decades after coming into existence, the Charter feels more relevant today than ever before. Looking around the world, it is clear that many countries are rolling back their “welcome mats” for new arrivals, and in some cases are also restricting the rights of their most vulnerable citizens in the name of safety and security. Our Charter ensures that, no matter what happens with our country’s leadership, its laws and institutions are guided by a document that guarantees the most basic rights of its citizens and residents.

This is one of the reasons that the Charter is increasingly becoming a model that other countries follow when crafting their own democratic systems. In fact, it has replaced the United States Bill of Rights as the constitutional document that is most commonly emulated by other states. As our allies become more isolationist and afraid of connecting with today’s globalized world, Canada may be finding itself more alone in its calls for the free and fair movement of people and goods across international borders. Thankfully, documents like the Charter have helped to clearly outline exactly what Canadian values look like and communicate those values to the world. Here’s to hoping that others will listen.

Sincerely,

Renaud Dery
Canadian Immigration Attorney

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