Differences between the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights
The 1960 Canadian Bill of Rights was almost entirely reproduced in similar or broader language in the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There are only three provisions in the Bill that were not included in the Charter: freedom against arbitrary exile of any person [section 2(a)], the right to “enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law” [section 1(a)], and the right “to a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice for the determination of his rights and obligations” [section 2(e)].
Section 6 Charter mobility rights replace protections from arbitrary exile. The Charter contains no guarantee of a fair procedure or fair compensation for expropriation of property, akin to the Bill’s “enjoyment of property” right. The Charter’s protection of “life, liberty and security of the person” also seems narrower than the Bill’s section 2(e) which might extend to economic rights. The right to “enjoyment of property” is the only provision in the Alberta Bill of Rights not covered by the Charter.
The federal and Alberta Bills of Rights continue in force alongside the Charter. Their continuing value, therefore, is that they add to Charter rights in these limited ways. Ironically, the Supreme Court of Canada seems to have breathed more life into the Canadian Bill of Rights after the Charter than it granted before 1982. For example, in the 1985 case of Singh v. Minister of Employment and Immigration the Supreme Court agreed that the Bill’s section 2(e) extended farther than the Charter’s section 7.
There are several other instances of the Canadian and Alberta Bills and the Quebec Charter being held to grant more rights than the Canadian Charter. They also do not have a limitation clause similar to section 1 of the Canadian Charter, which states that the guarantees are subject “only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” In theory, this should allow the federal and provincial Bills/Quebec Charter to have broader application than the Canadian Charter. However, the lack of such limitation in the Canadian Bill of Rights, in conjunction with its lack of status as regular non-entrenched legislation, has resulted in a conservative approach to interpreting them.
The Canadian Bill of Rights and the Alberta Bill of Rights remain as the only two standalone Bills of Rights in Canada. These ordinary statutes purport to limit government control over individuals’ lives. All other jurisdictions combine this self-limiting legislation with equality rights enforceable against the private sector in broader human rights Acts or Codes (Charter in Quebec). The federal and Alberta governments also enforce equivalent human rights statutes in their respective private sectors. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that all regular human rights legislation enjoys a “quasi-constitutional” status.
The merely statutory (ie. not constitutional) human rights Bills and Acts and the constitutionally-entrenched Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms share similar origins, purposes and language. It is not surprising, therefore, that they overlap to a considerable extent. Yet, there are still some interesting differences in scope and content. In numerous small ways, the provincial legislation actually reaches farther and is more generous than the Canadian Charter in conferring human rights and freedoms.
Quebec’s Charter of human rights and freedoms RSQ c-12 is distinctly broader than the other Bills of Rights, and human rights Acts and Codes – it includes a number of social and economic rights as well. These additional provisions of Quebec’s Charter continue to play significantly into case law. An example is the section 5 right to individual privacy: “[e]very person has a right to respect for his private life.” In this way, the Quebec Charter supplements the Canadian Charter.
These quasi-constitutional Bills, Acts and Codes of human rights in Canada all serve to ensure equality in the private sector. They may, in modest ways, also extend human rights beyond what is available from the Canadian Charter of Rights.
The right to “enjoyment of property” is the only provision in the Alberta Bill of Rights not covered by the Charter. The federal and Alberta Bills of Rights continue in force alongside the Charter. Their continuing value, therefore, is that they add to Charter rights in these limited ways
See: (British Columbia) Human Rights Code, RSBC 1996 c 210; Alberta Human Rights Act, RSA 2000 c A-25.5; Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, SS 1979 c S-24.1; (Manitoba) The Human Rights Code, CCSM c H175; (Newfoundland & Labrador) Human Rights Act, 2010, SNL 2010, c H-13.1; (New Brunswick) Human Rights Act, RSNB 2011 c 171; Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, RSQ c-12; (Nova Scotia) Human Rights Act, RSNS 1989 c 214; (Prince Edward Island) Human Rights Act, RSPEI 1988 c H-12; (Yukon) Human Rights Act, RSY 2002 c 116; (Northwest Territories) Human Rights Act, SNWT 2002 c 18; (Nunavut) Human Rights Act, SNU 2003 c 12
Canadian Government websites: