Key decisions involving the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
TheStar.com – news/canada/politics
Published On Sat Apr 21 2012. Tracey Tyler, legal affairs reporter
Nothing demonstrates the impact of the 30-year-old Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the court decisions that have sprung from it. Among the highlights:
• If you are a woman, you have an unrestricted right to an abortion. The Supreme Court struck down an unfair law in 1988, and Parliament failed to agree on another law to replace it.
• There’s almost no chance your country could bring back thedeath penalty, now that the Supreme Court has ruled the death penalty is contrary to principles of fundamental justice.
• If you’re arrested, police must advise you of your right to a lawyer, and give you a reasonable opportunity to consult one before questioning you. But you cannot insist on the lawyer of your choice, nor do you have a constitutional right to legal aid. You have a right to silence, and your refusal to answer questions can’t be taken as a sign of guilt.
• Police can pull you over in a RIDE program and ask if you have been drinking. But your roadside statements can’t be used to incriminate you. If you’re asked to blow into a breathalyzer, you must be informed of your right to speak with a lawyer.
• If you’re charged with a crime, you have a right to see all relevant evidence in your case; police and prosecution cannot withhold information that could potentially work in your favour.
• Police can’t search your home without a warrant, but they’re free to go through your garbage if it’s on your property line. If you’ve thrown a tissue in a garbage can, police can take it for DNA testing.
• Elementary or high-school officials can search student backpacks or lockers for illegal drugs, without a warrant.
• You cannot help another person commit suicide.
• You can watch a film in Ontario without having it censored by a bureaucrat.
• You have limited freedom to spank children. Off limits: Kids under 2 and teenagers. Hitting children in the head and using objects. Acceptable: Mild, fleeting force to correct behaviour.
• You have a right to negotiate pay and work conditions with an employer, but no constitutional right to collective bargainingand, if you’re an Ontario farm worker, no right to join a union. During labour disputes, you can picket your place of business and other secondary sites.
• If you are the complainant in a sex assault case and request a ban on publication of your identity, a court will automatically grant it. A defense lawyer has no automatic right to cross-examine you about your sexual history or to embark on a fishing expedition through your medical or counseling records.
• You cannot smoke marijuana in the privacy of your home without committing a crime.
• If you’re an inmate, you can vote in federal elections.
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