The Four Fundamental Freedoms Of The Charter

Of Rights And Freedoms Of Canada Essay, Research Paper

Ignorance, pride, hatred and a disregard for the wellbeing of others in society. These are the seeds allowing the roots of activities promoting racial discrimination to sprout. Out of that, comes the growth of a fearful social epidemic, in which uneducated persons put their destructive thoughts and viewpoints into action. These criminal activities have been dubbed ?Hate Crimes? and have plagues society as far back as one can remember. Hate Crimes, in varying degrees, can consist of something as minute as a derogatory comment, to something as serious as an act of murder. The common thread is that the offence was committed because of the victim?s ethnicity or race. Hate Crimes violate the human rights of society, and rob minorities of the dignity and respect they deserve. Everyone is entitled to live free from discrimination and harassment. However, this entitlement is infringed upon when Hate Crimes are committed. (Mandel, 11)

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a controversial approach to protecting the rights of citizens. Section 2 outlines the fundamental rights and freedoms of all peoples in society, in an attempt to ensure the protection of all civil liberties. However, in many cases, these freedoms can act as loopholes, clearing offenders of the hate crimes they continue to commit, posing a threat to the livelihood of minority communities in Canada. (Dickinson,146)

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

(d) freedom of association.

The freedoms, as stated above serve as a controversial ?gray area?, in which Section 2 of the Charter can be manipulated and ?bent? to serve as both offence and defense in the judicial reasoning of crimes based on racial prejudice.

Freedom of Association and Freedom of Assembly are two closely related rights. Both liberties, provided by Section 2 of the Charter, ?protect the freedom of individuals to join together to form a union? and the right to gather together for the purpose of lobbying peacefully, in the hopes of reaching a common goal (Coombs, 27). In British Columbia?s past, Nazi Fundamentalist groups have attempted to gather publicly and demonstrate against ethnic integration, and spout their views on how the White (Aryan) race is superior to all other minorities. Much of this activity is not tolerated by authorities because ?the good of the many outweighs the good of the few? (Martin, 39). Allowing such open promotion of hatred, infringes on every individual in society?s right to be free from discrimination and harassment. This behavior creates an environment oppressed with inequality, injustice and ignorance- not conducive to racial harmony in a multi-cultural society (Coombs, 17).

Freedom of conscience and religion gives ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Jewish peoples, the right to practice their beliefs- and customs associated with their values. Many ?Jewish persons have been excluded from clubs and universities?, based on their race and religion (Dickinson, 93). The rights of Jews and other religious and racial minorities have been infringed upon throughout history. Hate Crimes have persecuted followers of religious and faith groups such as the Jews and Christians, worldwide. Holocaust deniers continue to live in the belief that there is a widespread Jewish conspiracy, and that the Jews were never oppressed. In British Columbia, Nazi fundamentalist views are rampant (Martin, 78). This legislation in the Charter is an attempt to prevent discriminatory conduct on the basis of one?s race and religion, contributing to a societal environment that is conducive to religious growth and freedom (Roland, 2).

Hate Crime Offenders take advantage of the Charter providing ?the right to declare religious beliefs openly?without fear of hindrance or reprisal, and the right to manifest religious belief by worship and practice or by teaching and dissemination? (Dickinson, 142). Various groups that preach hatred, such as White Supremacists, claim that their ?religion? (a specific denomination of Christianity) deems that they, being superior to all minorities, should therefore act as a dominating force in society. Every individual is entitled to their personal belief system. However, beliefs and values rooted deeply in ignorance, selfish pride, and hate, will only contribute to racist attitudes and the oppression of the minorities and disadvantaged groups in Canada.

The freedom to have conscience and religious belief is ?subject to reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.? (Roland , 146). Prejudice beliefs, laced with hatred, create a society where people feel bound by the shackles of manipulation and domination.

?It is discriminatory practice for a person or group of persons acting in concert to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that the person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination? (Coombs, 86). The fundamental right to freedom of expression has been a source of controversy since the establishment of the Charter, in 1972. It has been said that liberty in thought and communication is ?little less vital to a man?s mind and spirit than breathing is to his physical existence? (Justice Rand of the Ontario courts, 1957). There are few areas which produce as much disagreement as limitations on freedom of speech and, by extension, limitations on the freedom to be exposed to the ideas of others. Some would argue that although certain forms of expression are disagreeable, the risks involved in eroding this right are so great that there should be virtually no limit on it. Lobby groups, such as Canadians for decency, advocate the protection of Canadians from media promoting an undesirable stereotype of a particular group (Mandel, 94).

The opposing arguments against censorship states that ?insofar as material does not constitute libel, fraud, incitement, mischief, perjury, or otherwise endanger fair trials and legal hearings, it cannot be censored, however disgusting or offensive or otherwise injurious it may be? (Coombs, 88). A blatant example is the case of Ernst Zundel, a holocaust denier. Although he willfully published statements he knew to be false, causing injury or mischief to a specific religious group, he has not been convicted of promoting hatred in North America (Dickinson, 171). On the Internet, for instance, he continues to share his discriminatory convictions with the public.

In conclusion, the four fundamental freedoms of the Charter are cause for a great ?gray area? in the rights of Canadian citizens and the limits imposed on them. Section 1 of the Charter is the most explicit in defining the limits of the Charter (Mandel, 4):

?The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as may be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.?

Although this section guarantees the rights and freedoms contained in the Charter, it also states that they are not absolute, but are subject to reasonable limits. In other words, governments may restrict rights if they can show there are compelling reasons for doing so, which can be justified in a free and democratic society (Coombs, 81). This provision serves two vital purposes. On the one hand, it is a guarantee that our rights won?t be restricted unless it can be shown to be clearly justified. On the other hand, it ensures that defensible objectives of society will receive careful consideration. Society is granted the right to be free of discrimination and harassment (Coombs, 82).

It is these two objectives that are used both ways, to defend and oppose activities dealing with the harboring and promotion of hate-provoking discrimination, on one or more of the prohibited grounds, against an identifiable group.


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