Symbol or Charter?
The Canadian Bill of Rights transformed the equality of rights and freedoms for all Canadians. All Federal bills were required to adhere to the rights guaranteed in the Bill, which had precedence where inconsistencies existed with other legislation.
"Skeptics said of my proposal to have Bill of Rights, that it was an ideal, that it would be nothing but a grandiloquent declaration of freedom which would not aid any person in securing justice; that principles of substance could not be codified, and the attempt would only render Fundamental Freedoms even more obscure and uncertain."
Between 1977 and 1980, Harbhajan Singh and six other Sikh foreing nationals attempted to cliam refugee status under the Immigration Act, on the basis of a fear of religious and political persecution in their home countries. Their petitions for refugee status were denied. In response, the Supreme Court of Canada examiend the rights to which Singh et al. were entitled, and whether the assessment of their refugee status claims denied them these rights.
The Court unanimously found that the rights of the seven foreign nationals had been violated. While the Court was in agreement, the judges were divided on whether to base their decision on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the Bill of Rights. Many claimed the Bill had been rendered irrelevant by the enactment of the Charter. However, the Court found that the Billremained an effective piece of legislation based on Section 26 of the Charter, which guaranteed that any other rights and freedoms in existence in Canada cannot be denied. This provision guaranteed that the legacy of Diefenbaker’s commitment to human rights would be maintained through his proudest achievement: the Canadian Bill of Rights.