20 Human Rights That Make Canada Special

Headlines from 1982 proclamation of the Charter

Many Canadians do not know exactly what their rights are, which is really surprising to us. Now you will know! These 20 rights highlight the many reasons why Canada is such a champion for human rights and democracy and why Canada attracts people from all over the world who want to come and live here. Many of these rights are found in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982. This is a long article so sit or lay down comfortably and enjoy!

** Note: some of these rights below may differ slightly depending on the province.

20 Human Rights That Make Canada Special

The right to vote

In 1867, it was left up to the provinces to determine who had the right to vote in Canada, typically “male British subjects who were at least 21 years old who had a property qualification.” Women could not vote federally until World War I and only gained the provincial vote in all provinces in 1940. First Nations people were finally granted the right to vote in federal elections without losing their treaty status in 1960.

The freedom of expression

In Canada, everyone has the “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication,” as outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982. Not all countries enjoy such freedoms.

The freedom of religion

In Canada, freedom of religion is defined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982 as “the right to entertain such religious beliefs as a person chooses, the right to declare religious beliefs openly and without fear of hindrance or reprisal, and the right to manifest religious belief by worship and practice or by teaching and dissemination.”

The freedom of peaceful assembly

As Canadians, we have the right to “participate in peaceful demonstrations, protests, parades, meetings, picketing, and other assemblies,” according to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982. We are free to voice our opposition to the government without fear of persecution.

Equality rights

Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982, everyone in Canada is “equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.”

The right to an abortion

“In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that women have the right to make choices concerning their own reproductive health. I am proud to have played such a pivotal role in that decision,” said Dr. Henry Morgentaler, who, along with his colleagues, helped overturn Canada’s anti-abortion law with the famous case of R v. Morgentaler.

The right to drive

In Canada, if you have a valid driver’s licence issued by the government of your province or territory, then you may operate a motor vehicle.

Language rights

The Official Languages Act came into effect in 1969, making English and French the official languages of Canada and granting citizens the right to access services in either official language from the federal Government of Canada and its institutions on request. A new Official Languages Act replaced the old one in 1988 to promote the rights of linguistic minorities.

Legal rights

Canadians have legal rights as outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982. You cannot be searched and seized without reason or arbitrarily detained or imprisoned. If you are arrested, you must be promptly informed why, you have the right to counsel without delay, and the right to be released if the detention is not deemed lawful.

The right to access the internet

In 2016, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declared that broadband internet access is a basic telecommunications service that is necessary for Canadians’ quality of life. This historic decision came with a commitment by the CRTC to provide all Canadians—even those living in rural and First Nations communities—with access to reliable, world-class mobile and fixed internet services, with an unlimited data option.

Privacy rights

Canada has two federal privacy laws: the Privacy Act of 1983, which applies to personal information gathered by the federal government, and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which came into effect between 2001 and 2004 and covers the private sector.

Mobility rights

As citizens, Canadians have the right to enter, remain in, and leave Canada, as outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982. You can also live and work in any province or territory of your choosing.

The right to be tried within a reasonable time

The highest court in the land… the Supreme Court of Canada has mandated the following; Provincial cases have 18 months, extension to 30 possible if there is a preliminary inquiry. Superior court cases have 30 months to be completed.

The right to marry who you love

In Canada, same-sex marriage was legalized in 2005, giving Canadians the right to marry who they love, regardless of gender. Canada was the fourth country to allow same-sex marriages, after the Netherlands (2000), Belgium (2003), and Spain (2005).

In some countries, however, same-sex relations are still illegal and are even punishable by death in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Brunei, Mauritania, Sudan as well as in parts of Nigeria and Somalia.

The right to be non-binary

In 2017, Canada introduced a new gender X option for Canadian passports, citizenship certificates, and permanent resident cards, joining other countries such as Australia, Denmark, Germany, Malta, New Zealand, and Pakistan. In 2017, Canada also officially recognized that trans rights are human rights with the passage of Bill C-16.

Air passenger rights

The rules target tarmac delays, flight cancellations, overbooking, lost or damaged baggage, and other issues affecting passengers that are within the airline’s control.

The right to health care

Canada’s government-funded universal health insurance program came into being between 1957 and 1984, when the Canada Health Act was passed, ensuring “all Canadian residents have reasonable access to medically necessary hospital and physician services without paying out-of-pocket.”

The right to a social safety net

Canadians have access to a pension, income assistance, and disability benefits from the government. Canada’s welfare state came into being during the Second World War.

The right to an interpreter

If you do not understand or speak the language in which legal proceedings are conducted or if you are deaf, you have the right to an interpreter free of charge. You may also bring or request a sign or language interpreter to help you vote if you require assistance.

The right to housing

In June of 2019, the Canadian government formally recognized that safe, secure, and adequate housing is a fundamental human right with the passing of Bill C-97, which includes the National Housing Strategy Act. Despite this act though, over 230,000 people are homeless across the country.


By Erin Daley

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