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consultations with Aboriginal governments and the involvement of civil society are increasingly expanding this model of co-operative governance.
Domestic framework for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms
Human rights in Canada are protected by a combination of constitutional and legislative
measures. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, part of the Canadian Constitution, is largely a civil and political rights document. It also guarantees all individuals in Canada freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression2, including freedom of the press; freedom of peaceful assembly; and freedom of association.
The many human rights and freedoms enjoyed by Canadians are also protected by a large
body of federal, provincial and territorial legislation and accompanying regulations. All governments in Canada have adopted human rights legislation prohibiting discrimination on
various grounds in regard to employment matters, the provision of goods, services and facilities customarily available to the public, and accommodation. Labour laws protecting the rights of workers to bargain collectively, child protection laws, family property regimes and privacy legislation are also examples of these legislative measures. The common law (“judge made law”)
of Canada continues to be a vibrant source of civil rights, including, for example, the right to habeas corpus.
In addition, many rights in Canada, in particular economic, social and cultural rights, are
advanced and progressively realized through government policies and programmes.
The right to equality and protection against discrimination are fundamental to the
advancement of human rights for all members of Canadian society. In addition to the constitutional protection of equality rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the federal, provincial and territorial governments in Canada have enacted human rights legislation prohibiting discrimination on numerous grounds, such as race, religion, colour, sex, age and disability. Canadian courts have invested these human rights statutes with ‘quasi-constitutional status’ (elevated legal importance). Of special note is the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, which addresses equality rights as well as a full range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The Québec Charter applies to both the private and public sectors and provides for recourse before a tribunal with respect to political, judicial and equality rights.
The role of the courts, administrative tribunals and rights advocates
Human rights are also advanced through the judicial branch in Canada. The Canadian
judicial system consists primarily of lower courts with specific jurisdiction conferred by statute and superior courts of inherent jurisdiction that address subjects not otherwise within the exclusive jurisdiction of other courts. The Federal Court of Canada reviews decisions of federal boards, commissions and tribunals. The Supreme Court of Canada is the general appellate court of last resort for all of Canada in all areas of law, including constitutional law.
Canadian courts are independent of the executive (programmes and policies) and
legislative (laws and regulations) branches of government. Individual judges enjoy security of
tenure and salary. Canadian courts have jurisdiction to determine allegations that laws, policies or practices of all levels of government or the actions of their officials violate human rights and