Unity, Diversity and Justice

a virtual exhibition from the Diefenbaker Center Canada

Canadian Human Rights Legislation

Canadian Human Rights Legislation

In Canada, two levels of government — Federal and Provincial/Territorial — ensure the protection of Canadian human rights legislation. Federally, the rights of the individual are safeguarded by the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) from other persons, organizations and the government. The CHRA (initiated in 1978) applies to matters that fall within federal jurisdiction. However, the CHRA can be amended by a simple majority vote in the federal House of Commons or even repealed.

Every Canadian province and territory also has legislation protecting human rights. The example was set by Saskatchewan in 1947, when it became the first province to enact a provincial bill of rights. The Saskatchewan Bill of Rights was a precursor to Diefenbaker’s Canadian Bill of Rights and predated the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights by a year.

Human Rights Commissions are present in every province and territory, as well as in Ottawa. Although the Commissions differ in some respects, they all exist to investigate and mediate complaints, enforce compliance with legislation, and promote equality through public education and broad, proactive initiatives.


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