Group of People Waving Flag of Canada in Back Lit

RIGHTS AND RESPONSABILITIES OF CITIZENSHIP

Why do so many people want to immigrate to Canada? Freeeeeeeeeedom!!!

Canada is very lucky: from British (England) we inherited The Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ours is called “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”.

Notice I said ‘inherited’. Canada is a very young country, right? So Canada is like a ‘baby country’. And who are Canada’s parents? British and French.

Long time ago (in 1215)  our British ‘parent’ signed the document called Magna Carta – The Great Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was very different than the Charter of Rights and Freedoms we have now. If you google a picture of Magna Carta, you will see it looks old and yellow. At that time people didn’t have paper! They had to write on… animal skin.

So, what freedoms do Canadians have now?

Freedom of conscience and  religion. You can follow any religion you like, you can change your religion, or you can have no religion – no problem.

Freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of speech and freedom of press. A lot. What does this mean? It means that if you don’t like a politician, even if it’s the Prime Minister, you can talk about it freely and you can write about it in the newspaper. You can laugh at Prime Minister, you can draw funny pictures of Prime Minster, you can make jokes about Prime Minister – no problem. Do you know what a bobblehead is? You can make that one too and sell it! Of any politician!

Freedom of peaceful assembly. ‘Assembly’ means ‘meeting’. So, a group of people – five people, twenty people, 200 people… We can meet together to express our opinion. We can meet, for example, in front of the Parliament if we disagree with some law. In Canada, protests are very scheduled and organized. The leaders of the group let the government know that on this day of this month we will be coming to protest in front of the Parliament buildings. The government usually says “Okay, no problem, come.”  🙂

Freedom of association. That means that individual people can form and belong to any sort of organization. In Canada, this right is usually used by employees when they want to join a labour union to protect their rights.

 

Something very important happened in 1982 – Canada got the control of its own constitution! Until that date, Canada was governed by British laws that could only be changed by British Parliament. So, in a way, you can say that baby Canada grew up and separated from its parent.

That Charter of Rights and Freedoms we were talking about – that is the first big and very important part of our Constitution. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms serves to protect our rights. Now, what are our basic rights as Canadians?

Rights:

  • You can live and work anywhere you choose in Canada. You can move from one province to another. You can travel in and out of the country. (mobility rights)
  • You have the right to vote in elections and you have the right to run in an election (Would you like a career of a politician? Would you like to be a mayor of the city?)
  • You have the right to be treated equally – doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, black or white or whatever your skin colour is, young or old, gay or straight, perfectly healthy or have some disability.
  • You have legal rights: police cannot arrest you without explanation (Habeas corpus – the right to challenge the unlawful detention by the state – comes from English law history) and also your property cannot be searched or taken away without explanation.

Also important:  

– Aboriginal People’s Rights

– Official Language Rights* and Minority Language Educational Rights

– Multiculturalism

*French and English language have equal status in Parliament and throughout the government.

 

Citizenship Responsibilities

  • Obeying the law (We believe in the rule of law. The law is our real ‘King’ – that’s right, not the Queen Elizabeth II. No person or group is above the law – police must obey laws and politicians must obey laws, everybody including the Prime Minister.)
  • Taking responsibility for oneself and one’s family (getting a job is your responsibility. Unfortunately, government doesn’t give jobs to people – you have to go and get it by yourself.)
  • Serving on a jury (If they call you, you are legally required to do it. That’s how our justice system works. Yes, you may be a judge. Well, not a judge – you may be a juror.)
  • Voting in elections (Notice that Voting is both a right and a responsibility)
  • Helping others in the community (Volunteering is good for you – you can gain useful skills and meet people who will help you find out about job opportunities. When you are helping others, others will help you. You can volunteer at your child’s school or at a food bank or other charity.)
  • Protecting and enjoying our heritage and environment (recycling is an easy way to keep Canada clean and beautiful for our children!)

 

Final note:

Military service is NOT a citizen responsibility in Canada. In many other counties it is – you must do it. Not in Canada. In this country, it’s not compulsory. You want to do it – you can. You don’t want –  not a problem. In fact, here it is considered like a JOB. It’s a career choice. You can serve in the regular Canadian Forces (navy, army, air force) or work as a police officer or a firefighter. Young people can become cadets (many do – they think it’s fun and they love it!)