Freedom, Society, and the State: An Investigation into the Possibility of Society without Government

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Since the Charter is part of the Constitution, it is the most important law we have in Canada.

However, the rights and freedoms in the Charter are not absolute. They can be limited to protect other rights or important national values. For example, freedom of expression may be limited by laws against hate propaganda or child pornography. Section 1 of the Charter says that Charter rights can be limited by law so long as those limits can be shown to be reasonable in a free and democratic society.

Any person in Canada — whether they are a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident or a newcomer — has the rights and freedoms contained in the Charter. There are some exceptions. The Chartercame into force on April 17, One section of the Charter, section 15, came into effect three years after the rest of the Charter, on April 17, , to give governments time to bring their laws into line with the equality rights guaranteed in section Section It makes clear that the English-speaking and French-speaking communities of New Brunswick have equal rights, and that the Government of New Brunswick has a duty to protect and promote those rights.

Before the Charter came into effect, other Canadian laws protected many of the rights and freedoms that are now included in it. One example is the Canadian Bill of Rights , which Parliament enacted in It applies to legislation and policies of the federal government and guarantees rights and freedoms similar to those found in the Charter. However, the Bill of Rights is not part of the Constitution of Canada. For decades, the Charter has been the source of change, progress and the affirmation of our society's values.

Canadian courts have rendered hundreds of decisions in which they apply the Charter to bring Canadian laws into line with the principles and values of Canadian society. For example:. This part of the guide sets out the actual text of each section of the Charter, followed by an explanation of its meaning and purpose. 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 can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

The Charter protects those basic rights and freedoms of all Canadians that are considered essential to preserving Canada as a free and democratic country. It applies to all governments — federal, provincial and territorial — and includes protection of the following:.

Why Open Government is So Crucial To Our Society - Martha Mendoza @ TEDxSantaCruz

The rights and freedoms in the Charter are not absolute. Under section 2of the Charter, Canadians are free to follow the religion of their choice. In addition, they are guaranteed freedom of thought, belief and expression. Since the media are an important means for communicating thoughts and ideas, the Charter protects the right of the press and other media to speak out.

Our right to gather and act in peaceful groups is also protected, as is our right to belong to an association like a trade union. These freedoms are set out in the Charter to ensure that Canadians are free to create and express their ideas, gather to discuss them and communicate them widely to other people. These activities are basic forms of individual liberty.

They are also important to the success of a democratic society like Canada. In a democracy, people must be free to discuss matters of public policy, criticize governments and offer their own solutions to social problems. Even though these freedoms are very important, governments can sometimes limit them. For example, freedom of expression may be limited by laws against hate propaganda or child pornography because they prevent harm to individuals and groups.

Sections 3, 4 and 5 of the Charter contain rules that guarantee Canadians a democratic government. Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein. Section 3 guarantees to all Canadian citizens the right to be involved in the election of their governments.

It gives them the right to vote in federal, provincial or territorial elections, along with the right to stand for public office themselves. Some limits on these rights may be reasonable, even in a democracy. For example, the right to vote or stand for election is limited to Canadians 18 years of age or older. It is a basic principle in a democracy that a government must consult the voters and stand for re-election at regular intervals.

Section 4 states that no Parliament or legislative assembly can continue to sit for longer than five years. Only under extraordinary circumstances, such as a war or national emergency, may a government stay in office for a longer period. There shall be a sitting of Parliament and of each legislature at least once every twelve months. Another basic democratic principle is that a government must explain its actions to the people. Section 5 of the Charter makes it clear that Parliament and the legislative assemblies must hold a session at least once a year.

This guarantees that elected members and the public have a chance to question government actions on a regular basis. Section 6 protects the right of Canadian citizens to move from place to place, and subsection 6 1 ensures that all Canadian citizens are free to come and go as they please.

Extradition laws place some limits on these rights; these laws state that persons in Canada who face criminal charges or punishment in another country may be ordered to return to that country. Subsection 6 2 gives all Canadian citizens and permanent residents the right to move to, and live in any province or territory. They may also look for work or set up a business there. Subsection 6 3 makes clear that provinces and territories may decide to give social benefits, such as welfare, only to persons who have lived in the province or territory for a certain period of time.

They may also pass employment laws that require workers to have the necessary qualifications to practice their profession or trade.

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Freedom of the press

In addition, subsection 6 4 allows a province or territory that has an employment rate below the national average to create programs that favour its own residents. Sections 7 to 14 set out rights that protect Canadians when dealing with the justice system. They ensure that individuals who are involved in proceedings are treated fairly, especially those charged with a criminal offence.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. Section 7 guarantees the life, liberty and personal security of all Canadians. It also requires that governments respect the basic principles of justice whenever they intrude on those rights.

Section 7 often comes into play in criminal matters because an accused person clearly faces the risk that, if convicted, his or her liberty will be lost. Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure. According to the Supreme Court of Canada, the purpose of section 8 is to protect a reasonable expectation of privacy. This means that those who act on behalf of a government, such as police officers, must carry out their duties in a fair and reasonable way. They cannot enter private property or take things from others unless they can show that they have a clear legal reason.

In most cases, they are allowed to enter private property to look for evidence or to seize things only if they have been given a search warrant by a judge. On the other hand, government inspectors may enter business premises without a warrant to check if government regulations are being observed.

Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned. Section 9 says that government officials cannot take individuals into custody or hold them without a good reason. The law preserves the Committee on Open Government, which was created by enactment of the original Freedom of Information Law in What is a record? For instance, if the agency can transfer data into a requested format, the agency must do so upon payment of the proper fee.

Unless otherwise deniable, disclosure shall not be construed to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy when identifying details are deleted, when the person to whom a record pertains consents in writing to disclosure, or when upon presenting reasonable proof of identity, a person seeks access to records pertaining to him or herself. When a request is made for records that constitute a list of names and home addresses natural persons i. The list is not a compilation of every record an agency has in its possession, but rather is a list of the subjects or file categories under which records are kept.

It must make reference to all records in possession of an agency, whether or not the records are available. You have a right to know the kinds of records agencies maintain.

Table of Contents

The subject matter list must be compiled in sufficient detail to permit you to identify the file category of the records sought, and it must be updated annually. Each state agency is required to post its subject matter list online. An alternative to and often a substitute for a subject matter list is a records retention schedule. Regulations Each agency must adopt standards based upon general regulations issued by the Committee. These procedures describe how you can inspect and copy records. In addition, the records access officer is responsible for ensuring that agency personnel assist in identifying records sought, make the records promptly available or deny access in writing, provide copies of records or permit you to make copies, certifying that a copy is a true copy and, if the records cannot be found, certify either that the agency does not have possession of the requested records or that the agency does have the records, but they cannot be found after a diligent search.

The regulations also state that the public shall continue to have access to records through officials who have been authorized previously to make information available. Requests for records An agency may ask you to make your request in writing. See Sample Request for Records. If records are kept alphabetically, a request for records involving an event occurring on a certain date might not reasonably describe the records.

Locating the records in that situation might involve a search for the needle in the haystack, and an agency is not required to engage in that degree of effort.


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The responsibility of identifying and locating records sought rests to an extent upon the agency. If possible, you should supply dates, titles, file designations, or any other information that will help agency staff to locate requested records, and it may be worthwhile to find out how an agency keeps the records of your interest i. The law also provides that agencies must accept requests and transmit records requested via email when they have the ability to do so. See Sample Request for Records via Email. Within five business days of the receipt of a written request for a record reasonably described, the agency must make the record available, deny access in writing giving the reasons for denial, or furnish a written acknowledgment of receipt of the request and a statement of the approximate date when the request will be granted or denied, which must be reasonable in consideration of attendant circumstances, such as the volume or complexity of the request.

The approximate date ordinarily cannot exceed 20 business days from the date of the acknowledgment of the receipt of a request.

When a response is delayed beyond 20 business days, it must be reasonable in relation to the circumstances of the request. If the agency fails to abide by any of the requirements concerning the time within which it must respond to a request, the request is deemed denied, and the person seeking the records may appeal the denial. Fees Copies of records must be made available on request. Fees for copies of other records may be charged based upon the actual cost of reproduction.

There may be no basis to charge for copies of records that are transmitted electronically; however, when requesting electronic data, there are occasions when the agency can charge for employee time spent preparing the electronic data.


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Denial of access and appeal Unless a denial of a request occurs due to a failure to respond in a timely manner, a denial of access must be in writing, stating the reason for the denial and advising you of your right to appeal to the head or governing body of the agency or the person designated to determine appeals by the head or governing body of the agency. You may appeal within 30 days of a denial. Upon receipt of the appeal, the agency head, governing body or appeals officer has 10 business days to fully explain in writing the reasons for further denial of access or to provide access to the records.

A failure to determine an appeal within 10 business days of its receipt is considered a denial of the appeal. You may seek judicial review of a final agency denial by means of a proceeding initiated under Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules. An award of attorney fees is mandatory when the petitioner has substantially prevailed and the court finds that the agency had no reasonable basis for denying access.

Although the courts are not subject to the Freedom of Information Law, section of the Judiciary Law has long required the clerk of a court to "diligently search the files, papers, records and dockets in his office" and upon payment of a fee make copies of such items. Agencies charged with the responsibility of administering the judicial branch are not courts and therefore are treated as agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Law.

Amendments that clarify and reaffirm your right to hear the deliberations of public bodies became effective in In brief, the law gives the public the right to attend meetings of public bodies, listen to the debates and watch the decision making process in action. Have you read? What does freedom of speech mean to you? Why is East Asia silencing free speech? Which are the most important human rights? Depends on where you're from. Most and least tolerant countries. The mean average score was 4.

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