Legal Eagle: Know Your Rights

The Constitution is the foundational law of Canada. This means that the Constitution overrides any laws, programs or government actions inconsistent with it. Although the Constitution is comprised of several documents and doctrines, none are better known than the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter, as it is commonly referred to, sets out your basic rights as a Canadian as they relate to governments in Canada.
One of the more well-known aspects of the Charter is that it governs your relationship with law enforcement. Anyone who has even seen a crime-driven Hollywood movie where someone is arrested has no doubt heard the phrase, you have a right to remain silent. Often coinciding with the right to remain silent is the right to speak to a lawyer or counsel of your choosing. In the USA, these are called Miranda rights. However, these rights are also entrenched in Canada by virtue of the Charter. If you are detained, exercising your right to speak to a lawyer can help educate you on your circumstances. Perhaps not surprisingly, when exercising your right to counsel, the legal advice you will often receive will be to exercise your right to silence.
Another protected right under the Charter is the right to equal treatment before and under the law, and equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination. Equality rights, as they are often referred to, make it clear that, regardless of race, religion, national or ethnic origin, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age or physical or mental disability, every individual in Canada is to be considered equal. Consequently, governments must not discriminate on any of these grounds in its laws or programs. The purpose of equality rights is to protect those groups who suffer social, political and legal disadvantage in society.   Generally speaking, discrimination occurs where a person, due to a personal characteristic, suffers a disadvantage or is denied an opportunity available to other members of society.
The Charter’s importance in Canada with respect to your rights as they relate to government cannot be understated. Knowing your rights ensures that you will be treated fairly under the Law.