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.

 If you are homosexual, you can marry and divorce someone of the same sex. You are also eligible for the same spousal or child support payments as opposite-sex spouses.

 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.

 If you live in Quebec, you can buy private health insuranceand the commercial outdoor signs don’t have to be in French only.

 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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